Whether you’re out to fill a gap in the market, save the planet, or make a buck, there’s an asset you shouldn’t overlook. And it’s right outside your door. The community around you is a ready-made network, just waiting to be tapped. By building good relationships and forging alliances with potential local partners, you get access to more resources and improve your odds for success.
Startups need good neighbors, too
Consider La Bodega, a London tapas bar in Notting Hill. The owner sources artisan bread, confectionary, and linens directly from his stall-holding neighbors on Portobello Road. This secures ‘mate’s rates’ for him, while it boosts other local enterprises. (Meanwhile, the bread maker sources flour from another neighbor, weaving the connections tighter.) As these businesses help each another, they also thwart major players who’d like to supply them – and charge a hefty mark up.
Make sure it’s not all about you
Starting and owning a small business creates a fantastic opportunity to help your local community. Many small businesses donate money or time to local charities, get involved in fundraising events, and contribute as board members. All of these show your loyalty and raise your company’s local profile. More established businesses can take this up a level by contributing to local projects and campaigns.
- Be a host. If your business has local premises, offer to host community meetings, such as a neighborhood watch group, or business-based get-togethers.
- Sponsor a sports team. Local teams – youth and otherwise – are often under-funded. For the price of some equipment or transport to games, you can give back to your community and earn publicity.
- Donate. If your budget allows, consider donating an item or service your community needs, like hospital radio equipment or a mini-bus for a local non-profit.
- Fund a scholarship. Savvy businesses put their stamp on their home communities by creating industry-specific scholarships for local students. Think of it as an investment in your community and your industry.
- Give your time. If cash is tight, your effort is always welcome. You might provide transport for local seniors, help with trail repair at a nearby park, or mentor students – all great ways to lend local support and make a mark on behalf of your startup.
- Connect with local media. Don’t be shy about telling your hometown newspaper and radio station about your efforts. Chances are, they’ll be happy to cheer on one of their own.
Helping local community partners really does benefit both parties. Start with a Google search to unearth local businesses that could help you on your way. Then think about how you might help them. Take a little time to find the pay-it-forward approach that suits your startup and your goodwill is bound to bounce back.