How to Support Small Businesses while Social Distancing

The benefits of support local, and new ways to shop small business

Small businesses are important to the economic and social fabric of our society, and we all play a part in their survival. While the need to help the independent business community is obvious, the benefits of shopping small extend beyond times of crisis.

We are all social distancing, which means our dollars are not flowing into local cafés and boxing gyms and bookstores. But many of these businesses have made clever pivots to service their customers without human contact.

There are ways that we as a global community can secure the futures of our local small businesses and help them shine in these dark times. 

12 ways to support small businesses during the pandemic

There are many ways in which your dollars—not being spent on bars or movies—can be diverted to small businesses.

Here are a few ideas to get you started, by Dayna Winter of Shopify.

1. Buy gift cards

good neighbour gift card
Good Neighbour is counting on online and gift card sales while their doors are closed.

We’ll get through this. And once the lockdowns have been lifted, you’ll be back to your usual routine, visiting your favourite sandwich shop, taking a hot yoga class, or buying candles at the maker space. Help your usual haunts make it through the lockdown by paying for products and services in advance. Check their websites to see if they offer gift cards or class packs.

On InstagramGood Neighbour founder Aziz Alam says, “We will dearly miss seeing our wonderful neighbours during this challenging time. As a small, family-owned business that relies on foot traffic to keep things running smoothly we greatly appreciate your support [online]. Gift cards can also go a long way.”

2. Order supplies online

by humankind deodorant
Stock up on by Humankind deodorant.

We all still need to eat and shower (yes, even if you’re working from home). While many grocery stores and pharmacies are still open, consider avoiding the crowds and restocking from an online independent business.

3. Learn to cook (or not)

snuk foods, overhead shot of prepared dishes
Snuk helps you recreate your favourites right in your own kitchen.

Many restaurants are closing, but check in to see if any are offering delivery as an alternative to dine-in. Otherwise, maybe it’s finally time to learn something from all those hours of Top Chef you’ve been binging in isolation.

And, if you’re not quite ready to take meal planning into your own hands, check to see if local meal prep services—like Honey Bee Meals in Ontario—are still operating.

4. Keep moving 

woman doing an upward dog pose in yoga wear by SuperFit Hero
Gear up with workout apparel from SuperFit Hero.

Check in with the local gym—do they offer any online support? Will your personal trainer give consultant appointments over a video call? Is your pilates studio streaming its classes?

In Toronto, MISFITSTUDIO closed its doors this week but is offering free Instagram Live classes to their community. And many businesses, like BodyLove PilatesP.volve, and Hylo, are already designed to enable anywhere fitness. 

5. Make the switch to sustainable

lastswab reusable swab product in kraft paper packaging
Ditch disposables and try innovative products like LastSwab.

With the widely shared reports of toilet paper shortages and empty shelves, there’s no better time than now to update some of your consumption habits. Replace disposable products with their reusable counterparts.

6. Outfit your remote workspace

Get cozy in your new work-from-home reality and slip into some sweats by OKAYOK.

Working from home? So is the team at Now Creative Group. Shopify’s entire workforce moved to a work-from-home model. That means sharing living space with working space. Even with tiny living quarters, a few clever purchases can help move you from the couch to a comfortable, ergonomic setup.

If you want some company and accountability working from home, our friends at Toronto coworking space Make Lemonade have launched a Virtual Challenge.

7. Be your own barista

Elmhurst 1925 oat milk sitting on a counter next to a woman making an espresso
Elmhurst 1925 oat milk is shelf-stable so you can buy enough to last the lockdown.

Your local café is closed and maybe your free-flowing office coffee source has gone dry, but you don’t need to resort to instant coffee.

If tea is more of your thought, our friends at T by Daniel switched to fully online a year ago.

8. Practice self-care

Moorea Seal calm package: candle, book (52 Lists for Calm), pens, jewellery, tape and a stapler
Treat yourself with a care package from Moorea Seal.

It’s hard to avoid the news or obsess over every new case. And isolation may be very challenging for some. Stay in tune with your mental health and access resources available to you. It’s also a good time to treat yourself

9. Start a hobby

person's hands completing a puzzle of the moon
Keep your hands busy with a new hobby—like a puzzle from Four Point Puzzles.

With schools closing and offices going remote, there may be a sudden increase in the number of things/people competing for your attention. And, it might be a while before you can escape the chaos and return to your book club or coding class.

10. Go into survival mode

a person in the foreground frames a survival kit by uncharted
Prepare for off-grid isolation with survival gear by Uncharted.

We’re not saying you should panic, but preparedness never hurt anyone. These shops have everything you need to stock your underground bunker or go on an extended off-grid stay in the woods—social distancing at its finest.

11. Share your favourite stores in your social networks

CORINNE FISHER @PhilanthropyGal Tweet: "Hi! If you’re a female owned small business please send me a link to your website as well as a link to your favorite item from your shop."

Did your favourite small business close? Are they paying their employees anyway? Help them stay afloat by paying forward their goodwill. Tell your followers about ways in which you can support them, like buying gift cards for future purchases.

Our friend Erin is doing a great job of featuring small businesses daily!

12. Reach out

You may have built relationships with some of the small business owners where you usually shop. Reach out and ask what they need right now. If you’re a business owner too, stick together and support your fellow founders—like Pause Beauty, who has committed to giving free pedicures to frontline workers when the risk is over. Think of the online business community as one big self-sustaining Main Street. 

In a recent Instagram postNoah Clothing founder Brendon Babenzien urges his followers to “buy something. Not necessarily from us, but from any independent businesses or creative enterprises you believe in, and preferably those that have made positive, ethical choices in the ways they create and operate.”


Dayna Winter is a Storyteller at Shopify, curious about the humans behind the brands and the moments that motivate them to create. She follows more dogs than humans on Instagram and isn’t a real redhead.

Read more from her on the Shopify blog here, where this post originated.


Looking for financial support for your small business?

If you are a small business in Canada looking for support, click here to learn about what is available now. New measures have been announced to support small businesses dealing with the economic impacts of the pandemic. These measures will help Canadian businesses protect the jobs that Canadians depend on, and pay their workers and bills during these difficult times.

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