Is COVID-19 going to destroy our small business ecosystem in North America?
The small-medium business (SMB) is the backbone of the economy as millions of businesses rely on selling goods/services typically within their local community or with other SMB. This localized economy has an echo effect to benefit their local community dramatically through volunteerism, charity fundraising, support networks, and even sponsorship of your local little league soccer team. Small business owners are often the most engaged in our society. This is primarily due to the fact they are passionate about their local community succeeding. Look around who is helping most in your community during these difficult times, it is not big box stores/corporations.
With the complete shutdown of most businesses recently, we have seen these SMB absolutely crippled in revenue that they so hard worked to establish. The governments have given some relief for some entities however many like us at Riverwood Acoustics are left out of the support network. This is primarily due to the fact most of our employee basis is contract production to local companies and we do not meet the minimum requirements. As any early stage company, we rely on our local companies to produce the key components in our premium speakers. Special shout out to some of our key suppliers like Bode Custom Cabinets, Virtucom and Logs End. These small family run companies are all local to the Ottawa Valley area and provide countless jobs for many in our community. Luckily we have a strong fan base of Riverwood family who are still buying our product online throughout this crisis and we have sufficient runway to weather this storm.
I am disheartened when I read stories of people trashing support for small businesses in online articles. I have heard comments ranging from "you should have saved for a rainy day" to "tough luck, not my problem". These internet trolls have obviously never tried to create a small business from absolutely nothing. The majority of small businesses do not even draw a salary as they are busy in the early years building their "baby". I always recommend somebody walk a mile in the shoes of an entrepreneur before they comment on articles. As someone who has worked for the largest of fortune 500 companies to small business owners, I can tell you each company has their struggles. Many times, the largest corporation gets more support structure because of government bias and lobbying powers. Typically these businesses do not support their local communities rather they are focused on corporate earnings, share price and short term vision. Small businesses often look at how they can support their local communities to make them better by job creation, charity involvement and fundraising. All these activities do not make them additional money but create self fulfillment and purpose.
So the next time somebody is posting an article about supporting your local small business you can help them by doing the following:
-Like, Comment or Share their message in a positive way. Tell them you are rooting for them.
-Buy their product, take out or gift card to help them weather this storm. It's tough in this economic condition to spend money on non-essentials but if you are still employed or have the ability please do so.
-Change our buy habits to #BuyLocal. Not only for your local community but all the people in it who rely on these small business and charity networks.
-Give time or support to your local charities. More now than ever do they need their support. We have been fortunate over the years to give thousands of dollars to various charities through silent auctions and donations. We have adapted our April sales campaign into a matching donation to our local food bank to raise money for them.
-Don't feed the internet trolls. Killing them with kindness is really a way to change their behaviours. Often they are angry at other issues and trying to voice their concerns. If that doesn't work typically they are just trying to get a rise out of the public. Ignore them in that case.
When things get back to normal, let's all start doing more research on who, where and why we are buying from them. What do they stand for in their local communities?
We are hopeful that after this shutdown ends we will all have learned a valuable lesson in globalization, family and community. We don't need a single person buying local perfectly, we need a million people supporting local imperfectly.
The primary reason we have created our company was to improve our local economy with the vision of locally designing and manufacturing premium speakers when every other company has transitioned to overseas.