With Small Business Saturday this weekend, local small business owners want residents to know that local shopping matters.
Small Business Saturday is the Saturday after Thanksgiving, falling on November 26 this year, and is a day to celebrate and support small businesses and all they do for their communities, according to the Small Business Administration (SBA). Small Business Saturday was founded by American Express in 2010 and officially co-sponsored by the SBA since 2011.
Historically, the 2021 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey, commissioned by American Express and cited on the SBA website, reported that expected spending among U.S. consumers who shopped at independent retailers and restaurants on Small Business Saturdays reached about 23.3 billion dollars.
The owner of Jacksonville’s The Grazing Tray, Samantha Prevatte, said local businesses pour into the local economy and are the foundation of the local community. She added that local small businesses are the ones that will not only donate during a giving season, but continue to donate throughout the year to local teams and organizations.
“Looking at the venue first is always important,” Prevatte said. “It is so imperative to our local community. I strongly believe that small businesses are the foundation of any local economy. The more we pour into our local businesses and look locally first, the more people will be willing to implement their business ideas and grow businesses that will only grow communities.”
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The charcuterie-inspired café is currently running its Boxes for Bellies campaign, an example of what small businesses can do for the community.
Boxes for Bellies’ goal is to help local children struggling with food insecurity in Onslow County. The goal is to feed all 900 food-insecure children in the county, a goal achieved by The Grazing Tray last year.
“Most small business owners focus where their feet are,” Prevatte said. “They’ll do the groundwork where they’re at and so, Boxes for Bellies is a perfect example. We’re a small business and it’s just as wonderful as supporting these really big organizations; we’re starting where our feet are. When you shop local and most importantly you pledge to mobilize for the things small business owners believe in, you’re making a direct impact in your community.”
Prevatte likened small businesses to what companies like Walmart do with donations to the Child Miracle Network, saying that while it’s great to give when you can, supporting local businesses ensures a direct impact on your local community.
He said that with Boxes for Bellies, every penny goes directly to the kids.
“We all want to do big things on a much larger scale, but over the last year, I’ve constantly talked about being where your feet are and that’s where you need to start,” said Prevatte. “You have to launch it where your eyes can see, and that’s where it happens.”
New Bern-based Surf, Wind and Fire owner Danny Batten said shopping local is more fun and a better way to engage with the community. He added that around 70% of the money spent locally actually stays within the local economy.
“This helps keep unemployment down,” Batten said. “Also, densely packed local businesses, like downtown New Bern, encourage walkability, reducing traffic and automobile congestion. This is better for the environment.”
Local shopping is not just about retail
Prevatte also pointed out that local and small shopping does not only refer to retail businesses.
“There are so many ways to shop local and I think categories are often forgotten because we tend to think of it as boutique,” Prevatte said. “These things are amazing, but don’t forget to shop for your coffee, to shop for groceries, to shop for your dinners with your families if you want to eat out and pamper yourself, to shop all over that place too .”
She added gift cards to local businesses to make great Christmas gifts too.
While small local businesses like The Grazing Tray continue to take a hit from the struggling economy, Prevatte wants residents to know that local shopping really matters.
“If there is anyone in this community in need, it will be your local small business that comes forward,” Prevatte said. “There’s no question, there’s no schedule you have to go to. Literally, I can name ten small business owners who, if anyone had a need, I could send them to their door and they would pull out of their cash register. It’s true . You’re not going to be able to walk into Walmart and say hey, my family needs and an employee can withdraw from their roster.”
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The challenges of being a small business
Being a small business owner also comes with its own challenges, which is why community support is key.
Both Batten and Prevatte said hiring is a struggle. Prevatte said he’ll often get a really great team, but then lose it to the military. He said there was also a lack of people showing up for interviews.
Batten said the challenges for a small business owner are never-ending, but that it’s the dynamic of entrepreneurship that is both fun and challenging.
“We don’t have a large labor pool in New Bern, so finding staff has been challenging for many years and has gotten more difficult since the pandemic,” said Batten. “Another big challenge is keeping customers on our sidewalks. We compete with all of the surrounding historic communities. The way we promote our city, the energy we put into our restaurants and stores, and the promotions/events we plan have a significant impact on all of our small businesses.”
For those interested in participating in The Grazing Tray’s Boxes for Bellies, Prevatte said there is a link on their Facebook page where you can get involved. The deadline for pledging is December 6 at 5pm. There will also be a call for all volunteers to come together and pack their bags.
“It’s an amazing feeling and it’s just amazing to see the community and hands and feet come together and get this done,” Prevatte said. “I always put how much money, down to the dime, we raise. They know exactly what goes into each bag that each child will receive and then whatever is left is donated directly to the CHEW program.”
Batten said that Surf, Wind and Fire will have holiday-specific products created locally. They also have most products at promotional prices for both Black Friday and Small Business Saturday. Holiday-specific drinks will also be available at their in-store bar.
“We offer unique, eco-friendly gift wrapping that is always free,” Batten added. “Shopping at Surf, Wind and Fire this weekend will be both exhilarating and relaxing. We have fun and functional products for an outdoor lifestyle, and we offer a full-service bar so you can sip and shop. We have even a campfire in the shop so you can relax in a camp chair with your family and enjoy a campfire.”
Reporter Morgan Starling can be reached at [email protected]