The business of the heart

Photo by Jamie Davies on Unsplash

A coronavirus Christmas is around the corner and by now, you must have heard a lot of talk about supporting small businesses during this pandemic. The need for them. But what about the want for it? Why should you start to make a switch, even post COVID?

First, allow me to introduce a pressing matter of the highest professional importance with exponential statistical figures… my hair.

Growing up, my hair has definitely taken me to a lot of places. Whether it was to get my eyebrows shaped or fringe trimmed – the process of hair removal has sure been pricey. Yet, I found that there was rarely a moment of self-affirmation afterwards. Salon after salon, I was never really satisfied.

Now I didn’t know what I was truly missing, until one fateful day where my scarily hairy expedition brought me to a charming little corner street in South London. There proudly stood ‘KR Hair Studio’- a salon enchantingly hidden away from the main high street, with its huge windows inviting you to look into the joy and warmth found inside. It was unlike any other salon I had ever been to, not because of its size or interior design, but quite simply because of the people.

For the first time, my hair was carefully cut with time and precision by Tina the hairdresser, who gave me the one piece of advice that was never handed down to me by bigger salon chains… to have my hair cut straight instead of in layers.

Now I know that sounds random, but in typically fast paced high chain environments where the ultimate goal is to make way for more customers in order to get a quick profit – expert advice, catered to an individual’s needs, is rarely dished out.

My poorly ‘bored-during-lockdown’ bleached hair was trimmed shorter, all whilst I indulged in enjoyable conversation with everyone around me. And it’s no surprise that I left with much less hair, but with much more confidence.

That salon was the needle in the proverbial big-business haystack that I had been searching for all these years. Feeling revitalised, I was spurred to further my research into the benefits of small businesses in our society, especially within the context of COVID 19.

But why would you want to switch when mainstream businesses are generally more familiar and reliable? Well, if we think about it as a gain – why pay for just the product when you can also have an experience? Yes, not all experiences in businesses are guaranteed to be amazing, but the feeling of making a difference within smaller ones is prominent.

For instance, the soulless atmosphere of certain chain highstreet pubs can be fiercely rivalled by those of smaller independent establishments, which have graced our towns for centuries, but are under the most threat from the aftereffects of the pandemic. Mass consumption from chains for the sake of reliability can become a repetitive and mundane habit, whereas smaller businesses constantly adapt for our approval.

Moreover, changing trends are always showcased through big brands. But what remains timeless is a sense that stretches far beyond the need to get the latest phone model or cup of consumerist coffee. A sense of self-satisfaction achieved through spending money at a place where it truly makes a difference to people and to you.

So sometimes it’s worth trying out a family owned restaurant where the recipes have vivid stories to tell or immersing yourself into the aesthetic of a small coffee shop before judging it from first look basis. Allowing yourself to step out of your comfort zone into the exciting unknown is an adventure in itself.

Besides, the pros of supporting small businesses definitely outweigh the cons. It’s a given fact that small businesses discourage monopolising and invest less in assets such as plexi-glass screens or security guards – simply because it is beyond their budget. So what investments are prioritised?

Self-employment, personalised products and unique décor. We see specialised ingredients in the food industry and homemade packaging in retail which are more often environmentally conscious. 

However, it is evident that these smaller businesses are being hit hard in this pandemic. Delivery services are difficult to acquire during lockdown, as they don’t have an influx of money to adapt to sudden changes. So, the benefits of supporting small businesses truly go both ways. 

Now, I’m not enforcing a complete switch straight away. I would be a complete hypocrite if I didn’t admit to relying on big branded supermarkets for 100% of my groceries. But if there’s one thing we’ve learnt this year, it’s that companionship is vital. A sense of community, where the warmth and comfort we crave and rely on in such scary times, is imperative. Can we really achieve this in a seemingly bleak exchange of commercial goods?

All in all, business is entrenched in stats and figures, but as lockdown draws to a close, we must remember that we have survived this pandemic by pulling together first and foremost as people. Real people like Tina the hairdresser, who informed me that her sole passion was to make clients of all ages feel glamorous when they walk out of her studio. The work of compassionate entrepreneurs like her have unmasked the plain and simple truth that genuine care is what keeps the struggling heart of businesses beating in these uncertain times.

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