How to Save More Energy This Summer

Staying cool during the summer doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Keep reading to learn how to stay cool while saving more energy this summer.

7 Tips for a More Energy Efficient Summer

#1. Alter your menu.

Nothing will warm up your home more than turning on the oven or cooking over a stove, which can make your air conditioning work harder to catch up. But, this doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy a home-cooked meal this summer.

Luckily, there are a lot of ways to prepare delicious, healthy food at home without warming up the kitchen:

  • Fire up the grill – Summer is the perfect time of the year to start cooking more on the grill.
  • Eat fresh – Not every meal needs to be cooked. When it’s hot out, a fresh salad can really hit the spot. Smoothies full of fresh fruit and vegetables are also a great summertime option, as are cold sandwiches.
  • Cook for leftovers – Cook a big meal that you can eat leftovers from for a few days, like chili or spaghetti. Reheating food in the microwave won’t warm up your home like cooking a new meal every night will, and you can cook in bulk in the morning or at night when it’s cool.

#2. Keep the blinds closed.

If you want your home to stay cool during the day while saving as much energy as possible, consider keeping your blinds closed and/or shades drawn during the day. This is especially helpful if you have energy-efficient blinds or shades.

Natural sunlight is nice, but unfortunately, it can warm up your home. By keeping the blinds closed, you’ll keep your home cooler. This will also prevent your carpet, paint, photographs and artwork from fading in the sunlight.

If you’re like me, and you can’t bear to keep the blinds closed while it’s sunny and beautiful out, consider contacting your local window treatment specialist. New window treatments can protect your home from UV rays and increase efficiency.

#3. Get your HVAC system maintained.

When your HVAC system is working properly and running smoothly, it’s also working as efficiently as possible. That’s why keeping your system in great shape with regular HVAC maintenance is an essential part of keeping your energy bills as affordable as possible.

There are, of course, many things you can do on your own to keep your energy system in good shape. This includes replacing your filters on a monthly basis, cleaning dust and debris off of your system, and clearing any leaves building up around outdoor systems.

Having a local HVAC contractor come out to have a look at your system will make it last longer. It will also help you catch minor issues before they can lead to expensive repairs or even replacement.

#4. Wash with cold water.

Did you know that when you run the washing machine, the part that takes up the most energy is actually warming the water up? Even if the cold water cycle takes longer, you’ll end up saving a lot more energy if you wash in cold water than warm, and luckily, cold water works just as well for cleaning clothes.

It all comes down to detergent. Back in the day, when hand-washing was the norm, detergents required hot water to work most efficiently. Hot water also cut down on the time people had to spend scrubbing their clothes. Modern detergents are formulated to work efficiently regardless of water temperature.

Not only does washing your laundry with cold water help you save energy; it’s also better for your clothes in most cases. Warm water is much harder on the fibers in your clothes, and washing in cold water could actually make your clothes last longer.

The benefits of washing with cold water go beyond laundry. Cold water is also better for your skin and hair. If you can handle it, turn down or off the warm water while you shower.

#5. Make sure your home is properly insulated.

Proper insulation plays a big role in how energy efficient your home is. The better your home is insulated, the more effective it will be at keeping the cool air inside your home and the warm air out. This will make your air conditioner’s job easier, saving you more energy.

According to NAIMA (the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association), 90 percent of homes in the United States aren’t properly insulated. That means that most American households are paying more for their energy bills than they could be, and many don’t even realize it.

If you’re not sure whether or not your home could use additional insulation, contact an insulation contractor near you to find out. Proper insulation will not only help you save more energy, but it can also keep your home quieter and more comfortable.

#6. Be strategic with your landscaping.

Many people realize that landscaping is an important part of curb appeal. The right landscape can make your home look like the best on the block. But, did you know that it could help you save more energy?

Shade can be a very powerful thing for keeping your space cool. A few well-placed trees or bushes could provide your home with a lot more shade, while also adding to your home’s curb appeal.

Work with your local landscaping company to develop a landscaping strategy to keep your home cooler while adding to the aesthetics of your home.

#7. Upgrade your thermostat.

Upgrading to a programmable thermostat is an excellent way to save more energy in your home, especially if you learn how to use your thermostat strategically.

Modern thermostats can be programmed to make adjustments automatically based on your schedule. This way, you won’t be paying to keep your air conditioner running when you don’t need it to, for example, when you’re at work or asleep.

They can also be controlled remotely, so you can turn your thermostat down or off when you’re away from home.

Need help making your home as comfortable and efficient as possible? Find the best home contractors and other local businesses near you with Top Rated Local. With our one-of-a-kind local directory, you can read home contractor reviews from across the web and compare local businesses side by side.

Get started today.

Your Guide to Supporting Local Businesses

Here at Top Rated Local®, it’s no secret that we love local businesses. They’re the lifeblood of what we do because we know that our community wouldn’t be the same without them, and neither would yours.

It’s also no secret that the small businesses that make our communities unique and special need our support right now.

Small businesses have had to make so many changes, in response to the coronavirus pandemic, that have hurt many bottom lines. Some local businesses, unfortunately, have had to close their doors already, and many more are fighting to stay alive.

If you love the local businesses in your area as much as we do, now is the time to start giving back and doing your part. And, luckily, there are plenty of ways that you can support the local businesses you love.

How to Support the Local Businesses You Love

#1. Always shop local first.

One of the very best ways you can show local businesses a little love is by making the simple choice to always shop local before you turn to Amazon or a big box store. For example, if you’re looking for some flowers, start by visiting your local garden center.

