This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Navy Federal Credit Union. All opinions are 100% mine.
Do you have November 4-8 marked on your calendar this year? It’s the sixth annual National Veterans Small Business Week, a time to get out into your community (or online) and get to know veteran-owned small businesses. Owning a business is wonderful, but it can be lonely too. When John and I started our business, Swatara Coffee Co., we had no idea exactly what it would be like. It’s always scary when you flip your sign to “open” and wait for customers.
The truth of the matter is small businesses cannot stay open if there isn’t support for them. As business owners, we’re not alone. According to some statistics, 1 in 10 small businesses in the US are owned by veterans. Entrepreneurship gives a vital and different pathway to employment after transitioning out of the military, which can be a difficult time for servicemembers as they discern what the next part of their life is going to look like. It’s a great way to put down roots and integrate into a community and there’s something so satisfying about creating something from the ground up.
Honestly, I am so proud of the hard work John has put in for years to create our brick-and-mortar coffee shop. There’s so much that he has done to prepare for opening and then executing every day since we opened our doors. It has given me a great appreciation for what entrepreneurs all over the country do. John and I do all we can to support other small businesses because we know how hard owning your own is.
We’ll be making a special effort to celebrate National Veterans Small Business Week as well as Small Business Saturday. I invite you to do the same and to think about extending your efforts throughout the year. It makes a huge difference for small business owners and those they employ and purchase from. Here are a few ways you can do that:
1. Shop in-person
If you’re able to actually walk into a brick-and-mortar shop, do it. Foot traffic is so important to shop owners who have physical locations. It might be easier to order products online (and that’s important too!), but having cars in the parking lot, people walking in the shop, and folks carrying logoed bags out can make a huge difference. It says to the rest of the community, this place is important and we want it to stay.
2. Shop online
If you can’t get into the physical location or if it’s an online store, definitely make the effort to purchase online. And be patient. Many small businesses cannot pull off the same kind of shipping deals that Amazon or other huge companies can. If you love local restaurants but aren’t able to make it in, check to see if they offer delivery or participate in services like Door Dash so that you can grab the food you love from the convenience of your home or office.
3. Send a referral their way
Small businesses have a hard time competing with big box stores’ marketing; large companies have a ton of money and personnel. Often, small businesses have no (or a very limited) marketing department and budget. At Swatara Coffee Co., the marketing department consists of–you guessed it–me. That’s why word-of-mouth is so important to small businesses. People trust their friends. So if you had a great experience with a plumber, suggest them to a friend who needs one. Had a delicious latte from a local shop? Tell your coworkers about it. In an organization that needs catering for an event? Talk about that local restaurant you love.
4. Make it a point
It’s often easier to shop at big box stores or Amazon than it is to hunt down the products you need from small businesses. Now that John and I own our own, I know how vitally important it is–and how we rely on– customers who make the conscious decision to support the local businesses. Make a list (even if it’s only in your head) of small businesses where you can get the products you need, and then make the effort to do that. Even if you only choose to purchase one thing a month from a small business, it will mean the world to the one you support.
5. Review them online
If you love a small business while you’re traveling or in your area, take a few minutes after your experience to review them online through Google, Yelp, NextDoor, or another platform. Those reviews are so important to small business owners. Not only do they let us know what we’re doing right (and what we could do better), great reviews act as social proof of our business. Many people look at reviews before they try out a business that is new to them and are more likely to patronize a shop with many good reviews.
6. Seek out veteran-led businesses
Google has made it super easy to find veteran-led business. (Sadly, there’s no notation for military spouse-led businesses… yet.) When you search, click the “details” section of the business’s Google listing. If the businesses has self-identified as a veteran-led one, you’ll see a star-spangled V denoting the status.
7. Get social
Follow your favorite small businesses online. Like, comment, and share their posts that resonate with you. Just those small things–just a tiny bit of your time–can make a big difference in helping other people find the businesses you love.