National Small Business Week will run from Sunday, May 1 through Saturday, May 7 this year. Here’s how to celebrate — and connect with your customers and community.
In 1953 the federal government created the Small Business Administration (SBA) to help business owners grow and prosper in our “Land of Opportunity.” In 1963, President John F. Kennedy proclaimed the first National Small Business Week to honor top entrepreneurs in every state with special recognition and rewards. By promoting these business leaders and their successes, the SBA shares ideas, help, and inspiration for owners across the country.
Small Business Week has continued for nearly 60 years and grows in scope — with each new generation of startups and entrepreneurs leaving their imprint on the event. National Small Business Week (NSBW) will run from Sunday, May 1 through Saturday, May 7 in 2022. The SBA will announce winners for the 2022 awards in 13 categories, including:
- Small Business Person of the Year Award
- Small Business Exporter of the Year
- Phoenix Award for Small Business Disaster Recovery
- Small Business Development Center Excellence and Innovation Award
- Veterans Business Outreach Center Excellence in Service Award
- Women’s Business Center of the Year Excellence Award
- Small Business Investment Company of the Year
Some local SBA offices also issue SBA District Office Awards. Nominations are closed for 2022, but if you have a small business or are inspired by one, plan on nominating them in 2023.
The SBA is sponsoring a virtual event for 2022. The Building a Better America Through Entrepreneurship virtual summit will run May 2 to 5, 2022. The event provides tools and information for entrepreneurs to “further power our economic growth, strengthen our supply chains, and deliver the products and services Americans depend on every day.”
Small Business Month and Day
Starting with Small Business Week, many areas extend the celebration throughout May for Small Business Month.
There are other annual celebrations for small businesses as well. Starting with Small Business Week, many areas extend the celebration throughout May for Small Business Month. Companies can choose how long they promote their business, either for the week or through the entire month.
In 2010 American Express began promoting Small Business Saturday: in 2015 the Small Business Administration joined the event as a co-sponsor. Typically the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Small Business Saturday will fall on November 26, 2022. American Express promotes the event with national advertising and businesses around the country participate. It’s estimated that since Small Business Saturday began, the event has generated about $103 billion in revenue for local companies.
There’s reason to celebrate
There are great reasons to celebrate small businesses in the US. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy, in 2021 there were 32.5 million small businesses in the U.S.:
- 99.9% of U.S. businesses are small businesses
- 99.7% of companies with paid employees are small businesses
- Small businesses employ 46.8% of private sector workers in the U.S. (61 million)
- Small businesses generate 43.5% of gross domestic product, and almost 40% of private sector payroll
- Small businesses earn $13.3 trillion annually — 35.6% of private sector receipts
Compared to large businesses, small businesses are growing faster, according to the SBA. From 1995 to 2020, small businesses created 12.7 million net new jobs: large businesses created 7.9 million. Post-pandemic data has not been compiled, but some losses have likely occurred.
How do you celebrate a Small Business Week?
Small Business Week (Day and Month) are all about shameless self-promotion, and why shouldn’t they be? You had a vision you turned into action. Whether you’re your only employee or you have a 100 on the payroll, you provide jobs and a valuable product or service to your community and beyond. Celebrate the event(s) alone or alongside your neighboring small businesses.
Whether you’re your only employee or you have a 100 on the payroll, you provide jobs and a valuable product or service to your community and beyond.
Tell your story
Let your customers know who you are, what inspired you, and the history of your company. If you’re a generational business, blow up pictures of the ancestors who started the company and post them on social media, in windows or inside the business with their backstory.
Post your inspiration or where you plan to grow and develop on social media pages, too. Customers love to support local businesses: telling them your journey (or your family’s) builds brand loyalty.
Brag about your team
Let your customers know how much you appreciate the team that serves them. You can blow up pictures of your employees with their work story, too. List when they started, if they’ve moved up the ladder, how much customers rave about them, etc. You can even make it silly. If they’ve been with you for many years, try to find an old photo to compare with today’s look.
Thank your customers
Make sure you’re extra thankful to customers during any event. Add a picture of the first dollar you earned — hopefully with the date marked on it, or the day of your grand opening in your window. Let clients know you’re grateful they’ve been with you from the beginning, or that they just found you!
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Create Small Business Week Events
Create events for your own company, your business district, or your entire town. Work with your Chamber of Commerce or Business Development Office and local vendors to promote the week or day.
Make it a team effort
Collaborate on signage, sidewalk sales, or create a progressive shopping event. Customers can start with a card that’s punched for every purchase made locally. When they get 10 punches at 10 local shops, they drop their card into a box for a raffled-off prize.
You can create your own Small Business Week tees and tote bags, or team up with other local shops on a group item. From the smallest of magnets to the largest swag bag, customers love branded items. An “I ❤️ Shopping Local” with your logo, or all your local businesses’ logo, not only drives traffic — it continues to advertise for your businesses long after the event is over.
Make it festive
Open and close Small Business Week with events like face painting, musicians, balloon artists, or bouncy houses for the kids. This not only drives interest in the event, it helps support other small businesses that may not have a storefront — like your local magician or unicyclist. Look for high school talent — bands, theater, and art departments may have suggestions for students willing to work the event(s).
Promote your wares
If you’re a restaurant, consider creating a signature sandwich or drink for the event. If you’re a candy or ice cream shop, make a new combination to celebrate. For those who aren’t ready to create something new, promote your best sellers with a small discount or an added treat — an extra scoop always draws customers.
Small businesses supporting other small businesses
If you can, work with your neighboring small businesses or those in town to make it a community event. Launch on Sunday together. Post signage widely; you might consider using your town or strip mall logo. Decorate with a theme, or just matching colors, to tie everyone together. Plan ahead with décor and events so you can share ideas and costs.
Schedule the best sales and swag days for the launch of the event or on the weekend, but don’t neglect mid-week. Offer 10% off on Tuesdays, when traffic is slow, to see if you can increase sales. A small free gift with purchase on Thursday can help, too. If there are only a few shops on main street or in your strip mall, work with your neighboring businesses to pick a discount day for each store. The more traffic you can drive to your neighbors, the more traffic you may see in your shop.
Consider teaming up with local charities — like your PTA or Little League. If you can offer a portion of the proceeds to these groups, you’ll begin with a targeted customer base.
Create social media events to generate buzz. Ask customers to post themselves and their purchases on your and their social media pages when they shop Small Business Week. Consider creating a backdrop that shows your shop (and logo) and boasts about shopping local as a photo op space. At the end of the event, you or your partnering shops can create an entire album of loyal customers who supported your businesses. Bonus points for silly posts — like that sassy new hat on the pup!
The purpose of Small Business Week
Small businesses are the backbone of entrepreneurship and success in the U.S. These companies employ almost half of American workers and drive nearly half the country’s gross domestic product. Small Business Week celebrates their contribution locally and across the country in May, but it builds customers and brand loyalty throughout the year. Make sure to celebrate your small business — and your neighbors’ — in your community.