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How and why to be part of Small Business Saturday

By Tasha Cunningham

Small-business-saturdayIt’s that time of year again! With two of the biggest shopping days of the year -- Black Friday and Cyber Monday -- just around the corner, businesses are preparing for increased consumer demand. Yet, while millions of people around the country gear up to take advantage of the many sales and discounts this weekend, there’s another shopping day that should not be overlooked: Small Business Saturday on Nov. 24. It’s the day that’s focused on you, the small business owner.

Started in 2010 by American Express, Small Business Saturday has grown into a national movement with thousands of businesses, chambers of commerce and economic development around the U.S. participating.

“For over 25 years American Express has been dedicated to helping small businesses do more business,” said Mary Ann Fitzmaurice Reilly, senior vice president at American Express Open. “The one thing businesses have told us over and over again is that they need more customers so we thought it would be great to create a day in the holiday weekend that focuses just on the small business and shopping locally in communities around the country. That’s how Small Business Saturday got its start.”

According to American Express, last year, nationwide over 100 million people participated in Small Business Saturday. In Miami, organizations like the Coral Gables Chamber have turned Small Business Saturday into a major communitywide event.

“This is our second year of working with American Express to promote Small Business Saturday in Coral Gables,” said Mark Trowbridge, president and CEO of the chamber. “We decided to participate because in Coral Gables we support our small businesses. Coral Gables is an economic engine and our small businesses help to drive that engine.

“We’re very proud of communities like Coral Gables,” said Fitzmaurice Reilly. “They have truly embraced the spirit of Small Business Saturday. Coral Gables is a great example of the positive effect Small Business Saturday can have on local communities.”

On Nov. 24, the Coral Gables Chamber, along with American Express, the Village of Merrick Park and Books & Books will host a day of activities and events to celebrate Small Business Saturday. Among the highlights: Coral Gables Mayor Jim Cason kicks off the day with a proclamation at 10 a.m. at the Village of Merrick Park. Books & Books is hosting the $100 Startup Competition, inspired by the bestselling book by Chris Guillebeau. Beginning at 4 p.m. at Books & Books in Coral Gables, local entrepreneurs are encouraged to bring their most innovative ideas for a business that can be launched with just $100. Finalists will pitch their startups to the public at Books & Books that day where a panel of judges will select the winners.

Coral Gables merchants will also feature discounts and sales using free tools from American Express.

“We’ve got a Small Business Saturday toolkit on our website,” said Fitzmaurice Reilly. “We give small businesses everything they need to get ready for the day including free online advertising, posters, social media and e-mail templates and even free signage printed at no cost by Fedex Office.”

The free toolkit has proven an invaluable resource to business people like Michael Nucci, who is the marketing associate of  Bluewater Books and Charts, a Fort Lauderdale company that sells nautical books to the recreational cruiser. “We decided to participate last year and again this year because we thought it was idea that would give us an advantage on the sale season,” said Nucci. “We got started and used the toolkit to get free posters made and to send out e-mail and social media promotions to attract customers. It’s a great thing for small businesses in this economy.”

In Orlando, the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce is also planning participating in Small Business Saturday. “For over 125 years, Winter Park has been made up of small merchants,” said Debra Hendrickson, vice president of the chamber. "Participating in Small Business Saturday is a way to celebrate and promote that history. This year, we will have over 100 merchants participating on Saturday with sales, discounts and other special promotions.”

And if you’re a small business owner anywhere in Florida or the U.S., it’s not too late to get in on Small Business Saturday. “Download our free toolkit and get started,” said Fitzmaurice Reilly. “Use our free e-mail and social media templates to let your customers know you’re participating. Talk to other merchants in your area who are taking part in it. Join American Express as we honor the small businesses that mean so much to our national economy.”

For more information on Small Business Saturday and how you can participate, log on to www.shopsmall.com