I'm from the wrong generation.
That might be a strange way to start this blog post, but follow me and I apologize in advance for dating myself but I was born in 1990 and if you didn't know, a lot went down back then.
The Gulf War was still waging in the Middle East, the Hubble Space Telescope went on a space discovery mission, the World Wide Web came out publicly as an Internet service.
There were riots in Los Angeles, Hurricane Andrew came crashing into Florida, Hawaii was hit with it's strongest Hurricane to date at that time.
Bill Clinton was elected President.
A stand off in Waco, Texas with David Koresh ended in the deaths of 81 people, the Don't Ask Don't Tell law was passed for our military prohibiting openly gay or bisexual people from serving, Amazon was created, the Oklahoma City bombing killed 168 and wounded 800... there was budget crisis, a reelection of President Bill Clinton.
A scandal with that same President and much, much more.
I'm sure my parents at the time were thinking, "what a world we live in." That's just it, what a world we live in. Now my mom has since passed and my father is off somewhere in Florida remarried to a woman, if I'm honest, has zero interest in having me be a part of her family - Dad if your reading this, it shouldn't surprise you. Come see your grandbabies. But it's the WORLD [ I ] we live in. The point I'm trying to make I suppose is that life is so much grander than what happens in our little world, there's so much more too it all. There is equal bad as there is good, you sometimes just have to search for the later of it.
I'm also noticing that chaos seems to repeat itself. We of course can be doomed to repeat our history, but what appears to have happened here lately is that we've completely stalled out mid [ life ] lesson learned. Instead of pushing through as a United Nation we are seeking to redirect, reeducate, reopen and reappear as this new wildly changed society. We are cleansing ourselves of chaos when in fact we wouldn't know contentment without the recognition of what could be and can be so bad. I'm of course not saying we should have MORE violence, war, disagreement, sickness... in fact I'm saying the opposite, that we should in a way try and recognize it less. It's like the child that acts up in school, the more attention you give to him/her the more attraction to doing the wrong thing grows. When however you ignore the child and the bad behavior it becomes less fun, and therefore less time is consumed, and things go back to "normal".
Again I'm not saying criminals shouldn't be shown justice or that the corruptive shouldn't see the ways of their wrong but in the case of our media and our collective attention span - we should find the good.
I was born in the wrong generation because in the past we unify and we find a way to move on with our lives. Right now however, life has in some way stopped it's forward momentum.
You see I'm writing this mid-pandemic as the aftermath of 2020 seems to be hanging onto 2021 as if it was a bad hangover. COVID-19 is globally recognized, and regardless of your stance on it's validity to human health - it's out there. Newly elected President Joe Biden after a publicly heated and widely debated election even goes as far as to say in his inauguration speech, " a once-in-a-century virus silently stalks the country."
So where are we? Where is small business and what's going to happen? Well, I can't answer much of that - but what I can bring you is the view point of this small business owner, to which I hope softens your heart and widens your eyes to what's happening whether America, or the world wanted it to or not.
As I was driving to work today. God put it on my heart to talk about, and give a voice to the view point of a small business owner in America today. While I'm not the most experienced or well versed in the ways of business types and styles, I know the struggles all to well of what I've faced over nearly year of never ending disrupt. A highly sensationalized Presidential election and uncertain dizzy tail spin that the Coronavirus has brought. At the center of it all however is not misinformation - it's social media. The private, but overly popular, and free for public use powerhouses that are now household names. You know them as: Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter... My generation wouldn't be privy to this kind of social interaction, that was until MySpace came on the scene back in August of 2003.
So that's where this view point starts. Life before social media.
How ever was a business to survive before the likes, comments, shares and boosts of social media. Ease of access right at the fingers of many owners and consumers it's never been so easy to get something. Heck there's now even services to not only deliver groceries to you but pick them out fresh from the store too! Media used to be black and white - the newspaper. It used to be tall and colorful - highway billboards. It used to come highly recommended instead of highly "clicked" - word of mouth recommendations. Small businesses of the pre-social time were made of grit and dedication because it required grit and dedication to get your name out there. You also had to connect with people, not just tell your story to an audience but live out that story in your work and genuinely care for the work or product you provided to your customers. Otherwise you'd be gone within the year. Now a days it's easy if your willing to learn how to share, to tell, to show and even to broadcast what you are, who you are and more importantly what you do, but technology took from us a bit of that ever needed personalization and desire for that "home town feel". We can't keep up with Amazon Prime, let alone fight the "big man" when our ideas are copied and distributed at cheaper prices. For whatever you do and whatever you sell there is of course always someone to under cut you - but in today's day in age there is a great potential that there is a large company who can sell it faster and cheaper.
Take instance Toys R Us.
Where have they all gone? It is almost impossible to buy a toy, Lego set, Barbie or whatever else you might want to pick up real quick for a birthday or holiday anywhere in a store because many have gone out of business, the Walmarts and Targets are consistently sold out due to demand and that leaves you and I to turn to who else, but Amazon. Delivered to your door and if you pay XYZ a month we'll even give you faster and free shipping.
The struggle for small businesses is that even for the ones that have been here longer, yeah Amazon came on the scene only back in 1994, remember my opening paragraph? Ya'll I've been fighting the man since birth! But I digress, the struggle is that we simply can't keep up. Powers that be care more for money than lives and I don't mean to say that with ignorance but more so with a loosely opinionated view point. If it were opposite and lives matter more than money then we'd have MORE jobs, less unemployment, more Mom & Pop success stories, more family run businesses, etc.
So what we've seen now is that amongst a global affect, small businesses die while big businesses thrive.
