Like most businesses, Bulworthy Project has relationships with a number of other businesses. Wherever possible we try to make sure that these businesses are small, independent and preferably local. There are a number of reasons for this. We’d like to explain a few of them.
Keeping Money in the Local Economy
As one report on local shopping stated “Money is like blood. It needs to keep moving around to keep the economy going”. Spending money locally with independent businesses means that a higher percentage of the money stays in the local economy and gets spent again locally. Studies show this to be as much as 70% more.
Knowing the Product
Food from a supermarket may have any of a number of reassuring labels telling you about the ethics of the farm that it is from. None of these can beat going to the farm, getting to know the farmer and asking questions for yourself. Some of the labels are more revealing than others, but if you are on the farm, you get both of these sources of information. If they are organic certified, you will know, but you will also be able to see the practices for yourself. You also pick up other information on products. People have expertise in the products that they produce. They are often more than happy to share this expertise.
Buying direct reduces the need for packaging and obviously reduces the environmental costs of transport. Supermarkets package goods so that they can survive often long periods of transport and then being handled in the store. The packaging must then always display the product perfectly. This often means multiple layers of packaging. It means that where a paper bag may be perfectly fine, products are packaged in polystyrene and clingfilm. On the transport side, where supermarkets “efficient” systems work well for monetary efficiency based on economies of scale, they are not efficient on transport. One supermarket which agreed to stock local produce when pushed to do so by a documentary maker was found to be transporting the produce 120 miles to and from it’s distribution centre in order to get it a few miles from the producer to the store.
Mutual Support and Promotion
We don’t have the advertising budget of a large corporation and nor do the small businesses that we work with. We can however promote each other. This works extremely well on social media and face to face. Word of mouth is a fantastic marketing tool. We can genuinely talk up each others products and services and the authenticity of that is something that corporations cannot buy. It is also something that is not available when you work with corporations.
Balance of Power
There is a story about a food producer who was trying to get his product into a supermarket. They were discussing terms and when he questioned what the supermarket was offering, they hung up on him. When he phoned back, they made it clear that this was to show him who was in charge. They could make or break his business and he meant nothing to them other than an interesting new line. He decided not to do business with them and we think that he made the right choice. When the supermarkets carry your product, they will squeeze you in every way possible, knowing that the scale of their orders means that your financial security is in the balance if you don’t go along with it. Corporations expect to do business with small enterprises using their own pro forma contracts without negotiation beyond “Take it or leave it”. Small businesses can negotiate with each other on an equal basis.
Doing Business with an Individual not a Bureaucracy
“The computer says no.” is not something that you get with small businesses. You also don’t get stuck on “That’s not my department.” when you’re talking to the owner of the business. You can negotiate any deal that you want so long as it works for both parties. They understand when something goes wrong and will work through situations with you to find a solution. Our preferred situation is doing business between us as individuals and other individuals, where no one hides behind systems and we are all people doing a deal.
We’ve been in business for a number of years and some of the people who started out as business associates are now good friends. We have built up valuable relationships. It is true that you may be able to build a relationship with an individual who works at a big business, but it’s different from the way it works with a business owner who you trade with. We understand each other and we look out for each other.