You’ll be surprised at just how much you can find in your local community. Too often, people just don’t look because they know that the big box store has what they need, and it’s convenient. However, a little inconvenience is a small price to pay to save the local businesses you love.

Whether you’re shopping for arts and crafts supplies to keep you busy at home or you’re looking for a pest control company to help you keep your home pest-free, always look for a local source first. Even when you’re shopping online, look for local businesses first.

#2. Buy gift cards.

Thanks to the coronavirus, you may not be able to visit your local beauty salon or barber shop, or you may not be able to get a massage or pamper yourself with a pedicure. But, just because in-person services are less accessible right now, it doesn’t mean that you can’t show your support.

Buying gift cards helps you show support to your favorite local businesses in multiple ways. Obviously, it allows you to financially support them, but it also helps you provide emotional support.

When you buy a gift card, you’re sending the business in question the message that you plan to work with them in the future. You have faith that they’ll be around when you feel safe going out and getting your nails done again or visiting your hairstylist. That hope is contagious and a powerful motivator.

#3. Write positive reviews.

Most consumers don’t understand the full weight of what reviews do for local businesses. They seem them as a way to give feedback and inform other consumers, but for businesses, they provide powerful testimonies that encourage other consumers to have their own experiences with the business. Reviews also help to make local businesses more visible online.

Reviews are everything to your modern-day local business, and if you want to support your favorite businesses, writing reviews is a great way to do so. The best part about this kind of support is that you don’t have to spend any money, at a time when financial support may just not be in your budget right now.

Take some time to write reviews for the local businesses in your community that you’ve come to rely on over the years. Be honest about your experience, and use the opportunity to let them know why they’re so important to you.

#4. Refer them to your friends and family.

Another powerful way that you can help local businesses in your community stay afloat is by sending business their way. You may not need what they have to provide, but if you know someone who does, let them know who to turn to.

People trust their friends and family to send them to someone they can rely on. Referrals almost always lead to business for local companies.

Not only are you helping local businesses when you make referrals, but you’re also helping your friends and family. It takes time to research local businesses online, but a quick referral from you helps them find someone they can trust right away.

#5. Share the love on social media.

In this day and age, a local business’s visibility online can make or break its success. There’s a lot of competition online these days, and since most people don’t look past the first page of Google, it means that a lot of businesses are competing for only a handful of rankings for competitive keywords.

One way you can help the businesses you love to be more visible online — and therefore, more successful — is to promote them on social media. You can share about an experience you’ve had or just express your gratitude for how they’ve impacted your community.

Even if you don’t have thousands of followers, anything you can do to spread the word about the local businesses you love will make an impact.

#6. Take advantage of online services.

A lot of businesses that have had to restrict or eliminate in-person services have shifted to offering services online. For instance, some fitness centers are offering online classes and online personal training sessions, and some hairstylists are offering online consultations.

Stay connected with the local businesses you love online so that you can be in the know about any online services they’re offering. Visit their website regularly, follow them on social media, and sign up for email newsletters to stay up to date.

If you’re in the market for a local business to support, start with Top Rated Local — your go-to local business directory. Search for local businesses near you in a wide range of categories, read a business’s reviews from across the web, and directly compare local businesses to each other side by side — all from one place.

Start your local business search with Top Rated Local today.

How to Stay Safe While Out Shopping

Want to stay safe while you’re out shopping?

The coronavirus pandemic has made a lot of simple things much more complicated, including shopping. But, whether you need a new pair of socks or to replenish your pantry, it’s something we can’t avoid doing forever. The good news is that there are a lot of things you can do to stay safe while you’re out shopping. Here are just a few of them:

#1. Do curbside pickup when you can.

The best way to stay safe while out shopping is to avoid it altogether! Luckily, that’s easier to do now than ever before, with so many stores adopting curbside pickup. It used to be that only a select few grocery stores offered curbside pickup, but now you can find it at just about any store. Even some beauty salons and nail salons have put together curbside at-home kits that you can use to keep up your beauty routine at home.

With lots of retailers, you can now order online, and they’ll bring it out to your car. But, if the store in question doesn’t offer online shopping, don’t hesitate to call and ask if they’ll do curbside pickup. Many will gladly do so and will accept orders over the phone.

#2. Have a plan.

In order to minimize your time out in the public, you want to avoid browsing while you’re in the store. You should have a plan in place before you go out shopping, which means that you should put together a list of what you want/need ahead of time.

One of the best ways to ensure that you get out of the store as quickly as possible is to organize your list by aisle, and put your list in order by what you’ll pass in the store first. Of course, this requires you to be familiar with the store you’re going to, which can also help to save a lot of time.

If you’re not 100-percent sure which items are found in which aisles, you can still make your trip faster by organizing your list by type. For instance, if you’re going to the grocery store, list all of your produce together, all of your dairy together, all of your frozen goods together, etc.

#3. Try to avoid using your fingertips.

High-touch surfaces, like door handles, can harbor lots of invisible germs that can be transferred to your face when you touch them with your fingertips. If the door to the store is not propped open or doesn’t have a sensor that will automatically open the door for you, you can often avoid touching the handle with your fingertips by using your elbow or hip to push the handicapped button. You can also use these alternatives when pushing the door open.

#4. Wear a mask when out in public.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that all Americans wear cloth face coverings when out in public, especially in crowded indoor areas, like retail stores and grocery stores. This is meant to keep others around you safe, which is important because COVID-19 can be transferred before symptoms start to appear.

