• Originally published in the Kane County Chronicle on Nov. 25, 2011
There’s the mad rush of Black Friday and the, “Hey, I’m shopping in my pajama pants!” rush of Cyber Monday.
Small Business Saturday, however, is about a different kind of rush, a better kind of rush – the rush of supporting your community by shopping at small businesses. OK, maybe rush is too strong of a word, but it’s a good thing to do in any case.
Nov. 26 is the second annual Small Business Saturday, a day promoted by American Express to encourage shopping at small businesses after a hectic Black Friday spent at larger chains. (Black Friday, by the way, will go down in history as one of the strangest named days ever. Future students thinking they’re about to learn about the day World War III started or something equally horrible will be surprised to find out Black Friday was nothing more than a day when merchandise was slightly cheaper than the rest of the year.)
Small Business Saturday was a great idea. Small businesses are the backbone of any community, as well as that of the U.S. economy.
According to the Office of Advocacy of the United States Small Business Administration, small businesses employ about half of all private sector employees and have generated about 65 percent of net new jobs in the past two decades.
One of the small businesses that has recently hired more employees is The Pink Hippo in downtown Geneva.
In May, Stephanie Schmoker opened the boutique, which offers American-made products for girls. After a successful start, The Pink Hippo now has three part-time employees.
“I was just able to hire some people because we’re getting really busy, and we’re able to afford it now,” Schmoker said. … “It’s just really working out for us. We’ve been doing really great business. My biggest thing is I don’t order enough; we’re constantly running out, which is a good problem to have in this economy.”
Schmoker started her business after nine years teaching in Naperville. She said she wanted to work somewhere she could set her own hours. She attributes part of her success to the support she has received from the community.
“Everybody’s been really supportive,” Schmoker said. “Other store owners introduce themselves to me and come with pointers, and when I need something, I can call the [chamber of commerce.]
While Schmoker is just getting started in the small business world, there are plenty of those in the Tri-Cities who have been doing this for years.
Town House Books & Cafe opened in St. Charles in 1974. David Hunt has owned it since 1992, adding the cafe in 1996.
“We think of ourselves as an important part of the community,” Hunt said. “We’ve been a community bookstore for all this time. We have a very loyal customer base that thankfully is growing.”
And one of the keys is where that support for small businesses is coming from.
“It’s not just coming from the businesses,” Hunt said. “The public, our customers, are really doing a good job of acknowledging the efforts of independent businesses in downtowns and want to keep them.”
Dave and Linda McFadden have owned Past Basket in Geneva for 33 years after getting their start inside Town House Books.
Linda stressed that being a small business owner means loving what you do.
“The biggest advice that I can give,” she said, “is you really have to enjoy what you’re doing. And if you don’t enjoy it, find something else because it’s tough.”
Owning a small business isn’t easy. It’s a job like any other, and like any other, it has its ups and downs. Very few will ever become filthy rich owning a small business. Most are probably happy to get by while doing something they enjoy.
Small Business Saturday is as much about community as it is small business. It’s about supporting people just like us.
“It’s very important for people to shop in their community,” Schmoker said, “and help build their communities and keep those businesses around.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
• Joe Grace is a former editor of the Kane County Chronicle who will occasionally drop in. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.