It’s been nearly a year since our lives were changed by the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. And for many of us, we’re getting used to our new normal. For some military families, that meant moves were postponed. Or worse yet, they were left with uncertainty about when the next PCS move would occur. That uncertainty is compounded when you consider the impact on small military-owned businesses and employment. It particularly affects those with home-based small businesses they plan to uproot and take with them from duty station to duty station.
Whether we’re working from home while homeschooling kids, Zooming with our loved ones in the U.S. and abroad, and wearing masks, we’re all making adjustments. But some of the things we did back in March and April last year -- like going out of our way to support small businesses -- may have faded from view over time.
The fact is that many local and small businesses are still working hard to make it out on the other side of the pandemic, so supporting them as best we can is a good goal for 2021. Whether you’re able to support these businesses monetarily or not, here are a few ways you can make a difference for small businesses.
1. Shop Small/Local
While many of us may have decreased spending since the beginning of the pandemic, none of us have stopped shopping altogether. The next time you need groceries, household items, or a birthday present for your grandma, consider shopping at a local business rather than a large, national retailer.
You may find that local businesses have slightly higher prices. But this is not always the case. If they do, remember that you are paying a small fee to make a big difference in the life of a local business owner.
Small businesses, particularly in tight-knit military communities, have a common bond. Ask other local businesses to display information about your product or service and return the favor for them in your business location.
2. Order Takeout/Delivery
Without being able to offer their services, businesses can’t make money. Whether they’re a store, restaurant, or a service provider.
By ordering takeout or delivery from your favorite local restaurant, you’re not only ordering a delicious meal for you and your family. You’re also helping the staff of that restaurant stay employed and providing cash flow to that business. Plus, most of us can agree that after being at home for 11 months, cooking at home can get boring.
3. Create the Ultimate Care Package
Military families especially understand the importance of care packages. Whether you’re sending a care package to your loved one serving overseas, or to your friend who lives alone and could use some cheering up, purchasing your care package supplies from a local business can do a world of good. You’re supporting a small business near you. And you’re giving your loved one a taste of home with your carefully curated gifts.
4. Buy Gift Cards
While some businesses have shuttered temporarily, most close in the hope of reopening soon. Buying gift cards online for future use can help businesses stay afloat during tough times.
It can create a flow of revenue to their business at the current moment when the gift card is purchased. And it also guarantees a follow-up visit from the customer at a date in the future. With each visit to a store or restaurant, there’s an increased chance of a customer making a purchase.
5. Use Cashless Methods of Payment
Many people in the U.S. favor electronic payment methods rather than cash, though this is not always the case when living overseas. However, America’s cashless ways may be in our favor when it comes to dealing with the spread of the coronavirus. Bills and coins are more likely to spread germs between people compared to cashless payment methods.
Common cashless methods of payment include:
- Debit and credit cards
- Apple and Google Pay
- Peer-to-peer (P2P) payment systems, such as Zelle
Not only are cashless methods of payment likely to be more sanitary, but they’re also faster. This means you can get in and out of a local business more quickly, which means less time for potential exposure.
6. Share on Social Media
Even if money is tight, there are other ways you can support small businesses without spending a dollar.
Leave positive reviews on the social media profiles of companies you engage with for services. Share recommendations on your own social profiles or in groups you may belong to on social media can be just as helpful. The military community supports its own. Spouse group forums and communities would be a great place to highlight military-owned small businesses and give them a shout out.
By giving your favorite businesses your own personal endorsement, you contribute to their positive reputation in the community. This means that potential new customers can easily find them.
7. Be Understanding
COVID has changed life for all of us. And it’s true for small business owners and employees as well. Remember that we’re all doing the best we can.
One way you can help small businesses is by being understanding of the difficulties they are facing as a result of the pandemic. This includes finances, staffing, supply chain, and more. If your delivery order is delayed, remember to have patience instead of writing a negative review or angry email to the store owner.
By Your Side Through the Pandemic
Through the coronavirus pandemic and beyond, Armed Forces Bank is working to be your financial partner. We’re here for you.