While people are doing their part by staying at home to flatten the curve and using free time to take up a new hobby, read books or binge-watch series, many small businesses are seriously feeling the pinch during lockdown.
A large number of South African businesses are currently unable to operate at all, while others are finding new ways to keep business going by shifting operations to make and sell essential goods such as fresh produce, frozen meals or sanitisers and cleaning supplies.
The South African Department of Small Business Development has launched a Debt Relief Fund to assist small, medium and macro enterprises (SMMEs) who are struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Already, more than 80 000 small businesses across the country have registered to apply for funding.
While these funds will provide some much-needed relief for small businesses who are struggling during lockdown, the demand is such that not everyone will be able to benefit. Additional support from the public could therefore be the difference between businesses closing completely or continuing operations during and after lockdown.
Those who are able to support local businesses have the potential to make a big difference to those in need with just a little effort from the comfort of their couch or makeshift home office ‒ with any spare moment in between working, teaching, learning a new language, baking banana bread, knitting a scarf or catching up on 15 years worth of Grey’s Anatomy or a decade of Friends.
If you’re wondering how much of an impact you can make, consider that you might help to keep one person employed for longer or put food on the table for a family. Collectively, South Africans with means can make a big difference.
Here are five examples of how you can support local businesses throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Join a virtual community
One way to keep active, engaged and entertained during lockdown and social distancing is to take part in virtual classes. Many fitness instructors, children’s activity classes, dance and music teachers, and more, are still offering their services via live streaming or video links.
Learn to tap dance in your lounge, take a salsa class with your partner for an at-home date night, practise some yoga to work on your core and unwind, do a high-intensity workout to build some cardio into your day, or keep your children engaged and entertained while you’re working. You’ll find a huge variety of options online, or you can contact local teachers and instructors in your area to see what they are doing, and how you can support them, during this time.
Buy now, enjoy it later
If you were going to book a hair appointment, beauty treatment, a personal training session, or whatever it is you would normally do but are currently unable to, you can still do so. Pay now, support the small businesses offering these services, and think of it as an IOU to yourself.
Likewise, if a friend or relative is having a birthday or other celebration in lockdown, you can book a treat and give them something to look forward to.
Some businesses are offering a service to send a digital card in lieu of being able to give gifts in person. Some local florists, for example, are offering digital bouquets that can be redeemed for the real thing when lockdown is over.
Pay it forward
Online ticketing company Quicket has launched a feature on their website that enables South Africans to support their favourite businesses that are unable to trade during lockdown.
Quicket’s Pay it Forward option is simple to use, offering a platform for small businesses to seek assistance and for consumers to easily purchase vouchers or make donations to show their support.
You can, for example, support a local restaurant, cafe or brewery and enjoy the rewards later when you’re able to go out into the world again. Maybe, pre-order some beers from the Drifter Brewing Company to be delivered after lockdown, buy yourself or someone you love a voucher for THE POKÉ CO, Molten Toffee or Holy Macaroni for a delicious post-lockdown meal, or purchase a voucher from Banting Baker Gigi for baked treats that you don’t have to bake yourself at home.
“If you buy a voucher or make a donation to a small business now, during lockdown, you can boost their cash flow and provide some much-needed economic relief. Just because they have to stop trading, doesn’t mean their overheads ‒ like paying staff, rent and utilities ‒ go away. A series of small injections right now can make or break a business on the verge of having to close its doors. We therefore hope that people will do this small thing to help their ‘local’ stay afloat ‒ and enjoy the rewards after,” says Quicket Founder and Director, James Tagg.
Quicket encourages small businesses needing assistance from their community to visit Quicket.co.za if they want to feature on the platform.
Support small essential services
Don’t battle to get the last bag of rice or pasta available in the supermarket, or sit waiting for groceries for a week (or two, or more) for the next available delivery date. Many small food-related businesses are offering fresh produce, fruit and vegetable boxes, frozen meals, gourmet ingredients (to up your cooking game at home), and more.
You’ll find smaller-scale local caterers, farmers, delis and restaurants in your area that are finding creative ways to keep their businesses going. And you can support them just by ordering the things you need, or the comfort food you want to have anyway ‒ all prepared to the strictest hygiene standards and delivered safely to your home.
Supporting these businesses keeps industries going, and keeps you and your family well fed. It’s a win-win.
Postpone, don’t cancel
If you had plans for a holiday or weekend away thinking there’d be no reason you wouldn’t be able to travel beyond March this year, then consider postponing instead of cancelling to ensure that businesses in the tourism industry, who are the hardest hit during this time, are able to stay operational.
Tourism businesses on all levels, from small bed-and-breakfasts and guesthouses to major hotels and every sector that serves the industry, are under significant financial stress with the world staying at home instead of travelling. When you are able to travel again, hopefully soon, you’ll thank your former self for thinking ahead and you’ll be grateful that these services are still around and available to you.
You can also use the lockdown weekends to do some virtual travelling, noting down where you’re keen to head when the situation stabilises. You could create your own lockdown bucket list, starting with travelling in your own country first to help the local industry recover.
And…one other way you can help
In addition to supporting small businesses, there are many charities and organisations that could use the extra help right now. Many of these are looking after the most vulnerable people in our society ‒ the very people we are staying at home to protect.
You can also easily donate to worthwhile causes like The Haven night shelter through Quicket’s online Worthwhile Causes platform, for example, should you have the means to help those in need at this time. Or consider donating to SweepSouth’s COVID-19 SweepStar Fund to assist domestic workers who aren’t able to earn a living during lockdown. Many of them are the sole breadwinners for their families and all proceeds raised go towards groceries, toiletries and day-to-day living expenses. Or you can simply reach out to your local charity or organisation to find out what they need or how you can donate. This is the perfect time to go full-on Marie Kondo and sort through your clothing, kitchenware and toys to find items that can be donated.