As you casually walk through the city streets on your way to nowhere in particular, a peculiar sight meets your eye: rows upon rows, upon rows of tables, tents, and all sorts of venues and local businesses are set up next to one another. As you focus your eyes a bit more to try to make out what’s going on, you realize—it’s a flea market!
All sorts of people from all walks of life—from locals to tourists—stroll up and down, left and right through the labyrinth of these small businesses and their owners. And what a wonderful sight it truly is, to see so many people together, talking and laughing, trying some frozen delights from that little ice cream stand that so many people are crowding around. That woman is looking dazzling as she wraps herself in a homemade shawl she just bought. That man over there is grinning ear to ear, smiling proudly as he’s just sold a piece of his artwork to a fellow enthusiast.
All the while walking towards the hustle and bustle you see in front of you, an emboldened and fiery scent fills the air. The unmistakable scents of authentic Indian cuisine meet you head on, and you stop for a moment. The busy streets, the tents and tables, the laughter, the scents in the air, you realize—life would be dull without local businesses! Aside from adding so many layers of vibrancy and life to communities, these businesses are truly an underrated staple to them as well. The benefits that they bring about often go unnoticed, and it’s important to try to bring them to light as best we can, because without small businesses, we might be lost!
To start, the clear economic benefits that communities receive from small businesses are difficult to ignore. Typically, roughly 60-70% of money spent on buying locally is funneled back into the community, vs. About 40-50% when buying from non-locally owned businesses. This is consistent with a study that ESI conducted in 2021 with American Express, which found that 67% of money spent on local businesses remains circulating within the community. Furthermore, the study “found that if small businesses in the US, defined as business employing fewer than 100 employees, were a country, they would have a GDP of $4.8 trillion.” Keeping money localized in communities has a plethora of benefits, including aiding in the education, health, and wellness of our youth.
Keeping money localized is important, as is the creation of new jobs, which local businesses are adept at doing. Small businesses account for just under half of all economic activity across the U.S., and the more that small businesses are supported and created, the number of jobs they will create will only increase as well.
Uniqueness, Diversity, and Inclusion
Along with keeping funds flowing through the local environment, small businesses just keep things fresh. They can provide a diversity of perspectives and a variety of international cultures, flavors, scents, and scenes coming together.
Communities are a point of pride for many people, and the diversity that flows through an abundance of local businesses only adds to that sense of pride and uniqueness. Furthermore, speaking of diversity, roughly 20% and counting of all businesses in the U.S. are women-owned, and nearly 19% and counting of businesses are minority-owned. These numbers are on the rise, which leads to the belief that the expansion of local businesses is helping to level the playing field.
In 2020, ESI participated in a team effort to assess opportunities for equitable entrepreneurship and development strategies to increase business opportunities for Philadelphia’s Black- and People of Color-owned small- and mid-sized companies and entrepreneurs. Through inventorying firms and reviewing capital provisions available to small- and medium-sized businesses, the team worked to continue identify and expand the necessity and great benefit of opportunities by such firms.
Additionally, the health and wellbeing of our environment is becoming an ever-more important topic of discussion, as it should be. A community that is more equitable is a community whose citizens are better equipped to stand together against environmental issues.
SMEs, or small and medium-sized enterprises, play a pivotal role in answering the call and combatting global warming. These SMEs play such a significant role in sustainability for a couple of reasons. Firstly, proprietors of many SMEs tend to focus more on doing what they can do to aid the environment. Some of these companies are solely focused on just that—employing sustainable practices such as reusing materials, using waste-free, plastic-free, and non-toxic materials, and using vegan and cruelty-free methods of conducting their business. Supporting businesses such as these are direct ways that we as consumers can aid in the fight against global warming.
Moreover, having a large number of local businesses thriving in our commercial corridors for patrons to support and utilize can only lead to increased use of public transportation and more sustainable means of commuting, such as walking or biking. This in turn can also decrease the amount of sprawl we create, and allow for fewer vehicles on the road emitting toxic greenhouse gases.
Aside from these three key points, there are so many fantastic reasons for supporting local businesses, from just meeting new people to being able to acknowledge others for their hard work and passions. At ESI, with our new initiative ESI Eats, we’re trying our best to do our part for the local community. While the world we live in becomes increasingly advanced and progressive, cities will be evolving moving into the future. The continuous creation and reinforcement of small businesses should no doubt be at the forefront of the future.
Salvatore Gullotta | [email protected]
Salvatore Gullotta is an intern at Econsult Solutions working in the Business Development and Marketing Department. He is currently a second-year student at Drexel University, and assists at ESI with proposals and content management (managing ESI Present Value [weekly blog] and social media).