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3 ways to form creative partnerships with other small businesses in the new normal

COVID-19 has demanded us all to adapt. The ways we work, interact with others in public, and simply go about our daily lives are different than they were a year ago. And while most billion-dollar corporations have the luxury of riding out this period of uncertainty, small businesses don’t.

Surviving and thriving as we blaze ahead into the new normal requires creativity. If you’re a small business owner and haven’t started forming partnerships with other small businesses yet, it’s time to make it happen. 

Here are three approaches for tracking down creative partnership opportunities with other small business owners.

  1. Engage with your connections on social media
  2. Work with small business owners in your area
  3. Get involved with local charities and awards

1. Engage on social media

I recently noticed a Facebook post from an old friend that said something along the lines of this:

“I know it’s a hard time for many of us, especially for my friends who own small businesses. If you’re a small business owner, could you post a link to your website or product here so myself and others can support your business?”

The post caught my attention because it had over 60 comments, with many people linking to their own small businesses and businesses run by their friends. While this post may not have led to any partnerships, it definitely got local business owners engaging with each other. Such engagement is often the spark needed for creative collaboration. 

Reach out on your social media profiles (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn are all great choices) and see who is doing what in your community. It may surprise you how many connections you have that are quietly running their own small business, and one of those connections may be the creative partner you’re looking for.

2. Work with small business owners in your area

Sometimes all it takes is a little help from a good neighbor to keep the lights on.

In Reno, Nevada, local craft cocktail bar Rum Sugar Lime partnered up with the pizza parlor next door, Pizzava, to sell pizza and cocktails together this summer. This partnership increased the space available for Pizzava to serve dine-in customers (which was already restricted due to COVID-19), and allowed Rum Sugar Lime to stay open during a period of time where bars weren’t allowed to operate in Nevada without a full kitchen.

Similarly, Reno staple Chapel Tavern has been running an outdoor pop-up bar next to nearby German restaurant Von Bismarck, serving handmade drinks to customers dining out on the patio. This collaboration has given Chapel’s bartenders a chance to work their craft, and provided the customers of Von Bismarck access to some of the best cocktails on the West Coast while they enjoy their dinner.

Do you know what other small businesses are doing in your area? Reach out, discuss pressure points, and see if there are opportunities for creative, mutually beneficial partnerships.

3: Get involved with local charities and awards

If you give back to your community by partnering with a local charity, you can boost your business’s name recognition and reach new customers. Plus, other small businesses that partner with the same charity are likely to have similar values as you, and might make good creative partners.

You can also nominate other small businesses for local awards. Most local governments and newspapers award regional businesses for providing outstanding products or services. Nominations generate goodwill with other entrepreneurs in your area — business owners who may want to work together with you.

Promoting other entrepreneurs and collaborating with ones that make sense (like a bar teaming up with a restaurant, or a grocery store partnering with a courier service business) gives small businesses a chance to:

  • reach new customers
  • engage with existing customers in new and interesting ways. 

In the new normal, these creative partnerships can be the difference between keeping your business running and having to shut things down.

If you’re still in need of ideas, check out OpenWeStand.org for additional guidance and strategies for getting you and your business through these difficult times.