The Covid pandemic has been a kick in the pocketbook for many small businesses in the Inland Northwest. Most have adjusted the best they can, but some have had to close their doors.
The Spokane Independent Metro Business Alliance – SIMBA -- is doing what it can to help local businesses stay viable.
SIMBA used federal CARES Act pandemic relief money, about $250,000, to create the Live Local project.
“We have a mission to create a more equitable and resilient local economy. One way we do that is by running public education campaigns that help consumers understand at a deeper level the benefits of shopping from local and independently-owned businesses that are based in our community," said SIMBA Executive Director Mariah McKay.
In just six weeks after receiving the grant, SIMBA created tools to help companies, including a local business directory and an online marketplace. McKay says the program has helped some of the smallest businesses do things they couldn’t before.
“A lot of the businesses on the platform didn’t have their own e-commerce setup. They were resistant to become dependent on Amazon for selling goods and services on the Internet. They may not have had the budget to develop their own custom e-commerce website. Those can be quite expensive and be complicated and there’s a learning curve," McKay said.
SIMBA offered free consulting to businessowners. It created Live Local posters that companies can post in their windows and on their walls to remind customers to buy from Spokane area businesses.
“We’ve had an incredible amount of success, a lot of hard work over just a six-week launch runway and we now have over 457 local businesses enrolled and listed on the website Live Local directory and nearly 80 of those have products and services listed for consumers to explore as well," she said.
McKay says the project seeks to keep money circulating locally, rather than going to big companies like Amazon and Walmart and to build resiliency in the local economy. You can learn more at LiveLocalINW.com.