Why and How Should we Support Local Businesses?Jason Siddall
“Choosing to support an independent business is an act of respect; it’s acknowledging the tremendous risk and challenges inherent to starting your own thing.” So says Matt Kliegman, Co-founder of The Smile, Black Seed Bagels. (Source)
SMMEs contribute almost 40 percent of South Africa’s GDP and employ around 60 percent of the workforce. The National Development Plan predicts that 90 percent of all new jobs will be within an SMME by 2030. The government can clearly see the importance of supporting small and local businesses, and we stand firmly behind them.
An article from IOL.co.za by Wynand Smit, Chief Executive of INOVO talks about the challenges that small local businesses face today; “If SMEs are to increase their contribution to the local economy, and in turn, the number of jobs they create, we need to ensure we have an enabling environment and entrepreneurial ecosystem that allows entrepreneurs to thrive.”
It’s something of a puzzle as to how small local businesses can contribute so much to the economy yet do so under such difficult conditions. Getting finance for a start-up is a major challenge, finding trustworthy business partners is another, staying afloat with a high cost of living and trying to compete internationally with a fluctuating currency add further burdens to these budding businesses.
Why Support Local Businesses?
During the industrial revolution, cottage industries were virtually eliminated as consumers flocked toward the “bigger, better, and faster” lifestyle. Now, we see a swing in the opposite direction as consumers are opting for unique, home-grown, personalised products and services.
There is a distinct move away from mass-produced foods and the chemicals and additives that they bring with them, and a growing demand for organic, pesticide-free foods. Fresh eggs, dairy and vegetables are freely available in most South African cities, locally grown on nearby smallholdings – and they’re delicious.
Keeping the Cash
When we shop locally, more of the money spent stays in the community than when we visit chain stores. This means, in turn, that the locals have more to spend on your goods and services if you are a local business. Makes ‘cents’, doesn’t it?
A small business has less staff, which means that you will get to know the individuals who you’re dealing with as opposed to being lost in the system with an automated voice telling you that your call is valuable to them. Problems can be resolved quickly without the communication overhead and red tape that big business seems to enjoy.
When it comes to the silly season with everyone looking for ‘something special’ for their family and friends, local businesses really know how to step up to the plate. Home-made, unique gifts are incredibly special and a far cry from the mass-produced stuff that rolls off the assembly line.
How Can we Support Local Businesses?
How can we show our support for these vital economic props both as fellow business-owners and consumers?
Businesses can actively source local products, from restaurants to builders. They may also offer a discount to small businesses or even help to promote them to their staff if they have received a good service.
Training and education can also be offered to local businesses to upskill and grow their team, perhaps by means of internships or similar programs.
Smit, mentioned above, raises a couple of further important points when he says, “Affordability is a focus – so it makes sense to go into a solutions partnership with low upfront costs. Timing, too, is a consideration – your business cannot afford downtime while a solution is being rolled out, so it helps if a solution can be up and running quickly.
“Hosting some services in the Cloud is an additional way for businesses to keep growing, the Cloud provides immense capacity and can give your company the chance to access big business excellence without the heavy capital outlays.”
Huge Connect is all about connectivity and to that end, we have developed a number of affordable packages – specifically for small and local businesses – to get online fast and stay up-and-running. These packages eliminate the need for a large capital outlay for telephony and connectivity which can be scaled up as your business grows.
As consumers, why not look for local markets where microenterprises showcase their products. Prices are usually very competitive, and it’s a great day out in the sunshine. Give new ideas a chance, listen to the sales pitch of a school-leaver with an idea, ask for local referrals for products and services.
Every small act that we perform in the support of local businesses adds to our community and offers financial security to this group of entrepreneurs.