An Open Serious Conversation: Empowering Local SMEs

by Team Serious

SMEs make up more than 99% of Filipino businesses and employ more than half of the Filipino workforce. In the time of Covid-19, however, many of them are now struggling to keep their businesses afloat.

We’re all trying our best to make it through the pandemic, and what better way to succeed than to make it through together? We talked to some SMEs about what they’ve done to adjust to today, and how we as consumers can help them power on

1. Buy small, local, and if possible, online.

Even with most malls reopening, many small businesses are still focusing on online transactions for both their safety as well as ours. When making a purchase, consider buying from a small, local business to help them cover important and urgent expenses like employee wages and supplier costs. Buy your groceries from websites like bukidfresh.com or madmarket.com that give local farmers a better avenue to sell their products. When you’re in the mood to shop, browse locally-curated websites like liftlokal.com or thingsthatmatter.ph. Support a friend’s small bakery or food business. No purchase is ever too small to help.

And if you’re dropping by a store, make things easier for businesses by disinfecting and wearing a mask.

“We ask everyone to take this time and beyond to truly value what it means to buy local, proudly and consistently. It’s literally life-saving and life-changing for some farmers and communities.”

“We still continue to innovate for both brands and offer new products to our consumers. It’s [a] way of giving them a sense of normalcy in these tumultuous times. It’s also our way of keeping the economy growing—we need to be able to support the business ecosystem. I hope Filipinos continue to support local brands so that all local businesses can survive this pandemic.”

2. Support your favorite brands even when they pivot.

Many brands that sell non-essentials have had to pivot to continue operating. More than being quick and nimble, this also required them to have a deeper understanding of present consumer needs and behavior. If a brand you value has had to take a different route during the course of the pandemic, keep supporting them whenever and however you can. Their resilience, creativity, and empathy only gives you more to love.

“[We] adjusted by pivoting into new business models that allowed us to somewhat keep ourselves afloat, stay true to our core of empowering communities, and help even more…It was adjusting to make sure no one gets left behind.”

From connecting people to communities through responsible and sustainable travel, MAD Travel shifted to connecting tribes and farmers to people in the metro with their new online market and delivery service, MAD Market.

“We tossed our entrepreneur hats, detached ourselves form the brand, and decided to just be human first…By constantly empathizing with everyone’s new way of life, hopefully we’ll continue to find creative ways [where] everybody wins…Customers who already own our pieces are the same ones purchasing our new products and sharing our posts. It is uplifting to know that even at this time that they don’t have to support us, they support us still.”

Swimwear brand Sandy Cheeks stayed true to their ethos of helping people fulfill their true potential with Sandy Kicks, a line of locomotion wear made for swim, exercise, and lazing around, and Sandy Cooks, handwoven tote bags with fresh produce.

3. Order in from small F&B businesses and neighborhood restaurants.

The pandemic has been particularly challenging for brands in the business of food and beverage. Thankfully, many players were quick to adapt and there are now plenty of ways you can get good food delivered straight to your door. If there’s a small food business or restaurant you want to help, why not treat yourself to something delicious while you’re at home? It’s win-win for everyone involved.

“There are a lot of new different challenges that we face and the best way for a customer to help, if they like our product, is to continue supporting it and tell a friend.”

4. Back independent artists, musicians, and small creative businesses.

The creative industry was another one hard hit by the pandemic, making independent artists and small businesses particularly vulnerable. For some, the arts may not seem like a priority at a time when we consider non-essentials, well, inessential. But for most, it is in this time of uncertainty where we find solace and hope in nice artwork or heartwarming songs. Projects like Shelter Fund, a platform helping artists and photographers raise funds by selling prints of their work, have received a lot of support, proving that there is room for the arts in our homes and in our our hearts even during the most erratic of times. So support these creatives in any way you can, for they work to make sense of and make beautiful the confusing world we currently live in.

“We believe the lockdown pushed for shift into a slow revolution, yearning for a simpler and more artisan life…The support we’ve gotten from the community has been overwhelming and we are so thankful for all the help from platforms like [The Serious Review] and from fellow ceramic enthusiasts.”

“I think some ways consumers can support my business (and also other artists!) are by getting art prints, commissioning small projects/portraits, and/or just sharing our work!”

“Supporting small businesses and independent artists you love do not only encourage them to keep making work, but also help them survive this state of precarity. The most obvious action is becoming their patron, but passing along their work to friends or colleagues who might benefit from their services is such a helpful thing to do right now, too.”

CARINA SANTOS

5. Give them a shoutout on- or offline.

Supporting brands we love doesn’t have to be limited to purchases and grand gestures. A mention or tag may seem like a simple thing for consumers, but it’s a big step in empowering smaller brands who don’t have huge marketing budgets and rely heavily on word of mouth. So go on and spread the word, or maybe even message them a good one! The brands you love will be more than thankful for it.

“We are eternally grateful for any form of support we get especially in this time, whether it’s tagging and letting people know about the shop, purchasing something online, or visiting the store if you feel safe enough. We know these times are rough for everyone, but empowerment is really a domino effect when we all come together to support our small mom and pop shops.”

“It sounds small, but do tag and acknowledge your social enterprises and SMEs. You have no idea what exponential value this adds to a little business trying to do good. We really appreciate people and brands reaching out [to us]. It reminds us that people care, want to care, and want to do good despite the challenges everyone is personally facing.”

6. Spread some much welcome positivity.

Everyone is understandably feeling a little bit on edge right now. We’re all different levels of stressed and anxious, and that includes people that are working on the frontlines and behind the scenes. So the next time you transact with someone over the counter or even over the phone, remember to be kind, patient, and considerate always. We may never know what someone else is feeling at the moment, but we do know that a bit of love goes a long way.

“With companies now working from home and with less manpower, we are grateful when customers are more considerate, more forgiving, and more understanding of the minor flaws as we’re all adapting and adjusting.”

Today’s world is tough for both people and small businesses. These simple steps are just the beginning of what we can do to empower our SMEs and the people behind them.

If you have more suggestions on how we can help SMEs survive and thrive during this pandemic, visit our Instagram account where we asked this question, and leave a comment to join the conversation. Let’s talk and figure this out together.

 

Romina Nañagas of MAD Travel and MAD Market
Jacqe Gutierrez of Happy Skin and BLK Cosmetics
Maika Cruz of Sandy Cheeks, Sandy Kicks, and Sandy Cooks
Jason Go of Manila Creamery
Gabrielle Javier of Wabi Sabi
Soleil Ignacio
Carina Santos
Fed Pua of It’s Vintage
Bianca Larranaga of Wanderskye

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