#5. Stay at least six feet away from others.

When you’re in the store, make it a point to steer clear of other shoppers. If there are arrows in the store indicating which direction you should walk in, make sure to pay attention to them and follow them. If an aisle looks crowded, wait for a few minutes for it to clear up before you go down it. Or, if someone is standing in front of something you want to grab, let them make their selection and walk away before you to get what you need.

Maintaining your distance while out shopping is one of the most important steps you can take to keep yourself, and those around you, safe. The downside, though, is that it can make your shopping trip longer because you have to wait for a clear path before you go down a certain aisle or grab certain products. That’s why it’s always good to give yourself a little more time when you’re going out these days.

Another important step you can take to ensure that you can keep your distance while shopping is to avoid going out when the store you’re visiting is crowded. If you’re unsure about when that might be, don’t hesitate to call and ask about the store’s busiest hours.

#6. Look before you touch.

In order to avoid spreading more germs than you have to, you should refrain from actually touching things as much as possible while out shopping. A lot of people like to browse with their hands, handling each item, reading the packaging. This, unfortunately, leads to a lot of unnecessary handling of products that end up getting put back on the shelves.

To avoid this, look with your eyes instead of with your hands. If possible, compare similar products ahead of time online so that you have an idea of what you want before you go to the store.

#7. Wash your hands.

The advice not to touch your face is sound, but it is much easier said than done for many of us. If you’re anything like me, the second I tell myself that I won’t touch my face is the second my nose starts itching like crazy. That’s why good hygiene is so important during this pandemic.

When you get in the car after shopping, eliminate the germs that may be living on your hands by using some hand sanitizer. And, when you get home, after you’ve put your groceries or other goods away, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Want to shop at a local retailer near you? Start your local business search with Top Rated Local®. Top Rated Local is not your average local business directory. When you search for local businesses with us, you’ll be be able to easily compare retailers side by side by looking at their Rating Score™ — which is a quick snapshot of what a business’ online reputation looks like overall — as well as read a business’s reviews from across every verified review site it’s listed on. Get started today!

How to Find a Local Business You Can Trust

It’s never been more important to support local businesses, and it’s also never been more important to find a local business you can trust.

Local businesses across the country are facing an uphill battle at the moment, and they are more in need of your support than ever before. But, with the number of coronavirus cases growing by the day, you also want to know that you can trust any local business that you hire.

6 Tips for Finding a Local Business You Can Trust

#1. Check for any necessary licensing or accreditation.

Most industries are under some form of regulation, and many different businesses require some sort of licensing or accreditation. This includes everything from roofers and plumbers to nail salons and massage clinics.

Any time you’re working with a local business that requires a license or accreditation, you should, at the very least, make sure that they have them. If the business isn’t properly licensed or accredited, you shouldn’t even consider working with them.

If you’re hiring a local business to do something inside your home, it’s also essential that you ensure that they are properly insured. This not only prevents them from liability, but you, as well.

#2. Look them up on Google.

You don’t have to hire a private investigator to learn what kind of organization a business is. In fact, you can learn a lot about a business simply by looking it up on Google.

You’ll find the business’ website, Facebook page, local listings, etc. but you can also look for any news that’s been associated with the business in question. For example, if you’re looking for a local restaurant that you can safely support amidst the pandemic, a Google search could help you learn about any previous health code violations they may have had.

#3. Read reviews.

The number one way to learn about what actually working with a local business is like is to go straight to the source — it’s current customers. Here are a few things you can do to get the most out of reading reviews:

  • Read multiple reviews – Individual experience is just that — individual — so reading just one review may or may not be reflective of what the typical customer experience is like. Reading multiple reviews allows you to look for common themes and learn about the customer experience overall rather than just one-off experiences.
  • Read recent reviews – Businesses change all the time. They hire new employees, offer new products or services, and adapt to meet the changing needs of their customers. Someone’s experience three years ago may have very little bearing on the typical experience at the present moment, so make sure that you read recent reviews.
  • Read positive and negative reviews – Don’t just read a business’ five-star reviews or one-star reviews. Read a mix of reviews so that you can get an idea of what the best- and worst-case scenario looks like.
  • Read reviews on multiple sites – A business’s reputation on Yelp isn’t always indicative of its reputation on Google or Facebook, or vice versa. In order to really learn about a business, you need to learn about their online reputation overall, which means that you need to read reviews from more than one review source.

#4. Pay attention to how they respond to feedback.

If a business has a one-star review or two, it’s not the end of the world, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that they can’t be trusted. We all make mistakes; it’s just a part of life. But, it’s how a business responds to those mistakes that can tell you a lot about what working with it is like.

When someone has had a poor experience with a business and gives them a one-star review, it’s a red flag if the business doesn’t respond because it indicates that they either don’t care that their customer didn’t have a good experience or that they don’t pay attention to the feedback they get online.

When a business does respond to a one-star review, on the other hand, it can tell you a lot about what kind of business they are. Did they get defensive and petty when they responded to the negative feedback, or did they own up to their mistake and try to make it right?

A business that can’t accept feedback and doesn’t take responsibility is not the kind of local business you want to work with.

#5. Find out how they treat their employees.

Not only should you ensure that any local business you work with treats its customers well; you should also look at how a business treats its employees, especially right now.

With coronavirus, the last thing that anyone wants is to work with a business that isn’t properly protecting its employees, particularly if those employees work directly with customers. It’s more important than ever to ensure that a local business you work with encourages employees to stay home when they’re sick and keeps employees safe by enforcing social distancing requirements while at work.

