Even in the few weeks that Ivy&Branch has been up and running, I’ve already discovered a common response from both my readers and my interviewees: people love hearing about small businesses and ways to support local creatives. When given the option, the majority of people prefer to both give and receive a handmade item over a mass-produced one, but it’s also very convenient to pop into a chain store or order randomly online instead. So what are the advantages of sticking with small businesses?
Large vs. Small Businesses
First of all, let’s get something straight: large companies or mass-produced products are not the bad guys. They may be cheaper, poorer quality, or unoriginal, but the simple truth is that we need large companies. I’m no economist, but even I know that if we had nothing but small businesses that made high-quality, handcrafted items, things would quickly go downhill. (Yes, you heard me right–keep reading!)
Consider a small artisan bakery versus a factory that produces cheap white bread for a large chain grocery store. If given the choice, I think everyone would agree that the made-from-scratch, fresh, old-fashioned bread from the artisan bakery would be far superior in quality and taste; however, if we only had small artisan bakeries in the world, there would be no way they could produce enough bread at a cheap enough cost to provide for all consumer demands.
Consider then the factory: it produces inexpensive, poor quality bread, but at the same time it is able to output enough product at a low enough cost to meet the needs of large quantities of people. Furthermore, large companies or factories provide jobs for their communities, whereas smaller businesses often aren’t able to hire.
So Why Stick with Small Businesses?
Despite the contributions that large companies make to the economy, small businesses are also essential to their communities. The fact that small businesses produce on a smaller scale may mean that they typically can’t meet large consumer demands, but it also means that they are able to concentrate on preserving technique, quality, and culture that is otherwise lost to large productions and companies.
Think again to the small artisan bakery: though it doesn’t have the massive resources to feed an entire town, it does have the capacity to preserve the art of making, say, traditional sourdough bread, and they sell products that are unique, high quality, and a continuation of centuries of tradition. If nothing but large factories existed, a huge portion of our heritage and precious craftsmanship techniques would be lost forever. This applies to all sorts of industries, from fashion, woodwork, artwork, cuisine, ceramics, knitting/crocheting, writing…the list goes on and on.
How to Support Small Businesses
The main thing about small businesses is that you have to find them first. Whether it’s a mom-and-pop cafe in town or an Etsy shop online, it can sometimes be a challenge to get off the main road (or steer away from the major websites) to unearth something really special. Most small businesses rely heavily on word of mouth, so if you find something you like, talk about it! Share on social media, refer a service, restaurant, or business to a friend, and just generally be vocal about shops you support.
Staying active in your community and aware of local events is also a great way to be in the know about artisans, crafters, and entrepreneurs in your area. Most city websites advertise local events, and craft fairs, farmers markets, or other similar events are becoming more and more popular. These types of events are excellent opportunities to support the creatives in your area and nurture an artistic community. Furthermore, they’re just good clean fun, often including great music, food, and activities for everyone to enjoy. So get involved!
Walk Away with This:
Large businesses are not the villains of the world. Without them, world hunger and poverty would be significantly worse than it already is. Currently, I happen to work in the training department of a large manufacturing company, one which provides over 800 jobs in my community: that’s a big deal! So if you’re imagining horns and a forked tail when you think of large companies, just remember that they are, in fact, essential, and help provide jobs, materials, and food for your community.
But small businesses deserve to be supported as they nurture craftsmanship and cultivate strong communities. Small businesses offer products that are unique, beautiful, and made with intentional quality, and skilled craftsmen deserve to be recognized and supported. This is the whole reason why I started Ivy&Branch, and I hope that the fact that you’re reading this means that you want to see small businesses flourish as well.