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Sep 02 2020

What Can Small Businesses Do For Equity in Communities?

You have the power to make real change.

Seriously, I want you to sit with that idea for a minute.

I know that it feels like there’s a lot wrong in the world. Add in the uncertainty of COVID, and it may feel like there’s not much we can do about any of it.

But, here’s the secret they aren’t telling you: as a small business, you have the opportunity to create the world that you want to live in. If even a fraction of the small businesses out there choose to operate with equity and integrity in mind, we gather momentum that leads to lasting change.

Need some ideas for where to start? Here are a few:

Pay Everyone What They’re Worth

Labor has value. Even if it’s a task that you think anyone off the street could do, someone needs to do that task. And, they deserve to be paid a living wage for it, period.

Yes, that includes your virtual assistant.

Yes, that includes the crew that cleans your office space.

Yes, that includes your contractors–and don’t forget to pay enough to cover the benefits they’d receive if they had a permanent position.

Yes, that even includes your intern. (Don’t get me started on how many times I’ve been told “you should get an unpaid intern!”)

If you think your business can’t afford to pay someone a living wage, then revisit your financials and do what you need to do to ensure that you can.

And don’t leave yourself out of the equation, either! As the Profit First model says, the goal is to pay yourself first, and pay yourself well. Think about the hours, energy, and expertise you put in, and be fair to yourself. Your whole team deserves a living wage, and you do, too.

Hire (and Elevate) People From Marginalized Communities

In our current moment, it’s more apparent than ever that underestimated communities have a much harder climb than those in the majority. One of the most valuable things you can offer underestimated people is the opportunity to work, learn, and build their skills and experience.

If you have the opportunity to hire people from the LGBTQIA+ community, or someone who is BIPOC or has a disability, why not take it?

Additionally, if you have the opportunity to promote people from disadvantaged communities, why not take that, too?

One of the most glaring inequities in the working world is the lack of advancement opportunities for women and minorities. By choosing to elevate a member of a marginalized community, you give them the opportunity to lead, and also to be seen as a leader by everyone who interacts with your business.

Give Back to Your Community, and Get Your Team Invested, Too.

As a small business, we have a lot of opportunities to give back to our community. Whether it’s donations of product, raising funds, or giving our time and skills, we have options. And, we have the power to choose where we give.

So, rather than simply giving for the benefit of exposure, be mindful about the organizations you support. What issues are most important to you? Who do you most want to support?

And, if you have a team you work with, ask them what is most important to them! Take their suggestions and give support to the communities they care about, too. Get them invested in helping you give back—they might help you learn about a new facet of the world you live in.

State What Matters To You, and State It Proudly.

What if you’re not in a position to hire? Or maybe you don’t have the time or resources to give? There’s still something very important that you can do to encourage the equity you want to see in the world: Just Say It.

We recently discovered this ourselves. Upswept has never been shy about blogging or posting on social media about our values and beliefs, but we realized that we hadn’t actually crafted a proper Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion statement. As we engaged in more learning about operating as an actively anti-racist small business, we realized that there’s a lot of power in just saying what we believe, and putting it out there publicly.

So, if you don’t have a DEI statement? Create one! If you do, take another look at it, and ask yourself what you could do to improve upon it, and have it speak more specifically to the values that matter most to you.

Then, let those values guide you in what you choose to share with your clients, on your social feeds, and throughout your brand.

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