Written by Sathya Vijayakumar
“What does the Congress agree on in 2014?” sounds like the start of a bad joke, but in this case the answer may surprise you. In a short span of 5 years, American Express’ Small Business Saturday has gone from a curiosity nestled precariously between Black Friday and Cyber Monday to an initiative endorsed by 41 state governors, 43 U.S. senators, and the sitting president of the United States among others. Consumers who were aware of Small Business Saturday spent $5.7 billion in 2013, with even more expected in 2014 as the project turns into an American cultural staple. Still planning to stay home and allow your body to rest and recover from the previous day’s turkey? Here are some solid reasons to Shop Small in 2014.
Why Shop Small?
You’ve probably heard more times than you can remember that small businesses are “the backbone of our economy”, the “engines of American prosperity”, or some variation thereof from any number of politicians and TV personalities. You might even suspect at this point that, as Ben Franklin once said, “When everyone thinks alike, no one is thinking.” However, despite the abundance of clichés, the evidence points firmly in favor of small businesses as key pieces of the American economy. First, small businesses employ over half of the private-sector workforce while creating 2/3 of the nation’s net new jobs over the last 15 years. As a result, making purchases at small businesses supports local hiring by directly supporting their growth. Second, an estimated $68 out of every $100 at a small business stays in the local economy through taxes, payroll and other expenses compared to just $43 at national retailers and $0 when shopping online. These funds facilitate the development of roads, public services, and neighborhoods that in turn make the environment more hospitable to business success. In itself, the ability to found a small business without bribes, bureaucracy, or other impediments is in a very real way a crucial part of the American idea and one that even many prosperous nations lack the rule of law and institutions to execute consistently. Finally, at ICIC, we’ve seen the impact these firms have had on urban economies across our programs, from the Inner City 100 list published annually in FORTUNE to the Inner City Capital Connections program to our partnership on the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses initiative.
If you’re a casual shopper, find participating small businesses near you. If you own or work for a small business, download these marketing tools to help promote your business effectively around this national movement. Also make sure to join us in the days leading up to November 29 as we highlight deserving small businesses to visit from across the country on Twitter. In the meantime, here are five of the fastest growing inner city retailers in America to give you a taste of the type of deserving firms you can support this Small Business Saturday:
In 2005, the pizzeria Joe Squared began to make its way into the hearts and stomachs of local Baltimore residents. Known for its iconic square pizza, Joe Squared was founded by owner Joe Edwarsen and his mother, Kathy, who is affectionately referred to at the restaurant as “Mama Joe”. When Joe first began the pizzeria, he saw potential in transforming the neighborhood and became actively involved in community events such as art and music festivals. Joe Squared has been pivotal in providing residents with a local convening place for art, music and excellent food.
As avid dancers with an interest in dancewear, David Lee and his ex-partner used to design and make their own dancewear for themselves. The creative and fashionable designs eventually caught the interest of other dancers who inquired about what they were wearing. After realizing that interest was high in the product, Lee decided to turn his dancewear line into a company. The New York City based company is called KD Dids and produces knitwear such as sweaters and leg warmers as its core product. KD Dids prides itself in creating a sophisticated product that is innovative and well-received. In fact, it was the first company to have a dancewear line that was a complete collection in fashion forward colors and high quality innovated bodies and yarn.
Founded in 2006, Oaklandish designs and produces premium apparel and accessories that celebrate “local love and original Oakland charm,” with proceeds supporting an array of spirited community partnerships. A pioneering business, Oaklandish was the first company in the United States to do mobile retail, transforming large campers into novel shopping destinations. They’re also a social enterprise, with a B-Corp designation that isn’t just for show. CEO Angela Tsay reports that they’ve consistently made decisions that have gone against maximizing their profits, often in the service of the local community or the company’s employees. Their tremendous growth is testament to the idea that businesses can do exceptionally well while doing good.
New Orleans, LA
Finn McCool’s Irish Pub is considered to be one of the staples of the New Orleans community. Founded by Pauline Patterson and her husband Stephen, the company has played a prominent role since it opened in 2003. Especially evident after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the pub’s rapid rebuilding efforts encouraged neighbors to decide to reopen as well. Originally a run-down building, the Pattersons renovated it over the course of three months and accepted the challenges associated with doing business in the low-income neighborhood.
Finn McCool’s now attracts customers from the neighborhood, surrounding areas, and even from across the globe. It is the epitome of a true Irish pub, where people gather to socialize, network, and make memories and the pub has been voted the Best Neighborhood Bar in New Orleans every year since 2006.
Salt Lake City, UT
The Red Iguana is a full-service, casual Mexican restaurant. With two main locations and a satellite at a downtown mall, they have been a pillar of the Salt Lake City community since their founding in 1985. Admirably, this family-run restaurant places a big premium on employee loyalty and has promoted several former cashiers to senior management positions. In an age of globalization and quick turnover, Red Iguana is a restaurant with values that has stood the test of time.