Here’s how you can help small businesses during lockdown

Written by Anna Hart

Small businesses are facing massive adaptations and even potential closures due to the coronavirus pandemic, and it can be hard to know how to help. Here, we’ve found eight easy ways that you can do your bit to support businesses, venues, artists and charities threatened by economic repercussions.          

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to test our health services and workers, it is also hitting our small businesses – especially since lockdown has now been extended.

From our favourite coffee shop to our local charity and gym – in a matter of weeks, so many staples of our everyday routines have been faced with major difficulties.

Here, we’ve pulled together some simple ways that we can all help support these places, while still keeping our distance for health reasons. Because lets face it, it’s these places that make our lives that much richer. 

We’re really going to need our pubs once this is all over, but lets show our support during these uncertain times, too. Here’s how.

Help for small businesses during coronavirus: restaurants and bars

Many restaurants and bars are now offering gift cards, so friends can still treat each other to dinner – even if it’s a dinner date to be daydreamed about for a few weeks or months.

So if you’re cancelling plans at your favourite pub or restaurant, consider buying gift cards for the future. Even if they face closure, it’s important to show your financial support at this time – after all the good times they’ve brought you.

Alternatively, some pubs and restaurants – such as the Drapers Arms in Islington, London – have set up GoFundMe Staff Welfare accounts so regulars can chip in the price of a few pints to help staff out. 

“Obviously many people are suffering illness and have their own financial struggles, but this is a route to accepting the generosity our customers have offered and helping out my lovely employees at a time of hardship,” says owner Nick Gibson. 

If you had a reservation and paid a deposit, consider moving your reservation back to a random date in September rather than immediately demanding your deposit back, right at a time when overheads remain high, closures are imminent and bars and restaurants are struggling to pay staff. 

Yes, there is complete uncertainty about reopenings, but if you can opt to reschedule rather than demanding a refund, know that you are lightening the financial burden for now.

If you’re looking to do even more, you could also message cafes, bars and community centres and suggest they launch a Ko-Fi page, which is a way for regulars and supporters to make one-off or regular donations to their favourite artists, businesses and venues. 

And check in regularly on your favourite restaurant’s Instagram page, as many restaurants or bars are quickly adapting to offer home deliveries or pick-ups, even as they shut their doors to regular customers. 

Most importantly, perhaps, is this reminder from chef and author Gizzi Erskine. She talked to Stylist about the importance of pressuring the government to do all they can in these times: “Vouchers and donations are a lovely idea, but we also collectively need to keep the pressure on the government to take action to support people’s livelihoods. 

“None of us in the hospitality industry know when our next paycheck is coming in and right now we should be worried about looking after ourselves and those close to us. It’s the government’s duty to take steps to safeguard everything we’ve invested in, and it’s important that collectively we hold the government to this.”

Help for small businesses during coronavirus: gyms and yoga studios

Ask your favourite yoga teachers if they’d consider running online streaming classes, and offer to pay your regular membership fee for them. It’s money you’d normally be spending, after all. 

After requests and supportive messages from her regular members, Meegan Bradley, who runs HotPod Yoga in Margate, Kent, started offering two live-steamed yoga classes a day. Yogis can choose to pay £2, £5 or £8 according to what they can afford. 

“Admittedly I spent a moment in self-destruct mode, but I received so many messages of support that I realised we have an incredibly strong community and there are ways of staying connected and practicing together,” Bradley tells Stylist.

You can also follow Stylist’s Strong Women feed for inspiration on home workouts, including videos and product recommendations, or see our fitness content here.

Help for small businesses during coronavirus: festivals, concerts and events

Anyone optimistically booked a gig, festival, or exhibition ticket and are now unsure whether you’ll get to go? Here’s how to support your favourite artists through this crisis, while hoping for a postponement of your favourite show.

“If you’re passionate about supporting your favourite musicians at this time when gigs have been cancelled and they can’t make money, the best thing is to go to their Bandcamp site and buy records and merchandise, or pay for their tracks on iTunes, which offers musicians a better deal than Spotify and other streaming services,” songwriter and producer Robbie Redway, aka Rondo Mo, tells Stylist.

“People sharing recommendations of music they love is so important, too, especially at a time when musicians aren’t able to promote themselves by touring and gigs,’ adds Obaro Ejimiwe, aka Ghostpoet, a two-time Mercury Music Prize nominee. “Sometimes I feel fans think artists have all the support that they need, so sharing their love of a new track with friends won’t make much of a difference, but it really does. 

“A quick share on Instagram could lead to an extra gig ticket, another album sale, and even just on a human level, it boosts the morale of the artist and encourages them to keep plugging away.” 

Specifically for if you’ve bought a festival ticket – if you can afford it, don’t demand a refund right away. The venues and events organisers are in a really tight spot financially, and if you’re able to hang on to your ticket in the hope that things are rescheduled, or simply consider your ticket a donation, this might help the festival or event survive and spice up your summer 2021.

Help for small businesses during coronavirus: independent shops

Beyond the hospitality sector, small businesses like independent jewellers, gift stores, delis and record shops all face an uncertain future. So as you hunker down, resolve to support the small businesses that you love rather than the big guys like Amazon. This might mean spending a bit more on your organic groceries by buying from your local health store, but it’s worth it if it means your local health store still exists in six months’ time. 

Take a look at your weekly shopping, and try to make sure most of it goes into the pockets of small businesses – online or high street – that you really value.

In fact, now is a good time to get ahead on your Christmas shopping and support your favourite jewellers, makers and artisans at the time they need it most. Yes, we know it’s months until Christmas. But crazy times call for crazy measures.

Help for small businesses during coronavirus: charities

With sponsored events and other fundraisers shut down, the charity sector will be hit hard. “Sports events and festivals raise crucial funds for our work fighting poverty and for other charities,” Nicola Tallet, Oxfam’s director of audience engagement, tells Stylist. “If events have been cancelled, we would ask people to consider fundraising virtually, or donate online. We would also ask people to support our shops either online or pop into their local store if they remain open.”

Charity and community work has never been more important.“Oxfam is very concerned should Covid-19 establish itself in poorer countries with weaker public health systems and whose populations are already facing multiple threats to their health and livelihoods, such as from malnourishment and HIV,” says Nicola. 

So now might be the time to get creative and launch a virtual fundraiser.

This article was first published in March 2020

Images: Getty, Unsplash

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