There's a small business down the road from where I live, and on the outside of their building they have a sign that says "The Internet didn't pave [name of road]. Shop local." This is a very strong statement, and it left an impression on me. I never thought about the impact that small businesses had on a community. I've grown up in a small city where the downtown area was made up of nothing but small businesses. There was no Walmart, just a local grocery store and the nearest mall was 30 minutes away. When I moved to Montgomery, Alabama, there was nothing but commercialized businesses, and it was hard to find local shops and restaurants in a city filled with big-name companies.
There are countless benefits when you stop buying from large chain companies and go out and support local businesses. According to Independent We Stand (an organization that supports small businesses), small businesses have accounted for over 65% percent of all new jobs over the past 17 years and employ more than 77 million people. The more you give, the more opportunities you see within your community. You're not just giving back to these local businesses, either. You're giving back to your community. For every dollar you spend at local businesses, at least half of that is returned to the local economy. This money helps schools, roadways and local business owners and their families. The number of small cities in America greatly outweighs the number of large cities. Within these small cities, individual businesses will make up most of the overall revenue being brought into the area. If we don't support these businesses, then who is going to support our towns?
I started a new job this week at a retail store that sells apparel and outdoor gear. Since it has other locations across the southeast, it may not be considered a small business, but it has taught me a lot about local economy. I believe it is important that our generation supports these small stores within our communities, even though I am guilty of using my student discount on Amazon Prime for something that (most of the time) I could easily go and pick up at a nearby store. Why should I have to wait for the post office to bring it to me when I can go pick it up and have it in a matter of minutes? I have learned the value of shopping at a business that actually values my service and sees me as a neighbor and not a customer.
Shopping local also gives you other benefits that you can't buy. Having unique experiences with the businesses gives you a better since of community and can provide networking connections that you can't get from large chains. Go to a nearby coffee shop (not Starbucks!) and read a book from your local library (yes, those still exist.) Visit a boutique and buy something for your mom. Check out the local flea market and buy produce from REAL farmers. You will not be disappointed by shopping local because these experiences are something that you can't buy from any large company. Shop local, America.