National Small Business Week: Getting Involved In Your Community
by Sammi Caramela
Since 1963, the Small Business Administration (SBA) has sponsored this week, which recognizes and highlights the impact of small businesses across the country.
Small businesses are an integral part of any community. As a business owner, you should consider getting involved in your local small business community, during National Small Business Week and throughout the year. Here are six ways to do it.
1. Offer free services or discounts.
To benefit your community and its organizations, you can offer free products and services to schools, libraries or nonprofit organizations, said Desiree Thomson, marketing executive at Gardening Services London.
"That will help strengthen your public image and more people will learn about you," said Thomson. "Brand exposure should never be underestimated. Plus, it's a good way to give something back to your community."
You can also offer special discounts for loyal clients via email rather than on social media, Thomson added. This will make your customers feel special and appreciated.
For example, UPS recently announced special promotions and discounts to help small businesses. You can receive UPS Smart Pickup service at no cost. You can also save 25% off of ground shipping, 40% off air shipping and 50% off international shipping.
2. Run workshops for local small businesses.
Marcus Miller, SEO and digital marketing strategist at Bowler Hat, said that his company offers workshops that cover digital marketing subjects for local small businesses. Many people respond positively, saying their advice helps them understand where to spend their time, effort and money.
"Sometimes this turns into business for us when there is someone we can help," said Miller. "Our entire focus is helping small businesses with their marketing, so we find if we do what we can to help, then the work we need comes to us."
For example, the city of Oakland offers a variety of free workshops and events during this week. On Tuesday, May 7, the BRT Information Center will host a workshop on Infomation Technology Tools for Your Business from 5:15 p.m. to 6:15 p.m.
3. Sponsor local events and charities.
In every town and city, there are sports teams, theater productions, parades and other community events that rely on donations from individuals and businesses in the area. Rob Rae, vice president of business development at Datto, said small business owners should consider banding together to sponsor one of these organizations.
"Offering sponsorships for local groups or events is a great way to show support for the surrounding community," Rae said. "You can sponsor Little League teams, or support your employees who are involved in marathons, races, etc."
You can also get involved with charity organizations, such as your local food bank or shelter, Rae said. Charitable efforts will get your name out to the local community and help a worthy cause.
4. Get a pulse on your local customer base.
If small businesses are the backbone of the economy, loyal customers are the backbone of a small business. A survey by Cox Business found that an overwhelming number of American consumers visit a local small or midsize business at least once a week, with slightly more than a quarter (27%) visiting those same stores at least twice a week on average.
They do so because consumers enjoy the familiarity and loyalty of local businesses, and respondents also cited a greater level of trust and more competitive pricing than large businesses as reasons to shop small businesses.
During NSBW, it's especially important to reach out to the customers who have helped make your business successful, said Allison Checchi, COO of Atom Tickets.
"Giving consumers an opportunity to share positive stories about their favorite employee or most memorable experience helps grow and foster customer relationships, which are so crucial to long-term success as a business," Checchi said. "At the same time, it has the added benefit of increasing awareness of your business at the precise moment when people are paying so much attention to small businesses."
5. Join your local chamber of commerce.
If you want to get involved in your small business community in a big, tangible way, Rae recommended joining your local chamber of commerce.
"Membership offers you an awesome opportunity to network with other small business owners, and will help you build recognition as a local expert in your field," Rae said.
John Swanciger, CEO of Manta, agreed, noting that getting involved in this type of organization can help you seek out partnerships with complementary businesses near you.
Find a local chamber here, or learn more about joining the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Small Business Nation.
6. Attend a National Small Business Week event.
All week, the Small Business Association (SBA) is hosting NSBW events in cities across the country. These panels, discussions and webinars cover a wide range of important small business topics, from how to start and grow a business to the business of agriculture.
"Small Business Week is about creating opportunities … to drive conversations that arm local business owners with insights, tools and resources they need to power their business," Checchi said. "Local business owners should take advantage of these moments to network and gain knowledge."
Each event will either be livestreamed from the SBA website or can be watched on Facebook Live on the SBA Facebook page, so even if you're not in the area, you can still tune in and benefit from the expert insights. Visit the below links for scheduling and attendance information:
Check out the full list of events this week hosted by the Small Business Administration.
To learn more about participating in National Small Business Week, you can visit the SBA's landing page, or follow the Twitter hashtag #SmallBusinessWeek.
Additional reporting by Jennifer Post and Sammi Caramela. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.