Mash-ups and fusions are taking over the food world, but with creativity and collaboration, that theme can be expanded to entire businesses. Partnerships between small businesses can make them both better and more prosperous. When you join forces with your business peers, not only do you reach each other’s customer bases, you also foster a community attitude of positive cooperation and goodwill.

You know who the other businesses in your community are, whether it’s from local Chambers of Commerce and Buy Local initiatives, or just from being a consumer and citizen. Unlikely mash-ups are the best way to capitalize on the fusion trend–both for maximum exposure and for fun factor. Here are a few ideas to help you cooperate with your fellow businesses for the benefit of both.

First, imagine a street with a coffee shop, masseuse, bookstore, jewelry and gift store, salon, convenience store, and a handful of local restaurants. (What a lucky town!) Now let’s see how we can shuffle them together.


Incorporate Each Other’s Offerings

For starters, here’s a more obvious combination–coffee and books. If the cafe and bookstore were to collaborate, the bookstore could offer the cafe’s blends to its customers, and in return, the cafe could install a satellite shelf from the book store, each with signage showing off the partnership. If the bookstore were to offer a larger coffee brand, the coffee shop may resent the competition, but because the bookstore buys their local beans, a partnership is formed.

For restaurant owners, do a chef exchange! Trade chefs with a restaurant that is very different from yours for a day–or even a week–and invent limited-time specials that fuse your styles and flavors together.


Be Each Other’s Guest

Invite your fellow business owners to set up shop at your store for a day. As long as you both promote it ahead of time and tell your customers where to find you, it’ll bring new faces into the host’s premises and new business to the guest (don’t forget coupons).

A masseuse’s chair set up at a local convenience store or restaurant? Sure! A baker’s table at a gift shop? Yum! A fruit stand from the local grocer in a salon? Great! A manicure while you sip your latte? Yes, please!

Is there a food truck in your area? Let it park outside your store for the day, and give them coupons or promotional material to hand out with the food.


Co-Sponsor a Community Program

Every community has services that need support, from schools and libraries, to rec centers and gardens, to food pantries. When two or more businesses come together to raise money, help out, and increase awareness, everyone wins. Small businesses often don’t have enough staff to spare, so partnering with your neighbors (and inviting your customers to join in) is the perfect way to make a real difference.

Taking relationships with your local business peers to the next level will take your business somewhere you never thought possible.