When you walk in the door, you feel the difference. It’s more intimate. It’s familiar. There is a sense of belonging. People seem friendlier. They care. If you are a regular, they take the time to remember your name. And we leave feeling more connected to our community. 

Where is this place, you ask? 

It’s the local small business that makes up 99% of businesses in America and employs over 250,000 people right here in Southwest Florida, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. 

Why can you feel tangible difference while shopping at local small businesses? It’s because the owners are your neighbors. You see them volunteering in the community, serving on nonprofit boards, supporting local charities and donating to fundraisers. Their businesses are a reflection of our neighborhoods and are customized to offer more localized goods and services. Many local business leaders grew up with the community and helped shape the elements that attracted us here in the first place. 

The Wynn family has been doing business in Southwest Florida since 1938. Sunshine Ace Hardware is one of those local small businesses. Our family was invested in the community before there was mosquito control and before Southwest Florida was a global destination. We are not alone. To a large degree, our story is shared by many small local businesses that define the character of our community. While they opened business to provide for their families, they also wanted to invest in a community they love. It’s important to remember that for every $100 spent at locally owned businesses, $68 will stay within the community. That’s 58% more than the same $100 spent at a national chain or online. 

Once again, on Nov. 28, we will be celebrating Small Business Saturday. However, this year it is more important than ever that we commit to making small businesses a priority in our shopping plans. According to a recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce survey, 21% of small business owners report they will have to close their doors if current economic conditions do not improve over the next six months. These small business operators have never been as vulnerable or needed our support more than they do right now. 

While we can certainly point to negative impacts the pandemic has brought to our lives and the worldthere are some important lessons learned. We now recognize our interdependence, importance of our sense of community and vulnerabilities that exist for so many. We also have seen that collective impacts benefit communities when we’re all singularly focused on helping those in need. We have joined many in supporting localindependent restaurant owners and working with local hospitals to provide muchneeded supplies and meals to medical staff who are keeping us safe. 

Now, we need to turn that passion and support to businesses that are still struggling and need our help. 

You don’t have to sacrifice convenience or value when shopping at a small business. Many have adapted and now provide convenient shopping options, like online shopping, curbside pickup and online ordering with in-store pickup for expedited checkout. Yes, you really can have your cake and eat ittoo, by enjoying the modern conveniences you love while doing the right thing for our community. 

There are few things we have been able to control in 2020 and many of us have looked for opportunities to personally make a difference. Fortunately, we all have the power to help our community where it is truly vulnerable. We can choose to shop small. We can choose to shop local. So let’s all make the commitment to invest in those businesses that invest in us. In our neighborhoods. In our kids Little Leagues. 

Let’s build a stronger community on Small Business Saturday and beyond. 

– By Michael Wynn, President of Sunshine Ace Hardware