Students must be sensitive to challenges faced by small businesses

Opinions Columnist | Journalism Junior

Students must be aware of the hardships small businesses opening shop in college towns face and should act accordingly to support local enterprise in San Marcos.

Competing with big chains can send anyone with a dream of opening a small business running the other direction, especially when prospective owners want to set up in a college town with a fickle population.

Students should realize small business owners are people trying to make a living and must recognize the hardships they face in a college town. Building a reputation in a town where big chains already have students in their pockets is no easy feat. Some make it, but not without a fight.

Right off the bat, small businesses have to compete with big budget marketing and flashy gimmicks that have gullible college students flocking to chains. Most small businesses do not have the budget capable of attracting students on such a large scale and have to rely on what little money they have to entice customers.

Students do not realize buying from a big-name store may not always guarantee the best products. Some big chains mass-produce their products using cheap materials, knowing students will pay for the name. Small businesses do not have the luxury of mass production and often have to take the time to make their products by hand, resulting in smaller batches of better quality items.

Small local businesses manage to stay afloat by securing a stable base of customers who will return year after year to support them. In college towns, this is not the case.

The majority of college students do not stick around after graduation, so small businesses in these towns cannot rely on returning customers. Students flow in and out of San Marcos faster than the river, so small businesses must rely on other strategies to ensure survival. To keep up with the fickle, quickly changing customer base, small businesses must constantly rebrand themselves to appeal to the latest crop of students.

While rebranding may sometimes work, it is not a foolproof plan to get new students walking through the front door. Keeping the interest of students is not only about catching their attention with enticing merchandise.

Small businesses must bend over backwards and walk on eggshells to please any and all customers that walk through their front doors. One wrong move and a customer may pull out their phone and write a bad review, something that can make or break budding businesses.

Students should support local businesses in San Marcos, keeping in mind that the success or failure of small shops in college towns is tenuous at best. If students want to keep local business in San Marcos alive, they must be aware of the hardships owners face and help out how they can. Something as small as a positive Yelp review can help to keep downtown San Marcos home to a diverse selection of unique local businesses.