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Does a Small Business Need to Consider Culture?

Illustration of several small businesses along a street

In a previous post, I wrote about some examples of how understanding culture can help you in international business situations. But it’s not only big businesses with international operations that need to consider culture. If you have a small business in the United States, chances are that your local community includes people of different cultures. Maybe there are recent immigrants from other countries. Or maybe there are Hispanic-Americans, African-Americans, and Asian-Americans. While these people are all Americans, they have a different background than “white” Americans and can have a different culture as well. So, even small businesses in the USA should consider culture, too, not just international businesses.

A bunch of cartoon people from different cultures.

Considering Culture

If you have a small business, have you ever wondered if you are serving all segments of your local community? Specifically, are you serving any people from different cultures in your local community? You might think that you don’t have the time and money to think about all the different cultures in your local community. But these are potential paying customers–can you afford NOT to include them?

If you are just getting started with including people from different cultures in your community, here are some things to consider. First, you should figure out what specific cultures are present in your local area. Next, you should try to determine what kinds of products and services they buy. Then, try to find out where they are getting these products and services right now. Is there an opportunity for your business to provide any of these products and services?

Small business and culture. Different colored party streamers and balloon with small stars and a pink background.

Here’s an example. Let’s say that you own a small party supply store. Are you including party products for customers from different cultures? For example, are you providing party products for a quinceañera celebration? This is a celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday and is celebrated by many Hispanic-American people. Yes, it may take extra effort to find these products and add them to your inventory, but you have just opened up your business to a new group of customers!

Culture is Complex

But, you need to be careful when you consider culture. You don’t want to lump people all together. For example, the term “Hispanic-American” actually includes people from several different countries (including Mexico, Cuba, and Puerto Rico), along with different areas of the world (such as Central America and South America). Even though all these people are referred to as Hispanic-Americans (when they live in the USA), they come from different places with different cultures.

Here’s another complication. People from different cultures who live in the USA have been here for different amounts of time, and that matters. When a person from another culture becomes acculturated to the culture of the United States, they often change their behaviors. Basically, they become more like the culture of the USA than their native culture. This is especially seen in the difference between first and second-generation immigrants. Many times, first-generation immigrants hold on to their native culture more than their children who are born and raised in the United States.

So, how do you handle these cultural complexities? The best way is to hire an expert–a Cultural Anthropologist!

Small business and culture. A map of the world made out of blues, reds, and yellows.

Learn More

If you want to learn more about considering culture as a small business, check out the article, “What Small Business Owners Should Know About Cultural Competence in Marketing” available at this link.

Thanks for reading!