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Column: Small business remains vital to communities

A column on the role small businesses play in our community.
Small business
Running small busineses is often challenging, but not less rewarding.

In general, small business owners deserve our admiration.

After all, they have done something that so many of us want to do, but it is out of reach.

Who hasn’t dreamed of being an entrepreneur? We think about how great it would be to be our own boss, to employ other people, to create a company that would deliver an important product or service to the people, and to possibly even build a business that becomes much larger than we could imagine.

Of course, for most of us, it never advances beyond the dream or fantasy stage. It takes a certain type of person to be a successful small business owner. You need the money, the product knowledge, the people skills, the work ethic and the common sense to do it and do it well.

This week is Small Business Week in Canada. It’s an opportunity to reflect on a lot of things, including the impact that small businesses have on our communities, the obstacles that these entrepreneurs have overcome to succeed and even our favourite small businesses. (I know I have quite a few that I enjoy, and I hope you do, too). Here in Saskatchewan, most of the businesses that serve us are small businesses.

And you see their names in the community. They sponsor sports teams, community events, fundraisers and health-care initiatives. They’re often the first ones to commit to support a cause. And yes, they’re advertising in the local paper.

You’ll see their name plastered in so many ways in your community, but often they’ll make a contribution to a local cause with no expectation of recognition. They do it because they believe in the cause and they believe in community.

They don’t do it for glory or for the tax write off. 

There are also businesses that are part of a national chain, but have a local franchise owner. These companies are a big part of our communities as well, as they employ people and support local projects.

Yes, there are those times in which I’ll need to venture into a big box store to make a purchase, but I try to limit those occasions.

I don’t have an Amazon account. I doubt I ever will have anything to do with Amazon. I have no need for it. I’ve never thought “Wow, there’s something on Amazon I really need.” And it’s not just Amazon. I do very little shopping online. If I need something, I go to my local retailer.

I’ve never seen Amazon sponsor a team in minor baseball, or purchase a corporate table at a fundraiser, or bring a cultural event to our community. They’ve done nothing for us. So I don’t feel bad that I’ll likely never spend a dime with them.

But you know who has always been there for our communities? Small business owners.

We enjoy the meals at the restaurants, we purchase what we need from furniture and electronics stores, we buy the clothes from retailers, we seek professional services when needed and we turn to small businesses for their expertise when it comes to repairs for the home and office.

So I’ll spend a little more money to shop at that local company as opposed to turning to Amazon, or heading to the big-box stores in Regina and waiting in line with the hordes for a bunch of purchases. Besides, with my needs, that trip to Regina isn’t going to be worth my time, effort or expense.

I like the retailers where I get my groceries, my clothes, my home electronics, my office supplies and my home needs. I know the restaurant owner where I enjoy my chicken wings and beers. If I go shopping in Regina, it’s unlikely I’ll know the owner, the employees or anyone in the joint.

It’s not easy being a business owner in a small community. It doesn’t take long for word to get around that someone had a bad experience, that they purchased a shabby product or had inadequate customer service. Especially in modern times with social media and rant and rave pages in which people can hide behind a keyboard, comment on anything, and not put their name behind it.

So this week, let’s remember the value of the entrepreneur, especially in a community of this size. Let’s admire them for doing that which is out of reach for so many of us. Let’s celebrate their work ethic and resiliency.

After all, in Saskatchewan, communities rely so much on them.