How to help a small business in these hard times

7:59 PM

As we are living events that are going to be the stuff history books are made off, supporting small businesses are now more important than ever before. 

We are all living lives that could as well be the stuff dystopian novels and movies were made of. The world as we knew it is coming crumbling down leaving room for a lot of uncertainty, and sadly, this pandemic is already creating far more collateral damage than people are willing to openly accept : migrant workers leaving cities and defying lockdown orders was just the beginning, and as horrible and heartbreaking and maddening as it was to see that tragedy unfold, there is more in store, the next victims are going to be small and medium businesses, and it's already making victims. 

In my area alone, too many restaurants have shut down already, blame it on greedy landlords not willing to negotiate lease agreements and rent payment. With each of these restaurants, came dozens of people loosing their jobs and livelihood, and those few restaurants were just the beginning, unless we people start changing the way we consume and buy. 

One of the thing that angered me the most during the tight phase of the lockdown is how suddenly, small independent Indian brands and speciality products suddenly stopped being available, despite meeting all the requirement to be labelled an essential good. 
For months, all we could buy easily were big brands like Maggi, Kelloggs, Nestle, Unilever, Coke and Pepsi. All big multinational groups that frankly could have weathered a lockdown without having to be the ONLY brands available. 
I found myself having to buy low quality, heavily processed cheese from Britannia and Amul because smaller brands like Nutoras which makes quality artisanal cheese went missing from all online selling platform and no local stores sold it.
I found myself having to buy Kelloggs because my favourite brand of cereals "Monsoon Harvest" (affiliate link)  suddenly was absent from both Amazon and the one local supermarket.

Don't get me started on all the independent makers, artisans and people who like me, sell "non-essentials" on Etsy, as of now, I still can't ship my pending international orders because IndiaPost has not resumed international registered post services. I am far from being alone in this predicament. 

The rant could go on and on and on, the fact is that this lockdown, has and is hurting plenty of small and medium businesses and if we can do anything about it, now is the time. 

Be part of the solution not part of the problem

I said it before, but part of the problem is that we have all been conditioned to buy more for less and call it a bargain. We all have been made to accept that owning 5 pairs of very low quality jeans instead of investing in just one more expensive but durable pair is the way to go, even if we can totally afford the more expensive one, we will still buy the 5 crappy ones. 

We also have been conditioned to find the low price of certain non essential stuff as the only worthy standard, without wondering what the collateral damage of going for such a cheap price might be (an overworked, underpaid worker in a sweatshop). 

If we want to change the world for the better, this has to start with putting an end to this mentality and making a conscious effort about thinking how we spend that money through. 

No need to change everything overnight, but taking a few small step in the right direction will always be a great start. 

Rethinking what our needs really are 

Do we really need enough clothing in our wardrobe to last us a month without doing laundry? Do we really need to have 20 t-shirts under 400 rupees a piece instead of 7-8 good quality ones costing a bit more? Are we really striking a bargain buying that 7th pair of cheap shoes for less than 1000 rupees? 

A good start would be to write down what we need vs what we want (but don't really need). It doesn't mean living like a monk / nun who made a vow of poverty. It just mean reassessing priorities and get to spend our money the smart, responsible way. 

A good way to go at it would be to take our budget into consideration, because I'm not telling anybody to live above their means in any way. 
But for example, if you established that your clothing needs of the hour involve having to buy 5 t-shirts and that you can safely allocate 5000 rupees to it, then you should not aim at buying 10 cheaper t-shirts for that price and look for a quality brand or a small maker instead.

If you find yourself really wanting something, not because you NEED it but because you really would LOVE to have it, ask yourself how that fairly non-essential desire could benefit everyone. This is where going for a small business, or independent maker is probably the way to go.

Make room in your budget

Another way to support more small businesses and brands, is to factor them in when you plan your monthly budget. 
I don't think any of us can buy EVERYTHING from smaller, more expensive brands, but I'm sure we could all decide to consume less of something but in a more conscious way. 

For example, deciding that eating cake at tea-time everyday at 50 rupees a day buying a cheap and processed factory baked sponge cake could be replaced by buying cake once a week at the local, family owned bakery which use quality ingredients for 350 rupees and enjoy every bit of it knowing it tastes good but also support a small business pouring their passion and love into making cakes. 