#6. Learn about safety precautions.

These aren’t typical times, which makes finding a local business a little more complicated than it typically would be. Whether you’re hiring someone to work in your home or you’re visiting them at a store or an office, you want to know that they have your safety in mind. Make sure that you ask about what the business is doing to keep people safe.

Start your local business search with Top Rated Local®.

When you’re looking for any kind of business near you, whether it’s a barber shop, roofing company, or restaurant, start your search with Top Rated Local. With Top Rated Local, you can read a business’s reviews from across the web, and you’ll get a quick glimpse of a business’s online reputation, overall, by looking at its Rating Score™.

Find a local business near you with Top Rated Local today!

6 Reasons to Support Local Businesses

The coronavirus pandemic has affected us all in some way or another. Some of us have sick friends or family members, or have even been sick ourselves. Some of us have lost our jobs or have seen a reduction in our income. Some of us have had to adapt to working from home or homeschooling our children.

Local businesses haven’t been immune to the effects of coronavirus. Many have had to close their doors entirely, while others have had to make drastic changes in order to stay afloat. Still, with all of this, we hear stories daily of local businesses that have stepped up to help their communities, even though it often has meant making huge sacrifices in order to do so.

These businesses need our support more than ever before, and they are incredibly deserving of that support for many, many different reasons.

Why We Should All Make it a Point to Support Local Businesses

#1. Support jobs in your community.

Local businesses do a lot for the communities they serve, but their biggest contribution is the jobs they create. Businesses that are locally owned create more jobs in their communities than large chains. Furthermore, in many sectors, local businesses even offer higher wages than those chains.

When you choose to support a local business, not only are you supporting the people who own and manage that business; you’re helping to support every person they employ. As unemployment rates have reached almost 17 percent, the local businesses that are still operating and employing people in our communities absolutely deserve our support.

#2. Support your local economy.

Local businesses support local economies far more than their big-box competitors do because they recycle a much larger percentage of their revenue back into their local economies. One way they do this is by working with other local businesses for the supplies and equipment they need to operate.

In addition to supporting other local businesses in your community, local businesses, on average, give more to local nonprofits and charities. This helps to support the people in your community who need help the most.

#3. Protect your local environment.

The term “big-box” doesn’t just apply to the revenue a large corporation makes or the size of its workforce; it also often applies to the sheer size of the stores themselves. Big-box stores, like Walmart, Target, and the like, require a lot of space and take up a lot of resources. They also have much larger carbon footprints.

The fact of the matter is that local businesses don’t require nearly the infrastructure that big businesses do, nor the resources, which helps to protect your local environment. And, since many of them turn to local sources for the equipment and supplies they need, it means fewer trucks transporting goods from across the country.

#4. Celebrate what makes your community unique.

You can go into a big-box store in any state or any city across the country and find the same products that you’ll find anywhere else. There are, of course, a few regional differences, but for the most part, the product offerings in these stores are identical. In some ways, this is a good thing, because many of us have the same wants and needs, but it also threatens what makes individual communities unique.

Local businesses, on the other hand, are born out of their local communities and are a direct reflection of them. They offer unique products and services that were designed to meet the immediate wants and needs of the community they serve. In this way, local businesses introduce diversity in the marketplace and create competition, which is the cornerstone of capitalism.

#5. Support businesses that innovate.

You’d think that, with how much money they rake in, large corporations would be constantly innovating and leading the way in the creation of new products and services. That, however, is just not the case. Surprisingly, a study from the Small Business Administration found that small businesses produced 16 times more patents than larger firms.

One of the biggest reasons why local businesses tend to be so innovative is that they’re much more connected to the people they serve. When your customers are your friends, family, and neighbors, it’s easy to see how you would have a better understanding of their needs than people working out of a boardroom across the country would have.

#6. Support businesses that provide great service.

Local businesses have a reputation for providing a higher level of service than large corporations and big box stores. As I mentioned, their customers are their friends, family members, and neighbors, and they have to face them in their daily life. This means that local businesses are held more accountable for their actions.

Furthermore, there’s a lot more at stake for local businesses than there is for big-box stores and chains. If a large corporation loses a customer, it potentially has millions more that it can rely on. But, for a local business that has a much smaller customer base, every time a customer is lost, it’s acutely felt. That gives local businesses a greater incentive to take care of their customers in the best possible way.

Support the local businesses that make your community great with Top Rated Local®.

These are just a few of the many reasons to support the local businesses in your community, and there are lots of wonderful ways to do so. In a previous blog, I talked about a few things consumers can do to support the local businesses in their communities, one of which is writing reviews for the local businesses you love.

Use our one-of-a-kind local business directory and review site — Top Rated Local — to find and support the local businesses that make your community what it is.

Creative Ways Local Businesses Are Adapting to Coronavirus Restrictions

Local businesses have had to surmount a lot of obstacles amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Fear and economic uncertainty have caused consumers to pull back, and social distancing has forced many businesses to shut down their physical locations and completely change the way they do business.

Throughout every recession and difficulty, we’ve faced as a nation, there have always been businesses that have bucked the odds and overcome, and there have already been many success stories coming out amid this one. Businesses that have survived during times like these are always the ones that have been nimble and creative.

Here are a few of the creative things local businesses have done to adapt to the new reality under coronavirus, not only to stay in business, but to give back to their communities.

