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Opinion: Chicago small businesses need your help

Chicago’s economy is diverse, consisting of industries from finance to manufacturing to healthcare. But one of the most significant contributors to the city’s economy is small businesses. According to the City of Chicago, there are over 100,000 small businesses registered throughout Chicago. These types of businesses contribute to job creation, economic growth, and community development. These numbers could be much higher, with an accompanying result of much more robust and tight-knit communities and a better economy. 

Though there are assistance opportunities for small businesses in Chicago such as the Small Business Improvement Fund and The Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, they simply cannot rely solely on these programs, and that is why small businesses rely so heavily on their communities to give them business. According to a report by the Chicago Small Business Outlook Survey, conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, only 34% of small businesses in the city received the funding they requested in 2020. It is quite clear that these businesses need more than government interference, they need local and visiting consumers to keep their dreams afloat. High capital and costs of doing business in Chicago can challenge these dreams greatly, but the more we support our neighbors and community, the better our city will be. 

Of course, the economic benefits of small businesses are not the only reason to patronize them. Smaller businesses bring such unique concepts and experiences to your daily routines. They are a break from the mundane Starbucks, or the impersonal Barnes and Noble. They provide a personal service and most often great decorations and experiences. 

As an employee at a small business myself, I have firsthand experience with the dedication, passion, and time it takes to keep one running. We love our customers, and value each one… something you simply don’t get from a corporate business. I see smiles on people’s faces every day, thanking us for being helpful and having a personal conversation with them. Not to mention, the experience of being an employee with bosses that speak to you directly and care about your experience as a worker is priceless. 

Though small business employees such as I hold a vital role, there are no better experts on the importance of small businesses than the owners themselves. Kimberly George, co-owner of both Volumes Book Café and Volumes 900 Shops along with her sister Rebecca, is one of these experts. 

“It’s chaos, we never get a second off really. Even when we aren’t at one of the stores we are working online, doing accounting, speaking with authors, vendors, employees, customers, you name it,” George said. “We eat, sleep, breathe this business. We don’t really have any time off from it.” 

Business hours are just a small part of the time required of small business owners, and they do all this work to serve and help their community thrive every single day. There is truly something valuable about showing support and appreciation to small businesses, it makes all the hard work just that much more worth it. “We are part of the community; we live here too. So, shop local and support your small business or they are all going to go away,” George said. “COVID hit all of us hard, some of us more than others, but let’s support small businesses and keep them around.”

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