The holiday shopping season is rapidly approaching, and with it comes Small Business Saturday, which celebrates its fifth anniversary this year. The annual event has a straightforward goal: It’s a coordinated effort to drive traffic and money to local businesses on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
Small Business Saturday, started by American Express, has succeeded in its mission, with total spending increasing each year and hitting $5.7 billion in 2013. Given how important the last two months of the year are to retailers—the National Retail Federation expects U.S. consumer spending in November and December will increase 4% from 2013 to $616 billion—the event provides small business owners with an important tool they can use to drum up sales.
American Express has a number of tools specifically designed to help drive foot traffic this Saturday, such as free online ads, printable signage and advertising materials, and e-mail and social media marketing content. Local business owners can still register for the event on the Small Business Saturday site, which also allows users to search businesses that are participating.
There are, of course, many other companies and government agencies that local businesses can turn to if they’re looking to broaden their customer base and increase sales. Since we spend a lot of time talking to the men and women behind the millions of U.S. small businesses, we’ve put together a list of five companies we’ve previously covered that are dedicated to helping entrepreneurs grow and strengthen their businesses.
Atlanta-based Springbot is designed to help small e-commerce stores compete against larger retailers like Amazon. To achieve that goal, it works to collect and analyze vast quantities of user data that it then draws on to make actionable recommendations its small business customers can implement to improve site traffic and increase online conversions.
Startup Townsquared is dedicated to helping local businesses increase sales by creating a carefully curated community of storeowners. This network is designed to promote collaboration and help mom and pop shops overcome challenges they all face.
“We want Townsquared to be that place where people are able to get the best information to run their business and make their businesses better,” company co-founder Rohit Prakash told FreeEnterprise.com earlier this year. “It’s really amazing what happens when these enterprising entrepreneurs come together and solve problems. And that’s what we’re all about—empowering them so they can do just that.”
Founded in 2011, General Assembly is a one-stop shop for anyone looking to expand his or her professional knowledge base. The company offers meet-ups, seminars, and full- and part-time classes in important 21st century skills such as back-end web development and digital marketing. General Assembly also works directly with companies, company co-founder Jake Schwartz said in an interview this past summer.
“When we work with companies it becomes less about giving people the 12-week skillset and more about exposure to entire areas that they might not be as familiar with—whether it’s product management, UX design, or mobile and social strategies,” he explained.
EquityNet is the original Kickstarter. Since it was founded in 2005, the Arkansas-based company has served as a place for entrepreneurs and small business owners to raise money for their fledgling business ideas from accredited investors. By offering a simple, intuitive interface with seamless search functionality, EquityNet has attracted a lot of business, connecting 22,000 entrepreneurs with more than $240 million in funding from some 20,000 investors.
Strolby is the brainchild of Lara Fitch, an entrepreneur who was inspired to start the company after she found herself wishing she could shop online at the many boutiques and mom and pop shops that dotted her Brooklyn neighborhood. When she realized there was no service that allowed users to do that, Fitch began reaching out to shop owners to get them onboard. Once she reached a critical mass, she launched Strolby in 2013.
The company’s website lets visitors from across the globe buy those local, artisanal products from selected stores across the U.S., including a handful of boutiques in Marfa, Texas. Besides giving consumers the ability to buy products they used to have to travel across the country for, Strolby has also been a boon for the local businesses it works with, giving them access to paying customers they otherwise would never have reached.