We all know supporting local businesses is a good thing, but why exactly is shopping local so important? If you haven’t given that question much consideration, you’re not alone.
From the unmatched ease of adding items to your Amazon shopping cart to getting groceries from big chain stores delivered, it can be challenging to make the effort to do the research about where to find goods and services on a local level, so you may not have the desire or the time allocated to change your habits or your thinking. It doesn’t, however, make it any less important.
This article was sponsored by the Spokane Independent Metro Business Alliance (SIMBA), but all opinions are our own.
- Independently owned local businesses contribute so much to the cultural fabric of our cities
- One of the challenges with Small Business Saturday for small business owners, however, is finding resources for long-term support and quality locally-focused marketing
- Live Local INW is a “buy local” education initiative that promotes supporting a robust local economy
Thanks to its unique geographic position, Spokane is a city that has a uniquely vibrant independently-owned business community. Despite the mounting challenges to starting and maintaining a business in an economic environment of constant disruption and rising costs, many local businesses are doubling down on their desires to create a different kind of local business climate where employers invest in their people and do right by the environment, all while providing the unique goods and services that customers love.
This kind of positive intentional growth doesn’t come without concerted effort and strategic planning, though, and that’s where the Spokane Independent Metro Business Alliance (SIMBA) comes in.
It is SIMBA’s mission to uplift and serve locally-owned businesses throughout the year with four main purposes including celebrating the uniqueness of Spokane, being environmentally mindful, ensuring social inclusion, and creating equitable economic opportunities. Their ultimate goal is to help Spokane grow into “a prosperous, equitable, and vibrant local economy by organizing and educating regional businesses, consumers, and partners.”
SIMBA works to connect and support the local economy with opportunities, ownership, and community. For the leaders at SIMBA, their role isn’t just about making money but also serving to make our city a culturally vibrant, sustainable community.
According to national research, “Every dollar spent at a locally owned and independent business returns 2-3 times more dollars back into a community than a dollar spent at a non-local business. These dollars recirculate through the local economy building more local jobs and community wealth.”
Ultimately, the impact of spending dollars locally is centered around quality of life. Do we want local businesses to work together to preserve a healthy ecosystem to keep our homes safe for decades to come, or do we want mega-corporations optimized to extract profit to make those decisions for us?
Do we want personable local cafés and bakeries to enjoy a leisurely brunch, or do we want plastic packaged goods shipped to our doorstep to consume alone? Do we want art galleries and bookshops to learn about cultural shifts together and to be able to discuss their impact in real-time, or do we want to experience the arts only via our computer?
When we consider these possibilities, it is undeniable how much independently owned local businesses contribute to the cultural fabric of our cities. However, they are struggling more than ever to survive with the increased demand of digital enterprise on an impossibly grand scale on consumers’ wallets.
The big box shopping frenzies of Black Friday inspired a response campaign for “Small Business Saturday,” which encourages consumers, for one day a year, to keep local dollars in their local communities. That helps a little, but the effort to support independently-owned businesses must continue beyond the holiday. Consumers need to connect with sources of inspiration to do what it takes to ensure these businesses’ survival in their city.
How? By shopping at small businesses in your area, you help their owners keep locals employed, the lights on, and help our community continue to flourish as a vibrant hub for the development of places to gather and create in real-time; which websites, factories, and shipping facilities cannot accomplish.
One of the challenges with Small Business Saturday for small business owners, however, is finding resources for long-term support and quality locally-focused marketing. There are hundreds of thousands of small businesses out there, including ones you may not know of right in your backyard, and without collaborating with a local leadership organization, how can these small businesses find the tools they need to thrive? It is especially difficult because they are already busy running their own stores, and have little time and emotional energy to take on systemic issues.
Live Local INW and SIMBA
SIMBA is a lead organization in the effort to actively partner with local stakeholders through their “Live Local INW” coalition campaign. Live Local INW is a “buy local” education initiative that promotes supporting a robust local economy. It is funded in part by CARES Act and ARPA program grants from the City of Spokane and is partially matched by sponsorship from Gesa Credit Union.
The Live Local INW campaign is backed by a voluntary coalition of 11 different business-serving organizations. According to Live Local INW, “The vision of Live Local INW is to make our region’s opportunity landscape more equitable and resilient in these rapidly changing times… The Live Local Marketplace serves as a virtual “Main Street” where shoppers can easily discover new independent businesses to help meet their local shopping needs by category, neighborhood business district, and even types of business owners and business ownership models.”
Recently, SIMBA and North Monroe’s Business District association, Meet on Monroe, co-presented the first-of-its-kind “Small Business Saturday” event in partnership with Atomic Threads Boutique, highlighting businesses participating in the Live Local INW campaign. These organizations have combined efforts to strengthen the work of the local business districts to help educate the consumers who shop there into supporting a powerful “buy local” education initiative.
