On November 27, 2010, the first Small Business Saturday was celebrated, thanks to an amazing radio and television campaign from champion of small business, American Express. Tomorrow, November 24, 2012, will be its third installment. The idea, contrasted with today’s Black Friday event, is for people to spend Saturday patronizing their local small businesses. Small businesses are the lifeblood of the economy. The courage small business folks have to follow their passions and make contributions to their local economies inspires me daily. Join me in celebrating Small Business Saturday! I’m going to show you how…
As far as I’m concerned, celebrating Small Business Saturday is all about showing support to local small business people. Your first inclination, naturally, will be to find a place that you can shop.But there’s so much more that you can do to show your appreciation. To show your appreciation, there are ways that you can spend, not just your money, but also your time. Here’s a list of ideas for you…
1) GO SHOPPING
Let’s start with the basics. American Express has provided a neat little local search function. But, chances are, you already have a few places in mind. If not, you can also simply take a stroll downtown and you’ll probably see countless boutique shops selling interesting merchandise that you can’t find at the big box retailers.
2) EAT OUT
If you’re looking for a nice place to eat, not just on Small Business Saturday, but any time of the year, local food almost always trumps national chains. Grab a cup of coffee in the morning at a local coffee shop. I’ll probably pick something up in the morning from The Mocha House. Eat somewhere new for lunch. My wife and I are going to check out The Stoneyard Grill and Tavern, a nice place that just opened up a mile up the road from us. For dinner, eat at a familiar favorite. My wife and I have our hearts set on our favorite restaurant in the whole world, Ferrara’s: A Taste of Italy.
3) HAVE FUN
Once you’ve bought some stuff and had your fill of the local cuisine, it’s time to look for some entertainment. Depending on your tastes, you’re sure to find something to do locally. Do something with the kids. Play laser tag or go putt-putting or ice skating. Explore the local arts. Visit a museum or watch a musical. Check out the night life. Whatever you do, do it locally. As for my wife and I, we might check out Niles Encore, a locally-owned movie theater that just opened.
4) SAY “THANK YOU”
If you’re anything like me, you’ve run through your list of things to do on Small Business Saturday, and you feel like something’s missing. That’s because some of the most important small business people in our lives are the ones we don’t often think of as small business people. They’re the healthcare professionals, financial experts, residential contractors and so on that work hard Monday through Friday to build a healthier, happier, and safer community.
If there are any small business professionals that aren’t “open” on Saturday but have touched your life, write them “thank you” notes. It is, after all, Thanksgiving weekend. So, do this: make a list of the small business people that have most heavily influenced your life and write them all little notes, telling them how thankful you are for what they do. Here’ are a few on my list:
- Dr. Donald J Brunetti and the Smiles for Life team. I am not exaggerating in the least when I say that my dentist and his staff are the most amazing healthcare professionals I’ve ever encountered. Some time ago, I actually even wrote a blog post–detailing some pretty profound customer service lessons from my dentist. Going to the dentist used to be an absolute horror for me. Now, I actually look forward to it. The last time I went, it felt more like my teeth and gums had gotten a massage than a cleaning. Folks, this is how it’s done.
- Ferrara’s: A Taste of Italy. Yes, I know I already mentioned these fine folks. But, what can I say? I love ‘em. My wife has Celiac Disease, an auto-immune condition in which she is unable to process gluten. In case you don’t know, gluten is in pretty much all Italian food. It was like a dream come true when we stumbled across Ferrara’s, an Italian restaurant that (in addition to traditional Italian food) makes gluten-free Italian food. There’s gluten-free pizza, ravioli, chicken Parmesan, paninis, and more. It’s amazing! Coincidentally, the coffee is also the best I’ve ever tasted. Period.
- Pizza Joe’s. While we’re on the subject of gluten-free…Pizza Joe’s is a pizza franchise located in northeastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania. In addition to traditional pizza, they also offer a gluten-free crust. Pretty awesome. It actually means we can order out for food from time to time!
- Cindy’s Health and Vitality Center. I promise that this is the last time I’ll talk about gluten-free food. Cindy’s is the local health food store from which we get many of our breaded products. I don’t know what we would do without it.
- The Daily Grind. I would have to say that this is my favorite coffee shop in the area. Phoenix Coffee in Cleveland is top-notch, but that’s a bit of a drive for me. The Daily Grind is a very nice and cozy place with an amazingly friendly staff that is always promoting something interesting. Last time I was there, I had a Bacon Latte. Cool, huh?
- S & S United Family Supermarket. Hey, I didn’t say I was finished talking about food period, did I? S & S is your typical small town grocery store, with one teeny-tiny exception: they have the most amazing lunch meats and cheeses I’ve ever had in my life. Seriously, they’re amazing. Sometimes, yes, happiness can be find in a nice turkey and cheese sandwich.
- Gainan Chiropractic and Massotherapy. Dr. Gainan is just awesome. He’s helped us out on several occasions with back problems. He’s very friendly and down-to-earth. Moreover, he has this huge wall of testimonials in his office–on which he shares letters if gratitude that satisfied clients have written him. The proof is in the pudding…and he has it all over his wall. Also, he has a killer newsletter that he sends out in the mail each month, with some awesome healthcare tips!
- Doctor’s Park Veterinary Clinic. Our cats mean everything to us. They’re like our kids. If you’re a pet owner, whether you have dogs, cats, or tarantulas, you know what I mean. Dr. Thorn and the staff at Doctor’s Park always take care of us. They’re kind, accommodating, and resourceful. And, most importantly, we feel that we can trust them with the well-being of our pets. And that’s huge.
Okay, that’s about all that’s popping into my head at the moment. What about you? Who’s on your list?
5) SPREAD THE WORD
I’m sure it means a lot to small business folks when you write them “thank you” notes. I’m sure it strengthens their resolve and reinforces their belief in what they’re doing. But if you really, really want to actually help them, you’ll tell your friends about them. And “telling your friends” is easier today than it ever has been…
- Review the Business on Google. For a local business, there is nothing more important for you to do. When people are searching for services, they use search engines (typically Google) and type in “____________ in _____________.” Typically, the companies that have reviews will show up first. Therefore, if you want to send business your chiropractor’s way, the most efficient way to do it would be to write a Google review for him so that when people search, “Chiropractors in Your Town, USA,” he actually shows up on the list.
If you are unsure about how to write a Google review for your favorite small business, Google provides detailed instructions here. Now, get to work!
- “Like” and “Share” the Business’s Facebook Page. For many local businesses, Facebook is a dream come true. It provides a platform for them to build a community that was not accessible just a few years ago. If your favorite business has a Facebook page, Small Business Saturday is the perfect time for you to help them promote it.
“Liking” your favorite small business’s Facebook page does two things. First, in will enable you to see its updates in your Facebook news feed. Therefore, you’ll know when the business is having specials or events that you’ll want to be a part of. Secondly, it helps the business with “social proof.” The “likes” the business can get on its Facebook page, the more “legitimate” it will appear to people who stumble across it.“Sharing” your favorite small business page will enable your Facebook friends to be exposed to it. Share the page and include a comment about how awesome it is. Who knows? Your friends may want to get in on the awesomeness.
- Tell Your Friends…Literally. When it all comes down to it, face-to-face word of mouth trumps anything. Look for opportunities to be helpful to your friends by thinking about the small businesses that have helped you and making recommendations.
So, here’s how to spend your Small Business Saturday:
- Go Shopping.
- Eat Out.
- Have Fun.
- Say “Thank You.”
- Spread the Word.
Small businesses have given so much to us and to our communities. It’s time we start thinking about how we can give back. Have a happy Small Business Saturday, everyone!