2020 was a difficult year for most of the world, with quarantines, social distancing, and mask wearing reluctantly becoming the new normal. However, aside from the pandemic itself, the impact on small businesses was one of the most talked about items in the news, many being devastated by the world’s sudden shut down.
In some cases, small business owners prevailed; quickly adapting their business models to the unfamiliar environment and managing to stay afloat. Others weren’t so lucky — in fact, roughly 200,000 more small businesses closed in 2020 than in previous years. The difference, some might argue, is that the surviving businesses had more luck because they were an important part of something bigger: their communities.
It’s common knowledge that community support is vital for a small business to thrive, and that small businesses contribute to their communities in a variety of ways. But why is this partnership so important, and how do small businesses and their communities benefit each other? This post will explain the importance of community for small businesses, and vice versa:
What Is a Community?
A community is defined in two ways. The first being “a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common,” while the second is “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.”
When discussing community in the context of small businesses, both definitions are applicable — whether the business is a local brick and mortar or an online retailer. For example, a group of people who live in the same area would be the community of a local small business like a bakery, brewery, or chocolatier.
On the other hand, people with a shared attitude or goal could represent the community that includes an online retailer or service provider and their customers or clients. As you can see, both definitions of community appear to relate to small businesses in some way!
Why Is Community Important for Small Businesses?
Community is important for small businesses for many reasons. To start with, the fact that humans are designed to relate to each other makes a community imperative for the very basis of survival — we don’t do well in isolation! Business owners have so many demands on their time; the lack of a community to support them through their hard work would only make things more difficult.
Here are a few more reasons community is so important:
Communities Help Local Businesses to Run Smoothly
Communities love to pitch in and help each other out, especially when it means contributing to their favorite local business. When business owners need something done that requires an all-hands-on deck approach, often the community will step in and volunteer their services — whether it’s for construction projects, delivery assistance, technical support, or something else.
Just as they love to help where they can, communities also enjoy contributing to their local businesses in other ways; namely by shopping at their favorite local spots or ordering from their favorite online retailers. Whether this means eating lunch at a local brewery regularly or shopping at a local bakery instead of a grocery store, the community often takes it upon themselves to support local small businesses whenever they can.
The second definition of community is “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.” This couldn’t be truer when it comes to small businesses and their surrounding communities; people also gather socially when they regularly spend time and money in the same places. Small business owners often become staples of their communities, which benefits the businesses themselves while adding value to the community that surrounds them.
What are the Benefits and Strengths of Being Part of a Community?
Networking is an essential element to any successful business, big or small. Having the chance to meet and get to know others in related fields can contribute to the business itself as well as the other party in the relationship. Being part of a community increases the likelihood of organic networking through everyday interactions.
For example, a local bakery might connect with a local chocolatier through organic business interactions and find that both businesses could use each other’s products; serving to grow the revenue of both businesses as well as benefiting their customers.
Like networking, opportunities can also stem from business owners knowing the community around them. Word of mouth advertising, local events, and personalized products all create opportunities for small business owners to grow their customer base — as well as make their patrons happy.
The community can also benefit from opportunities provided by the small businesses themselves, such as job openings or training in a desired area of skill — like baking, beer brewing, or chocolate making. The simple presence of a local small business can also inspire others to open their own, adding even more value to the community.
There’s something to be said for being surrounded by like-minded people; it provides a sense of belonging and comradery that isn’t always easy to find. As a small business owner, having the support of your peers — whether they’re patrons or other small business owners — feels supportive and inclusive, rather than the isolation that can come from going it alone.
Social interactions with patrons are common in local small businesses, giving both business owner and customer a positive connection with a like-minded person. This contributes to the overall wellbeing of the community, allowing people to feel included and important.
Examples of the Positive Results of Community Support
There are too many examples of the positive results of community support to count. The impacts of small businesses on their communities are far reaching — whether local or online — and contribute to their peers and patrons in numerous ways. Here are some examples of the great things that can happen when small businesses are part of a community:
Examples of Community Support in the Craft Industry
There are many examples of how small businesses and local organizations can support a community and its development. Such an example is found with DuClaw, a Maryland based brewery that was established in 1996 by David Benfield.
In a community-focused move, DuClaw collaborated with Bottleshare — a fundraising and grant distribution nonprofit focused on supporting the craft beverage industry. Their mission is to assist employees and business owners in the industry by supplying emergency funds to those who are prevented from working or otherwise earning an income due to hardship.
As a result of DuClaw and Bottleshare’s collaboration, DuClaw produced a special craft beer called “The Three Scoops,” featuring additions of vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. The ingredients were also donated by other small businesses that focus on sustainability and community. 100% of the proceeds of this collection is donated to Bottleshare for distribution of emergency funds to their grant recipients on a quarterly basis, providing the perfect example of how communities can benefit from small businesses (as well as how businesses can support each other). It’s worth mentioning that Three Scoops was Volume No. 5, because DuClaw is the 5th brewery they've partnered with to do a collaboration beer that raises funds for their charity. Bottleshare will continue to partner with other breweries to release more beers raising funds for their charity, the next brewery collaboration release being volume 6 and then volume 7, and so on and so forth. Other beers Bottleshare made and will continue producing with breweries could be of all different styles and designs, which makes this not only a great, but also very tasty and innovative mission. Nothing wrong with having fun while doing good in this world!
CocoaSupply Supports Small Businesses and Sustainable Practices
Cocoa Supply provides a single ingredient that many small businesses thrive on: Cacao. But not just any Cacao; we partner with Cacao farms that participate in ethical and sustainable practices.
From breweries to bakeries, tea makers to creators of beauty products, CocoaSupply works with various small business owners to advance their growth through the use of this sustainably grown and harvested cacao.
Our contribution to these small businesses allows communities everywhere access to the various creations that are inspired by this “magic seed,” bringing joy and satisfaction to thousands of small business patrons around the world.
Their impact on the communities and the businesses we serve comes from our commitment to help others thrive through creating their own products, all while contributing to the ethical trade and sustainability movements. But Cocoa Supply also supports communities by donations, such as the Three Scoop Beer, education, such as higher education scholarships and summer clubs for underprivileged girls. Our contributions - as small as they are compared to what is needed - do not stop at borders or geographical areas. Love is love, solidarity is solidarity, and together we are stronger everywhere.
Lesson to be learned
The importance of community — for small businesses and otherwise — isn’t always obvious at first glance. In a world that has been submerged in technology, genuine connection is getting harder and harder to find. However, small businesses are a great source of interaction within communities, as well as key contributors to the wellbeing of their patrons and neighbors through products, services, and employment opportunities.
Even online businesses benefit from the community environment in ways they may not have if going it alone, and in turn contribute to the community they serve. Human beings are social, connection-focused, and rely on each other to not only survive, but thrive. It’s no wonder, then, that small businesses flourish when they’re a part of their communities.
Being united with other like-minded individuals, taking part in local events, and simply knowing the people around them on a first name basis can do wonders for small businesses. Not just in the monetary sense, either; morale, a sense of belonging, and being a dependable source of something important to others are all hugely beneficial for businesses, as well as their owners. So, let’s be united as communities, as small business owners and workers, who understand that the power of community is our key to success.