New Year’s Resolutions for Supporting Small Businesses

Throughout the past few months, we’ve been surveying small business owners to find out their greatest pain points, needs, and goals. Although this wasn’t our focus (and maybe it should have been), we ended up learning a lot about how we can all be more supportive patrons of small businesses. So as we embark on this new year, still aiming to champion small black businesses, we’ve set a few resolutions for how to do that better than ever.


Allow for imperfection and be willing to offer feedback.

“Black consumers need to allow black business owners to make mistakes without turning their backs on black business.”

That’s a direct quote from one of our respondents. Everyone reading this can probably think of a black-owned or small business that has poor customer care or sub-par products and services.

Shift your focus for a moment to think about a huge, corporate business whose poor customer service or sub-par products have been widely discussed. Maybe it’s an on-demand car service plagued by discrimination, or a goliath beauty brand with tone-deaf ads, or an airline that can’t seem to get planes out on time. Either way, have you ever had a bad experience with a huge company and then said to yourself, ‘I’m never going to support a corporate entity again’? Sounds kind of illogical, right?

Think back to that failing black-owned/small business in your local or digital community. Did you give them the same angry-tweet, strongly-worded-email feedback that you would have given to a big company? Or did you just decide not to bother and instead added it to your list of reasons not to support black-owned businesses or not to shop small?

Don’t let one bad experience (or even a few) turn you away from investing your dollars where they will count the most.


Temper expectations.

Although the goal is for small businesses to demonstrate high levels of professionalism and provide high-quality products and services, remember that they don’t have the same amount of resources as the big companies we’re used to buying from. Many of us enjoy the personal touch of purchases from small businesses, whether it’s a handwritten thank-you or that IG-live of the company’s owner headed to the post office with orders they packaged themselves.

That hustle demonstrates how much love they have for each product and customer—and as customers, we should make a greater effort to acknowledge and mirror that love.


Stop complaining about the prices.

Small businesses have fewer resources (financial and otherwise) to support the making of their products and the labor that goes into their services. If one of your top reasons for not shopping small is that the prices are a few dollars higher than a similar product or service from a larger company, remember this: your dollars will contribute to more net new jobs if you buy from a small business.

That’s right, according to a Kauffman Foundation study, between 1977 and 2005, new firms accounted for all net job growth in the U.S. So not only will your dollars help grow a business, they could help create jobs, too.


Remember: There’s always more room.

If you’re a business owner yourself, don’t feel like you can’t or shouldn’t support other small businesses—in fact, your support should be expected because you know how much it means. As one of our survey respondents said, “There really is room for all of us. I think we can learn so much from each other without feeling like we need to hoard ideas, resources, etc.”


Ownership is the first step to reclaiming our communities.

This week, Essence became a 100% black-owned brand again. One of my family members just became a partner at a mixed martial arts gym five minutes from his house in Maryland. It all counts. It’s all something to be proud of. And it all helps us focus on reclaiming our communities from goliath companies who have unapologetically lost sight of the needs of the people they originally aimed to serve.

In 2017 we talked about reclaiming our time (s/o to Maxine Waters for that mantra). Let’s make 2018 the year we reclaim our stuff.

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