By Jessica Borders
Times West Virginian
Most Americans are familiar with Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which kick off the Christmas shopping season in the days following Thanksgiving.
But don’t forget about Small Business Saturday, which is important for local communities on that big shopping weekend.
Small Business Saturday, coming up this Saturday, Nov. 30, encourages consumers to “shop small.” American Express launched this special day in 2010 with the idea that people could make a difference by supporting small businesses.
The U.S. Small Business Administration encourages people to spend money at small businesses any time of the year, but is especially trying to get the word out around the holidays and for Small Business Saturday, said Nikki Bowmar, public affairs specialist for the SBA’s West Virginia District Office.
In 2013, $5.5 billion in sales went to independently owned small businesses across the country on Small Business Saturday, she said. Also, 69.7 million of the consumers who shopped that day did so because of all the awareness efforts.
“Small Business Saturday is a national initiative that marks a day to support the local businesses that create jobs, boost the economy and serve neighborhoods around the country,” Bowmar said.
“That money goes directly back into the local economy, and that’s important because we know that half of working Americans either own or work for a small business.”
Small businesses create two out of every three new jobs in America, helping spur economic development in communities, she said.
People can go to www.smallbusinesssaturday.com to find out how to organize local community events, promote their own business, or locate a small business in their the area. Information is also available at www.sba.gov/saturday.
The West Virginia Chamber of Commerce is proud to represent and speak for small business neighbors, said Steve Roberts, president of the organization. In fact, 90 percent of the chamber’s members across the state are small businesses.
“We try to remind people that buying it here is always a good idea,” he said. “Our economy is about 70 percent a consumer economy, and when people do their holiday shopping locally they support their local economy and they help make sure that people have jobs and have the goods and products that the consumers most want.”
The chamber believes that “all trade is good trade,” but is especially interested in helping small businesses, which are the backbone of West Virginia’s economy. Roberts said the state expects to see some improvement in overall holiday spending in the economy this year.
“West Virginia has experience in supporting its neighborhood businesses,” he said. “We have a really good tradition of working to support our local economies.
“We are very much looking forward to all opportunities for small business that are coming up in the holiday season.”
Last year, members of the Marion County Chamber of Commerce were very happy with the turnout in their local stores for Small Business Saturday, said president Tina Shaw.
“I think it’s wonderful that it’s become such a national event that now small businesses get recognized ... for at least one day during the holiday season,” she said. “Small businesses are the bread and butter of your community, so they create jobs.”
Marion County’s chamber is made up of about 85 percent small business. The employees of small businesses live in the area, so that money stays in the community, Shaw said.
“Small businesses are crucial to the growth of any community,” she said. “In Marion County, when we see a new business pop up that’s a small business, it’s very encouraging, and we always try to help them all we can.”
Main Street West Virginia believes that a vibrant commercial district can help revitalize the local economy and knows the importance of supporting small businesses.
Residents can support the people around them and in their community by shopping and having lunch at businesses on their local Main Street, said Jennifer Ferrell, state coordinator of Main Street West Virginia.
“Just shopping in your downtown, if the businesses are strong and thriving, then it brings more people downtown and helps the whole area,” she said.
Ferrell said there are 12 Main Street communities and 14 ON TRAC communities, which hope to become Main Street communities one day, in the state. Some of these communities across West Virginia are tying Small Business Saturday to special events to kick off the holiday season.
“I think it’s really starting to pick up,” she said of Small Business Saturday. “It helps bring a lot of (people) downtown.”
While Small Business Saturday started as an American Express campaign, it really created an opportunity for small businesses across the nation because they didn’t have their own shopping day previously, said Rana Taylor, program manager for Mannington Main Street.
People often think about shopping at big chain stores and forget about going to their own downtowns. Many times, local businesses have what consumers need, she said.
In Mannington, stores see growth in sales on Small Business Saturday, and sometimes they create special business hours for that particular day.
Taylor said she has noticed an increase in the awareness of Small Business Saturday each year through coordinated efforts, social media and marketing campaigns across the country.
“Any time you can create something different to help your town, those dollars are staying here,” she said. “Any time you can create an event like that that helps the businesses, it’s a good thing.”
Email Jessica Borders at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @JBordersTWV.