How to Balance Online Shopping While Supporting Local (from A Small Business Owner)

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Last year I saw a small business our family loved close its doors. It was heart-wrenching for the owner, and for me as I watched her dream fizzle. She couldn’t compete with online competition. Having endured a world wide pandemic this year and seeing businesses—local and corporate—pivot and reshape to survive, has made balancing online shopping versus shopping local a constant battle in my life.

I tackled a huge project a couple of weeks ago and posted about it on social media, and almost immediately I regretted posting it. Not the project, the post. When I divulged that I ordered some supplies for the project off of Amazon as opposed to creating something alternatively and using only local supplies for the project, I grappled with the guilt, the shame, and the horror that I had upset someone despite loving my new organizational system.

Although I don’t “need” anyone’s approval, I boycotted Amazon for 5 days after as penance. What you didn’t see in that AFTER project completed picture was the joy it brought to my life AND the fact that the entire contents of those now beautifully orchestrated and perfectly labeled miniature jars that were holding spices are from my favorite local merchant! The following week when I received my new hand held travel frother from Amazon, there was a note from a family owned business thanking me for my purchase and I felt vindicated. Corporate supporting local!

As a small business owner, I am hyper-aware of the impact shopping local has directly on my own family, friends, neighborhood, and community. I am also aware that the business decisions we make often influence our ability to thrive. However, as a mom responsible for the necessary inventory to run my household, I am constantly striving for quality, consistency, clarity, and flexibility not just in the outcomes of my shopping experience but in our lives in general.

Sometimes these needs are met locally, other times, I need help from corporate. Both work for me and our family so I won’t apologize. The fact of the matter is that we need one another. Local and corporate. Many of our households depend on both small business and large business beyond purchasing–some depend on income and benefits. Most importantly, both run on human capital, and both depend on human connection.

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