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Who do you buy from and why? Photo by Shari Sirotnak on Unsplash

Why you need to shop at local small businesses

You’ll get much more than you expect.

Cynthia Marinakos
Dec 3, 2018 · 7 min read

I have a fascinating relationship with my local butcher, Justine.

She’s honest: She tells me which sausages she likes from her display — and which she doesn’t.

She cares: She shares recipes her family love such as her super simple slow cooker pulled pork. She listens when I speak — and remembers our conversations next time I visit.

She services: She gives me complimentary products, gets me the best cuts, and always has time for me.

We chat about how the business is going. About our weekends away. Our next holiday. How to entertain the kids during the holidays.

And how embarrassed she was when firemen and the neighbors saw her half naked after she left her oven on while she was in the shower — and almost burnt down her house!

We’ve even begun a mini book club, swapping books and talking books.

Justine’s store is actually out of my way, and stands alone.

It’s much more convenient for me to get everything I need from my local shopping center. It’s often cheaper to buy from the bigger stores.

But big stores don’t know my name. The shop floor is staffed by 15-year-olds who don’t even pretend to care. Products have high margins on them — and if any are made by small businesses, little of it will get to them.

So I’d rather pay that little bit extra for premium products and premium service. But mostly, because I like Justine and I want to keep her family business running.

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Consumers would rather support small businesses. Photo by Katy Belcher on Unsplash

Where do you shop?

We spend thousands on gifts each year. Birthdays. Anniversaries. Valentine’s Day. Christmas… Yet we rarely stop to think:

Where is our money really going? And:

Where would we prefer it to go — overseas or right here in our city?

In the United States, small business makes up an overwhelming proportion of business — 84.9% of 5.6 million employer firms had less than 20 employees.

The bulk of jobs created were created by small businesses with 1.9 million jobs created in 2015.

What’s more, small businesses are more likely to develop emerging technologies than large firms.

In August 2018, AMEX released the results of their report, ‘The Economy of Shopping Small: Back Your Backyard. Approximately 1,000 customers and 850 business owners were surveyed across Australia.

They found this:

Consumers would rather buy from small businesses than larger ones.

They care about small businesses — but 86% admit they could do more, especially those living in big cities.

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Where you shop matters. Photo by Frankie Shutterbug on Unsplash

Can where you shop really make an impact on whether a small business lives or dies?

My three favorite restaurants are all within 10 minutes from my home.

Sure, they make delicious food — but more than that, the owners make a special effort to smile, say hello, and remember my name. They respond to feedback and care about making every experience special.

In return, I bring clients regularly. I take my family to visit regularly. I tell everyone I know how awesome they are — and bring them there too.

Your shopping habits create employment opportunities and more shopping choices.

The Aussie AMEX report found consumers and family members give small business the most support — even more than other large and small businesses.

You can make a difference to a small business.

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Behind small business is family. Service. Passion. Love. Photo by Juri Gianfrancesco on Unsplash

Why shop local

Don’t buy local just because of that fact. Don’t buy local if you don’t feel you’re getting anything in return for your hard-earned money.

In my home city of Melbourne in Australia, we recently paid tribute to small business owner, Sisto Malaspina, owner of the famous Pellegrini — one of the first real coffee shops in Melbourne.

In death, as in life, he impacted so many people.

He was more than a coffee shop owner.

“I feel like an honorary grandfather to many,” Mr Malaspina said in an interview. “I work my 70 hours a week as I did 40, 45 years ago. It’s not as intensive, I don’t move as fast and I don’t take as many steps. But I still enjoy what I do, I feel needed,” he told.

Asked why people have returned to his coffee bar for more than 40 years:

“Pellegrini’s was the number one in the way it did things, the way things should be done — fresh ingredients, taken from the growers to the market to the shop. Everything done by hand. No mechanisation, no additives. Everything was simple, fresh and beautifully put together.”

Ever gracious. Browse through the many online tributes and you get a sense of who he was — by how he ran his restaurant. By how he treated people. By how he lived.

He was compassionate: he treated prostitutes the same as everyone else. He gave coffee and food to the homeless. He made first dates special. He made bad days better.

“I was travelling solo and sat at the counter alone. But I wasn’t alone. Sisto greeted me and made me feel so welcome. Telling me all about his food and when he first came to Melbourne from Italy. He even walked to the back of the restaurant with me and let me try some pizza they were making that day.”

“I was meant to meet a friend for dinner in the city who cancelled, it was torrential rain and I sat in Pellegrinis eating my dinner with nowhere to go for three hours. Sisto propped me up in the corner and came back with a cake & coffee, turned the radio on and we listened to the game together.”

He was generous in life. With his presence. With his warm hospitality. With his love. His passion. His humanity.

Sisto captured the essence of why we all need to support small businesses.

So why buy local?

Buy local because:

  • You want unique, thoughtful, well-made products
  • You get service over and beyond your expectations
  • You can sort out any issues without a hassle
  • You can speak directly to the business owner (rather than an overseas call center)
  • You can feel the passion, dedication, and joy behind the business

Buy local because behind the success of every local small business there is a family…

And every time we shop local, the buck stays here. The jobs stay here. Our kids’ football clubs keep running. We can all enjoy New Year’s Eve fireworks at the park down the road.

Every time we shop local, we make our community a hustling, bustling one.

And in return, we get more options — better options — to shop, work, play, eat, and connect.

We make new friends. We build community. We find new causes. We feel less alone.

The gift that keeps on giving…

When we shop small, the small give back to our communities. Local charities and community groups benefit.

Small businesses in the U.S. donate an average of 6% of their profits to charity every year.

Australian small businesses donated an average of $10,000 to local charities, sporting clubs and sponsorships of local groups or events.

Small businesses value connection. They care about their customers. They care about the community. They care about causes.

When we shop from small, local businesses, we are making a conscious choice: to give ourselves more.

More community.

More options.

More service.

And more joy from playing a special part of a small business’ story.

5 Ways to shop small

  1. Visit your local shopping strip
  2. Visit your local farmer’s market or craft market
  3. Ask for recommendations from work and school
  4. Visit your community Facebook group
  5. Search for local businesses online

I’m sure you can think of plenty more ways.

In summary: Why shop with your local small businesses

Who doesn’t want to feel special? Well, that’s what local small business do well.


Use our names.

Thank us personally.

Know our favorite things.

Tell us what we want — before we ask for it.

Care about our causes and make it their own.

So go on my friend, support local.


Cheers for reading :) By the way, what’s your favorite local small business and why? Do share, I’d love to know.

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Cynthia Marinakos

Written by

Aussie Copywriter. I love rock climbing high ceilings and hiking amongst ferns >> 10 Proven ways to attract more Medium readers:

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +685K people. Follow to join our community.

Cynthia Marinakos

Written by

Aussie Copywriter. I love rock climbing high ceilings and hiking amongst ferns >> 10 Proven ways to attract more Medium readers:

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +685K people. Follow to join our community.

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