Valdosta Daily Times

December 1, 2013

Small Business Saturday all year ‘round

Stuart Taylor
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Started just a few years ago in 2010 by American Express, Small Business Saturday has quickly caught on across the country.

In 2011, the U.S. Senate officially recognized the Saturday after Thanksgiving as Small Business Saturday. A kind of antidote to the frantic crowds of Black Friday and the digital frenzy of Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday serves to remind everyone of the role American small businesses play not just on one day of the year, but all year ‘round.

Take, for instance, the most recent data from the Small Business Administration, that finds the U.S. Is home to 23 million small businesses (the SBA's methodology for determining if a business qualifies as a small business is, in a word, bureaucratic, with different size levels based upon individual industries).

Between those 23 million, they provide 55 percent of all American jobs, account for 54 percent of all U.S. Sales and occupy between 30 and 50 percent of all commercial space.

And while the big business sector has cut four million jobs since 1990, small businesses have added eight million.

You don't have to look very far in Lowndes County to see the impact that small businesses have, from businesses that have been here for decades to businesses that have only recently opened up shop.

Likewise, the impact that the community has on its businesses is profound.

“Really, they have all the impact in the world,” said William Bowles, who runs Simply Otra Vez along with Tania Bauzó. “They're our customers, our friends. Everybody comes in and has a good conversation. The local community is everything to us.”

Since opening in January, Bauzó and Bowles have benefitted heavily from word of mouth, with daughters coming back to bring their mothers and friends coming back to bring friends. They've also worked hard to make those new customer's into regulars.

“There's nothing like a new customer becoming a repeat customer. And that's all in how you deal with them and what you've got to offer.”

Doug Cowart agrees. For the last five years, he's been running Wizard's Keep, a gaming and hobby store. With the gaming business being such a niche market, he's found that his customers are one of the best ways to get the word out.

To keep them, he listens to them.

“You get to know your regulars, what they like and dislike. Honestly, one of the biggest things is remembering their name, remembering who they are.”

When he does his own shopping, Cowart patronizes other small, local businesses.

And there's no shortage to choose from. In recent years, there's been an explosion of small, locally owned businesses opening.

“In Valdosta, there's been a growth of small businesses and I love it,” said Holly Hillman, owner of Anastasia's Consignment Shop.

After 10 years in business, Hillman has noticed an increase of customers coming from out of town, something she attributes to Valdosta's recent small business boom.

“People want to shop local. Just in the last year, we've had so many small businesses pop up...When there's more going on in the community, more people want to move to the community.”

For people already here, supporting local small businesses is the best way to ensure both their growth and Lowndes County's.