By Dan Kelly
Published in the Toronto Sun on October 25, 2019.
Canada is celebrating this weekend! October 26 is Small Business Saturday, a day organized by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, in association with Interac, to recognize the contributions small businesses make to our communities.
One of the first things people consider when choosing a house or apartment is its proximity to shops, restaurants and workplaces. Each of us has that favourite spot for dinner or groceries, a local mechanic or hair salon or that cool independent store we’ve had on our list to visit.
The road to entrepreneurship comes with its fair share of challenges. Starting your own business often means putting aside job security, regular hours and a steady paycheque for a different type of journey. According to a recent CFIB survey, one in two small business owners have had to stop paying themselves or a family member in order to pay their employees. More than one in three have had to mortgage their house to finance their business. One in four hasn’t taken any vacation within the past three years.
Even though it’s not always easy, most business owners love what they do. When asked what compels them to stay in business, almost two thirds say it’s the joy of working. The independence they gain with their business and their commitment toward their employees and customers also drive many business owners to press on.
For my part, I was happy to bring my 11-year-old son to a special event at a small business earlier this week. A CFIB member – the Village Grocer – in Markham invited me to join a day where they give back to the community that supports them. Owners Cathy and Evan dedicated their entire sales for the day to the Markham-Stouffville Hospital. It was great reminder to me of how much local businesses do for their communities.
What worries me is that more of us are driving by these amazing local companies on our way to Costco or the big box mall. And others are bypassing our terrific Canadian merchants in favour of a cheaper product from giant online retailers, often from outside of Canada.
I’ve even heard from business owners who have experienced showroom shopping – when a customer takes advantage of their time, expertise and customer service to find the best product, only to buy it from another store that doesn’t provide the same level of care but has lower prices. A jewelry store owner in Winnipeg had a local bank executive come in and discuss a custom ring design and what materials he should use, who later told her he took her advice and bought the ring online. While we shouldn’t turn back the clock, we certainly can be more conscious of supporting our local entrepreneurs.
I urge Canadians to avoid the harmful practice of using local independent businesses as their showroom, only to buy the product from someone else online. Small firms do their best to stay price competitive, but the personal service and convenience of visiting your local bookshop or shoe store only exists if you spend your dollars there.
Nine in 10 Canadians say they believe that small businesses are an essential part of our communities, according to a CFIB survey conducted among members of the Angus Reid forum.
Small Business Saturday is an opportunity to turn those words into action. Let’s take a few minutes to celebrate local entrepreneurship by visiting one — or even a few — small businesses in our neighbourhood. In return, they’ll continue to grow, create jobs and give back to our communities.
Dan Kelly is President of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.