Has your start-up or small business lost touch with your local community?

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IMG-20120819-00125The other evening I was at a restaurant where the waiter staff were a mix of full-time waiters and youngsters from the community earning some money on the side. One of the waiters was a special needs youngster who looked proud to be doing a real job at a restaurant.

It made me wonder what local businesses are doing for the communities to help young people, especially with the high youth unemployment, the competition for jobs and the restrictions placed on young people to earn a livelihood.

The large restaurant and supermarket chains have all but eliminated local young people from their outlets. Can you remember the last time you saw a young man or woman from your local community serving you in a restaurant or supermarket owned by one of these monolithic corporations?

The new model is to buy up local restaurants, supermarkets pharmacies and petrol service stations, bring in staff from elsewhere and suck up as much revenue as possible from local communities without putting anything back. Yes, you’re probably thinking about the small charitable donations that these giants make to local non-profit organisations. Let’s not decry this sort of contribution but rather look at the bigger picture of employing young people.

It’s strange isn’t it that the patrons to these restaurants and stores don’t use their buying power to change things. They will eat at these restaurant chains and patronise the supermarkets without giving a thought to who the owner is employing to serve them. Yet when their sons and daughters need to get a foot in the door with a basic entry-level job these same restaurants and supermarkets slam the door in their face.

I’d rather support an independent restaurant or supermarket that employs locals and gives them a chance in the world of work. Look at this restaurant owner that I mentioned. He makes a special effort to employ a small number of local youngsters so that they have a chance and opportunity to get their foot in the door. It’s also very admirable that this restaurant owner goes out of his way to employ a person with special needs. Probably only if you know of or have personal experience of young people with special needs will you understand and appreciate how important it is to their self esteem and sense of worth to be able to find work even in a little restaurant.

On a recent visit to the Eastern Cape I was amazed to see that local supermarkets in the farming community were employing young people from the surrounding area together with the full-time checkout staff. This supermarket owner who operates in two of the towns has an empathy with the local community. Not only does this create goodwill among the patrons of the supermarket but it also provides an important leg up for youngsters in the community.

It’s not only restaurants and supermarkets like this that make the difference in small local communities. There are also retail businesses such as computer shops that give young people who want to follow a career in computers an opportunity to service and repair computers in their workshops and learn and grow. It’s businesses like these that are there not only to make money in a community but to help make a difference. Employing young men and women from your local community shouldn’t be done just for show or PR. Any local small business owner should only bring youngsters in if they have a genuine interest in the local community and helping young people to get their first entry-level break in the business world.

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