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It's not my job to support your small business, it's your job to make me want to.

Posted on by Eric Burke

I love supporting small businesses. Small independent bookstores? Love them. Local antique stores? Wonderful. A small, hometown restaurant? Perfect. Craft brewers and craft distillers? So much fun. It makes me feel good to help support someone's dream. I was oddly devastated when the local True-Value hardware store and the independent grocery store in the town I live in went out of business and sold out to chains within a month of one another. 

Running a business is hard work. I found that out when I tried to live off of freelance work when I was laid off from a design job about a decade ago. I was passionate. I was good at what I did. I was also back working in an office a couple weeks after the severance package ran out. It didn't matter. I still needed to eat. I never blamed anyone but myself for giving up my business. I was good at designing things, but not good at selling myself. In three months I didn't sign up a single client. That was my failing. 

When I was in college there was a small independent bookstore in town. I once saw some kids come in to ask if he had Harry Potter. He angrily said no, he only carried literature. The next time I walked by I saw a hastily written sign taped to the door that said the same thing. Before I graduated from college, I saw another sign taped to the door blaming Amazon for him going out of business. He was expensive, he didn't offer a product that people wanted and he wasn't nice. So it was Amazon's fault he failed.

I'd say that 80% of the time I visit a craft distillery, I walk away amazed. There are people that built their own stills. People that built the buildings they are doing business in. People that are making an amazing product. They can't compete with the big guys on price, but they make up for that in providing a good experience to go along with a good product.

But sometimes when I visit a craft distillery, I run across people who remind me of that bookstore owner from when I was in college. Sometimes they are convinced that their gimmick holds the secret to aging whiskey in days and claim that the dumb big guys are producing crap in years. Sometimes they build a tiny distillery in a dry county and then get upset if someone doesn't want to pay for a five minute tour. Sometimes they are snobby or rude. And sometimes the product just isn't any good.

I love supporting passion. I love supporting people who are willing to go that extra mile to deliver something a little special. I'm normally willing to pay a little extra to do, so as long as I feel it's an honest trade. My extra money for your superior customer service. Or attention to detail. Or quality. Or experimentation. Or unique recipes. But when the sole benefit you can offer for the extra money is that you are not big? I'm not sure I see a benefit to me there.