How Local Businesses Are Adapting to Coronavirus Restrictions

Grocery Stores Keep Seniors Safe

We all want to stay safe and healthy throughout this pandemic, but for many people, the risk is much higher than it is for others. Although there are many things that can affect someone’s risk, age is certainly a factor that can’t be ignored. That’s why, for many older people, even grocery shopping can be scary at a time like this. Luckily, there are some grocery stores that have stepped up to help out.

In order to minimize the risks of being around others, some grocery stores have set aside specific hours just for seniors. Even though this means fewer customers for grocery stores during those hours, it’s a move that helps to keep seniors safe and demonstrates a real concern for their customers and communities.

A Coffee Shop That Delivers

In New York City, a coffee shop that had only been open for a few months had to close their doors. But, instead of accepting defeat, the owners completely changed the business model to start offering online ordering and delivery. They now deliver lattes to their customers’ doors, and they also offer latte kits that allow their customers to recreate their favorite at home.

A coffee shop’s primary source of business comes from people coming in and ordering. Without that ability, many have had to close their doors completely, but instead, this one adapted to online shopping and delivery in order to continue serving their customers.

A Book Store Takes Appointments

With so many people being stuck at home and only eight episodes of Tiger King to binge, a lot of people have a lot of free time on their hands these days. Books have become an essential form of entertainment for many people, but local bookstores across the country have had to close to the public. Some have managed to transition to online shopping, but one store has found a unique solution.

Delivery wasn’t an affordable option for a bookstore, but instead of closing down completely, they decided to make shopping safer for their customers. They allow customers to reserve appointments so they can have the store to themselves for an hour. After every appointment, the store is sanitized.

A Salon Keeps its Clients Looking Great

Barber shops and salons and other businesses that require close, personal interaction in order to operate have had a tougher time than most throughout this pandemic. However, knowing that people need a little pick-me-up right now and could benefit from the confidence that looking their best gives them, one salon has found a new way to stay in business while serving its clients.

Just because this salon was no longer able to serve its clients in person didn’t mean that it had to stop helping them look and feel their best from home. This salon started doing video consultations to teach their clients what they can do at home to keep up with their style. They also started putting together custom color kits with detailed instructions for their clients.

A Distillery Starts Making Hand Sanitizer

Hand sanitizer is in high demand right now, not only by consumers but by countless local businesses as well. Even though it meant a reduction in revenue, one distillery switched its focus to manufacturing hand sanitizer for its community. By offering free hand sanitizer to local businesses and people in its community, this distillery is garnering goodwill and loyalty that will be remembered.

A Bakery Prioritizes Transparency

Many people want to support local businesses in their communities but are uneasy about the idea of taking unnecessary risks. This has been especially concerning for local businesses in the food service industry. One bakery decided to combat its customers fears by making transparency its number one priority.

Lots of businesses have taken precautions to keep customers and employees safe, like taking extra steps to ensure sanitation, ensuring that sick employees stay home, and eliminating physical contact. This bakery has taken its efforts to be transparent one step further by live streamlining its kitchen so that customers can watch the magic happen.

Support the local businesses near you!

Lots of local businesses have bent over backward to serve their communities and give back, even though they are in the midst of coping with their own difficulties. The least we can do is support them!

If you’re looking to support the local businesses in your community while staying safe, one great way to do so is by finding the local businesses you love online and writing a review for them! Reviews can give businesses a morale boost and helps them to stand out online and be more visible. Plus, it’s free to write reviews, which means that you can still support the local businesses you love even if you can’t do so financially.

Check out my previous blog to learn about a few more ways you can support your favorite local businesses during the coronavirus pandemic. And, find the businesses you love on Top Rated Local® today to leave your review!

7 Uplifting Stories to Brighten Your Day

There’s a lot of uncertainty in the world right now, and it can feel like a very dark place in many ways. However, the worst circumstances tend to bring out the best in some people, and there are a ton of stories out there that can help to shine a light on the world right now and bring a little positivity to your life.

Brighten Your Day With 7 Uplifting Stories

Story #1. 3D printing for the frontlines of the pandemic.

James Fambrough, a Marketing Executive at Marketing 360® and owner of Maker 3D Printing, has stepped up in a big way to help the men and women on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic by printing respiratory face masks and face shields for hospitals, doctors, and first responders in Northern Colorado.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, James was establishing Maker 3D Printing’s YouTube channel, which was devoted to educating people about 3D printing, but within just a few days of the quarantine, Maker 3D Printing had partnered with Wuxn 3D to print PPE for healthcare workers. In addition to printing PPE, Maker 3D Printing offers templates on its website for COVID-19 respirator masks, face shields, and ventilator valves along with instructions, allowing others with 3D printers to help make a difference.

Visit Maker 3D Printing online today to learn more, download 3D printing templates, or donate to the cause!

Story #2. Cities cheer healthcare workers.

The people who are on the front lines of this pandemic are absolutely the healthcare workers who compassionately take care of the people in their care despite the risk of getting infected themselves. The people of New York City and other big cities from around the country have decided to head onto their roofs or open their windows to applaud the men and women who put their lives on the line each day to take care of others every night at 7 pm.

The #ClapBecauseWeCare movement started circulating on social media last Friday. If you’re in a big city and would like to be a part of it, or if you’d like to learn more, click here.

Story #3. Peyton Manning donates blood.

Social distancing restrictions are necessary for preventing widespread infection, but there are many unforeseen complications that come with it. One of these consequences is the decline in blood donations. With blood drives being canceled across the country, there is now a severe shortage of blood donations for those who need them.

