Small Business Community Ties: How Small Businesses Can Connect Locally

by Melinda F. Emerson | October 27, 2020

For many small companies, the communities they belong to are the lifeblood of their business.

When you live and work in a community, and hire people from the community, it makes a big difference to the success of the overall neighborhood. Small business owners can play a vital role — from providing sponsorship for the little league to supporting the school band with new uniforms.

But being a part of a community goes deeper than peppering houses with flyers or coupons: the most successful local businesses are those that make an effort to connect with and contribute to that community – in both tangible and intangible ways. The key is making that support and impact meaningful.

The following small business owners know the value of connecting with the community — the place, the people and how they relate to each other. They have found ways to give back — while benefiting their revenues, too.

Don’t overlook connecting online

While it's essential to be a part of your physical community, we do live in a digital world, so spread your efforts to those online as well.

Garit Boothe, the founder of digital marketing agency Garit Boothe Digital in Salt Lake City, UT, says small businesses should use their online presence to connect with real people. 

One great way to do this is to start a social network group around a hobby or passion related to your business. “Do you own a nursery? Start a group about local gardening. Are you a massage therapist? Start a group about healthy living, meditation, or exercise,” Boothe suggests.

Another easy way for local businesses to enhance their website is to create a digital presence in social media. You should develop content that clearly communicates what you do, why you do it and who you do it for. It’s important to leverage this content on relevant social media platforms to draw in customers.

You should develop content that clearly communicates what you do, why you do it and who you do it for.
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You’ll also want to list your business with review sites and online listing sites, so when people search online for your business's name or your type of business in your city, such as “San Diego Florist,” your website will pop up in the searches. Make sure your website is optimized and loads quickly on any device, too.

Find a need and fill it

Karla Trotman is President and CEO of Electro Soft, Inc., a Montgomeryville, PA-based and family-owned electronics manufacturer that assembles benchtop electronics for the industrial and defense marketplaces.  

While her company has specialized in building printed circuit boards, cables, wire harnesses and enclosure assemblies, earlier this year the needs of hospital workers in their community prompted Electro Soft to switch gears.

“I saw photos on social media of doctors and nurses using sandwich containers as face shields and knew that we could do better,” Trotman says.

One important skill Trotman has learned as a small business owner is how to pivot. “As a contract manufacturer, we are professional problem solvers. We knew that we could repurpose materials from office supplies and hardware stores at a low price to serve as a temporary form of PPE [personal protective equipment] until the supply chain was restored,” she shares.

President and CEO of Electro Soft, Inc Karla Trotman sitting in a workshop, smiling towards the camera

Karla Trotman, President and CEO of Electro Soft, Inc

Trotman says that having adequate PPE in high-risk occupations is necessary for a person to do his or her job well and confidently. She was pleased that her company could help at the beginning of the crisis. But Electro Soft consistently contributes to its local community.

“I live in the same community in which my company operates,” Trotman says. “We are very interested in helping young people learn about STEM fields. We regularly open our doors for tours to middle school and high school students.”

Trotman also sponsors interns, mentors young girls and often participates in speaking engagements about the manufacturing careers and entrepreneurship in the greater Philadelphia area.

“We do just about anything we are asked to do. It has been so rewarding to make an impact on their lives, and I have seen them go on to become successful adults in a variety of careers. They still reach back to us, thanking us for giving them the chance to learn about electronics when they were young," she shares.

Get what you put into your community

Some small business owners make themselves indispensable to the communities that they serve.  Even a business of one can have a big impact.

Megan Beauvais, a realtor at Compass in San Diego, CA, proves you don’t need a huge staff to make a lasting connection. She says participating in your community as an advocate and consumer can go a long way to grow your business.

“I make it a point to support the community where I do business,” Beauvais says. “I strive to eat at the restaurants, shop at the boutiques, [and] support the schools and other non-profits servicing the area. I also refer services to friends, family and clients that I know in the area.”

In addition to living and working in her community, she also finds ways to contribute as a business owner. She is the president of her local business association and organizes professional development trainings, annual food drives, fundraising events and fun-spirited activities such as holiday caroling. “You can be the best in your industry, but simply being present and asking for business is not how I’ve grown my business,” Beauvais adds.

I make it a point to support the community where I do business.
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“By really entrenching myself in the communities I sell in, I am able to not only relate first-hand to buyers in the area and share what the community offers, but I am also doing my part in keeping the health of the businesses and community spirit alive,” Beauvais says. “These small community ‘villages’ of restaurants, shops, boutiques, etc., are a huge draw in our San Diego communities, and I want to do my part to enhance that experience.”  

She believes it’s crucial to be approachable, friendly and a known resource for your field. 

“I think a lot of people fail by focusing on what others can do for them, rather than what they can do for others. If you meet people in the neighborhood and let them get to know you rather than simply introducing yourself and asking for business,” Beauvais says, “I think you will get a lot further.”

Find your own way to make an impact on your local community. Just remember to consider the needs of the community as well as your own, and business will follow.

Melinda F. Emerson

— a.k.a. the SmallBizLady — is an internationally renowned keynote speaker on small business development, social media and content marketing. Melinda is the president of the Quintessence Group, an award-winning marketing consulting firm based in Philadelphia, PA. She is also the host of The SmallBizChat podcast, a bestselling author and her latest book is Fix Your Business, a 90 Day Plan to Get Back Your Life and Reduce Chaos in Your Business.