Since the economy took a nose dive in 2008, many small business owners have grown accustomed to the feeling that this is a terrible climate in which to run a successful business - and Mom and Pop type small businesses are among those being hit the hardest. These small, locally owned and operated businesses tend to be disproportionately hurt because of the spread of larger corporations throughout the community, which often offer cheaper, name brand products that ultimately put the smaller guy out of business. While competition between large companies and small businesses is an issue that raises many deep, moral and political questions, the fact remains that in general, the boom in major corporations has left Mom and Pop shops struggling to hold on.
Consumers carry many deeply-seated misconceptions about buying from major corporations instead of the local, small business alternative. Here are five truths about supporting your community's businesses and how it can be beneficial to the economy at large:
1. Cheaper is not always better.
In many cases, when the big guy comes to town, like WalMart, Target, PetCo, or other major corporations, consumers find it less appealing to buy from the local small business because they can now get a cheaper alternative. However, although a product may be cheaper, there could be many underlying issues with the product that explain how it came to be so cheap. Mass production can raise a red flag because the production process can be ethically unsound or potentially risky for one's health. Some problems involved in mass production used by major corporations could include outsourcing of the manufacturing of the product to international factories with inhumane working conditions; poor-quality, artificial, or otherwise unhealthy ingredients; flagrant animal testing or other abuses; or other harmful manufacturing practices. Furthermore, it is likely that the small business offers a product that is of higher quality because the ingredients or components are most likely local, and the product itself has received more attention than it would in a large factory.
2. Cheaper is not always cheaper.
Despite popular belief - it is not always the case that the big company offers the product for cheaper than the Mom and Pop business! Many small businesses focus on providing deals and discounts to stay competitive with their larger, corporate counterpart. Furthermore, small business owners are more likely to know their customers and offer them friendly discounts, loyal customer programs, or other perks that one would never receive when purchasing from a large corporation. Some Mom and Pop shops even like to give their customers products for free, just because they're loyal and part of the community.
3. Mom and Pop shops care about you - yes, you.
It is a great feeling to be known and remembered by the person from whom you have to make frequent purchases. Your local Mom and Pop small business owner will be more likely to be there for you when you need help from the business in any way. They can also be a good resource for you in your career or social network because they are so well connected to your local community, and can help introduce you to other locals you may otherwise never have met. Your community's local businesses serve the community because they custom built by and for the people who actually live there.
4. It's an economically, morally smart move.
The pervasive idea of the "American Dream" starts to lose its meaning when keeping a business competitive in this country is nearly impossible. If the economy requires that you outsource services or production to other countries because it's cheaper, or if big banks won't loan to small businesses, small businesses can't function and the very American idea of the "self-made man" starts to become more of an idea than a reality. Supporting small businesses encourages individuals to be entrepreneurial and to allow their own skills to serve the community. And once the small businesses operate efficiently and bring in good revenue, this builds the groundwork for an interconnected, thriving national economy.
5. They give your city character.
If all cities were overrun by the same few large corporations, what would distinguish one city from the next? What would the tourist centers in each city be able to tell visitors about what their city has to offer? Mom and Pop small businesses give cities their own flavor. They give the community members a local space in which to connect with each other and share a unique experience. They give children specific memories about growing up in their hometown. They make each community and city unique, which is not only culturally rich, but also helps to diversify and drive the economy at large.