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After Black Friday and before Cyber Monday, don't forget Small Business Saturday

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Sept. 6, 2012: A woman shops at The Avenues Mall in Jacksonville, Fla.AP/Florida Times-Union

Even if you are disappointed with the outcome, there are always two good things that come at the end of election season: First, the TV and radio airwaves return to their normal commercial programming. Second, the holiday season officially begins—and this year, it carries a glimmer of hope for many small-business owners, that they will not end 2012 in the red.

There is no doubt that the last several years have been tough on many Americans—most especially small-business owners, who is still struggling to recover. Consumer confidence is wobbly and small-business confidence has not returned to pre-recession levels. We have found that we cannot continue to look to Washington to solve our fiscal problems. Many of us need a reason to be positive; we need to feel like we can affect change when it comes to the trajectory of our economy. I have a suggestion.

If you want to make a difference this holiday season, if you want to help revive an economy still limping along: Shop small.

If you want to make a difference this holiday season, if you want to help revive an economy still limping along: Shop small.

The odds are that you’ve probably heard of Black Friday—the day after Thanksgiving when the big box stores open at midnight to lines of customers, bundled up outside, fighting the crowds in search of the best deal on the latest gadget. 

The findings of a recent study would suggest that you may also have heard of a new holiday tradition—Small Business Saturday. Nestled between the often over-hyped Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday is part of a burgeoning movement to support small, independent and local enterprises during the holiday season.

Small Business Saturday is about Main Street, not Wall Street. It's about the entrepreneurs, their employees, the families and communities they support. It’s about hard-working men and women who built their businesses from the ground up; who have put everything into the stores, factories and firms that offer what the chains and e-commerce companies cannot—something different, something personal, whether that be handcrafted gifts and other truly unique products, to genuinely friendly service.

Thousands of small businesses around the country are planning special offers, partnering with neighboring businesses, and hosting events to support the small business shopping day.

According to the inaugural Small Business Saturday Insights Survey, conducted by NFIB and American Express, nearly half of all independent merchants plan to incorporate Small Business Saturday into their holiday marketing plans, and 67 percent plan to offer special discounts on November 24th.

Consider a few of these businesses who are participating in Small Business Saturday promotions. Brenda Laskoskie and her company, Dei-Zinz Silk Floral, have been creating floral masterpieces since the 1970’s. They specialize in handcrafted silk trees, selling to local clients in Scottsdale, AZ, as well as to clients over the Internet. Or Frank P. Viviano, owner of Bartz Viviano Flowers & Gifts, Inc., which has two locations in Ohio, and has been “Delivering Happiness with Beautiful Flowers since 1964.” Or Robert Mayfield, who owns and operates several Dairy Queen franchises in Austin, Texas, and will be participating in holiday promotions this November 24th, as well.

These folks are your neighbors. They may employ your spouse, your child or your friend. And their small and independent enterprises, like so many across the nation, offer a shopping experience that can’t be matched by the chain stores. 

Small-business owners and their employees know their merchandise they know their customers. It’s very likely that the smiling face your meet in the aisles or behind the counter is the owner, who will do everything he or she can to keep you satisfied, because not only do they care, but their livelihoods depend on you coming back.

Just think about the ripple effects of shopping small. When you support a small business, you are also supporting your local economy, not some big corporation headquartered halfway across the country. 

Small businesses are usually owned by people who live in the community—people who give back to the community, by creating good local jobs and generating the revenue that spurs continued economic growth. When you shop at a small business, you're supporting your hometown, your neighborhood and your neighbors.

Small business is the heart and soul of our economy. And in these troubled economic times, we need to do everything within our power to keep that heart beating strong. That's why I urge you to support your small and local firms by shopping small this Small Business Saturday—and every other day of the year, too.