How to Join Forces to Support Other Businesses During COVID-19
For many neighborhoods, small businesses are the heart and soul of the local community. With the COVID-19 pandemic, neighborhoods across the U.S. have seen businesses struggle to keep going amidst health scares, state-enforced lockdowns, social distancing measures, and more.
And when businesses suffer, the neighborhoods do as well.
One way in which some businesses are getting through is by joining forces with other local businesses. By sharing the burden and their resources with each other, small businesses can help one another recover faster and get back to business as usual.
This guide will look at the ways small businesses can support one another through best practices and real world examples. With these concepts in mind, maybe your own business can find a partner to navigate this unprecedented time.
Why Small Businesses Need Each Other
According to a survey done by the Harvard Kennedy School, “43 percent of businesses have temporarily closed and businesses have–on average–reduced their employee counts by 40 percent relative to January.”
And this is just the national average. Certain counties and cities have it way worse.
Though the survey results are grim, many small business owners have exhibited resilience by pivoting to new customer service approaches that allow them to stay operating even amidst these difficult times—specifically by teaming up with other businesses. For many businesses, teaming up is easier than working with a lender to secure a disaster loan and more straightforward than getting assistance from a federal grant like the CARES Act.
Small Businesses Support Small Businesses
Why work with another small business? It’s hard enough to simply manage your own operations. Won’t pairing up with another company just complicate the matter?
Those are good questions. Before approaching a partnership, a small business owner needs to weigh the pros and cons of the deal.
Will it be mutually beneficial?
Typically the goal of a joint effort is to make sure the activity is mutually beneficial. To determine whether a partnership with another company will help out both parties, small business owners need to ask themselves:
- Will both businesses see a return on their investment?
- What’s the goal of this effort?
- Could I get the same results on my own?
- Is financial assistance from grant funds a better choice?
- Is this the right company to team up with?
- Is everyone in compliance with COVID-19 rules and regulations?
- What liability will I carry?
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
That old sports adage “teamwork makes the dream work” may sound silly, but in practice, it’s true. In order to successfully work with another company, all parties need to be on the same page, ready to put in the work. Natural body care business owner, Alana Rivera, can attest to that. During COVID-19, she’s had to deal with the drawbacks of being a small business owner—laying off essential employees and completely flipping her business model.
She found that her business, Etta + Billie, needed new ways to distribute her products. “She started leaning on local businesses that would collaborate with her, sometimes in surprising ways.”
Her tested methods?
- Suggest a collaboration with some of your favorite businesses
- Small business groups—online and off—are critical for networking and partnerships
- Reach out to stores that are physically open to increase distribution channels
- Be creative about who you can partner with – you never know who will say yes
Once you have some business partnership possibilities in mind, it’s time to start the process of joining forces.
- Pitch the Idea – You can’t make a partnership initiative happen until you’ve secured your partner. To do so, Main Street ROI suggests finding a business with complementary services. For instance, if you run a theater company doing outdoor plays, it might make sense to partner with a restaurant to provide picnic baskets for the show.
- Come Up with the Concept – What you actually do together is only part of a successful partnership. There needs to be an additional goal. That could be reciprocal referrals where you recommend each other’s goods or services, selling products in each others’ shops, or even a special offer for frequenting one another’s businesses.
- Spread the Word – Look to your community to share your forthcoming project by reaching out to organizations that support local businesses, like your community’s chamber of commerce, business incubators, civic groups, and other business-forward institutions.
- Execute the Idea – Once plans are in place, it’s time to make the initiative happen. Run the campaign, collect data, then review its success.
- Adjust and Repeat – If, after assessing the joint initiative, both parties agree that it was a success, you can adjust and repeat it based on the feedback received from both small businesses' customers.
Real World Small Business Support Efforts
One of the biggest reasons to work with another business during the pandemic is to double your resources and expand your audience. Here are the ways some American businesses have combined their powers for successful campaigns and brought greater attention than they could have on their own.
Biscuits and Barbecue
Charleston, South Carolina is known as being a foodie haven, but that didn’t make it immune to the destruction brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. As restaurants attempt to reopen and revive some semblance of normalcy, Callie’s Hot Little Biscuits and Lewis Barbecue teamed up for a joint offer: two curated packages available just in time for Labor Day.
Featuring bestsellers from both of their menus (and cross-promoting on their social media accounts) the companies are selling a “Hot Little Sausage” combo that includes eight hot gut sausage links, a dozen buttermilk biscuits, and pimento cheese for $95.95, according to Charleston City Paper.
Callie’s owner told the paper that “With families unable to get together and travel plans being delayed, we wanted to bring a taste of Charleston to homes across the Lowcountry and beyond.”
Fitness and Yoga
In Texas, Mind Body Online reports that Shine Pole and Aerial Fitness found a way to partner with a nearby yoga studio. Members of either property can now attend classes at the other property, giving them a benefit for being members at either location.
