Does Small Business Saturday gives a helping hand to Florida's economy?
After shoppers raid big retail stores for deals this Black Friday, they‘re encouraged to shop more locally the following day on Small Business Saturday.
The campaign started more than a decade ago as a way to promote shopping at local small businesses.
Rebekah Arthur is the President and CEO of the Seminole County Chamber.
WMFE's Talia Blake stopped by her office to check in on small businesses as the holiday shopping season starts.
Listen to the full conversation at the player above.
Talia Blake: Given that many people shop online these days, do small businesses in Seminole County actually benefit from campaigns like this?
Rebekah Arthur: Definitely, they still benefit from Small Business Saturday. Many small businesses still do online sales, or even phone orders and delivery. Any time businesses can get a little extra attention, and have the community focus and remember that they're there, it's a positive. I think Small Business Saturday also helps by reminding us that these small businesses are our neighbors. They're the people that our kids go to school with their kids, and they're the ones that are supporting the softball team and the community. So it brings the focus back.
Talia Blake: Speaking of being neighbors, how do small businesses impact the neighborhoods that they're in?
Rebekah Arthur: Small businesses are defined in so many different ways, so we have to keep that in mind. They range from mom-and-pops to multimillion dollar businesses. They're located in your community. They're invested here. They're not chasing the next tax incentive in a different state. They're part of the community. We call our logo, a tapestry, a woven community, and everybody's stronger when you're working together. So those businesses are really impactful.
Talia Blake: With the small businesses that you all work with, how have they been faring in Seminole County so far this year?
Rebekah Arthur: So small businesses are dealing with the same thing that big corporations are dealing with. Inflation impacts everybody, whether it's on the business side or personally in Seminole County and the greater Orlando area. Finding employees is really, really hard right now. There's a lot of people moving here, there's more demand on local businesses, but they may not have as many employees as they did a couple years ago, or they're growing, but they can't fill spots as quickly. So that's a big challenge for all businesses of all sizes, but especially small businesses are facing.
Talia Blake: Speaking of small businesses, still trying to find a way to attract and retain employees and workers, is there anything that you all are doing here at the Chamber specifically to help them with that? Or what advice are you giving small businesses to increase their workforce?
Rebekah Arthur: From the Chamber's perspective, we're always looking to add resources or benefits that can help more businesses and look at different aspects. We have programs that help small businesses get health care for their employees, where they may have been too small to get it before. We have some really exciting programs coming out in the new year that focus on workforce development and giving businesses more resources to be competitive.
Talia Blake: It sounds like there's some exciting things in the pipeline for businesses here in Seminole County. How much do small businesses contribute to the economy in Seminole County?
Rebekah Arthur: I don't have any specific numbers on their economic impact. I do know that from the business tax receipts, or BTRs, we're still seeing lots of businesses applying for new business licenses in Seminole County. They're still growing. There's so much entrepreneurship. I think since COVID, a lot of people have found a way to make their dreams a reality. So we know that small businesses are growing, and there's more coming and more innovation.
Talia Blake: Can you elaborate a little bit more about that growth? How much growth are we seeing in Seminole County when it comes to small businesses and just businesses in general?
Rebekah Arthur: If you go to the Seminole County Tax Collector, you can see all the businesses that are filing every quarter. It's all different industries, it's not necessarily one segment. Sometimes people say that, "Oh, there's a surge of everybody who wants to do X, Y, and Z." But I think we're seeing so much growth in a lot of different industries. There's always new emerging businesses that you wouldn't have thought of before. The UCF incubator is seeing so many emerging technologies and new industries that are being created in Seminole County in the greater Orlando area. So I can't say that there maybe is one thing, but there's definitely growth happening and it's still steady growth. We're not seeing a drop in businesses starting.
Talia Blake: What can small businesses do to make themselves stand out these days?
Rebekah Arthur: I think it depends on the industry or their target market as to the best way to go. Some people will always triumph social media and say, 'Well, if you go viral on TikTok, you're gonna make it.' But sometimes it's truly just being really good at what you do and being confident enough to champion yourself in the community. We try through the Chamber to give our businesses as many outlets to show off and explain what they do show that they're the experts. We send out their press releases. We highlight their accomplishments. So I don't think there's one specific way for them to really highlight what they do, but exploring all the different aspects is always smart. From my perspective, getting involved in your community and showing your investment in your community sets you apart. I think the best reminder is, when you're talking about Small Business Saturday, go support your local business. It can be anything from a retail shop to a coffee shop or a restaurant, but support them, show them that the community cares about them. When you can choose local, it's always a great thing. But also remember, no matter where you're shopping, that the people that you're working with there are part of your community.