Monday, May 30, 2011

#14 of 100 Simple Suggestions... Support small businesses

Each week, I receive an email from a local businessman who has an amazing earth-friendly products store. He's sunk everything he has into his little business -- including his heart and soul -- and he laments regularly in his emails about how few people buy from him as opposed to the big box grocery chains. He supports local producers by offering their products at the best prices he can, and he carries a lot of wonderful things you can't find anywhere else.

I felt a little guilty when I read that email. I'll admit that I'm not one of his regular customers. It feels good when I get to his store, or to the local bakery and the farmer's market, because I think it's wonderful when I can meet the people I'm supporting. I do avoid that big impersonal store with the happy face stickers; you know the one I mean. I can't support a business that causes unfair labour practices by demanding that its suppliers give rock bottom prices that don't allow decent wages for factory workers. I can't condone a business that moves into smaller communities, puts all competitors out of business by underselling them, then leaves for greener pastures.

Of course, that big store isn't the only one that uses unjust business practices to get us to shop there. We can't know all the details of all the places that supply us what we need to live. But when I think about it, it makes a lot more sense to support small, local businesses than big ones whose headquarters are so far away that they could care less whether they contribute to my community in a negative or positive manner. Small local businesses might have to charge a little more than that big store, but its bargains often come through injustices that a lot of little guys don't buy into if they can help it. Buying local means I'm supporting someone in my community, I'm getting things from closer to home, my food is fresher and often better quality, my clothes might have at least been manufactured this side of the ocean, and my money will get re-circulated among other small business owners here. When I go to the big box stores that sell everything in one place, it might be more convenient, but I'm too far removed from the folks who made the stuff I'm buying.

And at the little earth-friendly store I mentioned earlier, I know that the store manager has personal relationships with a lot of the people from whom he gets his merchandise. His weekly emails are full of information about the products he carries. There are only one or two degrees of separation between me and the people who make the things I purchase there, and in my books, that's worth a lot. So my aim in the next little while is to become a at least a once-a-month customer... and see if I can't up it from there. If you're curious about the store, here's a link:

How many local businesses do you support? I'd love to hear about them sometime...

P.S. Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Try here.

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