Did you know that there are over 30 million small businesses in the U.S. with nearly 59 million employees (and counting)? With so many SMBs in operation, local businesses are an integral part of the economy. They support other businesses, they’re employers, and they’re typically highly invested in the success of the community.
Because of their devotion to their communities at large, it’s no surprise that many local businesses take things a step further and find additional ways to contribute that can make a big impact.
Here are 10 inspiring stories of local business heroes making a difference in their communities.
The city of Seattle has the third-largest homeless population in the country and a local band, the iconic Pearl Jam, decided to tackle the issue head-on. In 2018, the band launched a two-day concert series, The Home Shows, to raise money to help make a difference with the local homeless crisis.
The band approached local businesses to get involved which resulted in 140 businesses donating 10% or more from sales to help with the issue. Additionally, the band encouraged fans to donate their time to local organizations and events to help make even more of an impact on the homeless community.
While proms are usually all about getting decked out in your finest threads, being able to do so isn’t a financial reality for everyone.
It was with this in mind that Rasool’s Menswear Clothing Store, a local Miami-Dade business, came up with the idea to partner up with Wright and Young Funeral Home to offer new suits to 19 students.
According to the staff at the funeral home, they often have to dress young people for funerals, so they thought this initiative would be a great way to give back to the community and focus on young people dressing up for a happy occasion.
The chosen seniors were selected by school staff as part of their Get Ready for Prom Project. Students were treated to lunch and an afternoon of shopping, where they were able to select their suits and either take them home or come back for a professional fitting.
When local businesses in Port Renfrew, British Columbia heard that nearly 270 acres of old-growth forests (which were sitting on crown land bordering Juan de Fuca Provincial Park,) were being auctioned off to logging companies, they took action.
Port Renfrew is known as the tall tree capital of Canada; however, old-growth forests are not protected. Local residents felt this sale could have a negative impact on tourism — especially as there are trees that have been growing for over a millennium and these natural resources can’t be replaced.
Local businesses and activists have banded together to get the government to stop the auction and cease the issuance of permits for old-growth forests.
A common and ongoing issue in national parks is people leaving garbage and waste behind that can have an adverse effect on the natural habitat and wildlife.
When the U.S. government shutdown happened in early 2019, local residents and businesses were sad to see the mess in Yosemite National Park, which they consider part of their own backyard.
While some local business owners were concerned about the loss of business due to the shutdown, they were more concerned about preserving the reputation of Yosemite and the natural beauty of the park. Local residents and businesses organized volunteer clean-up crews to pick up and dispose of the garbage in the park to keep this national treasure beautiful.
When a local hoagie shop in Philadelphia was thinking of ways to spread some holiday cheer to the less fortunate, it didn’t take them too long to come up with an idea that was dubbed “Hoagies for the Homeless.”
As a young, first-year business owner, Lee’s Hoagie House at Temple University’s owner Josh Waxman, wanted to give back to the community but didn’t have extra money to spare. He made the decision to take his idea to social media and see if he could raise the funds he needed.
Then, one Saturday before Christmas, he spent four hours walking around the city of Philadelphia handing out 100 hoagies to homeless people in need.
Because he had exceeded his fundraising goal, he was able to donate the additional money he raised to a local homeless shelter. Due to its success, the team at the shop is now planning on making this an annual event.
When a horrific tragedy occurs, the whole community grieves. When the Tree of Life Synagogue mass shooting occurred in Pittsburgh in the fall of 2018, Pittsburgh businesses decided to work together to ease some of the grief residents were experiencing.
Businesses and local community organizers began offering free admission to events, wellness services and food and drink. The Green Building Alliance made the upcoming event for their next Inspire Speakers Series free to anyone who registered using a specific code. Meanwhile, a small local business, Millie’s Handmade Ice Cream, sent messages of love and offered free scoops, and Tazza d’Oro gave away coffee.
To help with community healing, two yoga studios, Yoga Innovations and I Am Yoga in Squirrel Hill, offered free meditation and yoga classes as well.
When South Texas was ravaged by floods in 2018, one local business sprung into action to support the local community.
Started as a once a year toy drive run by Platinum Tattoos and Body Piercings in San Antonio, their Toys4Tats nonprofit is focused on helping children in less fortunate situations. The owner saw a need in the community for more charitable programs for kids, and over the years, Toys4Tats began to expand their reach into other times throughout the year, like running a school supply drive.
After the floods in 2018, Toys4Tats made an offer to the community at large: For every toy valued at $20 or more, the tattoo studio would provide the giver with a $60 tattoo. If the tattoo the giver was looking for was over $100, they would receive $80 off the cost of their body art.
Being a furloughed employee can be extra hard for some families, creating a struggle to put food on the table while they aren’t receiving a paycheck.
In early 2019, nearly a dozen businesses in San Diego teamed up with Yelp and rallied together to host a lunch for federal employees waiting out the government shutdown.
Affected employees were able to RSVP to the event and only needed to show government ID when they arrived to get their free meal.
The summer lemonade stand is a tradition that’s been happening in neighborhoods across America for decades and embodies the entrepreneurial spirit.
On Memorial Day weekend in 2018, a Denver mother wanted to support her young children who had an idea to create a lemonade stand as a means to raise money for a five-year-old child from Indonesia the family was sponsoring.
Much to the family’s surprise, someone made a complaint to the police about the lemonade stand operating without a permit, and they were soon asked to shut down. In order to keep the stand running, the family would have had to pay over $100 to obtain a permit.
Once news of the shutdown spread throughout the community, local businesses began contacting the family to offer them the opportunity to sell their lemonade in front of their stores. Additionally, one local Chick-Fil-A franchise donated 10% of their lemonade profits to support the charity the family was sponsoring a child with.
For nearly two decades, dry cleaner Anton’s Cleaners in Lowell, Massachusetts has been front and center as a leading sponsor of the local Coats for Kids campaign. This campaign brings together more than 200 New England businesses to collect coats to be distributed by local social service agencies to those in need.
The initiative also involves the local schools, accounting for nearly half of the coats collected. Participating schools are incentivized with rewards for collecting the most coats per capita. All donated coats are cleaned at Anton’s free of charge, so the recipients receive a good-as-new coat to take them through the seasons.
Anton’s Cleaners is also heavily involved in the promotion of the program, handing out flyers and getting posters hung throughout the community.
As the stories above demonstrate, local businesses can make a big impact on their community. By being of service, your small business can continue to build meaningful connections in the community. You can use similar small acts of kindness to establish your business as an integral part of the neighborhood.
Through gestures both big and small, in times of celebration and in times of crisis, by choosing to get your business involved with the community at large, you too can make a difference.