Between 2007 to 2010, the rate of small business growth in the U.S. dropped by more than 12% annually. The recession hit new small businesses particularly hard, with the establishment startup rate below 3% at its peak — lows that hadn’t been seen since the early 90’s.
Fast forward five years, and the small business sector is showing signs of a comeback. There are over 500,000 new small businesses established every month, and small businesses collectively generate around a trillion dollars per year, rising steadily every year since 2010 when revenues dipped under 800 billion.
Initiatives like Small Business Saturday, a project underwritten by American Express, are aimed at spurring that further. It’s the fifth year for the program, which provides small businesses that sign up and participate get access to all of the resources on AmEx’s Shop Small website, culminating with promotion of a major shopping day with participating businesses on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
AmEx continues to tweak the program every year to keep it relevant. This year, it’s partnering with Etsy to showcase the online craft marketplace’s vendors. In addition to expanding its digital initiative, Small Business Saturday has become the day many small businesses use to debut new products and services.
Nicole Leinbach-Reyhle has been involved with Small Business Saturday since its inception, first as a small business owner and now as its official spokesperson. As the founder of small business consultancy Retailminded.com, Leinbach works with small businesses every day. She said Small Business Saturday is a great launching point for new products and holiday sales because of the marketing tools it provides.
“It’s pretty much a turnkey marketing opportunity for small businesses to take part in,” said Nicole Leinbach-Reyhle, official spokesman of Small Business Saturday and founder of retailminded.com.
Leinbach-Reyhle said last year’s Small Business Saturday was the biggest one yet, and she expects it to grow even further this year. Last year 1,450 “Neighborhood Champions” signed up to get their communities involved.
There are other quantifiable signs the program makes an impact. 41 governors have recognized it, and it has more than 3.3 million “likes.” Consumers spent $5.5 billion on Small Business Saturday in 2013, a 4% increase from 2012. Leinbach-Reyhle said the state of the small business sector is healthier across the board.
“Not only are we seeing more small businesses, but they’re sticking around longer,” said Leinbach-Reyhle. “I am seeing a lot more small business make it to two years and beyond.”
The Shop Small website allows small businesses to create free, personalized marketing materials such as digital banners and signage. Participating businesses also appear on an interactive map that shows consumers which stores are signed up.
Leinbach-Reyhle said the day is necessary because running a small business is so time consuming. She explained small business entrepreneurs have to wear many hats if they want their company to stay afloat.
“You have to do your own bookkeeping, marketing, sales … basically, you have to put 100% of your efforts into running your business full time,” she said. “Small Business Saturday recognizes that. Although small businesses in general have a lot of challenges due to the workload and nonstop effort it takes to be successful, they are on the upswing. It’s great that we can be a part of it.”
Mason Lerner is a contributor at Street Fight.