Small Business Saturday: Keeping local economies afloat

by Jo Anne Embleton

CHEROKEE COUNTY – On Saturday, Rusk’s Cherokee Parcel Post celebrates its first anniversary of founding, crediting its success to the folks who whole-heartedly support small businesses to a point where they become family.

“We’re not just a business, but part of a community,” said shop owner Dana Philibert. “We go to school with you, we go to church with, we pray with you, we worry over you, just like you would in a family.”

The local business is one of approximately 30.7 million small businesses in the country that employs 59.9 million people, creating 45 percent of the United States economic activity while accounting for 99 percent of all business in the country, according to the website.

With figures like these, it’s easy to understand that shopping local – an event highlighted during Small Business Saturday, which falls on Nov. 27 this year – makes a bigger impact on a local community than most folks realize.

“Three main things I know buying local does is that it builds community, keeps jobs and supports local economy,” said Leilani Sales, general manager of the Rusk Chamber of Commerce.

“When you sit back and dissect what those three things mean, it’s all in turn what a small business does when you shop local: Small businesses are the biggest community contributors, when donations are needed for a school or sporting event, or even a city event; small businesses are the first ones asked to sponsor or provide goods, when being asked. When you support small businesses and shop local, you are as well able to give back to the community.”

Boutique owner Rhonda Ray, who operates Southern Sarape Boutique in Jacksonville, agreed.

Supporting small business is very important to owners and employees, who often have families to raise – when someone supports a small business, they’re helping families provide for their own, she said.

A good rule of thumb, Sales said, is that “when you spend $100 and 68 of those dollars stay locally.”

“Think of shopping small business as a life cycle: You pick up an item from the consignment store, that store owner gets a haircut, the stylist goes to a local restaurant and tips the waiter, the waiter buys a coffee from the local coffee shop, the coffee shop owner pays their barista, and the barista goes to the consignment store … that money keeps recycling more and more into the community,” she said.

Per Zippia, “it’s also estimated that for every dollar spent at small businesses, an additional 50 cents is spent local – 30 cents from the businesses using local venders and 20 cents from the business owners and employees shopping locally.”

The impact expands beyond economic, though: Customers frequenting small businesses discover a sense of welcome.

“What I really like about small businesses is that when people come in here, they say that our business makes them feel like home,” she said, describing how shoppers enjoy sitting in the chairs near the checkout stand, or on the couch at the back of the store, “and they’ll come in and sit, and we’ll talk. I love that.”

Her experience backs up data provided by Zippia, stating that “47 percent of Americans frequent small businesses anywhere from two to four times every week.”

Philibert said the business, which is operated by three generations of family – has been well-received by the community.

“When you’re in a small town like Rusk, it’s like an extended family – you want to see their success, you try to take care of them, and that feeling is returned by those customers,” she said.

Shopping small, Sales said, “has much more of an impact than the business owner’s profit, and quality outweighs cost.”