COMMENTARY: Start a new holiday tradition by shopping small

It’s the one thing on which I think we can all agree: with the right support, small businesses have the power to propel local economies and lift up communities. When we shop small — by spending our money at locally owned small businesses within our neighborhoods and towns — we are helping create two out of three net new jobs and supporting more than half of the country’s private workforce.

Across the nation, we are already seeing advertisements and news stories about which major chain is or isn’t opening their doors on Black Friday, or even Thanksgiving Day! What you might not hear about, but should, are the mom-and-pop shops and the corner bakery which are competing with the big stores with seemingly bottomless marketing budgets.

Natalia Olson-Urtecho (2015 headshot) (002) by .

Natalia Olson-Urtecho

This holiday season, let’s recommit in to keeping more of our hard-earned money local by supporting our neighborhood champions, America’s small businesses.

Saturday is Small Business Saturday — a day to celebrate and support small businesses for all they contribute to our communities. It’s a day for us all to do our part to support those jobs and economic growth in your own back yard.

Visit your Main Street merchants to find unique, handmade gifts that you won’t find at a big-box retailer. Afterwards, dine small at your local restaurant to usher in the new tradition of supporting local eateries, too. The restaurant industry employs 14 million Americans and generates $709.2 billion in sales, equal to 4 percent of the gross domestic product. Many of these small businesses are also more eco-friendly, as well, since they often provide locally made/grown products, which reduces the ecological effects of long-distance shipping.

As SBA Mid-Atlantic Regional administrator, I’ve seen the impact small businesses make on our economy and our communities. For example, in Delaware, small businesses are teaming up to incentivize Delawareans and out-of-state tourists, alike, to travel Delaware’s stretch of the “Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway”; visit communities along the Byway; and patronize local small businesses.

The “Tubman Byway” is a unique roadway route running through Kent and New Castle counties, retracing Harriet Tubman’s pre-Civil-War-era journey through the First State ferrying fugitive slaves to freedom in the North.

Now, thanks to Delaware’s small-business community, travelers can redeem paper currency-style vouchers — “Byway Bucks” — for a virtual grab bag of special dining, shopping, and admissions offers at a variety of tax-free Delaware shops, restaurants, businesses and attractions lining the “Tubman Byway’s” route.

Since its inception, travelers have been using the route to retrace Harriet Tubman’s perilous journey. Now, thanks to the “Byway Bucks” program and the concerted effort of Delaware’s Byway-adjacent small businesses, the “Tubman Byway” maps out a whole new journey along its route — a discounted shopping, dining, and leisure trail cutting through the heart of some of Delaware’s most character-filled towns.

So, history buffs, shopaholics, foodies and day-trippers looking to experience something new can all find something intriguing along Delaware’s “Tubman Byway.” There is no doubt in my mind “Byway Bucks” is a program whose time has come. I applaud the efforts of Delaware’s small-business community in bringing it to life, and I encourage everyone to take some time to travel the “Tubman Byway” this holiday season and support its small businesses.

Shopping small packs a big punch to the U.S. economy. An estimated 88 million consumers “Shop Small” on Small Business Saturday. Seventy-seven percent of consumers said Small Business Saturday inspires them to “Shop Small” through the year and not just for the holidays. In addition, 66 percent of consumers state the main reason they support small businesses is because of their contributions to the community.

Main Street businesses are critical to our nation’s success, and supporting them during Small Business Saturday is supporting our nation and ourselves. To continue the entrepreneurial spirit of small businesses, join me and the rest of the U.S. Small Business Administration in shopping and dining small on Saturday. While you’re out shopping, make sure to tell us about it on social media, using the hashtag #SmallBizSat to amplify your support.

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