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'Neighborhood Champions' Rally Support for Small Business Saturday

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With less than a month to go, small businesses across the country are starting to gear up for Small Business Saturday, one of their busiest days of the year.

To help businesses prepare for this year's fourth annual event, American Express has created a Neighborhood Champions program as a way to organize local events in communities throughout the country.

"Last year, thousands of small businesses from around all over the country took ownership of Small Business Saturday and consumers responded," said Mary Ann Fitzmaurice Reilly, senior vice president at American Express OPEN. "Based on our research, we believe the day can be even more successful when businesses band together to make Small Business Saturday a true celebration for the neighborhoods they support."

More than 1,000 Neighborhood Champions have signed up so far to rally businesses to partake in the local activities. The events planned include a holiday open house and parade in Golden, Colo.; pop-up shops at the local farmers market in Koloa, Hawaii; a treasure hunt through local businesses in Frazier Park, Calif.; and a holiday festival with more than 50 windows decorated with a Shop Small theme in Corning, N.Y.

Neighborhood Champions joined the program by providing a description of the events or activities they planned to hold and a list of at least 10 local businesses they hoped to rally. After registering, they received an activation kit with items such as giveaways, welcome mats, balloons and banners.

As part of the Neighborhood Champions program, American Express, along with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Independent Business Alliance, the U.S. Black Chambers Inc., the Latino Coalition and the American Chamber of Commerce Executives, offers event organizers a number of tips to make the most of the day:

  • Make it a celebration: Throw a parade on main street. Host a community block party or downtown fair. Design an event that showcases what local businesses have to offer and inspires people to participate and "shop small" on the day. Also, don't forget to leverage existing events in town to help make the most of Small Business Saturday.
  • Make it memorable: Dress up the town with signs, banners and balloons to call the local community to action on Small Business Saturday.
  • Engage and help more small businesses participate: The more small businesses on board, the bigger the day can be.
  • Engage the whole community: Create a festive atmosphere with face painting, balloon animals and cotton candy to help attract families with children.
  • Talk it up: Organizers need to spread the word, whether it is in meetings, at the grocery store or over dinner with friends. The more passionate they are getting the message out, the more others will be doing the same.

The day has proved to be a big boon for small businesses in the past. A study by the National Federation of Independent Businesses and American Express discovered that U.S. consumers who were aware of Small Business Saturday last year spent $5.5 billion with independently owned businesses on the day. In addition, more than 80 percent of small business owners said Small Business Saturday is most effective when communities band together and host events.

Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years in media. A 1998 journalism graduate of Indiana University, Chad began his career with Business News Daily in 2011 as a freelance writer. In 2014, he joined the staff full time as a senior writer. Before Business News Daily, Chad spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Chad has also worked on the other side of the media industry, promoting small businesses throughout the United States for two years in a public relations role. His first book, How to Start a Home-Based App Development Business, was published in 2014. He lives with his wife and daughter in the Chicago suburbs.