Amazon. Walmart. Starbucks. These names have become a part of our everyday vocabulary. As convenient as it is to have your toilet paper delivered, while Walmart prepares your order, and you pick up the coffee that you ordered via your app… doing so has also changed our lives.

For many the American dream was once to be able to start their own business. To be able to rise from nothing and make something that leaves an impact on the world. That version of the American dream has faded, and been replaced for security and convenience. Those who do aspire to own their own business typically find it difficult to compete with the large corporations. Walk through any American Mall and you will find it chain retail store after chain retail store.

Small businesses are having to find a way to compete with online retail, large corporations, and expensive advertising campaigns. However, small business gives us something that we desperately need. We need the authenticity that locally owned businesses provide, shops where the owners know our names, online businesses that believe in customer service, and purchases that directly support those within our community. In recognition of what small business brings, in 2010 American Express launched the Small Business Saturday.

                Small Business Saturday takes place the Saturday after Black Friday and before Cyber Monday. It’s a day that we designed to encourage holiday shoppers not to forget about their locally owned businesses.

While no one, including business owners, is naive enough to believe that on day to celebrate small business is going to keep them afloat, that one day has gone on to birth a movement: #shopsmall.

In the same spirit of Small Business Saturday, the Shop Small movement is something that you (and your customers) can take part in every day. Participating in Shop Small reminds your customers that you aren’t just another online retailer, that you are a small business in their community. Participating also helps inform customers how shopping small benefits them, as well as the business. 

The Small Business Association reports that small businesses in the United States make up over 47% of the workforce. When locals buy from small businesses, their taxes stay and benefit their local community. Local businesses support local job creation. Online stores are good for the environment, requiring less of the public resources and leave a smaller environmental impact in their area. Additionally, local businesses are innovative, and create unique products that you can’t purchase just anywhere. Small businesses, online as well as brick and mortar, are a vital and essential part of our economy.

                As a small business owner, you can take advantage of the opportunity that the Shop Small movement presents, as well as Small Business Saturday. American Express made it easy for businesses to participate in this program by creating the Shop Small Studio.


Through a short online questionnaire, American Express will send you customized materials to participate.  Simply fill in your business name, what people love about your business (or how long you’ve been in business, or location), customize with your choice of a variety of blues, and what type of materials you need (online, social media, or in person). After a few more optional questions you’ll need to provide your contact information so they can send you the materials.

Additionally, you can sign up to receive their Shop Small Kit if you are participating in Small Business Saturday. The kit comes with merchandise like totes, stickers, and other perks to hand out to your customers. You can sign up for your free kit here.

                Whether you are a small brick and mortar business or an online establishment, there are a variety of ways that you can take part in Small Business Saturday. Take a look at our list of ideas for inspiration:

  1. Advertise a sale. This may seem like a no-brainer, but there’s a reasonable expectation that shopping on Small Business Saturday is going to mean great prices. Afterall, Black Friday and Cyber Monday will have price cuts. Don’t feel like you have to match their sales though. Afterall, part of the appeal of shopping small is what you don’t get from the big box stores: stellar customer service and the appeal of benefiting your community.

  2. Support a charity. Don’t feel like you have to have a sale and give to charity, choose one or the other. When supporting a charity on Small Business Saturday you can generally expect the charity to advertise on your behalf. A portion of your proceeds that day will go to support a good local cause; which is something both you and your customer can feel good about.

  3. Organize a block party. You don’t have to be brick and mortar to reach customers on Small Business Saturday. Do you have a downtown small business sector? Try organizing several of the businesses there to throw a block party. You may be able to pop-up in a local business that day, or with city approval set up a vendor booth outside (weather permitting). With enough coordination this can be an appealing event for shoppers and businesses alike.

  4. Create a local online business league. This is a community of likeminded, small online businesses that work together to benefit one another. In addition to Small Business Saturday you can have other quarterly events. Rent out a room at your local community center to set up vendor information, and participate in blog swaps. Emphasize your local business.

  5. Use #ShopSmall year-round. While especially important to use the hashtag around Small business Saturday, it’s more important than ever to use it all year round. The Shop Small movement is growing, and millennials especially have an appreciation for small business.

You’ve earned the right to participate in the Shop Small movement, and to take advantage of Small Business Saturday. While shopping small one day won’t make or break a business, consider that one day a celebration of everything you’ve given to your business.

Small business owners are the heart and soul of America. Embrace the Shop Small movement, participate to show your customers that you share their values, and join forces with other local businesses to enrich your community.


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