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How to Support Your Friend’s Small Business

by Shalaka Laxman

Entrepreneurship can be a lonely affair. Small business owners, in particular, can experience isolation coupled with all the usual struggles of small business life, from juggling all roles to managing growing admin tasks. Unlike employees, entrepreneurs have no one to applaud them on a job well done and have no work pals to wind down with after a long day's work. Business errands often bleed into evening hours, and my small business is always the last thing I think about before I fall asleep.

With 2021 seeing the highest number of businesses launched in the UK, you may have one or more friends now running their own companies. I'm also part of this statistic since I launched By Shax, my art and homeware brand, in late 2021. Right away, I started feeling the strain of constantly wearing multiple hats and staying on top of many moving parts daily. However, the constant support of my family and friends got me through the initial bumpy months and still makes everything a lot easier. With International Friendship Day on 30th July, I thought of all the lovely things my friends have done for By Shax and wanted to share five simple ways you could support your friend's business.

1. Purchase from them (if possible)

This one might seem obvious, but buying something from a small business is the best kind of backing - only if you can afford to, of course. Even if it's something small, your friend will appreciate the support, and you'll have a lovely memento at home. If you're keen to purchase something, try to avoid asking for a family and friends discount unless offered. It can put your friend in an uncomfortable position, and it's very challenging for a new, small business to offer discounts all year round. 

2. Spread the word and support their business publicly

Most small businesses struggle with marketing themselves, and while kind words in private go a long way, a public shout-out can make a tangible difference. Whether it's as simple as posting on Instagram about your friend's new business or sharing their work in your work WhatsApp group, your endorsement could directly lead to a sale or at least a new prospect for your friend's company. 

3. Leave a review or a comment on their social media

Anyone trying to build up an online following knows that engagement is critical. With ever-changing algorithms, creatives often struggle with organic growth (especially if content creation isn't usually their primary business). It's easy (and free) to leave supportive comments on their profiles or even leave a positive review if you've purchased their product.

4. Schedule a brainstorming session with them

My friends suggested this just last week as I was starting to plan my Christmas collection (I know it's only July!), and it was so thoughtful that I had to include it on this list. For a small business owner, it's often hard to plan ahead, get out of the details, and think outside the box. A brainstorming session with friends who know them (but are still not so close to the business) could be what they need to feel energized and refreshed. Plus, it helps them learn how different audiences could perceive their work and answer potential customer questions.

5. Ask how you can help

I'll be the first to admit that I'm terrible at asking for help. I love helping my friends, but if the situation reverses and I have to ask for help, I feel almost physically ill. Sometimes, asking how you can support them might make it easier for your stressed-out business-owning friend to lean into the request. I've had friends cut cork backs for my products, attend events to boost By Shax's presence, and even wrap orders for delivery. I struggled to ask for any of these favours, but they often offered first, making it slightly easier to respond with a specific task they could perform.

Any support you offer your small business friend will be appreciated more than you could imagine. I'm beyond grateful to my family and friends for being cheerleaders at best and worst times - By Shax wouldn't exist without them.