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Mind Your Business: Occupy Small Street


The Occupy Wall Street movement has gained serious momentum. The group of protesters that started out camping in downtown New York is inspiring others around the country to protest the vast inequity in wealth in our nation.

Even if you support them, though, you may not be ready to grab a bullhorn and quit your job. For those of us who are just as angry as they are, but who want to take a different tact, I'm proposing another movement. Mine would be called: Occupy Small Street. It will focus on redistributing the nation's wealth by increasing spending at small businesses of all kinds and by boycotting the nation's largest businesses — the ones that offer low salaries, unreliable hours and no benefits for part-time employees. This includes the businesses that do little to give back to the communities in which they are based.

Occupy Small Street would be a nationwide movement to take back our shopping centers, Main Streets and highways and return them to entrepreneurs who, rather than slapping up giant concrete warehouses with every conceivable product for convenience's sake, could focus on specializing in their individual areas of expertise.

Rather than spending our money in places where a part-time employee making $9 an hour passes for an "expert," members of the Occupy Small Street movement would patronize businesses where the owners and employees have been accumulating specialized knowledge for years and are willing to share it — even if you're not spending a lot of money.

Rather than look to a faceless, nameless "Wall Street" to hand back our hard-earned dollars, members of Occupy Small Street would control their own investments by putting their money in local banks, buying from local stores and investing in local companies. It wouldn't be as dramatic, but it might well be more effective.

This is the second year that American Express is encouraging Americans to "shop small" with Small Business Saturday , to be held Nov. 26, the day after the shopping frenzy of Black Friday hits the malls and superstores.

I find it ironic, though not surprising, that a giant company like American Express has to remind consumers of the value of patronizing small businesses. American Express, of course, has a lot to gain from the success of its small business customers and the company has invested heavily in creating programs and support for small business. As consumers, though, we shouldn't need to be reminded that shopping small is the best way to support our communities and help redistribute the wealth — even feeding it back into our own pockets.

Wall Street and the nation's big banks have, no doubt, had a hand in stirring the pot of our current economic woes, but we consumers, too, willingly handed over our dollars to the largest companies because we thought we were getting a bargain — a lower price, a better interest rate or better financing. In the end, though, we're paying a higher price, after all.

So, while the protesters continue to march and beat their drums, I'll be protesting in my own way. When we start spending our money where we live, with people who will, in turn, use it to buoy other businesses in the community, we'll be making a real statement. It might not make the front page of the paper, but it will surely make a difference.

Jeanette Mulvey

Jeanette has been writing about business for more than 20 years. She has written about every kind of entrepreneur from hardware store owners to fashion designers. Previously she was a manager of internal communications for Home Depot. Her journalism career began in local newspapers. She has a degree in American Studies from Rutgers University. Follow her on Twitter @jeanettebnd.