Follow me for a second.
Where are the days of the Walmart greeter! This isn't a rabbit hole or conspiracy theory, hear me out. We've moved America into such a fast paced, time is money and money is time fast lane that the job of a Walmart greeter is null in void. Heck they have robot "helpers" in a variety of grocery stores now! I see you Marty at GIANT. Walmart, a staple in many households no longer has elderly, Veteran or ex-convict greeters - people turning their lives around or needing a set schedule, easy come job because completely getting rid of the job is cheaper or setting a few confused looking robots is easier. It's so not about the people anymore - and that's ONE thing small businesses ARE doing right.
I've seen a lot during this season of change for our Country, which says a lot because if you know me personally you know I talk a lot too. But I've seen the stories of success, I've seen the anger and fist raised to fight the man and defend our freedoms, I've held the hands of friends making that hard decision to close doors. Handmade with love is now handmade with anxiety and uncertainty. We've all "handled" it differently. We've all felt things at various levels.
It's like the stages of grief:
ANGER over the gross neglect of our government to care or consider the lives and livelihoods of families.
DEPRESSION over the lack of support for ALL people to care for basic needs but also to maintain a lifestyle and livelihood many have worked so hard to have/keep on top of what feels like a no end date virus.
BARGAINING as we look over and constantly review new mandates, new regulations, new ways of existing in a world that seems to have hardly anymore room for small businesses and their dreams because what we want isn't "safe" and yet you can shop shoulder to shoulder at Walmart and eat outdoors in an enclosed tent to keep you safe from weather but you can't step foot inside.
ACCEPTANCE the reality that it is what it is and no of us in reality have the means to fight it any other way. This stage however is where I feel many of us small business owners thrive and it's sometimes where this cycle of "grief" ends for many of us, at least for a little while. Owners like myself in this stage get creative and we adapt to overcome - the problem is this requires a lot of energy, a good amount of fortitude and sometime risk. So this isn't a stage that you can necessarily plan for longevity on.
DENIAL & ISOLATION: we all fall. We feel, especially as we scroll through social media feeds even if we're witnessing the success and fail of those around us that we either can or can't do this anymore. We deny what is sometimes fact or reality, we put ourselves in harms way or we set out on an adventure to grand. We also close off and hand in the towel. We feel so alone on the walk that we'd rather not walk at all.
See I can't tell you everyone's story but from my own and from the perspective of running my own business since 2016 but having had my foot in the waters of entrepreneurship for much longer the name of the game has changed and no with everything feeling so temporary it's hard to find a solid foundation to land on. Look here, regardless of your feelings on the man but if Donald Trump, former leader of the free world can get his social media taken away what's stopping them from taking away mine? Yours? I mean it's a simple click of a button.
Where are the days of loving where you live and pouring yourself back into the community? Where are the days when we'd say, "I've got a guy" or "I don't really need this but I want to support you." ? The struggle for small businesses such as myself is that we have to be this constant open and closed book. We can't share too much of our success because the world will read it, especially now, as successful enough - when in reality the bills and debt are piled up and to no fault of our own but for the way the world is waging and absolute lack of COVID accountability. Why do big store chains get financial relief when your local bakery hasn't seen a dime? We also can't just keep it business as usual because our story has to be told. We want you in our lives - why do you think we started a business to begin with? To share and connect.
I called around to a few of my small business friends and here's what they need and what I see for myself too:
- we need you to care about us. This means more than just buying from us, this is treating us neighborly and checking in from time to time whether that be in person, on social media or even sending out a shout out or referral to the world for others to come check us out due to your recommendation.
- we need you to interact with us. This is especially important to us that have social media outlets such as Facebook. Social media algorithms are not a thing of black board conspiracy theorists, they are very real and while instituted to supposedly "help" you see more of what you want to see it often times hurts businesses that you shop with, especially if they are seasonally, for gifts or not on a regular bases. Seeking out and engaging with a like, share, or comment helps keep their posts and information popping up on your social scrolls.
- we need you to talk to others about us. You don't have to be salesmen but when reasonable bring us up in conversation. "Hey my Amy's birthday is next week do you know what your going to get her?" "I do! Life Moments Candle Co actually has a Happy Birthday candle, have you heard of them before?"
- we need you to shop. We get it, we ARE ALL affected by COVID. All of us. But in order to survive and keep our doors open we need to you opt for the little guy from time to time, if not all the time. I get that you can get 20 candles from the Dollar Store for $20 where as you get 1 from me, but the Dollar Store doesn't need your candle money and those candles are usually made outside of the US and not sourced from ethical or natural ingredients.
Small businesses are human too and we just want to be reminded that you want us around, even when it's not easy. We are feeling the deep loss of support and normalcy as many of you are as well, but instead of it just affecting who and how we hang out and with - it's affecting how and if we'll continue to believe in a dream many of us thought would never end.
So remember the days of Walmart greeters.
See more than what is first shown. Check in (emotionally invest) and then check out (a store purchase or by referring a friend) and of course stay vigilant and educated. These times we face are uncertain and at times chaotic. We all have a voice worthy of being heard so listen as much as you speak and dare yourself to care as much about others as you do about your own life/livelihood, because someone else's might depend on it.
CHALLENGE for the month:
Pick a small business you love. Then share the crap about them this month. Share like it's going out of style and this is your last chance to feel good doing it. Make people sick of hearing about how good this business, then maybe they'll finally cave and buy something. The point is make a small business feel like you care even if your not able to buy something from them today or tomorrow. Comment below who you've decided to raise up so I and other readers can check them out too!