The goal is to turn the idea of “Small Business Saturday” into shopping locally every day, not just one day a year.
Live Local’s Shop Small Saturday
On November 28, Live Local coalition leaders hosted a Live Local Shop Small Saturday event at Atomic Threads. One of the most important aspects covered during the event was how key it is for small businesses to be able to get equitable access to capital and investment.
The kick-off of Live Local INW Shop Small Saturday was held on November 28 at Atomic Threads Boutique, with owner Tina Branvold aka stage persona Madam Stina Rae. Branvold, who emceed the event, highlighted the importance of shopping local by hosting several incredible local creators and makers throughout the main floor and downstairs area of her shop.
Gina Campbell of 1889 Salvage Co. also spoke about the importance of the North Monroe Business District and getting more eyes (and visitors) to the area. As a business owner and President of the North Monroe Business District, Campbell emphasized how important local businesses are to the Emerson-Garfield area and how that area (and others like it in Spokane) can be “overlooked by the constant emphasis on Downtown Spokane.”
Mariah McKay, Founder and Director of Dynamism for SIMBA, then spoke eloquently about the struggles of local businesses and how the Live Local campaign provides community-based solutions to help diverse microenterprise businesses survive and thrive. She talked about the “four wings” of SIMBA, including social inclusion, the environment, our unique place, and supporting more fair markets and systems of business governance.
McKay mentioned that the Live Local INW campaign goes beyond “buying locally” – the long-term vision is to broaden out to locally made items from locally sourced materials, or what she calls “triple local,” and get people to connect with their own personal “why” when looking for local first. She rounded out the presentation by sharing with the audience the kind of community we want to see moving forward: a “resilient and equitable business community,” supporting more opportunities for local entrepreneurs.
Alyssa Agee, a SIMBA member who owns People’s Waffle and Emma Rue’s, spoke from a business owner’s perspective and shared a candid assessment of the struggles facing local businesses. Obviously, “COVID did not help our local business community,” and the struggle continues even as COVID abates.
This struggle includes one-size fits all government regulations and the high cost of private marketing and advertising to draw new customers. Agee emphasized how important small business collaboration is in our communities, and how local businesses need support from both customers and the regional business community to make it all work.
One of the last speakers was City Councilmember Zack Zappone, who spoke briefly but passionately about being a SIMBA volunteer prior to becoming a City Councilmember. Zappone emphasized that the City of Spokane knows how crucial small businesses are to the community, which is why the City has committed over $7.5 million in ARPA funding to support recovery efforts. He encouraged local businesses to “apply for relief” and encouraged the audience to make shopping local a regular occurrence and not just a special event.
Rounding out the panel and reminding us all of the importance of business owners getting access to credit and investment, was Ryan Hollingsworth of Gesa Credit Union, which co-sponsored the event. Hollingsworth spoke to the importance of advertising and marketing for local businesses, and working with a platform like the Live Local INW marketplace to “connect residents to unique locally owned businesses.”
Shopping Local All Year Long
It’s crucial to look for opportunities to shop local, and the Live Local Shop Small Saturday event made it clear that this goal will be further advanced by future support for ongoing local business district alliances. There are many challenges facing local businesses, including the time it takes for community collaboration, worker retention, and advertising constraints, but it is SIMBA’s mission, along with hundreds of participating local businesses, to continue to make the local choice the easy choice for customers.
One way businesses can get out the news about upcoming promotions, sales, or regular advertising is by partnering with Live Local media partners. Capping off the Shop Small Saturday event, McKay encouraged the audience to sign up online for Live Local INW coupons for special deals offered by local Spokane businesses, including Kizuri, Angus Meats, Intertribal Beauty, and others. You can sign up to learn more about Live Local INW and get access to the coupons here.
Erin Peterson, Editor-In-Chief
Erin Peterson grew up in Post Falls, Idaho and became a professionally certified educator – earning the Provost’s Award for academic achievement and community service from Lewis-Clark State College. Now she is an award-winning local influencer, podcaster and digital strategy educator with a passion for equity and inclusion. Erin has been published and featured in a wide variety of local publications including the Spokesman Review, The Inlander, and has served as an editor at Spokane Coeur d’Alene Living magazine. If you want to learn more about how she is making an impact right here in the Northwest, give her a follow on Instagram at @trending.northwest or Trending Northwest on Facebook.
Melissa Berry, Director of Web Content
Melissa has lived in the Pacific Northwest for eight years, primarily in Spokane, Washington. Born in Phoenix, Arizona, Melissa also lived in Denver, Colorado for two years. A freelance travel writer and podcaster, Melissa co-hosts the popular and award-winning podcast, Trending Northwest. Melissa has been featured in Spokane Coeur d’Alene Living magazine, Spokane Talks, and the Inlander, a local magazine in Spokane, WA. A proud Gonzaga graduate, she always gets her hopes up come NCAA tournament time. We’ll win the whole thing one day!