Communities in Sync with Small Business Saturday

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – National retail and restaurant chains are welcome in Salem, but Audrey Null also recognizes the importance of spending money with locally owned businesses.

“I know local businesses are in need of more business,” the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce’s executive director says. “If you spend $100 at a local business, it does help the [local] economy a little bit more.”

Nicole Leinbach Reyhle says she, too, understands the importance of supporting local merchants. As the founder of, an online magazine that supports small businesses, she’s a small business owner herself.

Reyhle is the official spokesman for Small Business Saturday, the national promotion launched by American Express to promote locally owned independent businesses. The event takes place the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, following Black Friday, the retail mega-event that has grown so much that many national retailers now open Thanksgiving evening.

Small Business Saturday was designed to address what American Express identified as the most pressing needs of small business owners, more customers and increased visibility, Reyhle says.

“You look around at all the different retailers and small businesses across our country, and they bring so much charm and diversity and character to our communities,” she says. American Express really wanted to “take that up a notch” and celebrate small business.

The first Small Business Saturday took place in 2010. The following year the event received official recognition from President Obama and the U.S. Senate, and from governors and mayors nationwide.

In 2014, consumers spent an estimated $14.3 billion at independently owned small businesses during Small Business Saturday, according to American Express.

Small Business Saturday has its own website funded by American Express, which also supports the promotion through marketing materials it supplies to individual businesses and “neighborhood champions,” organizations such as chambers of commerce and other merchant or community groups, Reyhle says.

Last year there were more than 1,750 community champions and this year there are more than 3,000, she notes. “And that number is still growing,” she adds.

Among Small Business Saturday’s supporters is the Armstrong Group of Companies, based in Butler, Pa. “We got involved because we like to promote things locally,” says Megan Ellashek, manager of community affairs and local marketing in Armstrong’s North Lima office.

This is Armstrong’s fourth year of involvement with the shop local event, Ellashek says. One of the ways Armstrong promotes Small Business Saturday is via a billboard campaign.
This year’s billboard is on Route 224 in Boardman, near the Mill Creek MetroParks entrance, a high-traffic area. The cable and Internet services provider also is promoting the day on Facebook and via a cross-channel television spot, she says.

Meanwhile, on Nov. 28 and 29, the Salem chamber is celebrating Small Business Saturday for the second year with a “cash mob” event, says Null. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days, the chamber is encouraging shoppers to patronize local businesses downtown and on the north, south, east and west ends.

By spending $20 or more – purchases of perishable grocery items and gasoline are excluded – shoppers can enter to win cash prizes and tickets for the 12 Days of Christmas Raffle, Null says.
The city of Columbiana’s chamber of commerce has expanded its shop local push beyond Small Business Saturday – and scheduled its promotion for the entire month of November.
Shoppers are encouraged to patronize local businesses in the 44408 zip code throughout the month, collect their receipts, and complete and submit a provided envelope to the Columbiana Area Chamber of Commerce by noon Dec. 4. Three cash prizes will be awarded, with the winners determined by the largest number of businesses in the zip code patronized.

This year is the first for the Columbiana Area Chamber of Commerce’s promotion of Small Business Saturday, although individual local merchants have participated in the past, says April Brinker, chamber executive director. The “Shop Local, Win Big” initiative came from its business development committee.

“We organized the First Friday events throughout the summer and fall, and were looking for an event to do in November,” she says.

The observance of Small Business Saturday in November inspired the chamber to “stretch it out and encourage people to shop local the whole month of November.”

Local merchants are excited about the promotion, Brinker says, and she has already received her first contest entry.

In Cortland, merchants there have organized events surrounding Saturday for at least four years, says Christina Benton, owner of Just Pizzelles, a specialty bakery.
“We have a lot of different things” going on related to the event, including the Gingerbread Walk to drive local store traffic, Benton says.

In addition to encouraging visitors to patronize local shops, the city’s Opera House will feature various pop-up shops and primitive crafters, including a blacksmith.
“The majority of our businesses rely on local people to come help support them. This is a really nice thing for them,” Benton says.

Last year about 300 people visited the Cortland shops during the event, an estimate based on entries submitted for one of the contests, according to Benton. “Everybody found it very beneficial not only because it sparks the holiday season but it gets more people aware of our businesses,” she remarks.

In Ellwood City, Pa., the Ellwood City Area Chamber of Commerce also is planning a cash mob to encourage shoppers to visit local stores, several of which are offering refreshments, giveaways or other incentives.

“We try to create that small-town feel,” says Nikki Mars, executive assistant with the Ellwood City chamber. “We see it as another opportunity to get feet on the ground in Ellwood City.”

Other local Small Business Saturday events American Express identified include discounted advertising rates offered to small businesses by the Alliance Review in Alliance, a party at the local park in Campbell, social media promotions by Dogs on the Run in East Palestine and a shopping event at a recreational center for local vendors in Warren.

“We’ve seen so many fantastic things over the years,” Reyhle says. In Minnesota, businesses in one community did a “progressive dinner,” offering samples of food items.
“The idea was if customers when to each different business they collectively had dinner,” she says. “That was a really fun way to get customers to move from one small business to the next to the next.”

Pictured: Megan Ellashek, manages community affairs and local marketing in Armstrong’s North Lima office.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.