Take a moment to imagine Lakeland without any of our small, local businesses. Take away the Small Business Owners, Entrepreneurs, and those breaking out of the standard mold of a typical job. Think about our Downtown without our beloved coffee shops, salons, spas, boutique clothing stores, antique & consignment shops, restaurants, bars, the Farmer’s Market, our precious retail gift shops. Imagine them not being a part of the fabric of Lakeland. If there were not a strong presence of Lakeland Business Leaders supporting each other as they are on their entrepreneurial journey we would not be the city we are today.
Munn Park would be a different experience altogether. What would be left? What would our streets look like? Desolate, depressing, certainly not an integral part of the Lakeland economy, First Friday would not be a strategic part of many small business and non-profits marketing and advertising plan.
Just how much of a presence and impact do small businesses have on our communities, our nation? The survival rate for new Small businesses is astounding,
So, as we all know once a year there is a strategic and specific focus on supporting Small Businesses, well known to most as Small Business Saturday, a nationally recognized holiday held the Saturday after Thanksgiving. American Express will send you free swag to promote your location and the day of shopping. It is a tremendous resource for the businesses participating! For many Small Businesses, it has now become a tradition, encouraging holiday shoppers to support local brick-and-mortar businesses rather than larger brands or online-only stores. The thought process, since the nation is poised ready to shop, let the Small Businesses get in on the action. While I like this idea, I think we need a major shift to an ongoing initiative and allow Small Business Saturday to be the culminating event! If our small communities are going to survive, we need to link arms and intentionally shop locally as much as we can.
Originally conceived and promoted by American Express back in 2010, Small Business Saturday last year alone attracted more than 88 million people to “shop small.” But what exactly are the benefits of shopping small, and why should we as a Lakeland community and nation do it NOT just on Small Business Saturday but every day?
Small businesses support and give back to our community, that whole For Us By Us thought process applies here.
When you support a local business, you’re also supporting us, our town, our city, our neighborhoods. Businesses pay sales taxes to the city and county the business is located in. When we shop in the larger business, that money isn’t benefiting our community at all. Plus, our local tax money is used to support public schools, parks, roads, and sidewalks, as well as fund public service workers.
Small businesses provide a different level of customer service, their local owners strive to survive and one of the biggest advantages they have over larger retailers is the ability to provide more personable, hands-on, and memorable customer service. I love walking downtown and being able to find Lakeland-themed items, that add such charm to the shopping experience!
Small businesses create, sustain, and add to our sense of community, we #lovelakeland! When we get to know a small business owner in Lakeland, we create a community and a bond that encourages us to shop “small” so that we can support our friends. It is a wonderful experience and provides the highest and utmost customer service when you walk into a shop where you are known personally or even a restaurant where the staff knows your preferences for your specific order. You’re going to feel amazing being treated very well by your local community which will, in turn, bring you back to do more business.
This is a shift in our mindset, Shop Small/local first, and then if you can’t find what you need in those Small Businesses, go to the larger businesses.
Shop small often and with intentionality! Not just on Small Business Saturday, but every day that you can.
Share, Share, Share- Get social, be vocal!!! – Go live and share your experience, take pictures and tag yourself at the location sharing your love for where you are! Post pictures, tweets, and status updates of yourself shopping at one, and be sure to use the hashtag #ShopSmall. Also, write positive reviews for the small businesses you love and support. Liking their page, a positive Yelp review, and a personal investment on your social media means a lot to Small Businesses. People do business with people they trust, and so that is why the referral system is so powerful. Give your support before it is solicited, add value back to the retailer or restaurant you frequent so that they continue to thrive and are able to provide the services you love.
All of this would lead to a fantastic culminating event we know as Shop Small Saturday! It not only could be culminating but the start of a new year with new clients. As the current clients/shoppers bring in family and friends, we have holiday shoppers visiting from out of town, or those that are not yet ensconced in the Shop Small Culture. As we move forward there needs to be an intrinsic push into education, training, and valuable insight shared by experts, so that as our Small Business Communities needs to grow and change, we as a community are not only supporting them monetarily, but with business insight, and resources to not only sustain these small businesses but have tremendous growth!
Are you a woman CEO, leader, or entrepreneur and looking to grow your business alongside a group of other like-minded women?