How can you support small businesses during the pandemic?
"The end of the fucking world"
...is the tv series I am working my way through on Netflix while I sit at home and wait for this clusterfuckshitstorm™ to be over. Like me you are probably wondering about where your next sheet of bog roll is coming from, if Trump is going to catch it, and when the looting will begin. The slightest clearing of a throat can cause nervous twitching and accusations that the throat clearer could be riddled, and men everywhere are worried that they might need to start doing more around the house now they are off work and there's no sport on. But I digress...one of the main causes for concern for me, after health obvz...is that as a self-employed, home-working person (who was self-isolating BEFORE it was cool) is how the fuck can my business survive this? How can the small businesses of my friends and acquaintances survive this? How can the small businesses that I've not even heard of, but would probably love if I had heard of them, survive this? The sad truth is, some of them won't.
This is unchartered territory for us all. I'm guessing that the big companies might have action plans and processes in place in the event of World War Z apocalypses and Independence Day style alien invasions, they must pay people to work this stuff out, right? But us wee businesses, who are doing everything ourselves, either completely on our own, or with minimal staff, on the day-to-day, we've been caught on the hop with no contingency and little financial cushioning to get us through. How do we navigate these uncertain times when everyone is panic-buying pasta - interestingly, my local Tesco still has wholewheat pasta (twisty cardboard) on the shelves - and other necessities, and we're over here trying to flog mugs with swear words on them. If we are posting at all, us tiny businesses feel downright embarrassed for sharing a pic of something we made, on our social channels without wanting to apologise first for being so damned frivolous in a time that demands seriousness.
When you're self-employed, It's not as easy as 'go to the Winchester, have a pint and wait for all this to blow over' like normal employed people with contracts and sick pay. If we don't work, we don't get paid. We are in some sort of self-imposed zero hour contract hell of our own making.
A lot of people I know run classes, workshops, have bricks n' mortar shops, cafes, that RELY on footfall. If they haven't decided to close already, they are busy increasing hygiene standards and introducing social distancing measures to ensure customer safety, but are seeing dwindling sales by the day, as more people decide to stay indoors. Hospitality businesses like cafes, hotels, restaurants and bars are being FORCED to remain open as insurance won't pay out until the Government orders them to close.
How are small businesses reacting?
Some businesses like Isolated Heroes (beautiful sequins-dress-making goddesses) use suppliers in China, and they are seeing huge delays in receiving the raw materials needed to make their orders - they are offering gift cards for future purchases. Artists like tortoise-drawing Neil Slorance can no longer attend cancelled events to sell his cute AF prints and comics. You can of course, buy these from his online shop. Dance Glasgow have announced that they will be offering online classes via Instagram which is PERFECT for those of us who may have felt too self conscious to attend their classes in person. Take the time to check out your favourite small businesses to see how they are reacting.
So how can you offer support?
Don't forget about that shop or maker on social media or in your bookmarks who makes you smile. Shelling out your hard-earned money might not be an option right now, so engage on their social media posts - like, share and comment. Sign up to their newsletter list, and open them when they arrive in your inbox. Give feedback! Tell your friends about these businesses. If spending money is an option, there are plenty of ways to do it AND get some bang for your buck. A lot of small businesses are selling gift cards at a reduced rate so you can purchase something when all this dies down, some are offering free shipping, and there is an array of 'Wash Your Hands' merch that is giving us LIFE, in particular Claire Brown's cross stitch pattern that not only offers sound advice, but will also give you something to do should we go into a full-blown lockdown! Seek out ways to support those 'foot traffic' businesses online, and support your local shops that are still open! Please, please, please check-in with self-employed friends who may be struggling. This is a stressful time for everyone, but small business owners are in a precarious financial situation, with a very uncertain future and for some, their mental health may be suffering.
Me? I am particularly looking forward to my diet being the most successful diet ever, coz I ain't stock-piled shit!
Image Credit: @WhyTheLongPlayFace?