The Grand Rapids Chamber serves more than 2,400 member organizations in the West Michigan business community and beyond. Approximately 80% of those are small to mid-sized businesses or nonprofits. The Coronavirus pandemic has forced many of our members to temporarily close their doors, drastically limiting the services they can provide or halting business altogether. In response, the Grand Rapids community has asked us one thing: How can I support small business in this unprecedented time of need?
On March 23, Governor Whitmer issued Executive Order 2020-21 requiring the temporary suspension of activities not necessary to sustain or protect life. Stay Home, Save Lives provides the greatest opportunity for our state to flatten the curve. For many of us, however, support means being physically present in a space with those providing a good or service.
So how can you invest in local business from afar?
- Purchase a gift card. Gift card programs create opportunity for direct community investment from the comfort of your couch and provide retailers access to funds upfront, helping offset income lost due to pandemic restrictions. For those with loved ones supporting essential needs, a gift card can serve as a small act of gratitude. And the rest of us? Consider this a jump start on holiday shopping.
- Order takeout or delivery. The hospitality industry is approximately 600,000 people strong in the state of Michigan. To keep our community fed, employees on the payroll and doors open, local restaurants are doing some fancy footwork. Because we understand eating out for every meal is a large investment, we encourage you to dine local for breakfast, lunch and dinner at least once a week.
- Reschedule canceled services, schedule those needed in the future and pre-pay for as much as you can. We are all going to need some serious TLC when life returns to normal. Just because we can’t enjoy some of the finer things in life now, however, doesn’t mean we can’t plan and pay for future services. Rescheduling services gives us all something to look forward to and paying up front supports those who will care for you when business resumes.
- Maintain memberships. Instead of canceling memberships altogether, lean into the virtual options fitness and wellness studios are providing. We are all exploring this new norm together, so adapting routines in stride with one another is key to sustaining business. Nonprofit wellness organizations, like the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids, rely heavily on membership dues to support additional work that impacts our community’s most vulnerable. Remember to strive for purpose over perfection when equipment is limited and get creative with the options you have at home. Might we suggest a growler of your favorite brew as a makeshift kettle bell?
Additional ways to support local business
The financial structure of many homes has shifted as a direct response to the Coronavirus pandemic. With that, discretionary funds have decreased or been eliminated entirely. While monetarily supporting local business may not be an investment you can make right now, there are still ways to be a champion for creating great community.
- Leave a positive review. How many times have you consulted the opinions of others before patronizing a business for the first time? Probably too many to count. While we are often quick to share underwhelming or negative experiences, now is a time to recount positive encounters with local businesses we love. Google has suspended review functions to protect businesses during the pandemic, but platforms like Yelp and Facebook are still accepting feedback. Step up, spread joy!
- The pandemic is impacting everyone differently. Those in our community who rely on support from nonprofits and state-funded programs to meet their essential needs are exceptionally vulnerable. If you are healthy and have capacity, consider donating your time to one or more organizations who desperately need help fulfilling services. The Heart of West Michigan United Way has compiled a comprehensive list of opportunities here.
Regardless of how you choose to support, it is important that you do. We will get through this time together, creating great community along the way.