Lots of people are feeling helpless and looking for ways to help, and donating blood is a great way to make a difference right now. Peyton Manning, along with Brandon Stokley, decided to lead by example by donating blood to the Children’s Hospital Colorado’s Blood Donor Center on Thursday.

Click here to learn more about Peyton’s donation and how to make your own.

Story #4. Italians connect using music.

Struck hard by coronavirus, Italians have been quarantined in their homes for weeks. With physical distance separating them, many Italians have learned to connect with each other in other ways, namely, with music.

With the help of a radio station, people all over Italy tuned in to the same station and sang their national anthem in unison. Many opened their windows or wandered onto balconies so that they could fly Italian flags and sing with their neighbors and community.

Click here to learn more and watch the many videos of this touching moment of solidarity.

Story #5. NBA players cover the wages of arena workers who have lost their jobs.

The cancelation of the rest of the NBA season came so abruptly that it happened right before tipoff of the Oklahoma City Thunder/Utah Jazz game, after a Jazz player tested positive for coronavirus. Not only did this affect the players, the coaches, the team owners, and the many, many fans, it also affected thousands of arena employees who were immediately out of their livelihood.

This fact has not been lost to NBA players, and many have set out to help the people who, they say, are a critical part of what makes going to games so great. Three of the players that have come out to support arena employees include Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Love, and Zion Williamson, who have all pledged thousands of dollars to protect the paychecks of the workers in their home arenas.

Click here to learn more about how NBA players have rallied to help arena workers.

Story #6. Uber Eats is making delivery possible.

The vast majority of businesses have been affected by coronavirus and the social distancing requirements designed to prevent its spread, but restaurants have been among the hardest hit. Many restaurants have adapted to offering carry-out and — for the ones that can — delivery options for the first time in order to avoid closing their dogs altogether. However, for many independent restaurants, delivery has not been an option.

UberEats has set out to make delivery possible for independent restaurants by waiving delivery fees. According to Uber Eats, that’s no small feat, as there are more than 100,000 independent restaurants on the app.

Click here to learn more about how Uber Eats is making delivery possible for thousands of independent restaurants.

Story #7. Neighbors support each other through Nextdoor.

For many people, getting the essentials they need is as easy as going to the grocery store or the pharmacy while maintaining a six-foot distance and washing their hands carefully afterward. But, for millions of Americans, the risk of going to the grocery store or the pharmacy is just too high to take. Luckily, people have been using the Nextdoor app to connect with their neighbors and help those in need.

People falling into high-risk categories have been reaching out to their neighbors on Nextdoor requesting help with things like grocery shopping and pharmacy pickups, and their neighbors have been stepping up in large numbers to help. Nextdoor has even launched a Help Map to make connecting with your neighbors in need easier.

There’s no denying that things are tough for a lot of people right now, but there are plenty of good things going on that can uplift and inspire you.

There are so many ways that you can do your part to help during this difficult time. One such way is to leave a review for the small businesses you love and rely on in your community. Those reviews help small businesses stand out online and can provide a little encouragement for a small business that really needs it.

Find your favorite local businesses with Top Rated Local® — your go-to business directory — today and leave a review!

Why We Love Local Businesses (and You Should, Too!)

Local businesses are the lifeblood of the communities they serve.

It’s no secret that, here at Top Rated Local®, we have a thing for local businesses. In fact, we love them so much that we’ve dedicated ourselves to helping them manage their online reputations effectively, while also connecting them with consumers in their communities.

Why do we love local businesses so much? Because of what they do for their communities and for the people they serve day in and day out. There’s no doubt about it, small businesses are special, and they’re a big part of what makes their communities so great.

The coronavirus pandemic has hit all of us hard, and small businesses are no exception. The social distancing requirements necessary to minimize the spread of coronavirus have also led to countless restaurants, retail stores, and other local businesses having to temporarily close their doors.

The good news is that there are many ways that you can still support the local businesses in your community. Check out our previous blog to learn about a few of them, and keep reading to learn about the many reasons why you should make it a point to support them.

5 Ways Local Businesses Benefit Their Communities

#1. By creating local jobs.

When compared to the many giant corporations that employ tens of thousands of people, the jobs created by small businesses may seem like a drop in the hat. However, all of those small businesses ( and the jobs they create) really add up. They make up 64 percent of all private sector jobs in the United States.

That’s a lot of jobs, and thanks to the fact that small businesses are invested in their local communities, those jobs tend to stay local. When small businesses succeed, the many people they employ also succeed, which ripples across the economy as a whole.

According to The National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC), small businesses are an essential part of creating economic self-sufficiency and eliminating poverty in the United States.

#2. By keeping money in the community.

A corporation’s number one goal is to please its shareholders, which is why corporations generally make financial decisions with their shareholders in mind. This might mean investing in stock buybacks or dividends when corporations have extra cash on hand. For small businesses, though, which often work with local supply chains and employ local people, any money made goes directly back to the community they serve.

Additionally, big box stores and corporations tend to try to save as much money on their taxes as possible by exploiting every possible loophole. This may be why small businesses actually contribute more in tax revenue to local economies than corporations do.

Local businesses also do more by making charitable contributions that directly affect their communities. In addition to giving to local food banks and other nonprofit organizations, small businesses help to make many other things possible, including sports leagues and teams, as well as the school paper and yearbook.

#3. By innovating.

