9 Ways to Give BackSmall businesses are the charitable backbone of every community. Supporting local charities is a win for everyone: By helping others in your area, you actually promote your brand.

A staggering 90 percent of small businesses support local charitable organizations and nonprofits, according to The Giving Institute. Individual contributions from local small businesses may seem small, but collectively they’re huge in comparison to offerings from large corporations, which account for only 5 percent of overall donations.

Giving doesn't always mean dollars either. At Akari, we’ve found many ways beyond cash donations to help our local community:

Gift certificates: Gift certificates auctioned at charity events usually go for higher than face value. In return for your good deeds, they’ll supply you new customers and promote your commitment to the community. Team up with other local businesses to create a night on the town for two; get your team involved.

In-house events: Set aside one day per year to work with your favorite charity. Have your team donate their time while the salon donates proceeds from services as well as a percentage of retail. Promote your event well, talk it up with customers and chances are you’ll see new faces sitting in your team's chairs.

Have an art show: Hold an auction – help support local artists and bring attention to your establishment.

Give a party: Bring awareness to a local cause. We helped promote a referendum on same-sex marriage that voters approved in November. This was one of our proudest achievements this year.

Take a road trip: Every year for the past six years we’ve set up shop on opening day for our local minor league baseball team. We offer free cuts for folks who donate their hair to make wigs for cancer patients. Before and after shots are shown on big screens around the stadium.

Support your furry friends: Last summer we worked with an animal shelter to hold a daylong event outside the store. We set up a Sno-Cone machine and served cold drinks, gave out literature and matched a percentage of funds we collected.

Start a collection: Help raise funds for disaster relief. We just finished a drive for victims of Hurricane Sandy. Clients generously contributed to a cash box at our front desk and we matched a percentage of funds that were collected.

Recycle: Donate your used foils and bottles to the local Ronald McDonald House or other local charities.

Returned or outdated products: Donate returns and outdated products or equipment to shelters and beauty schools.

Be creative, start small, include your team, include your vendors, include your neighbors and have fun. To quote a famous British rock band: “And in the end the love you take is equal to love you make.”

9 Ways to Give BackAllan Labos has more than 30 years of beauty and style experience across the country and in Europe. He began his career under the tutelage of Vidal Sassoon in London and opened and managed Sassoon salons and schools in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and New York. For the past 25 years he has owned and operated Akari, a 20,000-square-foot business in Portland, Maine. Akari offers hair, nail and spa services and also includes a boutique, fitness center and medical spa.