Supporting local small businesses is awesome. I come from a long line of small business owners, and I know just how important the support of local community is. My father was a cabinet maker, and I know how a kitchen contract that a big box store would sneeze at could make a huge difference to our family.
Can Online Shopping Also Be Supporting Local?
I often hear online shopping being criticized at being the complete opposite of shopping local, lumping all online retailers in with such giants as Amazon. Which is why I decided to write this blog post, to show how online businesses can be a valuable part of their community, even without a physical presence.
A Little About Bumbini
Bumbini is the definition of a small business. It is based out of our home near Ottawa, and I am really the only employee. If you email or call, you will be speaking to me (Katie). I lovingly pack all of your orders, decide what brands we should carry, and sweat over bank balances. I have a young family, so when I am working, my kids are either sitting on the floor near my desk colouring, or I work once they have gone to bed at night. The majority of online cloth diaper retailers I know work under similar conditions. Amazon or Walmart we ain't - we are just moms and dads working hard to make our customers happy.
So why not open a brick and mortar shop? For me, there are a few reasons. My primary reason is the reason I chose to run Bumbini in the first place - so I could be home with my kids. If I had to be in a store all day, I wouldn't have that (much appreciated) luxury. My other (and still significant) reason is that profits on cloth diapers are surprisingly low, so having the overhead of a physical store wouldn't make sense at this point. I strive to provide all of my customers the same level of customer service though, and spend most of my working time answering customer emails, Skype calling with customers to solve problems and figuring out ways to make their shopping experience easier.
Although I don't have a physical location, I work hard to make sure that Bumbini is still a part of our community and never becomes a faceless, profit-driven online entity. Here are some of the ways that Bumbini and other small businesses like it contribute to their local communities.
Supporting Local Charities and Organizations
I frequently have the opportunity to sponsor and support organizations that benefit parents in our community, and have chosen a number of events and organizations to support. I believe in their goals, and am so happy to be able to help them in whatever way I can.
Here are a few examples of the organizations we proudly support:
- Breasts Out For Ontario Babies (Plus we have a BOOB Swim Diaper exclusively at Bumbini with all proceeds going to BOOB)
- Ottawa Cloth Diaper Lending Bank
- SEATS For Kids
- Bare Bottoms
- Ottawa Latch On
- One Diaper Canada
I think there are a few more, but I can't think of them off the top of my head! Many small online business owners I know contribute to local causes and charities as well, giving back some of our revenue back to our community.
Partnerships With Other Local Businesses
While providing convenient local order pick up locations in Vancouver and Ottawa is primarily to make life easier for our customers, we do have an ulterior motive - spreading the word about Dilly Dally Toy Store in Vancouver and Tag Along Toys in Ottawa and Kanata. The owners of these stores are hard working small business owners like me. It is my great hope that when my customers go in to pick up their orders, they say "WOW!" when they see the amazing products these stores carry, and consider shopping there when they buy toys for their children. Plus I so enjoy my chats with Deb at the Kanata Tag Along Toys whenever I go in to do a drop off!
It is so very generous of these stores to have partnered with me, and I try to show my incredible appreciation whenever I can through social media, recommending them to friends and family, and of course, shopping there!!
Networking With Other Local Parenting Businesses
As far as work goes, this one is pretty fun. In the time I have been running Bumbini, I have had the great pleasure of meeting other small business owners who cater to new and expectant parents. Doulas, baby photographers, naturopathic doctors, sleep consultants and other parenting professionals have become familiar faces, and I count many of them as friends now. We run into each other often at local baby events, and explore ways that we can support each other's businesses and events. No man is an island, and businesses are even less so.
As well as baby-centric businesses, I also interact extensively with other small companies. For example, I am a member of several local business networking groups. Along with learning TONS about entrepreneurship, I have met many interesting businesspeople, and am happy to recommend them and even use their services myself. I love to be able to support their businesses and cheer on their successes!
Spreading an even wider web, most of Bumbini's suppliers are also small businesses. I recently had a chat with one of the owners of a popular cloth diaper company at about 11 at night. I sent an email asking a question at a completely unbusinesslike hour, only to get an immediate response. Turns out, she was burning the midnight oil because her kids had the same hatred of bedtime as mine did. So buying diapers from a small online business not only supports that business, but the small businesses supplying them.
Involving Moms in Your Community
Being local across Canada seems like an oxymoron, but we seem to be doing it! Bumbini has started doing cloth diaper workshops in Vancouver, Edmonton, Brantford and here in Ottawa. And since I don't have the ability to teleport, nor unlimited Air Miles, I have some wonderful local mamas holding these workshops.
Jasmine, Jany and Megan are all cloth diapering mamas active in their own local cloth diapering communities. They are all experts in cloth diapering, and totally rock their workshops. I am so happy to have them out there chatting to new and expectant parents about cloth diapering, and building a strong and positive cloth diapering community in their respective cities.
Building a Community in our City
Speaking of cloth diaper communities, growing the one in Ottawa is a passion of mine. As you probably know, the vast majority of parents now use disposable diapers. Spreading information about cloth diapers to expectant parents, giving them a helping hand to get started and troubleshooting along the way is critical to making the number of cloth diapering parents grow. Plus letting cloth parents know that they aren't alone is great!
Ottawa is fortunate to have a thriving natural parenting community, and I count myself very lucky to be a part of it. Bumbini hosts the Ottawa chapter of the Great Cloth Diaper Change every April to raise awareness of cloth diapering, and have a fun event to encourage other parents to give cloth a chance!
Local and virtual
In conclusion, to anyone who is of the opinion that online stores are just here to steal business from hard working local stores, I encourage you to look deeper. Just because our stores aren't physically in your community doesn't mean that we aren't a vital part of it.