When it comes to innovation, corporations have nothing on small businesses. According to research from the Small Business Administration (SBA), when compared to large corporations, small businesses produce 16 times the number of patents per employee. This innovation might look like creating new products, improving existing products, developing new methods or processes, and finding new supply sources.

Part of what holds many corporations back from innovation is their shareholders. Shareholders are, in general, adverse to risk, and innovation, in most cases, is definitely a risk. However, many corporations have started to model their operations to be more like startups to try to spark some of that innovation.

The innovation that comes from small businesses has the potential to positively affect neighborhoods, towns, and entire communities.

#4. By reinforcing the personality of the community.

What is it that makes a community special? There are many answers to this question, but nothing makes a community quite as unique as the small businesses that serve it. After all, most communities have the same big box stores as every other community, but only small businesses reinforce the personality of that community.

Small business owners aren’t separated from the communities they serve. In addition to running their own business, they’re residents just like everyone else, which means that they share the goals of the community and recognize what makes it special. And, instead of relying on the decisions of a few corporate bigwigs, small businesses have the flexibility to evolve with the times to meet the changing needs and goals of their community.

#5. By supporting other small businesses.

Big box stores rely on large volumes of sales, which means that their number one priority is to keep prices low. This can result in predatory marketing strategies and pricing that ends up putting small businesses in the community at risk.

Small businesses, on the other hand, still compete with one another for their share of the market, but the difference is that they are operating and competing on the same level. That means that the best businesses win out, rather than just the biggest.

Small businesses also aren’t a threat to other businesses in the community. Big box stores, like Walmart, tend to offer a wide range of products that can put a wide range of small businesses out of business, like beauty supply stores, hardware stores, pet stores, auto supply stores, craft stores, homeware stores, and more.

Show your appreciation for the local business in your community.

Local businesses do so much for the communities they serve, and right now, they’re facing difficulties that could be difficult, if not impossible, to recover from. Do your part and give back to the incredible businesses that make your community such a wonderful place.

Learn how to support the local businesses in your community safely throughout the coronavirus pandemic by checking out my previous blog. And, turn to Top Rated Local, your go-to local business directory, to find the right local businesses for your needs.

Buying Gift Cards & Other Ideas to Support Local Businesses

Local businesses need our support more than ever before.

You may not be able to visit your favorite local businesses right now, but that doesn’t mean that you have to stop supporting them. In fact, there are lots of ways you can still support them, and it’s a good thing, too. Right now, those businesses need our support more than ever.

Local businesses are the lifeblood of the communities they serve, but the spread of coronavirus has made it impossible for many local businesses to keep their doors open, and difficult for many others. You can help to mitigate some of that fallout by making it a point to support the local businesses you love.

We all have a favorite local restaurant, boutique, flower shop, etc. that we’ve turned to time and time again, and if you are looking to extend your support to your favorite local businesses, you’ll be glad to know that there are plenty of ways you can help without actually visiting them in person.

How to Support Local Businesses Affected by Coronavirus

Buy a gift card.

Do you have a monthly appointment with a local beauty salon or barber shop? The money you would have used on your appointment can still go to the business now, even if you can’t get your hair done quite yet. Buying a gift card is one of the most direct ways to support local businesses near you, and it means that you’ll have your next haircut paid for already.

In addition to offering financial support, buying a gift card also helps you offer moral support to local businesses that may be struggling. It shows that you’re so confident in them that you’re willing to pay in advance for their services, and that goes a long way.

Some businesses may be offering gift cards online, so their website is a great place to start looking for a gift card. You may also consider calling them. Even if their doors aren’t open, they may be answering their phone.

Order delivery or takeout.

You may not be able to visit your go-to restaurant at the moment, but many are offering carry-out and/or delivery options in lieu of in-person dining. According to the FDA and CDC, there’s no evidence thus far that coronavirus can be spread through food or food packaging, which makes ordering take-out or delivery a safe way to support local restaurants and bars at this point. But, there are some safety rules you’ll want to keep in mind.

If you order carry-out, make sure to follow the same safety procedures you’d follow in any other situation — stay at least six feet away from others, don’t go out if you’re exhibiting any symptoms, and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds after contact.

If you order delivery, consider choosing a no-contact delivery option for the safety of both you and the delivery driver, and pay/tip over the app or online instead of using cash, if possible. Immediately wash your hands for at least 20 seconds after moving the food to your own dishes and disposing of the packaging.

Don’t cancel appointments; reschedule them.

If you don’t have the financial means to buy a gift card but want to give them as much of a morale boost as possible during this time, consider rescheduling any upcoming appointments you may have with them rather than canceling them outright.

A little positivity can go a long way during times like these. Showing that you’re confident in them enough to keep an appointment on the books will help them to find a reason to stay positive.

Show your support online.

There are so many ways to support local businesses that go beyond supporting them in person, and these days, when a business’ online reputation can make or break their success, your online support can count for a lot. If you’ve worked with a local business many times, now is the perfect time to write a review for them online.

Reviews are beneficial to local businesses in many, many ways. For one, people trust reviews, and by recommending a local business in a review, you’re helping to generate more customers for them. Reviews can also help businesses rank higher in organic search results, which will help to improve the visibility of the business online.

The great thing about writing reviews for your favorite local businesses is that it doesn’t require you to spend any money, which may or may not be an option for you at this time. And, any positive words you have for the local businesses you love will surely help them to keep their heads held high until we get through this.
In addition to writing reviews for the local businesses you want to support, it’s also a good idea to spread the word about how awesome they are on social media.

Ask how you can help!

