Small Business Community Ties: How Small Businesses Can Connect Locally

by Melinda F. Emerson | September 08, 2023

A small company’s community can be the lifeblood of its business, but for that to happen, connecting with locals has to go deeper than peppering houses with flyers. Often, the most successful enterprises are those that contribute to the area in tangible and intangible ways.

After all, when small business owners live and work in a community, and hire people from the community, it makes a big difference to the state of the neighborhood overall. Other ways of giving back, from providing sponsorship for the little league to supporting the school band with new uniforms, can ultimately benefit business revenue too. Read on for pointers from some seasoned pros.

Put yourself out there

It's essential to be a part of your physical community, of course, but we do live in a digital world, so it’s helpful to spread your efforts online as well. A great way to do this is to start a social network group around a hobby or passion related to your business, says Garit Boothe, founder of Garit Boothe Digital, a digital marketing agency in Salt Lake City, UT. “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.

At the same time, you can build up your social media presence by developing content that communicates what you do, why you do it and who you do it for, leveraging this on your channels to draw customers in. To keep your business top of mind among locals and high in search results, make sure your company is included on review sites and online listing sites and that your website is optimized and loads quickly on any device.

A business owner participates in a local food drive

Find a need and fill it

When the pandemic hit, Electro Soft president and CEO Karla Trotman discovered a crucial skill: being able to pivot. Her electronics manufacturing company specializes in building printed circuit boards, cables, wire harnesses and enclosure assemblies, but to help keep hospital workers in their community protected from Covid-19, the company switched 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. “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.”

Trotman and the Electro Soft team connect with the neighborhood in other ways too. “I live in the same community in which my company operates,” she 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 manufacturing careers and entrepreneurship in the greater Philadelphia area. “It has been so rewarding to make an impact on their lives,” she says, “and I have seen them go on to become successful adults in a variety of careers.”

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

Photo by Whitney Thomas

Engage in the everyday

You don’t need a huge staff to make a lasting impact in your area. According to Megan Beauvais, a realtor at Compass in San Diego, CA, participating in your community individually as an advocate and consumer can go a long way toward growing your business.

She says she makes a point of eating at local restaurants, shopping at boutiques in town and supporting the area’s schools and nonprofits, and refers these services to friends, family and clients. On top of that, as president of her local business association, she organizes professional development trainings, annual food drives, fundraising events and fun-spirited activities such as holiday caroling.

“By really entrenching myself in the communities I sell in,” Beauvais says, “I am not only able to 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.”

Her advice is to be friendly and approachable, and to establish yourself as 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,” Beauvais says. “If you meet people in the neighborhood and let them get to know you rather than simply introducing yourself and asking for business, I think you will get a lot further.”


— With additional reporting from Life and Money by Citi editors.

Melinda F. Emerson

— a.k.a. the SmallBizLady — is a keynote speaker on small business development, social media and content marketing. She is also the president of Quintessence Group, a marketing consulting firm in Philadelphia, PA, host of The SmallBizChat podcast, and the author of Fix Your Business: a 90 Day Plan to Get Back Your Life and Reduce Chaos in Your Business.