How To Support Teesside Independent Businesses After Lockdown

7 Jul 2020

Sharing box from Hungry & Humble

I know how crushed I was back in March when the lockdown was announced, so I can only imagine how awful it was for independent business owners. We all know that Teesside isn't exactly high up on the magical money list that the government hold on to, so I couldn't help but worry about the restaurant owners, the pub landlords, the small biz babes and everyone else who relied on their homegrown business for their income. And that's something that I think is so easy to forget - when you buy from an indie, you're literally paying their wage - so to hear that everything needed to close down was pretty sad and scary.

But after what feels like a lifetime, there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon. On the day that I'm writing this (7th July 2020), we have been able to visit small businesses for three days, including pubs, restaurants, cafes, hair salons, shops and so much more. Sure, there are restrictions in place still - we have to keep apart from other people, don't touch things unless you're going to buy them, etc. - but the wheels are creaking and slowly beginning to turn again.

While your social media feeds may be filled with excitement over Greggs, Nandos and McDonalds, it's really time to spare a moment for the independent businesses because they're the ones who were there for us and kept going throughout lockdown, despite closing their doors. I've seen new businesses pop up left, right and centre, offering deliveries, online classes, entertainment and hand crafted goods. I've seen businesses come together to make new and exciting collaborations for us to keep us lifted while we were stuck at home. It's time for us to re-pay the favour!

This post is all about the ways that you can support our local independent businesses after lockdown and not all of the involve money. There are things in this list that absolutely everyone can do and should consider doing, so have a read.

How to support Teesside independent businesses after lockdown

1. Choose to shop independent

This is the most obvious answer, but by choosing to shop independent, you are helping a small business to thrive. This doesn't even have to be in person - the web is a pretty amazing place and it only takes a quick search on Google or Facebook to find local people who can give you what you're after. Try shopping at greengrocer's rather than supermarkets, find local artists selling prints, eat in local restaurants rather than chains, seek out bakers who will deliver cakes to your door - there really is something for everyone. And I think that's something that we have to (reluctantly) thank corona for. By forcing us to stay indoors, people have turned to other methods to get their products out into the area, so definitely utilise the web!

Of course, you can also pop out to town now and explore a little more, but pleasepleaseplease, if you're going to do that, follow all of the guidelines in place. The last thing we need is another extended closure!

Blondies from Straight Outta The Kitchen
Did you know that by spending just £1 with a local business, you'll be adding about 50p-70p to the Teesside economy. Now I know that doesn't sound like much, but it all adds up, so avoid going to national retailers or businesses further afield. 

Tip: try to avoid using Just Eat, Uber Eats or similar platforms because they take a cut of orders - sometimes up to 20%. Order through the restaurant's website instead or if you're totally stuck, use Food Hub. While this is an ordering platform, they don't take a single penny from restaurants and a lot of the time, you can get better deals on there because of that!

2. Use BuyBoro
If you're from the Middlesbrough area or planning to visit Boro, you can use BuyBoro, a nifty site that was set up during lockdown. On here, you can search for local businesses, whether it's a service you need, groceries, restaurants and so much more. It's basically a huge list of local Middlesbrough indies, a little bit about what they can offer you and contact details, so it's perfect if you're umm-ing and ahh-ing over where to spend your money.

I used BuyBoro during lockdown to see which restaurants were still open for takeaways, so you can take it from me - this is a fabulous site and it's so simple to use. I hope that it stays live after lockdown because it could help so many people!

3. Engage with indies social media
We all know how it feels when people like and comment on our posts on social media. We get that fuzzy feel-good feeling, so imagine how good it is for a small biz owner to get the same treatment. If they post a killer photo, give it a like or comment and tell them how good their product looks. If you see something you think your social media pals would like, hit the share button. If you want their content to show up on your feed a bit more often, do a bit of backdated engagement - give their old content a like and you'll see them on your timeline more often.

This is something that costs absolutely nothing and can sometimes mean the world. After all, digital is the way forward, so by engaging with businesses like this, you're showing them that they're doing a great job, but also spreading the word about them to anyone who follows you. It's a win-win!

4. Write a positive review

During lockdown, my mum finally started populating her Etsy shop. After a few orders, she started receiving glowing reviews and it was lovely to see how happy it made her. Now that I've seen how much a good review can lift a business owner, I'm encouraging everyone to write something positive if they've enjoyed a product or service. Those few kind words can really make someone's day and be the motivation to carry on with the biz!

Plus, most times, when you write a good review, they'll be public for all to see. By telling the business that you had a good experience with whatever it was they were offering, you're telling other people who are searching for something similar that they should try that business out. Who else looks at TripAdvisor or AirBnB reviews before booking? It's the exact same thing! Whether it's on Facebook, the business's website, TripAdvisor or another platform that the business uses, take the time to write some kind words.

Homemade pasta from The Next Meal

5. Postpone instead of refunding

Trust me, I know all too well how frustrating it is to have plans dashed because of lockdown (missed out on my whole 26th birthday, didn't I?) but avoid taking out frustrations on businesses by postponing events rather than asking for a refund. Lots of small businesses are working extremely hard to get new dates organised for events, so try not to jump the gun too early. Stick it out and see if your event is rescheduled or if you can organise a new date for a booking.

6. Tell a friend

One of the best ways to spread the word about your favourite indies is through talking. If someone is looking for a kickass burger place in Teesside, give them a recommendation or two. If your mum needs an amazing card for a birthday, tell her about a local designer, artist or photographer who could help. If someone asks what you did at the weekend, tell them all about the new shop you found and show off what you bought. We've all been somewhere or tried something because someone else has said it was brilliant, so shout about your favourite indies in the area!

Again, this is another suggestion that doesn't cost a single penny, but is possibly one of the most effective things in this list. I don't know about you, but I'm more likely to go somewhere if someone has recommended it to me, so tell your friends, mum, sister, grandad, goldfish, whoever you like, all about what Teesside has to offer.

7. Pick up an Independent Teesside card

This does exactly what it says on the tin. The Independent Teesside card system looks to support local indies by giving discounts to people who buy one. You pay £15 for the card (or 2 for £20 - a bargain) and then you'll have access to offers at over 120 local businesses, including places to eat, visit and shop. It's a fantastic thing to have if you're always out and about in the area, want to support your favourite places and save a little bit of money in the meantime.

There are tons of places on the list, from entertainment spaces like ARC Stockton cinema to art prints from Michael Lazenby, and from beauty salons to a massive variety of restaurants - has anyone managed to tick off the whole list yet?

The national chains and mega names will be around for years to come. They've got money to fall back on and huge sponsorships to keep them alive, but if our independents go... that's it. We've already seen how the high street is suffering in Teesside, so let's take the time to help our own after the extended closure period. Let's help them to survive and thrive by being a bit more conscious in the way we're shopping and talking about our independent businesses.

Which steps will you be taking to help our local indies out?

Would you like to comment?