Just like that, the holiday shopping season has arrived — quicker than you could ask for more turkey. While megastores and online retailers are serving up another year of Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, mom-and-pop shops are strategizing to get black consumers off the couch over the weekend. Sandwiched in between those two shopping days is Small Business Saturday, a day dedicated to supporting small businesses across the country.
Now in its fourth year, Small Business Saturday (founded by American Express in 2010) has aggressively recruited and engaged black entrepreneurs to participate in the annual event in order to benefit from the holiday season sales spike.
It is also an opportunity for black consumers to shop smart — not only in terms of savings, but also in a way that is community-based and socially conscious.
Why black small businesses matter
“Small businesses really keep our communities grounded,” says Zuli Turner, co-founder of the Chicago-based Flecks Coffee Company. “You know your money is going to hire people that work in the neighborhood and be recycled many times over. We even buy our produce and flowers locally.” Flecks Coffee is one of the many small, black-owned businesses hoping to gain big by a program that encourages customers to shop small.
Black buying power is anticipated to reach $1.1 trillion by 2015. Recognizing this influence on businesses and communities, American Express has teamed up with organizations like the National Urban League and the U.S. Black Chamber of Commerce to create a “Neighborhood Champions” program that has organized Small Business Saturday events throughout the country. To date over 1,000 Neighborhood Champions have signed up to rally businesses in their municipalities to partake in local activities leading up to and on the day.
Events range from parades to pop-up shops. The Chicago Urban League, for instance, is organizing its first annual Small Business Saturday Sip & Shop where guests can learn about, support, and purchase from small business owners across the city while enjoying complimentary beverages from Flecks Coffee. In Kansas City, Missouri, a bus tour will be taking people to four black businesses, followed by a power luncheon focused on black consumerism. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (NY-8) is planning to shop small in Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy neighborhood at the businesses represented by the Bed-Stuy Gateway Business Improvement District (BID).
“My hope is that by supporting small businesses and celebrating business owners, we can continue to increase the economic contribution of minority-owned firms and, through them, grow the economy,” says Michelle Thompson-Dolberry, an American Express Small Business Advisor and Small Business Saturday spokesperson.
Empowering black businesses to thrive
Small Business Saturday participants have been encouraged to utilize the tools and marketing resources offered on American Express OPEN, an advice-sharing platform for entrepreneurs. A toolkit on ShopSmall.com also provided businesses with printable signage and social media tools.
In anticipation of the big day, Flecks Coffee Company, which had its grand opening on Father’s Day this year, has overstocked. The coffee shop hosted a “Money Mob” on Wednesday, at which community members were invited to drink coffee and socialize. They’ve also been actively advertising Small Business Saturday in the shop windows and on Facebook. Customers already in the company database will be able to purchase “VIP coffee” for just one dollar during their weekend promotion.
“At Flecks, you get personalized attention and care you might not get somewhere else,” adds Turner, who co-founded Flecks Coffee Company with her mom, Olga. “We care about our community and quality, not just the bottom line.”
Finding black-owned businesses to support
Small Business Saturday is a great opportunity to support black-owned businesses while taking advantage of this weekend’s holiday deals.
Looking for a black-owned business near you? There’s a free app for that — Around the Way. This mobile app allows you to locate black-owned businesses within a five-mile radius.
You can also try BlackPages.com, which is both a search engine and an online directory that targets the African-American business and consumer market. The site lets you search by city and state.
If you decide to shop small this Small Business Saturday, remember to spread the word. Tell your friends and family, post about it Facebook, or write a rave review on Yelp. But most importantly, remember to do it all year round.
Kimberley McLeod is a D.C.-based media strategist. Follow her on Twitter @KimKMcLeod.