As Small Business Month 2021 nears its close, let’s take a moment to appreciate all the ways our small business owners have shown up for our communities during trying and traumatizing times. So many of us have faced this pandemic with relentless resilience, and continue to come together as we recover mentally, physically, and economically.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses employ nearly half of the U.S. workforce; those with fewer than 20 employees account for the largest share of these jobs. As the Executive Director of Rising Tide Capital, a national non-profit organization that provides business support services, financial resource coaching, and training to nontraditional and under-resourced entrepreneurs, I have witnessed the incredible disruption that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused for so many small and micro businesses that depend on strong local economies to survive and grow. In turn, our communities who rely on the vital services of childcare entrepreneurs, cleaning professionals, and healthy food providers, among others, felt the tremendous challenges of limited access to these kinds of entrepreneurs. 

Despite the economic downturn, many of these businesses fought to keep their doors open to continue to provide crucial services and employment opportunities for our communities. Entrepreneurs partnered with other small businesses, pivoted their services and models to address pandemic-related needs, and connected each other to resources like the pandemic relief and recovery support offered by organizations like Rising Tide Capital. These businesses are the backbone of our economy and the foundation that holds our communities together. 

Small businesses across the country have been closing at an alarming rate. Moreover, the economic impact of the ongoing pandemic has not been evenly distributed: entrepreneurs of color and women-owned businesses are experiencing the most damaging effects. Nearly half of Black-owned small businesses have closed since the start of the health emergency. Women-owned businesses have also been disproportionately impacted due to the added responsibilities of being the primary caregivers for children, many of whom are learning remotely. As a Black woman, entrepreneur, and community leader, I know that opening and operating a business under the best economic conditions is a challenge.

It’s time to step up our support. Will you join me?

Those of us who have the ability to help must do our part. We can support small businesses directly, and simultaneously build inclusive, resilient economies. Small Business Month is a perfect time to focus on spending in a way that builds bridges. 

Here are 4 key reasons why business leaders should make a bold and concrete commitment to purchase goods and services from small and micro entrepreneurs. 

Supporting small businesses:

  1. Promotes and advances equity. Organizations are now including a commitment to equity as a core value of their brand. Purchasing from businesses owned by women and people of color, who have been hardest-hit by the pandemic and historically excluded from opportunities, is a meaningful and measurable way to fulfill your organization’s commitment to equity.
  2. Provides the opportunity to purchase more meaningful gifts for your employees and clients. Many small businesses offer hand-crafted artisanal goods that may be more meaningful to your employees and clients than a company-branded calculator or pen. At Rising Tide Capital, we released our first annual Rising Tide Capital Holiday Impact Shopping Gift Guide late last year. It highlights products and services produced by our community of small and micro entrepreneurs. The holidays may be over but there is no time limit on sharing thoughtful gifts of appreciation with your employees and clients!
  3. Strengthens the economy, which ultimately benefits all of us. Perhaps the most immediate benefit of shopping small is its impact on your local economy. Making a significant, formal commitment to purchasing from local small businesses and minority and women-owned businesses, rather than defaulting to large chains, will transform communities and lives. A dollar spent in your community is a dollar earned in your community, and patronizing local businesses will help them stay open and retain their employees. Give yourself a goal: commit to making between 20% to 50% of your purchases from local businesses with 25 or fewer employees.
  4. Serves your mental health and wellbeing. The COVID-19 pandemic has not only taken a toll on the economy but also on our collective mental health. Many have also felt frustrated with not being able to do more to help. Helping others is a proven way to improve wellbeing and instill a sense of purpose. You can enrich your own wellbeing and that of your community by taking a community-centered approach to giving back. What better way to commemorate Small Business Month and Mental Health Awareness Month.

Are you ready to make an impact? Entrepreneurs and small businesses are critical to our nation’s recovery and the long-term sustainability of our economy and our communities. During this year’s Small Business Month, I ask you to be intentional in your efforts supporting local businesses. This can be a fresh start to engage with your community.