Earlier this week it was reported that the USA has cut 22 million jobs in four weeks due to restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19. While we don’t yet have statistics for job losses in SA during our own lockdown, a number of businesses will either have to shut down or retrench staff in order to survive.
However, we can ill afford increased unemployment numbers. Even before the pandemic, our unemployment rate stood at a staggering 29%, according to StatsSA.
To prevent complete catastrophe, government – via the SA Department of Small Business Development – launched a Debt Relief Fund to help small, medium and macro-enterprises (SMMEs). Yet – welcome though that is – it’s just a drop in the ocean of what will be required.
We can also help small businesses during this time and prevent people losing their livelihoods. Here are five ways to do that:
Join a virtual community
One way to keep active, engaged and entertained during lockdown and social distancing is to take part in virtual classes. Many fitness instructors, children’s activity classes, dance and music teachers are still offering their services via live streaming or video links.
Learn to tap dance in your lounge, take a salsa class with your partner for an at-home date night, practise yoga to work on your core and unwind, do a high-intensity workout to build cardio into your day, or keep your kids engaged while you’re working. You’ll find numerous options online, or contact instructors in your area to find out what they’re offering.
Buy now, enjoy it later
You can still book a hairdressing appointment, beauty treatment or training session by paying for it now and having it after the lockdown. This will provide desperately needed cash flow to salons. Alternatively, book an appointment for a friend or relation.
Some businesses are offering to send digital cards to people celebrating birthdays or other special occasions, while certain florists are offering digital bouquets that will be sent to recipients after the lockdown.
Pay it forward
Online ticketing company Quicket has launched Pay it Forward, a feature on its website enabling South Africans to support their favourite businesses during lockdown.
The platform enables consumers to support small businesses by purchasing vouchers or making donations quickly and easily. For example, you can buy a voucher for a deli and redeem it later, pre-order beer from the Drifter Brewing Company (to be delivered after lockdown), buy yourself or a loved one a post-lockdown meal from The Poké Company, Molten Toffee or Holy Macaroni, or order treats from Banting Baker Gigi.
“If you buy a voucher or make a donation to a small business during lockdown, you boost their cash flow and help them pay overheads like salaries, rent and utilities. This can mean the difference between surviving or going under,” says Quicket founder and Director James Tagg.
Support small essential services
Don’t battle to get the last bag of rice or pasta on the supermarket shelf, or sit waiting for a grocery delivery for a week (or two, or more). Many small businesses such as delis or caterers are offering fresh produce, frozen meals, gourmet ingredients (to up your cooking game at home) and more. These are all prepared to the strictest hygiene standards and delivered safely to your home.
Postpone, don’t cancel
If you were planning a holiday or getaway before the COVID-19 lockdown, don’t cancel it: book and pay for it now, even if you only get there later in the year. You’ll help keep a hotel, guesthouse or travel agent – among the hardest-hit of all business sectors – going during this time. You’ll also enjoy early booking discounts and a far wider range of options. Besides, think of the fun you can have planning a holiday now by doing some virtual travelling, deciding where you’d like to go. You can create a well-researched bucket list, preferably to destinations in SA to help the local tourism industry recover.
Open your heart and your purse
In addition to supporting small businesses, many wonderful charities and organisations – including shelters for homeless people (like The Haven, a night shelter, which you’ll find on Quicket’s Worthwhile Causes platform) and refugees, feeding schemes for kids deprived of school meals and SweepSouth’s COVID-19 SweepStar Fund, for domestic workers who aren’t able to earn during the lockdown – are desperate for help. Many of these recipients are the sole providers for their families. All the proceeds raised go towards groceries, toiletries and other daily essentials.
Or simply reach out to a charity or needy individual you know and make a massive difference to them with a small monetary donation. This is also the perfect time to go full-on Marie Kondo and sort through your clothing, blankets, linen, kitchenware and toys for items you can give away.