Three fourths of the United States’ incorporated places are small towns with less than 5,000 people, as seen in the 2020 census. In spite of making up most of the nation, small towns encounter various issues, including scarcity of resources, population decline, and limited prospects. These communities find themselves in a constant struggle: how do they retain their small-town values, historic character and sense of community, while also sustaining a prosperous economy? What makes a small town thrive? By leveraging their individual strengths and fostering a strong community spirit, small towns have the potential to attract enterprises and visitors and engage residents in the local culture, while also preserving their unique identity. Below you’ll find five small town business ideas that can help boost small town economic development.
5 Small town business ideas to help boost your local economy
1.) Inspire Entrepreneurs To Dream Big - Create a list of aspiring entrepreneurs and local investors in the region and host events for them to pitch ideas, collaborate, learn and grow. Connect them with local employers and investors so they can launch business ventures in your community.
2) Organize an Art Exhibition, Bar Crawl or other community-wide event- Displaying the talents of local artists at small businesses and teaming up with local bars and pubs for a Bar Crawl are great ways to promote small town economic development and drive foot traffic to your downtown or Main Street. By curating an experience that highlights your community’s own identity, your town gains a sense of individuality that brings residents together. This leads to increased patronage and sales for the sponsoring company, as well as benefits from financial support and potential collaborations for the bars and artists.
3) Launch a Community Card Program- Another small town development strategy is launching a local gift card program because it allows communities to tap into the power of local spending, supports small businesses, encourages togetherness and enhances economic vitality. Yiftee, the leading company in Local eGift Cards, has partnered with hundreds of small towns to launch tailored Community Cards that can be redeemed at many of the towns’ local businesses. Yiftee Community Cards enable promotional offers, such as Buy One Get Ones, that incentivize the consumer and increase foot traffic and funds going to the town’s local businesses.
4) Build a Local Hype Team- Building a local “hype team” is a great idea to garner support and generate awareness of everything a small town has to offer. Recruiting local leaders and lovers of the community to work at community events, share social media content and become brand ambassadors for the town in exchange for local gift cards, t-shirts and recognition is a great way to have your own small town cheerleaders.
5) Reach Out To Big Employers- Reach out to local corporations, hospitals and schools and offer them the opportunity to become hometown heroes in exchange for marketing. If you launch a Community Card with Yiftee, encourage your local employers to sponsor a Buy One Get One promotion or send your Community Card as employee rewards and holiday gifts. This will generate thousands of dollars for your local businesses. Could any of your local employers benefit from having an off-site area specifically for training or could your local school offer certain certifications at a training facility? This could be a great opportunity to put empty spaces in town to use!
Small Town Local Gift Card Program Case Studies
Local Gift Card programs are helping hundreds of small towns and thousands of local businesses in the United States thrive. Below are some case studies of small towns working with Yiftee to launch Community Card programs and keep local dollars local.
Del Mar Village Dollars, Del Mar CA. Del Ma Village, CA is a small town with less than 4,000 residents and The Del Mar Village Association saw an opportunity for economic growth when they launched their Community Card with Yiftee in October, 2020. Since then, they have sold more than 500 cards worth $113,000, of which $90,000 (80%) has already been redeemed in their local shops and restaurants. This sum does not include the additional sales over card value nor the benefit of the additional foot traffic in the stores, all of which have helped to drive sales for local businesses. Recently, on Black Friday 2022 and Valentine’s Day 2023 they ran two very successful 72-hour flash sales further accelerating card sales.
Albany eGift Card, Albany CA. Albany, California is a small town with a little over 19,000 residents, made up largely of single-family homes and small businesses. The City of Albany has implemented some of the strategies discussed earlier in this blog post, such as launching a Community Card program and curating different events that bring the town together. Their Community Card program has 45 participating locations, which include local shops, restaurants, hair salons and even an acupuncturist. They have also offered Buy One Get One promotions with their Community Card, with the most recent one increasing their amount of redeemed cards by 18%. In 2022, the Albany eGift Card sold $14,3987.75 that went straight to their local businesses.
As seen in this blog post, there are various options for small towns looking to jump start their economic development, engage their local community and support small businesses. Though many small towns find themselves struggling with population decline and other issues, small towns still remain popular among residents and tourists because of their unique identity and sense of community spirit. “Small towns may not be the home of multinational corporations or the seemingly endless amenities that big cities offer. However, they do offer something that we all desire and ultimately need: community.” Pooja Bachani Di Giovanna, PM Magazine
Written by: Alexandra Márquez