It’s that time of year.
The time of year when all small business owners start getting calls and emails, asking if they’d like to donate a product or an event experience to the gala/auction/charity event/etc.
I’ve been a small business owner for just over 6 years now, and, without fail, every October, the requests start rolling in.
This year it got me thinking.
Because it’s funny, right?
When it comes time to come up with really amazing auction items for these really amazing non-profit organizations where do they almost always inevitably turn.
Because small businesses mean community. We’re the heart of what makes communities robust, and interesting, and exciting, and, basically what I’m saying is…without small businesses, communities are really just nameless and faceless boxes.
But then, why, please somebody tell me why, do we struggle as small businesses to get people to support us?
Why do we have to come up with clever hashtag campaigns like #buylocal and #shoplocal or #shopsmall #supportsmallbusiness?
Matthew and I aren’t making a living wage yet.
We have good months where the dairy does amazing things and we think, oh my gosh, we’re doing it. This is really happening!
But then we figure out that it really was just a fluke.
Like this Summer.
Our halloumi orders were through the roof and we started to see a world where our dairy could make a living wage making just halloumi.
But then one week the stores orders were cut in 1/3. And then the next week that was halved. And now we’re at a place where last week we distributed 22 packages of halloumi. That might be exciting if it was one store, but it was actually to 15 stores.
What gives, right?
Well turns out there was a halloumi shortage. We didn’t have a shortage, no, we had plenty of halloumi. But you know who did? Mt. Vikos. So stores were ordering all their halloumi from us (awesome, right?!) Right! Except eventually that shortage ended and Mt. Vikos halloumi started getting imported again from Greece. And just like that our amazing, beautiful, local product is pushed to the back corner.
(Insert nobody puts baby in a corner joke here).
I know what you’re going to say next.
Buying local is more expensive!
But is it? I’ve worked with the local cheesemongers on pricing, and everyone agrees, we’re priced right. In fact, our cheese is comparable to the cheese that’s being imported from Greece.
And not only that.
When you buy local, consider this:
That’s money that’s going back into your community. Money that allows a small business owner to enroll their child in ballet, or pay to attend a corn maze, to shop at a farmer’s market, or buy your child’s girl scout cookies. It’s money that we pay taxes on, taxes that inevitably improve roads and fire response, public schools and community parks.
And yes, it allows us to provide donation items for all the non-profits that ask. Donation items we’re happy to provide because we care about our community, too. We want to see the non-profits around us succeed.
“But think of it as free marketing!”
Guys. If I had a dollar…
I heard this a lot when I was a professional photographer. And I was stupid then. I donated so many free photo sessions in the hopes that it would turn into something. You know what. IT NEVER DID. I did a magazine spread (for free), so many photoshoots for model’s portfolios (for free), family photo sessions (for free), and donated so many gift certificates for, you guessed it, free (VALUED AT OVER $300!).
I was busy. Oh my goodness I was busy.
Busy giving away my services.
I’m not sure, why, as a society, we see creative people as people that we can take advantage of, but we do. Artists. Photographers. Writers. Somehow, magically, they’re supposed to be able to live on exposure alone.
Especially when it comes to donation season.
So consider this, as you’re in the store, and faced with a decision to buy the same product, one that’s made 40 miles away and one that is shipped across an ocean.
Which purchase strengthens your community?
Which purchase helps shape a world that YOU want to live in?
Which purchase, when you make it, makes an actual person (this is me waving) do a stupid little happy dance?
I promise you.
Matthew and I are week by week on these orders. We keep this incredibly detailed ledger sheet that shows us how we’re doing, on a daily basis. When it looks good, yes, there is dancing. And I promise you that’s how all Small Business Owners are.
New hashtag idea.
Too long? Yeah, maybe it needs a little work.
But the idea is solid. Which really, is all that matters.