A few weeks ago I was at a family friends’ house for dinner when I noticed a bottle of Vezorla Olive Oil on his kitchen counter. As a Momentum supporter, he was excited when I told him that Veronica – the owner of Vezorla – is a Momentum business training graduate who successfully paid off her Micro Business Loan a few years ago. Veronica is a great example of a local entrepreneur who didn’t let the economic downturn in Calgary hold her back. She used the experience of losing her job as an opportunity to successfully launch her own business. The experience also made me think of why it is so important for Calgarians to be ‘localists’ and want to support locally owned businesses.
Why should consumers care about supporting local businesses?
Local businesses are critical for a few key reasons including:
- Economic benefits – several studies demonstrate that locally owned businesses create higher economic ‘multipliers’ compared to non-local businesses, such as more jobs created and local tax contributions. For example, a Harvard Business Review article highlights that local job growth is linked to the amount of small, local employers in a community. In Calgary, the 100+ members in the REAP business association provided over 5,500 jobs to Calgarians. These are all locally owned businesses committed to social and environmental sustainability, and to paying a fair wage.
- Social impact – the amount of local small businesses is linked to improved social conditions in a community. In the United States, studies indicate that counties with higher percentage of locally owned businesses tend to have lower poverty rates and lower levels of inequality. Fiasco Gelato is a great example of locally owned business committed to paying all its employees a living wage to ensure they earn enough to live in our city.
- Sense of community – more local businesses in a community can create a greater connection to a place. Shopping at a Walmart is the same experience almost anywhere. Shopping at a local store like Calgary Co-op or Blush Lane Organic Market can lead to discovering local Calgary products like True Buch Kombucha or Stoked Oats. By doing business with a local business, you are building community. At a local business, you may have the opportunity to potentially meet with and know the business owner. Personally, I love getting my lunch from Eat at Will – an Indian take out restaurant – both because I’m partial to the Tikka Masala and I enjoy my interactions with the owner Jay. I originally met Jay while he was in a Momentum business training program and his two boys spend a lot of summers at the restaurant.
As we slowly recover from the economic downturn in Calgary, we need to focus our resources on supporting the development of our local economy. Businesses started in our community and owned by Calgarians are critical to our city’s economic and social vibrancy. We don’t necessarily need to attract big, global businesses to open an office or a store in our city to get our economy going – we can invest in homegrown economic assets and local employers. As Richard Florida from University of Toronto has outlined, a community-based approach to economic development can lead to local economies that work better for more people over the longer-term. Smaller, locally owned businesses are not necessarily better than big, global businesses though they are critically important for the unique value they create in a community.
What are some of the ways you can support local businesses in Calgary?
Considering purchasing from Momentum business training grads like Éclair de Lune for delicious French bakery treats, Pure Fresh Foods for a great selection of sauces, Nourish Kitchen & Bakery for a selection of gluten free and vegan food, Yara Flowers for a beautiful flower arrangement, Derma Lounge for skin care needs, Velour Clothing Exchange or Thrifty Princess for high quality consignment clothing, High Tails for pet grooming and boarding or Drool Pawtisserie for gourmet pet treats.
Check out REAP member businesses that are committed to social and environmental responsibility on their directory.
Explore the shops and restaurants of International Avenue on 17th Ave SE and the Emerge Market for local vendors this summer.