Supporting Local Businesses and the Local Economy
“We need to encourage consumers to go to local businesses before dialing up Amazon.com.”
Spoken by Jacquie Bonano, founder of ShopLocalNola.com, these words define the purpose of her website, while also highlighting a vital driver of the greater New Orleans regional economy.
Why? Consider just a few key reasons.
- Local businesses generate $68 of local economic return for every $100 spent, while spending $100 at a national chain generates only $43 of local economic return.
- Small businesses, which are almost exclusively locally-owned, generate 64% of new jobs created in the United States each year.
- Small local businesses contribute five times as much to nonprofit organizations and community causes as large businesses.
- Local businesses hire other local businesses for everything from marketing to accounting, legal work to various suppliers.
So how can you be sure that a particular business is locally-owned? How do you find local businesses providing the products and services you need? This is where ShopLocalNola.com comes in.
“During COVID, we noticed a disconnect between opportunities for businesses to list themselves as open or closed, and how they were delivering their services,” Bonano recalled. “There was no central place to list this information, no type of website. And it was difficult to update the few sites that did exist.”
As the owner and founder of JB Communications, a New Orleans-based integrated marketing firm she started in 1994, Bonano is used to taking things into her own hands. Considering the lack of this much-needed database, she thought, “Why not use our resources to create our own lists?”
Bonano launched her site in July 2020, at the peak of one of the pandemic spikes. Thirty days later, the Jefferson Parish Economic Development Commission (JEDCO) launched its Spend Local campaign, which soon led to the first of many partnerships with regional economic development organizations. This now includes more than 20 chambers of commerce and business associations.
A multi-faceted resource for consumers and business owners alike, the website first and foremost provides a directory of certified local businesses. Using a variety of criteria, and confirming business status with the Louisiana Secretary of State, Bonano and her team list more than two thousand businesses across eight parishes that meet the standard of being locally owned. Services, stores, restaurants and more can be found.
Consumers can go to ShopLocalNola.com and search by locality and type of business to find options near them. There are also regular prize giveaways, special sales information, and news items about local businesses. Site visitors can sign up for a newsletter that provides updates about various sales, promotions and events.
Business owners can register at the site in about five minutes, and Bonano advised that getting approval typically takes no more than three business days. She pointed out that it is critical that business owners make sure their registration with the Secretary of State is current, something she observed lapsing during the pandemic.
Once certified, “each business has its own login, its own dashboard, analytics that show site visits, and more,” Bonana explained. Businesses can also promote special sales and other events; provide prizes for the giveaways, which draw customer attention; and even become sponsors of the website.
One very valuable offering is a series of free small business webinars. The most recent topic, Social Media Tips and Tricks, focuses on a subject that Bonano feels is vital to survival and success in today’s marketplace.
“Local businesses need to invest in social media,” she said firmly. “It makes it easy for the consumer to find you and do business with you.”
Once delivered, the seminars are available at ShopLocalNola.com/business-webinar, as will be news about future topics and times.
Local businesses, and local business people, are an integral part of any thriving community. ShopLocalNola.com provides a tremendous service by promoting these businesses and connecting them to consumers. Now it is up to each of us to support our friends and neighbors in the business world.