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How small businesses can engage their communities

Many working professionals aspire to open their own businesses. Those that make the leap know how exciting and challenging opening a new business can be.

It's typically vital for small business owners to engage their communities. Local residents may help a small business stay afloat during the notoriously challenging five-year period after opening, providing necessary capital by making purchases and even spreading the word to friends and family members who can become future customers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, roughly half of all small businesses survive at least five years. By engaging their communities right out of the gate, small business owners give themselves a great chance to survive for five years and beyond.

• Volunteer within the community. Volunteering is a great way to help a good cause. Taking time to support a local charitable organization also provides positive exposure for a small business while giving owners a chance to meet potential customers. Sign up for a local cancer walk, encouraging staff members to join you. Print T-shirts with your company logo to let fellow volunteers know your business exists and supports good causes.

• Work with fellow business owners. Another great way to engage community members is to work in conjunction with fellow small business owners. For example, restaurant owners can cosponsor a food and beverage tasting with a local brewery or vineyard. Such an event can draw beer or wine lovers to your restaurant, and foodies to your cosponsor's brewery or vineyard.

• Host special events. Storefronts can do more than serve as display areas for your products. If you have enough room in your store, offer the space to local artists, like authors or musicians, for public readings or performances. This can be a great way to attract potential customers to your store and gives you a chance to support fellow members of your community.

• Sponsor a youth sports team or organization. Many small business owners engage their communities by sponsoring local youth sports teams or supporting organizations that offer activities for youngsters, such as the Girl Scouts. This can garner positive exposure for your business and help support a good cause.

Small business owners can engage their communities in various ways. Such engagement can lay the foundation for years of success.

Valdosta Daily Times