The Hidden Cost Behind Convenience: Why Supporting Small Businesses Matters

Various sustainable skincare and beauty products arranged on a plain background

This season, use your dollars to support small businesses who hold up the economy and give back to their communities instead of mega corporations. 

Estimated Read Time: 7 minutes

When you think about small businesses maybe you think of a quaint little main street right out of a movie.

Photo by Tyler Rutherford on Unsplash

But small businesses are everywhere, not just on main street! That’s one of the reasons you should prioritize small businesses — they’re all around you! From your hairdresser, to your landlord, your next airbnb host, or your favorite coffee spot. 

So this season (or any time of the year), as you’re preparing to start your holiday shopping, think about the advantages of shopping from small businesses and what your support means to them.

The Cost of Convenience

back of delivery truck filled with various boxes

Photo by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash

  • Ride shares
  • Food delivery
  • Grocery deliver
  • Two day shipping

It's safe to say we’re living in the most convenient time period ever. But there’s often a hidden cost lurking behind these conveniences.

Impulse Shopping

woman browsing black friday sale on her laptop

Photo by Shopify Partners on Burst

When you can get a t-shirt or a belt or a pair of socks the very next day, or even the same day, for no shipping fee, it’s easy to keep making small purchases throughout the day or week. These small purchases add up financially as well as contribute to many of us owning far too many things.

Excess Waste

Convenience encourages us to buy a single-use product because it’s cheap or easy and because we’ll need to return to buy more of it. Excess waste can also be found in packaging, shipping, transportation, energy, and fuel.

  • Packaging waste happens in the form of unnecessary wrapping and stuffing — often plastic.
  • Shipping waste occurs when products are packaged in incorrectly sized boxes. While it may seem silly and mildly inconvenient for you, it’s a waste of cardboard and it doesn’t allow trucks to be packed as efficiently.
  • Transportation waste happens when a truck is filled with large boxes that contain small products. The truck cannot pack as efficiently wasting value space, fuel, and carbon emissions. 
  • Fuel and energy waste occur when trucks are inefficiently packed or not completely filled. The more a truck is carrying, the more efficient the mileage, carbon emissions, and even prices end up being. But fast turnaround times don't give freight carriers the opportunity for efficiency. 

Hidden Fees

dollar bill and coins

Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

Amazon, a trillion dollar company, and other large companies can afford to build warehouses and take on extra shipping costs to get products to you faster and cheaper.

Small businesses can't afford to do the same.

While you, the buyer, may not feel those fees, small companies attempting to widen their reach by selling on these platforms will feel it through seller fees.

These seller fees average around 15% but range from 6-45%. That number may seem small but they’re large enough to hurt small businesses, even resulting in businesses losing money selling products on Amazon. Yet in 2021 Amazon made $121 billion in these fees.

Low Quality

Not all inexpensive products are poorly designed, and not all expensive ones are well designed, but generally speaking the cheaper a product, the lower the quality.

This is because in large scale production, satisfying the consumer is not the end goal.

Profit is.

To get costs down, the quality of the materials suffer as do wages, working conditions, quality assurance, and more.

In many cases companies intentionally design products to wear out quickly so you’ll be forced to purchase it again (Planned Obsolescence). Hint: Think of your phone slowing down with an update.

Why Support Small Businesses?

a handwritten wood framed chalkboard sign that reads

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Small businesses need YOU!

If for no other reason, support a small business because it’s a nice thing to do.

In the U.S. alone there are 61 million small businesses with under 100 employees. 23 million of those have less than 20 employees. All together they’re responsible for employing a third of the entire country’s workforce.  

Do you have any small business owners in your family or close circle of friends? Can you imagine how excited they would be by a handful, a hundred, or a few hundred new loyal customers? When you support small businesses, that’s what you’re doing all over the country!

Here Are 4 More Advantages Of Shopping From Small Businesses

We’re Your Neighbors

woman working at her desk

Photo by Brandy Kennedy on Unsplash

You might know a pizza spot, a construction company, or a boutique that are run by locals but chances are there are a lot more local and small businesses you don’t know about!

  • It's your hairdresser
  • The coffee shop
  • The antique store
  • The gas station
  • Your favorite taco joint
  • It's your neighbor who freelances
  • Or a local artist who sells their goods online or through Etsy

ZeroWasteStore, for example, partners with over 100+ small businesses from all across the country. They might have a storefront and a local presence or they might operate entirely online.

More Environmentally Minded

While it’s true that not every small business is environmentally-minded, it’s also true that most source locally first.

Every partner at ZWS makes a product designed for people and the planet.

  • All products and brands are vetted by us before they become a partner.
  • We ensure first and foremost shipping is 100% plastic-free.
  • We look out for organizations that give back — at the community level and nationally.

But we know sustainability looks different to different people. For this we have a variety of partners and encourage you to shop by value or brand.

Some of our most notable donors are:

  • Blue Heron Botanicals who run completely off the grid and donate heavily towards saving the sea turtles.
  • GotBag sources the plastic used in their products from ocean cleanup projects while working to prevent more plastic from ending up in the ocean.
  • Yay for Earth sources their beeswax from a local beekeeper!
  • And us! ZWS is a 1% For The Planet member in addition to donating to other causes close to us.

Supported Small Businesses Support The Community

woman small business owner standing in a shop

Photo by Matthew Henry from Burst

When you support and enable a small business you’re helping to develop community and talent.

You never know how your support will impact someone, or how helping a small brand remain in business can impact the community.

When you shop with small businesses, every dollar you spend matters.

  • You’re helping them to survive
  • To remain a pillar of the community
  • To spread their message
  • To be seen by a wider audience

And when these brands need help to keep up with all your wonderful orders, they hire locals.

  • This helps the local economy by creating jobs
  • It helps develop talent (and inspires future entrepreneurs)
  • It helps to create a diverse workforce as that business is more likely to hire people who represent the local demographics of their community
  • And it helps the community through service projects and donations to local causes

These are some of the reasons our founders knew they wanted to create a platform to support other small, sustainable businesses.

Better Customer Service

two people standing on gray tile floor that reads

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

You’ve probably had an experience with a huge corporation that was cold, impersonal, and rude. We don’t want to do business like that.

Every product we sell, every partnership we make, every piece of content we release, we do so for you — our audience, our supporters, our community. And every single one of our partners feels the same.

So the next time you get a handwritten note or a thank you card in our package, know it was genuine because we (and all our partners) <3 you!

You’re making choices that benefit you, your family, and the environment. We get it and we would be kidding ourselves if we acted as if we were your only choice.

We appreciate you supporting our small business which allows us to continue supporting other small businesses. We hope after reading this article, it helps to get you thinking about the advantages of shopping from small businesses and why supporting small business matters.

Written by Lauren Plug, content creator for ZeroWasteStore & Sustainability Enthusiast!

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