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A Holiday Boost For Small Business

I'm getting ready to observe a new holiday, and I want you to join me.

It's Small Business Saturday, falling on Nov. 26 — the Saturday after Thanksgiving. It's a chance to show your support for small business, encourage customers to patronize your business, and score some free shopping money.

Woman window shopping on a snowy street
Stuart O'Sullivan | Stone | Getty Images
Woman window shopping on a snowy street

It's also a good deal. FedEx and American Express are giving consumers $25 to use to shop on Small Business Saturday. Small businesses can get $100 worth of free Facebook advertising and a range of free tools to use to market their companies.

Haven't heard of Small Business Saturday? American Express launched it with a campaign to get consumers to "shop small" during Thanksgiving weekend, the traditional kickoff of holiday shopping. Two holidays have become associated with Thanksgiving: Black Friday for big sales and Cyber Monday to shop online.

"Our hope is that Small Business Saturday becomes an iconic part of the American holiday shopping season, that it establishes itself on the heels of Black Friday and Cyber Monday and it becomes a tradition that you're going to give some of your shopping dollars to small businesses" said Susan Sobbott, president of American Express Open.

The event caught on quickly last year. Amex reports a 28 percent increase in sales from the previous year at small businesses that accept American Express. This year, more than 200 organizations have signed on as sponsors, 1.5 million people have friended Small Business Saturday's Facebook page, and FedEx, Facebook, and Google among other major corporations are participating.

"We did not anticipate the momentum it would create and how much attention it would get," Sobbott said. "This year we're putting even more time and investment in making small businesses aware of Small Business Saturday and giving them tools to leverage it to market their own businesses."

And you know what? Shopping at small businesses is fun.

Last year, I got my whole family involved. We started the day at a homey coffee shop in Ashland, Ore., before strolling Main Street, talking to shoppers and shop owners. I bought some great gifts — including some for myself! My sister, Karen Colbert in Atlanta, got a funky necklace at a store she had never tried before. My brother-in-law, Scott, got fancy shaving oil at a barbershop.

We all ended up spending more than the $25 credit from American Express we had registered for earlier.

"We had a great family day," my sister said.

Sure, Small Business Saturday started as a corporate campaign, but it's a great idea. Use it to learn about the wonderful things small businesses offer in your community and to find some new favorite places to shop year-round. And use it as a way of learning new marketing techniques for your small business.

The Small Business Saturday Facebook page has a range of promotional tools.

Whether you're a business owner or a consumer, Small Business Saturday is more than a shopping event; it's a values statement.

It's a way of acting on our commitment to small business.

Of course, people should patronize small, independent businesses every day. But having a day set aside especially for small business is a good reminder of the importance that we have in sustaining our communities.

I'm hoping to see President and Michelle Obama out there shopping small, too.

SMALL BUSINESS SATURDAY

Here's what's available:

For consumers

• FedEx is giving away 40,000 $25 American Express gift cards, which can be used to shop at small businesses Nov. 26; 30,000 will go to people who register at FedEx Facebook's page, www.facebook.som/FedEx, beginning at noon CDT Nov. 1. FedEx will give the other 10,000 to customers.

• Amex is giving a $25 statement credit to American Express card members who spend $25 or more on Small Business Saturday at a qualifying small brick-and-mortar, independent merchant that accepts American Express. You must register to receive the credit. Registration is available in early November at www.facebook.com/smallbusinesssaturday.

For small businesses (all can be found at www.facebook.com/smallbusinesssaturday)

• $100 in free Facebook ads to the first 10,000 businesses that sign up

• Downloadable posters and "badges" for your online activities

• Tools to create a YouTube video about your business

• Suggested offers and email messages

Rhonda Abrams is president of The Planning Shop and publisher of books for entrepreneurs. Her newest is the 5th edition of The Successful Business Plan: Secrets and Strategies. Register for Rhonda's free newsletter at www.PlanningShop.com and "like" The Planning Shop on Facebook for updates. For an index of her columns, go to smallbiz.usatoday.com. Twitter: twitter.com/RhondaAbrams.

Copyright Rhonda Abrams 2011.

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