Not every business offers delivery or sells gift cards, and if you’re running out of ideas on how to support them during this difficult time, why not call and ask them? At the end of the day, every local business is different, and they’ll know best what you can do to support their own unique journey.

Write reviews for the local businesses you love today!

Just because you can’t eat at your favorite local restaurant doesn’t mean that you can’t still support them. I hope that this blog will inspire you to give a little love to the local businesses that work so hard to make your community what it is.

One of the easiest and most cost effective ways to support your favorite local businesses is by writing reviews, and that’s where we come in. With Top Rated Local, not only can you write a review, but you’ll be able to rank local businesses based on the five pillars of the customer experience, which will help you provide more effective feedback. You’ll also know exactly which verified review sources the business is listed on without having to visit a bunch of different websites.

Find the local businesses you love on Top Rated Local today!

Tips for Planning Your Spring Break Staycation

Spending your spring break vacation at home this year?

There are a myriad of reasons to spend your spring break at home this year. Traveling is expensive for one, and many people have canceled upcoming trips due to the coronavirus endemic. But, regardless of the reason you’re staying home this year, there’s a lot to look forward to!

Traveling is amazing, don’t get me wrong. I love to see new things and experience new cultures. But, it’s always just a little bit stressful. Plus, there’s just something about a staycation that has a special place in my heart. Staycations are amazing because they allow you to catch up on things you love doing but don’t have time for in your typical schedule. Best of all, at the end of the day, you get to come back to your own home and sleep in your own bed.

I like to pick a project or two to do around the house on a staycation, but don’t spend your whole time working. Give yourself time to relax, unwind, and decompress.

6 Tips to Help You Make the Most of Your Staycation

#1. Pamper yourself.

Self-care is a key part of a healthy lifestyle, but it’s easy to push aside our own self-care when we have full schedules and others who rely on us. A staycation gives you the gift of time, and I can’t think of a better way to spend it than with a little pampering.

Find a local massage therapist or a day spa. Getting a massage or a facial is a great way to melt away the daily stress of life. You could also visit an acupuncturist to help you relax and unwind, or you could visit your local nail salon, barbershop, or beauty salon to reinvent your look.

#2. Pretend to be a tourist.

Have you ever noticed how tourists tend to see a lot more of the notable attractions around you than you do? If you’re like most people, your time is spent working, running errands, getting the kids to their various activities, etc. — in other words, the day-to-day activities of life. There probably isn’t much time for you to enjoy what’s around you like someone visiting might. But, a staycation gives you the perfect opportunity to do so.

Pretending to be a tourist might mean seeing a musical or a play at the local theater. It might mean going to a baseball game or a basketball game. It might mean going on a tour at the local brewery, factory, or capitol building. If there isn’t anything you want to see or do in your own community, chances are, you’re probably not more than a few hours away from something you’ll find interesting. Taking a day trip is a fantastic way to spend your spring break.

You could even treat yourself to a luxurious ride to your destination, or just around town, by turning to a local limousine service.

#3. Go on a food tour of your city.

If you’re like most people, you probably go to a handful of different restaurants around your community. When you have a few favorite places to eat, it’s easy to get a rut — even if it’s a delicious rut. There are most likely lots of amazing places to eat in your community, and since you’re saving all of that money by not taking a trip, it’s the perfect opportunity to splurge and try some new restaurants.

Look up restaurants in your community with the best reviews, and consider branching out and trying something new. Don’t be afraid to mix it up, too, and choose options from different parts of the world, as well as different types of restaurants, including sit-down restaurants, food trucks, and cafes. Make a list of a few restaurants that sound interesting to you, and try a new one each day or every other day.

#4. Learn something new.

Learning is something we should all strive to do as much as possible, and there are lots of ways to continuously learn in your daily routine. However, finding time to learn a new skill or deepen your knowledge of an existing skill isn’t always easy. Your staycation gives you plenty of time to do so.

There are so many great learning opportunities around you. You could attend a class at the local rec center; you may even find a free class. Some restaurants and grocery stores offer cooking classes. You could also consider signing up for a cocktails and painting class with some friends.

#5. Replenish your closet.

Does it feel like you’ve got a ton of clothes but nothing to wear? It’s a sure sign that it’s time to clean out your closet. Take some time to pull out anything you don’t wear often — or at all. You could consider donating it or selling it to a consignment store.

Once your closet is cleaned out of everything you don’t want or need, it’s the perfect opportunity to go shopping and fill it back up a little. You’re not paying to go on an expensive vacation, and you’ll be able to take advantage of the spring sales, so you might as well. Stop into your favorite stores, and consider checking out a few new stores in your area. You might just find a new favorite!

#6. Attend a new fitness class.

If your gym is anything like mine, all of the best classes seem to take place during the day while I’m at work, and on the weekends, there are so many people in the class that finding a place for my yoga mat can be almost impossible. Luckily, your staycation is a great time to attend one of those mid-day classes that can’t fit in your regular schedule.

If you don’t already belong to a fitness center, your staycation is also a fantastic time to check a few local fitness centers out. Some might even offer free day passes or trial classes. Some fitness centers offer five-day or week-long passes. Whether you’ve always wanted to try a Bikram yoga class, a kickboxing class, a spin class, or any other type of fitness class, make it a point to do so on your staycation.

Make the most of your staycation with Top Rated Local®!

With a little planning, and the help of a few great local businesses, your staycation can be just as memorable as a trip across the country or world would be. Start your local business search with Top Rated Local today!