Earlier this week I posted an announcement asking for your support for Small Business Saturday. November 27, 2010 is Small Business Saturday.
This initiative is spearheaded by American Express, and it’s really picked up steam in a short period of time. I was surprised to see that as of this writing (Friday morning), there are over 1,000,000 Facebook followers of the Small Business Saturday Facebook page. When I put the article up a few days ago (Tuesday morning), I checked and there were just over 800,000 followers at that time. So you can see how fast support has built.
As many of you know, I have been a long-time contributor to the American Express OPENForum site, and was able to get a few minutes of time with Susan Sobbott (pictured left), President of American Express OPEN, in an email interview. I asked her about Small Business Saturday and her insights behind it. Here is that interview — it’s a quick read and I think you’ll enjoy this brief behind-the-scenes look:
Question: Why this particular initiative?
Susan Sobbott: We’re launching Small Business Saturday to help raise awareness about the critical role small business plays in cities and towns across our country. We know the role they play in the economy, creating 65% of net new jobs over the past two decades. But they also play a critical role in our communities. According to Civic Economics, every $100 spent in locally-owned, independent stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll and other expenditures. We want to help make more people aware of the importance of small business and to drive more support for these businesses.
Q: How did American Express OPEN’s involvement come about?
Susan Sobbott: We see Small Business Saturday as responding to a need we’ve heard from small business owners, which is that more than anything else, they need more customers. But in addition to our involvement, more than a dozen organizations are helping to get the word out, including The 3/50 Project, Business Matchmaking, Count Me In, eWomenNetwork, Facebook, and Yelp! You can find the full list at smallbusinesssaturday.com/advocates.html.
Q: What are some ways we can all support small businesses in our communities? This may sound like a strange question, but some people may not spend much with local small businesses and may have trouble thinking of ways. So please name some products or services that consumers need where they can spend $50.
Susan Sobbott: Of course, there are those small businesses that you might already visit regularly and thus come more easily to mind, like your dry cleaner, hair stylist, floral shop, or local restaurant. But we hope that Small Business Saturday reminds people to think of locally owned businesses for their holiday shopping, as well. This could mean shopping with an independent book seller, a small boutique, or a local bike shop.
Q: For business to business expenses – what are some ideas for supporting local businesses for B2B expenses?
Susan Sobbott: For the holidays, businesses might consider looking to small businesses for gifts or gift certificates for customers or employees, or restaurants or catering for holiday parties. But we hope that everyone will think beyond the holidays, as well, to small businesses that may be able to serve your needs on a more regular basis, such as a local printing and copying shop. Maybe you look to them for your holidays cards and then continue to work with them throughout the year.
Q: Susan, you once told me during an interview at an Inc. 500 event about working in your family business while growing up. Tell us about that and what you learned from the experience.
Susan Sobbott: There’s so much I learned working in my family’s trucking business, probably most striking being the importance of customer relationships. In a small business, there’s not only more of a one-to-one relationship with your customers, the role they play in sustaining your business is just more apparent. You realize very quickly how dependent you are on customers. It’s a lesson I’ve carried with me and have tried to instill in our employees. At OPEN, we have created a number of opportunities for our employees at all levels to meet and learn from our customers. It’s important to see and hear first-hand the impact we can have on their business.
Q: Aside from participating in Small Business Saturday, what else can businesses and consumers do to support small businesses?
Susan Sobbott: It’s great if we can get the people who hear about Small Business Saturday to shop at their favorite local businesses on November 27, but it doesn’t stop there. Small Business Saturday can be the first of many days when businesses and consumers consciously make the decision to consider shopping small. Even better is if they tell their friends, family, and colleagues about the initiative so that they, too, can think about shopping at small businesses.
Thank you, Susan Sobbott, for taking the time to give us that background about Small Business Saturday and how to support small businesses.
And I urge each of you to buy from a small business — in fact buy from many small businesses — on Saturday November 27, 2010 and for the rest of the holiday season.
Also, if you go over to the Small Business Saturday Facebook page and like it, American Express will donate $1 for each person liking the page, to Girls, Inc. an entrepreneurship organization for young women. If you click below you can immediately Like the page:
Please note that I am a contributor at the OPENForum.com site and that OPEN is a sponsor of the Financial Management section of this site.