BY: RACHEL WUMKES

A good party should last about five days, right?  A full work-week  to ensure the proper amount of time for recognition and celebration?

It seems fitting, then, that we are smack-dab in the middle of Small Business Week.  And in case you haven’t started celebrating, never fear, there is still plenty of time to join in the fun.

We often talk about small businesses in our push to shop local.  The little guy.  The underdog.  The mom-and-pop shops who opened their doors with sparkles in their eyes, fulfilling a lifelong dream to one day just ‘go for it.’

In big cities, they’re the cute little shops on the corner, the ones who fill in space between skyscrapers and ginormous corporations.  In North Iowa, however, they’re almost everyone.

It seems the definition of “small business” lives in a bit of gray area.  One search said it was any company that does under $35million a year in sales and has no more than 1500 employees.

Um… okay.

Seems a bit excessive, no?

In North Iowa, the average small business has about 10 employees.  They are the people who dreamt their whole life about opening that coffee shop, or their own insurance company.  Their businesses are the pillars of our neighborhood.  It’s where we go to grab lunch with friends.  Where we buy our car insurance, our groceries, and cute décor for our home.

And the people who own them?  They are our neighbors and friends.  Our kids grew up together; playing sports, going to dances, graduating.  Sales for them are more than just another line item for their accountant to record on the books.

It’s a big deal.  Huge.  It means buying groceries and putting gas in their car.  It means being able to expand or hire another employee.  It means sponsoring a band for a community event or donating to the school group who needs new uniforms.

It means everything.

And so, as we are in the throws of Small Business Week, it’s not too late to hop on the party train and celebrate big.  Here’s how…

  1. Buy Gift Cards – Give them to your friends.  Give them to your kids.  Heck… give them to your friends’ kids!  Hide them in a random sweatshirt pocket to find when you least expect it.  Stock up to give away as gifts later!
  2. Order Local This Month – Even if it’s just once. Something you maybe buy online because it’s easy or whatever… switch it up and buy local.  You might find the service and quality is a lot better!
  3. Start a “Shop Local” Challenge on social media – This is my favorite. Being a small business owner myself, when someone posts a photo of themselves reading my book at a pool or beach, I do a happy dance.  Get creative – and then challenge your friends to join in the fun!
  4. Pay it Forward – You can never go wrong with this one. Pick up someone’s tab.  Do a random act of kindness.  It makes people happy, who then do something kind for someone else.  The cycle is endless and sparks so much good in the World.
  5. Nominate a Business for a Small Business Award – People love to win things. Do a little digging, see if there are any awards in the area and nominate your favorite business.  There’s nothing better than displaying that esteemed recognition in your store!
  6. Highlight Local Businesses Online – Super easy to do! Giving a business a rave review is crucial, but a random post on social media going on and on about the wonderfulness of a business’s product or service is PURE GOLD.  If you love it, shout it from the rooftops.

Easy peasy, right?

There are so many ways we can support the little guy.  We don’t just push shopping local because we want our businesses to succeed.  We do it because we want our community to succeed.  To be a thriving region of individuals who work together for the betterment of Clear Lake and all North Iowa.  To make this the best place to live, work and play that it can possibly be.

The business directory on our website is a great resource for finding the business you need.  And, as always, our office is open daily to field questions and help guide you in your search.