Or allowing yourself to splurge on one think you really like once a month instead of once a week on things you might not really value as much. 

Gift giving = support small businesses

If you aren't sure you can really budget spending more on certain things on a regular basis, you could instead make a point of no longer gifting anything generic for special occasions and favour a local business that make or sell unique items

Spread the word

Even if you can't really support a small business right away, take the time to spread the word about them. If someone you know is asking around where they can find a great tailor, or a jewellery maker, or a caterer and you happen to know one, let them know. 

If you bought from a small business, give them a rave review on your social media handle, your family and friends deserve to know about it. 

If you liked a post on Facebook or Instagram so much, don't forget to share it, even if you aren't buying the product. There might be one of your friends who will, you never know. 

Ban "it's too expensive" from your vocabulary

Something being perceived as expensive isn't the same as not being able to afford it. Often, what we mean when we say "Oh it's too expensive" what we are really meaning is that it's currently out of our budget. 
And it is ok, not everything has to be something we can afford right away, but it's not ok dismissing the prices of a small business as too expensive, even worse, tell it to their face.

What goes around, comes around

As you all know, I am a HUGE believer in the law of attraction, and as a small independent maker myself, I believe in spreading the love and doing my bit to support fellow artists, makers, designer, and small businesses whenever I can.
Why? Because that is the right thing to do, and by doing so, I am simply extending the courtesy I wish to see other extend to me. 

This is why, I will write posts about small businesses, brands and independent I like and support on this blog on a regular basis starting this August. 

Let's all be the change we want to see in this world shall we? 

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  1. Good suggestion, Cynthia. Makes sense. I think we all need to factor in these things in our daily lives.

    Very interestingly, here in Bengaluru, during the initial days of the March-April lockdown, all big e-commerce companies suddenly vanished. Either they were inaccessible, or they didn't have stock.

    Guess who came to our aid? ... The neighbourhood small provision store guys and the vegetable vendors in push carts who came to the gate every morning.

    1. In Mumbai we got problems getting supplies in the beginning and fore several weeks, it was also difficult to find variety of fruits and vegetables beyond a few gourds and the stuff typically going into basic Indian dishes. Non-veg supplies was also a problem.

      Considering I require a diet of meat, leafy greens, tons of salads and almost no carbs for medical reasons I found myself in a pickle.
      I also consume things like quinoa, black rice, millet grains and pearl barley, and getting those during the lockdown was near impossible in most kirana shops. I managed to find tiny packets of Quinoa by the end of April. All the other Low GI snacks and stuff that made my diet and metabolism go round had to wait until e-com sites were allowed to operate full strength again.

      Now I can fortunately get all those again via Dunzo, as shops and supermarkets in the area have resumed stock on those items as well.

  2. Nice suggestions Cynthia! We've been doing this pre-pandemic too and I've done clothes shopping this way all of my life - with very little quantity and a focus more on quality. A few years back, I started looking into sustainable and eco friendly options for food, clothing and bath products. We are fortunate that in our area, we have an abundance of locally grown produce, bread, eggs, honey, etc. We have CSAs that we can subscribe to, easily customize and order weekly online, and that are delivered fresh to the home (although expensive). Both my husband and I agree about spending more money on food and quality ingredients and supporting local farms and businesses, while cutting back on non-essentials. Neither of us are comfortable getting take out yet but most of our neighbors have been doing a lot of take out. We did buy a gift card from a local restaurant. Wishing you the best to sustain and even scale your business. I think this pandemic is helpful in that it weeds out all the average-quality-but-over-hyped stuff on social media, and quality artists like you can really thrive.

    1. I think people have been realising more and more during this pandemic how going for a more sustainable and small business oriented lifestyle is key to a better future for everyone.

      In India, people have been relying on small local grocery stores a lot more since the lockdown because it's safer, there is less crowd, and you get the option to place your order either by phone or via Dunzo and have it delivered safely in your building's lobby.

      My favourite art supplies shop in the area reinvented the way they do business, before the lockdown, they were your regular neighbourhood shop, people in the area knew them, most of their customer came from a 4-5km radius at the most. Now they have started taking orders via WhatsApp, started an Instagram account where they show all the premium art supplies they sell on a daily basis and are taking orders for the whole of Mumbai and will deliver within the day.


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