4 simple ways to help small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic


Nearly 59% of small businesses say their revenue decreased by more than 75% since the coronavirus became a widespread concern, according to a Main Street America survey of more than 5,850 small businesses. If the crisis continues, nearly 7.5 million small businesses may be at risk of closing in the next five months, according to the survey, and 3.5 million are at risk of closing in the next two months.

The federal government has issued the Payment Protection Program, which offers $349 billion in forgivable, low-interest loans for small businesses. Still, many small businesses remain concerned about staying afloat, and many individuals are wondering what they can do to help.

Here are four simple ways to help small businesses you care about in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

Keep spending

Movie theaters, restaurants, local gyms, and retailers are all hurting. But there are ways to keep spending at these places even while you keep your distance.

  • Pay for online courses. One way you can help gyms and studios is to "take one of our online classes," says Yosara Trujillo, founder of Sweet Water Dance & Yoga in the Bronx. Sweet Water is offering online classes on a sliding scale from $5 to $20 each.
  • Buy local. "Many of us, we purchase things online from Amazon," says Will Campbell, CEO of digital entertainment and marketing agency Quantasy. Instead, he says, "take a couple more minutes to see what [small] businesses in your area might have the same product," and order what you need from them.
  • Buy gift cards. Many businesses are offering gift card purchases that enable the business to get paid immediately. Log onto your favorite businesses' websites and see if they offer the option to purchase gift cards now that can be used later. 
Many of us, we purchase things online from Amazon. ... Take a couple more minutes to see what [small] businesses in your area might have the same product.
Will Campbell
CEO of Quantasy
  • Order takeout. While many restaurants and cafes are closed to the public, they could still be offering delivery and takeout. Check apps like Seamless and Delivery.com, which offer contactless delivery, to see which local eateries you can order from. Or simply call your favorite spots and see what their social distance dining options or specials are.
  • Donate. Even if you can't get the service a given business offers, consider donating the same amount of money you would have spent in a typical month. "If you're supposed to get a haircut," says Deborah Engel, founder of Work and Play co-working space, "offer the salon to pay anyway." 

Let business owners know what you need

Some small businesses may be able to adapt their services to offer ones their community needs at the moment.

"Particularly small business owners are more flexible to pivot," says Dan Honig, owner of the Happy Valley Meat Company, whose business supplied meat from local farms to restaurants. Since the coronavirus outbreak, the company has started shipping and selling meat directly to consumers.

"If all of a sudden I'm realizing, 'Oh, people are looking for X, Y, or Z,'" says Honig, "maybe that's an opportunity that I can jump on." For example, distilleries and breweries throughout the country have started producing hand sanitizer, and some eateries are now offering customers toilet paper along with food and beverage orders.

Reach out to small businesses you patronize on Instagram, Facebook, or through an email they list on their website, and let them know if there's something relevant you need right now. Even if they can't supply it, maybe there's another business in their network that can.

Share their stories

What with the chaos of day-to-day life since the stay-at-home orders began, struggling businesses "may not be top of mind" for a lot of people says Campbell. That's understandable. But sharing their stories throughout social media and in your networks can help raise awareness about their plights and what services they're offering.

"If there's a brand that you like," says Honig, "just share it around to your network and then hopefully more of the small businesses go viral."

If there's a brand that you like, just share it around to your network and then hopefully more of the small businesses go viral.
Dan Honig
Founder, Happy Valley Meat Company

Offer up your skill set

As some companies try to figure out how they can survive and shift their business models to meet the needs of quarantined customers, they may need help with tasks like marketing, web design, or delivery. Reach out to your favorite small businesses and let them know what skills you can offer to help sustain them. 

"If you're a programmer or you're a digital marketing specialist," says Honig, "reach out to all your favorite brands that are pivoting because there's a ton of work that goes into starting a brand new business."

Some companies might be able to pay or offer you their goods for free in exchange for your efforts, but if you can afford to volunteer, it could go a long way toward helping a small business you value survive.

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