Kombucha and Tea
In Rochester, New York, a kombucha bar called Happy Gut Sanctuary found it couldn’t operate when COVID-19 lockdown restrictions shuttered it, according to Spectrum Local News. So Happy Earth Tea operators, from which Happy Gut Sanctuary’s kombucha is made, began selling Happy Gut’s kombucha in their store.
By supporting one another, they’re not just helping each other’s business stay afloat, they’re fostering community.
Outdoor Outfitter and Survival Gear
Park City, Utah’s Cotopaxi and Uncharted Supply Co. found themselves helping each other in April after the pandemic hit. According to S News, the companies joined forces when Uncharted, a company that makes survival gear, faced huge demand. Cotopaxi, an outdoor outfitter, was able to offer staffing support and keep their employees on the payroll when they might otherwise have had to give layoffs.
Chicken and the Egg
For small farmers, a meat shortage has been a happy boon to their business. To capitalize on the demand, in South Carolina, WLTX says Crazy Chick Heritage Farm, which raises chickens in Ridgeway, teamed up with Doko Farm—pork, lamb, chicken, and turkey producers—to share their farmers market tent so shoppers could find all their local meat at one tent.
By combining their space, they could reach more customers and sell more goods.
"No one's small farm can feed the entire community on their own. It's going to take a network of small farms to do that," said Doko Farms owner Amanda Jones.
Making a Case for Community
Strengthening community is really what joining forces with another businesses is all about. Whether it's helping each other continue operations, cross-promoting a joint product, giving members a reason to stay active and involved, or simply shining a light on a complementary service, the end result is a shared sense of community that helps the good of all.
And the great news is data suggests consumers are hungry to support small business joint efforts. According to Klaviyo, “a growing number of people say that supporting a local business is a priority when choosing where to shop.” Double your efforts with another small local business and you’ve doubled your chances of earning a local shopper’s dollars.
But how do you reach those customers?
Nextdoor: Where Neighborhoods Happen
Social media and newsletters are great ways for brands to inform their pre-existing customers about partnerships and joint efforts with other businesses. But to reach a new audience, one made up of people in your town, the best place to go is Nextdoor.
Nextdoor is where community members go to share news and ideas about their town, offer referrals, and get recommendations. According to internal surveys, 88% of members shop at a local business once a week or more. In fact, 75% of Nextdoor’s members are willing to pay more for something at a local business over a big box retailer or chain.
This is a community that you, as a business owner, will have immediate access to. Unlike social networking platforms that require you to build an audience, when you join Nextdoor, you get instant distribution to everyone in your neighborhood without having to worry about getting followers
And it’s easy to get started.
- Create your free Business Page
- Customize its appearance
- Run promotions with Local Deals
- Engage with free Business Posts
Once you’re up and running, you can use Nextdoor’s business tools to connect with your neighbors and share the joint efforts you’re participating in with other small businesses in your community. And, that's not to mention the opportunity you have to meet other small business owners online and in real life to partner with in the future.
Time Magazine. How Small Business Owners Are Banding Together to Adapt During the Coronavirus Pandemic. time.com/5838289/coronavirus-business-support/
Main Street ROI. How to Attract New Customers By Partnering With Other Local Businesses. www.mainstreetroi.com/local-business-partnerships/
Charleston City Paper. Lewis Barbecue and Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit deliver barbecue + biscuit packages through the end of August. www.charlestoncitypaper.com/Eat/archives/2020/08/18/lewis-barbecue-and-callies-hot-little-biscuit-deliver-barbecue-biscuit-packages-through-the-end-of-august
Mind Body Online. How Partnerships Can Keep You Connected During COVID-19. www.mindbodyonline.com/business/education/blog/how-partnerships-can-keep-you-connected-during-covid-19
Spectrum Local News. Rochester Small Businesses Join Forces for 'Happy' CollaborationRochester Small Businesses Join Forces for 'Happy' Collaboration. spectrumlocalnews.com/nys/rochester/business/2020/08/06/small-businesses-join-forces-for--happy--collaboration
S News. Utah Brands Cotopaxi and Uncharted Supply Co. Partner to Keep Business Rolling and Employees Paid amid Coronavirus Pandemic. www.snewsnet.com/press-release/cotopaxi-and-uncharted-supply-keep-employees-paid-amid-pandemic
WLTX. Local meat farmers working together to get through pandemic. https://www.wltx.com/article/news/health/coronavirus/local-meat-farmers-working-together-to-get-through-pandemic/101-e0d75d9f-3b07-4ea8-898a-fe11af9afec1
Klaviyo. Covid-19 Insights. www.klaviyo.com/covid-19-daily-ecommerce-insights/marketing-consumer-insights-04212020
Claim your free Business Page to get started on Nextdoor. For resources on how to use Nextdoor to stay connected with your local customers, pertinent news affecting businesses, and more, follow us at @nextdoorbusiness on Facebook.