Small businesses are often referred to as the "backbone" of the American economy. They create jobs (about two-thirds of all new jobs, according to the Small Business Administration), put money back into local communities, and contribute to overall national and global economic growth.
This week (May 1 to 7, 2016) is National Small Business Week (NSBW), a celebration of the hardworking entrepreneurs and business owners who have helped build that backbone. Since 1963, the Small Business Administration (SBA) has sponsored this week, which recognizes and highlights the impact of small businesses all across the country.
One of the key themes of NSBW is the idea that small businesses should work together and support each other to achieve greater mutual success and growth. For National Small Business Week and beyond, here are a few things you can do as a business owner to get involved in your local small business community. [See Related Story: Collaboration, Not Competition: A Winning Small Business Strategy]
Sponsor local events and charities
In every town and city, there are sports teams, theater productions, parades and other community events that rely on donations from individuals and businesses in the area. Rob Rae, vice president of business development at data protection platform Datto, said small business owners should consider banding together to sponsor one of these organizations.
"Offering sponsorships for local groups or events is a great way to show support for the surrounding community," Rae said. "You can sponsor Little League teams, or support your employees who are involved in marathons, races, etc."
You can also get involved with charity organizations, such as your local food bank or shelter, Rae said. Charitable efforts will get your name out to the local community and help a worthy cause.
Get a pulse on your local customer base
If small businesses are the backbone of the economy, loyal customers are the backbone of a small business. A recent survey by Cox Business showed that 90 percent of consumers frequent small businesses at least once a week. They do so because they enjoy the convenience and better customer service, as compared to larger businesses, and they want to support their local community, the survey found.
During NSBW, it's especially important to reach out to the customers who have helped make your business successful, said Allison Checchi, chief marketing officer at YP (formerly Yellow Pages).
"Giving consumers an opportunity to share positive stories about their favorite employee or most memorable experience helps grow and foster customer relationships, which are so crucial to long-term success as a business," Checchi said. "At the same time, it has the added benefit of increasing awareness of your business at the precise moment when people are paying so much attention to small businesses."
Join your local Chamber of Commerce
If you want to get involved in your small business community in a big, tangible way, Rae recommended joining your local Chamber of Commerce.
"Membership offers you an awesome opportunity to network with other small business owners, and will help you build recognition as a local expert in your field," Rae said.
John Swanciger, CEO of Manta, agreed, and noted that getting involved in this type of organization can help you seek out partnerships with complementary businesses near you.
Attend a National Small Business Week event
All week, the SBA is hosting NSBW events in cities across the country. These panels, discussions and webinars cover a wide range of important small business topics, from basic startup resources to cybersecurity and payment challenges.
"Small Business Week is about creating opportunities ... to drive conversations that arm local business owners with insights, tools and resources they need to power their business," Checchi told Business News Daily. "Local business owners should take advantage of these moments to network and gain knowledge."
"During National Small Business Week, the SBA sponsors many local events where entrepreneurs are able to increase visibility for their business while making a difference in the community and connecting with other business owners," Swanciger added.
Each in-person event will be live-streamed from the SBA website, so even if you're not in the area, you can still tune in and benefit from the expert insights. Visit the below links for scheduling and attendance information: