Small businesses, facing uncertain future, will need support in the coming months
I received a call from Karen Sawicz, owner of Lake Country Pennysaver and Orleans Hub that struck a chord with me. Lake Country Pennysaver and Orleans Hub are small and local businesses, just like my own.
Karen, like every other small business owner right now, faces uncertain times ahead. In spite of that, her instinct was to put together a page celebrating small business in these trying times. Karen’s action is inspiration to me personally to continue to do all that I can to support fellow small business owners in any way that I can. Please know that the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors stands behind local businesses 100%.
The entire Board is comprised of volunteers and nearly all of us are small business owners. Any perceived lack of visibility is the result of all of us doing exactly what every other small business owner is doing right now. Over the next several weeks, as we are able to get our affairs in order, we will continue to work on a plan to support our fellow business owners in any way we can. As you know, things are changing rapidly and it is a challenge to stay up to the minute.
As a business owner myself, I will take a minute to speak about what I am doing and what I think will help. First and foremost, don’t panic. That is really easy to say, much tougher to practice. I have my own private meltdown moments, but as business owners, we are natural leaders, so now is our moment to shine. Over the past week, I have had to make some very difficult decisions with very little time to consider them. My focus is to ensure that my business survives so that I can go back to doing what I do – provide a service, employ outstanding local people and support a truly awesome local community.
I have had countless people come to me, many of them customers, to ask me how they can help me. I have had my moments here too, where it is a bit overwhelming. I am so used to having people ask me for help, be they employees asking for guidance with a task or community members asking for donations from my business, that I am not used to people asking me how they can help me.
I think I can speak for ALL small business owners in saying that this means more than we can express in words. Owning a small business can be very lonely at times. So many people look to us for the answers, yet we may not always know or have those answers. We are used to carrying the load, but not used to people asking us how they can help us carry it. To all of the members or our local community, THANK YOU, on behalf of all of the local business owners.
To answer the question that so many members of the community are asking, “How can we help our small local businesses?” I will say just one thing. Don’t forget about us. Right now, there is a lot of attention being paid to supporting the small businesses that are feeling the direct impact of this. We really appreciate all of your support!
As a business owner, what concerns me isn’t so much today or tomorrow, it is 2 months, 6 months, even 12 months from now after we settle into a new “normal” again. What will my business look like? Will people remember to buy from me? Will I still have a business? That is the time that we will need the support of the community the most.
We are all being asked to minimize contact with each other as much as possible right now, rightfully so. I would like to ask/challenge all business owners and community members to use that time to think about what we can do to help each other. We all need to lean on each other to get through this, and we will get through this. Let’s come up with some creative ways to support our small local businesses. We are the ones that sponsor your church functions, your kid’s ball team, and numerous other great local causes.
As business owners, we are typically the LAST people to reach out and ask for a little help, but we will need it more than ever after this is behind us. Walking into a local shop and spending a few dollars, or calling a local service provider to do something that you might get done yourself someday might not seem like a big deal.
As a business owner, however, I assure you that every time my phone rings or a customer walks through my door, I gain a little reassurance that I will be able to carry on my mission of supporting local people and local causes.
I think I can safely say the same is true for every other small local business in Orleans County.
Be safe. Be well. Support local.
Treasurer, Orleans County Chamber of Commerce
(Johnson is the owner of 39 Problems in Albion.)