The fourth principle of Kwanzaa is Ujamaa – Cooperative Economics. This is defined as building and maintaining our own stores, shops and other businesses, and to profit from them together. It could be said this is the focus of many of the “Shop Local” movements that get more public notice around the holidays.
Shopping local is not a new concept – and it can apply to far more than just material goods. I personally make a special effort to shop with local businesses and with local vendors for products available outside of my community. For instance – national brands of food and beverages are all over New England, but I would prefer to shop for those brands at a family-owned supermarket, not necessarily a nationwide chain. I feel strongly that supporting locally-owned and run businesses whenever possible is a great example of economic power and cooperative economics.
With the rise of the Internet and the ability to shop from anywhere and ship goods nearly everywhere, it’s really easy to overlook the possibilities of shopping locally. Beginning on November 27, 2010, American Express began promoting “Small Business Saturday” – a day for shoppers to concentrate their dollars locally and at the same time support small businesses across the nation.There is a Facebook page dedicated to the cause, and large businesses like Dun and Bradstreet have supported the effort.
The site for Small Business Saturday contains this message:
Small businesses are the heartbeat of our community. They provide jobs, Preserve neighborhoods, And fuel the local economy. The shop small movement is a way for you to support these places. Help them stay strong. If millions of people shop small, It will be huge.
By supporting small businesses, you keep economic power in local hands – the hands that shape and affect your community in the most immediate way. It’s no secret that politics and policy coming out of Washington, D.C. affect us all, but it’s the activities within our own communities – large and small – that have the most day-to-day impact on our lives. Supporting small and locally-owned businesses is one great way to have a positive impact on your community. That’s not to say that you should blindly support local businesses – but give them a chance to earn your money and your trust.
You might think that your limited number of dollars and purchases won’t make much of a difference – but as with a lot of things in our lives, small steps (baby steps) forward are still steps forward! Just as I encourage you to spread the word about positive things you are doing / or thinking of doing to help garner support, do the same with local businesses. If you have a good experience with a local business, send them a thank you note, mention then in your social media posts, and tell your friends about them to help them gain even more business and strengthen the business and by proxy, your community.
At the same time, don’t tolerate “less than” from local businesses. Discourteous service, shoddy goods and workmanship, and overpricing should be discussed with the business owner or manager to try and find an amicable solution, but if one cannot be reached, stop patronizing that business. Tell others if your experience was objectively bad – but NEVER become involved in trying to ruin the reputation of a business without good cause. Talking with the business owner or manager may bear more fruit than you believe – especially if they are locally owned.
Using your Economic Power toward a positive outcome – supporting local businesses – will ultimately benefit the entire community, and that’s the purpose of Ujamaa.