Advocating for shopping small

One year later, student still working to support local businesses


Courtesy of Siddhi Bansal

Bansal visits Village Burger Bar to speak with the restaurant manager about ShopUnityy and its purpose.

By Hanna Zhang, Copy Editor

Encouraging people to step out of the comfort of online and big-box shopping and to move to small business shopping was the biggest challenge senior Siddhi Bansal faced in the early stages of her organization, ShopUnityy. That was the spark that inspired her to begin crafting Instagram posts explaining the importance of shopping locally and to start interviewing small businesses and meeting with their managers.

Bansal founded ShopUnityy in December 2020 with the aim of encouraging the community to shop at small local businesses in the neighborhood, especially those affected by the pandemic. She created the name from the words “shop” and “community,” the word “unity” signifying the integrity and solidarity among community businesses and conveying the idea of the entire community interweaving to support itself.

After one year, I think ShopUnityy has evolved not only in terms of its reach but also the way it is working towards solving the problem and fighting the common big-box mindset.

— Siddhi Bansal

“Even though I’d heard that businesses were failing after hearing from my family friends that they had to shut down their own, I didn’t perceive the severity,” Bansal said. “Over the next few weeks, I researched about the role of small businesses in our community and read about their vitality for our economy.

“Learning more about this pervasive problem and the thousands of businesses that had met a fate similar to that of my family friend’s enterprise, I decided to start ShopUnityy.”

As the founder of the organization, Bansal creates Instagram posts about small businesses in the Dallas area, using statistics, facts and government initiatives to educate the city about shopping small. She also conducts small business tours, where she discusses ground-level issues with business owners and managers to gain more insight into their problems and what she can do to help them. 

“Although many people may not realize this, small businesses are especially important to enriching a city’s economy,” Bansal said. “Not only do they create jobs and contribute to city development, but they also play a crucial role in sparking innovation and healthy competition.”

Besides these posts and tours, Bansal has spoken on the “Youth Spotlight with COVID Change Agents” radio show, where she talked about her journey with ShopUnityy, the impact of COVID-19 on small businesses, the effect of current mandates and policies on revenues as well as ways people can help revive the economy. She has also been interviewed by a variety of local magazines, including the Voyage Dallas Magazine, where she collaborates with the rest of the organization to spread awareness about the vitality of shopping small.

“Having reached over 10,000 people in Dallas, I look forward to creating the large-scale impact I aspired for when I first started ShopUnityy,” Bansal said.

Business leaders from small businesses like Village Burger Bar, Metta Gluten Free and T-Post have worked with ShopUnityy to spread the word and advertise their products through samples. After ShopUnityy followed Metta Gluten Free on Instagram, Abha Ahuja, the creator and seller of Metta Gluten Free flour, reached out to Bansal and requested a shoutout on their page as a small local business. The post for Metta Gluten Free has now reached over 50 likes.

“The brief engagement with ShopUnityy was a good experience,” Ahuja said. “Their objective to support local small businesses is definitely a good cause. I would be happy to collaborate with them again in the future when the opportunity arises.”

Although Bansal is the only one running the organization at the moment, she is working with people in Houston and other states to expand ShopUnityy and recruit members.

“Small businesses are also particularly helpful in providing opportunities to minorities and increasing community health due to the support that local businesses give to other local businesses,” Bansal said. “When I visited some of these businesses again after the tours, I was delighted to see them thriving rather than trying to survive.”