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Local is The New Black

Every time a small business opens, it is the physical manifestation of someone's hopes and dreams, brave entrepreneurs often sinking much of their savings into a venture that has often been years in the making. When that business opens, the owners put all their trust in their communities, praying that if they give excellent service, quality products and good value, they will in return be supported.

As resilient we are, our region has faced a tough time recently, with a record breaking drought followed by earthquakes and resulting road closures, and many businesses are facing financial difficulties because of that. Small business is vital to our communities, and our country as a whole. According to the Ministry of Business, small enterprise ( those with under 20 employees) make up 97% of all enterprises, 29% of employees and 28% of New Zealand's Gross Domestic Product. Just as important as those facts and figures though, is the value they add to small communities on a grass roots level . Cafes and bars become meeting places, encouraging social connection and are a fantastic way to showcase of regional food, wine and craft beer. Farmers markets become comforting weekend rituals that are better for us, and better for the environment: in season food, straight from the grower with a lower carbon footprint due to a shorter paddock to plate journey, and the added bonus of meeting the producer. Boutique clothing shops offer the convenience of unique, often ethically made clothing supporting New Zealand designers without jumping in the car for a long journey or making risky online purchases. Funky retro second hand home ware stores offer the old world beauty that can never be found in a chain store. Buying local wine from the Cellar Door or locally owned stores can be more cost effective, and has the added benefit of supporting the local wineries that provide so much local employment . It is a ‘use it or lose it’ situation. Do not let perfect get in the way of good: small gestures of support, and shopping local whenever and however you can, are better than nothing at all.

Shopping local boosts the domestic economy and is often a more ethical choice. We need to do more than just shop locally though, we all need to be a champion for our region as a whole. If you have a great experience at a shop or a restaurant, tell your friends, or better still if you are on social media, give them a stellar review on Facebook and share their page. Social media is word-of-mouth on steroids, and has tremendous power. Follow local events: schools often run affordable amazing fundraisers that offer new experiences (lantern walks, garden tours) with that added benefit of filling school coffers and cementing community spirit. Read the local newspapers: these are relevant to your community and the best way to stay informed. Explore your region: there are an abundance of beaches, walking and cycle trails that are a great way to experience our stunning landscape - share your photos of your adventures so the world can see how much we have to offer. Be a champion and a cheerleader for your local businesses and your region, because they both desperately need your support to thrive and survive.

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