Voting with our dollar

Lemonjello’s Coffee, Holland
Lemonjello’s Coffee, Holland
Photo: Courtesy of Arrae Photography

By Mieke Stoub, marketing director at Local First West Michigan

A few years ago, one of Local First’s board members shared that, while picking up a few things at a big box store (yes, we all have to go there sometimes), she couldn’t find everything on her list. Her daughter exclaimed, “Just ask the owner!”

This made us all chuckle, of course. But this anecdote has stuck with me through the years because it introduces a couple things about why paying attention to the businesses we support is so important. 

First, it helps define the relationship between businesses and consumers. The fundamentals of our economy are supply and demand. We, the consumer, have a need. The people that open businesses see that need and are equipped with a passion and the know-how to address it, providing the best goods and services accessible to them, and showcasing the availability to the consumer. 

Nature’s Market, Holland
Nature’s Market, Holland
Photo: Courtesy of Arrae Photography

Second, it outlines the challenge that arises when we don’t find what we’re looking for. If a business doesn’t provide the goods and services we need, we have the power and agency to search for it elsewhere. In an age where anything is available at our fingertips, this challenge isn’t very hard for the consumer to overcome. But it creates a sometimes-insurmountable challenge to small businesses. 

Finally, it expresses the value we place on our purchases. Whether it’s groceries, a new pair of shoes, a gift for a loved one or home repair, we want to use our resources (meaning time and money) wisely.

These sentiments display the incredible purchase power that we have. The companies that exist here in West Michigan and all over the world all operate because we support them. If we stop supporting them, they either disappear or have to change what they offer. 

Unfortunately, changing what businesses offer takes a lot of resources; again, time and money. An estimated 100,000 small businesses have closed trying to change their offering to meet the need of health and human safety. And while we continue to do the same, we also have the incredible power to vote with our dollar. 

why buy local?

Dollars that are spent at local, independently owned businesses create economic stability because 68% of those dollars stay here and recirculate. Dollars that are spent at ethically operated companies are used to create better jobs for our families and a healthier planet. The vast majority of our incoming workforce (87% of millennials and 94% of Generation Z) demand that companies help address social and environmental issues.

Supporting these businesses means that they won’t disappear. And that the ones who don’t fall within these guidelines have to change what they offer and how they offer it. And if you’re not sure if they do, just ask the owner.

For a list of locally owned businesses in the lakeshore area, visit For a list of companies that are working to address social and environmental issues, visit

Local First West Michigan
345 Fuller Ave., NE
Grand Rapids