Black Friday may be all about the big deals at big box stores, but on Saturday, consumers are encouraged to think small – small business, that is.
Small Business Saturday was started last year by credit card giant American Express as an effort support small, independently owned local businesses that create jobs, boost the economy and invigorate neighborhoods across the country. This year’s event was also supported by FedEx, Google, Facebook and Twitter, as well as numerous politicians and municipalities – plus the thousands of small businesses across the country that strive to meet the needs of their customers on a daily basis.
Tim and Lisa Ballentyne of Ballentyne Gardens in Liverpool decided to move their annual open house up a week so that it coincided with Small Business Saturday.
“We’re a small business, and it seems right to jump on the bandwagon,” Lisa Ballentyne said. “If we don’t keep healthy small businesses, we won’t have healthy communities.”
That’s the goal of Small Business Saturday, according to Patricia Norins, Small Business Saturday consultant for American Express – to emphasize the importance of brick-and-mortar businesses to the communities they serve.
“Consumers have a huge opportunity to find unique products and personalized customer service [in small businesses],” Norins said. ‘It instills a sense of community, which is important on a local and national level — more money stays in the community and more jobs are created.”
Nationwide, word about Small Business Saturday was spread through Facebook and Twitter; the event’s Facebook page had more than two million likes. In addition, American Express offered free ads on Facebook, as well as in-store signage and marketing packages.
Ballentyne Gardens, which has been in business on Hopkins Road for the last 14 years, used the event to try to draw in new customers as well as to continue to serve those who had long been loyal to the business – people Tim and Lisa addressed by name as they browsed the store.
“I heard on the television that some lady sprayed Mace on another lady,” Tim Ballentyne said. “That’s not happening in small businesses. People come in and they’re in good moods. They are taking their time. It’s a more relaxed atmosphere. We’re not selling things artificially, ridiculously low. We’re providing a good value and service to our customers. It’s not just one day of the year. That’s our MO. We don’t have to offer things at pennies on the dollar just to offer this busy traffic.”
In addition to the friendly atmosphere, small, locally-owned businesses like Ballentyne Gardens keep their money local, and so do their employees.
“Truly, our money stays here,” Lisa Ballentyne said. “We buy at the local grocery store. We buy at the local gas station. Everything we do is within this five-mile radius of home.”
Tim Ballentyne agreed.
“The money stays in our area,” he said. “It’s not going to Atlanta or Dallas or Chicago overnight. Money made by us stays in our area and we improve our facilities with it.”
By providing employment to local people, the Ballentynes are also boosting the local economy.
“When I look over the years and consider the people that we’ve supported by employment, it includes housewives who need a second income, college kids trying to make it through school, immigrants that are just getting started in this country, us, of course – we’re not out on the dole,” Lisa Ballentyne said. “By being our own company, we’ve been able to do more for our families. We’re offering things that people can’t get in a larger department store, and at the same time, supporting a lot of other people.”
In all, Ballentyne Gardens provided a prime example of a successful small business – and a successful Small Business Saturday.
“I think it’s nice, because Small Business Saturday gives us an identity with the big boxes that we didn’t have before,” Tim Ballentyne said. “They get all this press about Black Friday, and they get all the benefit of that, and the little guy sits here, and we’re just doing what we do every day. And now we see Al Roker on ‘The Today Show’ promoting Small Business Saturday. It’s great.”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.