This past week I hosted a panel session for Rotary Club of Nashville, leading a discussion about what the pandemic has done to small businesses and asking our guests about their pivots during this time. And whether they were in the fields of education, technology, retail, or hospitality, they each mentioned multiple times a common sentiment:
We've relied on our community like never before.
I've long preached that you build your network before you need it, mainly because you're never sure when a need or emergency will arise. It's worth establishing connections now, even if a new contact can't seem to offer you much in the moment.
As a small business, we're in it for the long haul. And trust me - that pathway is full of surprises, twists, turns, and yes - emergencies. (See more about relying on your network in times of emergencies in this week's edition of Diary of a Small Business Owner.)
What was true before this pandemic is true now: our community will carry us through. Since March:
- Our friends (and landlord) at Hester and Cook offered us a temporary reduction in our warehouse lease amount.
- Bankers we had long worked with in less stressful times were quick to guide us through the PPP process.
- Every staff member asked what they could do as we relocated inventory, rearranged our warehouse, improved our online store, and set up a temporary shopping experience over the summer.
- Many purveyors offered discounts, lower minimums, longer payment terms, and marketing assistance so we could keep getting their products into the hands of as many people as possible.
There is no such thing as a self-made success. Anyone who tells you that is lying. It takes a village. Or several.
And now, I hate seeing that our legislators can't seem to pitch in when things are hard (and getting harder). Hardly any small business in New York could afford to pay rent last month. Minority applications for financial assistance have been twice as likely to be rejected. Large companies and presidents dodge taxes like Pat Mahomes dodges defenders. And what else is stressful (still!) for small business owners? Healthcare.
Small business owners believe in the power of community, but Washington clearly doesn't. Amidst the yelling on Tuesday night, how often did either candidate talk about small business owners? (I'll wait.)
Small business owners will take community wherever we can find it. And if we can't find it in legislative halls, then we'll look nearby. Here's what I mean:
We've launched a product partnership with our friends at Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp. as they work hard to save stages (small independent music venues in Nashville) through Music City Bandwidth. Tune in to a show to support a musician (and those in the industry behind the scenes) and let us send the concession stand to you (and you'll support four small businesses in the process).
Our friends at Cult Crackers told us that they're leaning into their community more than ever:
"We enjoy hand delivering our Berkeley orders and meeting people. (They're often surprised we do our own local deliveries.) We're also hearing how much people appreciate what we’re doing and how they love our crackers. It’s those little things that have a big impact on small business owners."
Christopher Camp at Beach Bark Brittle is also going all in on relationships and community:
"Building relationships [with small retailers] where we can share our story along with hearing theirs has been enlightening, humbling and increased our awareness that we are not in this alone, we just can't duplicate this with large corporate retail relationships! What we find are entrepreneurs like ourselves that have fears and anxiety that rivals ours but is always balanced with an incredible amount of hope, courage and belief in the American Dream!"
So we can't look to our elected leaders to understand what's happening? Fine. We'll look to each other and be the community we wish to see in the world.
Our Small Business Pledge is going strong and we're seeing people from all over the U.S. making the commitment to shop at a small business at least once a week. Will you join our community today and take the pledge with us?
Thanks for being the community we all need right now.