Borrowed words to Shop Local
For months I have wanted to write something to express my desire for people to understand how important it is to shop local and support small business. Every time I typed something up, I discarded it feeling I was whining or complaining which are two things I have never wanted to do as a business owner.
A former staff & close friend of mine wrote this article inspired by a conversation we had during our Covid shutdown as she was buying some items from me for her summer adventures. Written for Alberta but just as relevant for Saskatchewan and Manitoba where I have my businesses and it articulates what I would like people to know better than any words I can put on paper.
Opinion: Helping local businesses survive benefits us all
Author of the article:
Jul 25, 2020
I grew up seeing Dad making tough choices about the future of his business. Family vacations were delayed because the business took priority and the dinner-table conversations consistently centred around the family company. Now, those same conversations are commonplace around the dinner with my husband who is also a small business owner. Except these days the conversation has shifted into how to keep operations going in the shadow of a global pandemic — and what happens if we can’t.
As the Alberta director for the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB) it has, to say the least, been difficult both professionally and personally to hear day-after-day the excruciating challenges small business owners are facing across our province. All of it came to a boiling point a month ago with one moment almost bringing me to tears.
I called my former employer who is a small business owner to set aside some camping items for my husband and I as we have a series of summer staycation backcountry trips planned in the mountains. After making the purchase, he said something that really struck me. He just said, “thank you,” but this was not an ordinary “thank you.” His voice let slip what sounded like a combination of desperation and gratitude. I could really sense he was grateful for my business.
I felt I should be the one thanking him for giving me my first job, teaching me the importance of a strong work ethic and taking pride in everything you do, and passing down some great camping wisdom I continue to use and will never forget. That “thank you” from my former employer however, gave up the mixed feelings of anxiety, gratitude and hope many business owners are struggling with.
It is also what inspires the slogan you’ll find on CFIB’s #SmallBusinessEveryDay posters in the windows of many small businesses: “Thank you. We survive with your support.” This is not the product of some high-priced branding firm, these were the words spoken by a small business owner, a CFIB member, when we asked what they felt we should be saying on their behalf. “Thank you. We survive with your support.”
Small businesses survive with the support of all of us. Despite the province being in stage 2 of its economic relaunch, CFIB’s own survey results confirm that only 25 per cent of Alberta small businesses are making normal sales for this time of year and 36 per cent are back to normal staffing levels.
Most worrisome is 19 per cent of Alberta small businesses are actively considering bankruptcy or winding down their business — the highest rate in the country. Alberta also leads the country on most average debt per business with Alberta small businesses owners reporting they have taken on average $162,000 in debt. All of this points to the fact consumer support and the support from all of us will be vital to ensuring small businesses have a tomorrow.
We all need to remember that when we support local, we not only support the business itself, but the countless other ways small businesses give back to their local communities. My former employer organizes trail runs and ski loppets and donates to outdoor school classes. He even encourages his staff to volunteer and hand out refreshments at these events. My husband, a dentist, donates toothbrushes to non-profits and regularly attends local community events. Small business owners not only take pride in growing their business but are always looking for ways to give back to the communities that surround them.
We know small business recovery is going to be a long, tough road and our province’s job creators need our support now more than ever. So I’m encouraging everyone in the economic relaunch phase to think #SmallBusinessEveryDay with every purchase you make. Be mindful of where you shop and shop locally when you can. By making the conscious decision to support local businesses you may be providing young people, like me, their first job opportunity and in turn helping a business give back to their community.
By supporting local and taking on a small business challenge at www.SmallBusinessEveryDay.ca you can make a difference in how those family conversations go around Alberta’s dinner tables.
Annie Dormuth is the Alberta provincial affairs director for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.