I recently saw a Gallup poll measuring trust and confidence in institutions. Second only to the U.S. Military in terms of high confidence was “small business” scoring a 67 percent rating in terms of trustworthiness.

From my experience as a rural small business owner, I believe that trust comes from the fact that people actually know the small business owners in their communities personally. Especially in rural America, small business owners have a kind of fellowship that transcends the bottom line. We are in this together. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

The inundation of holiday advertising is underway. You’ll be encouraged to be a “doorbuster” or urged to “shop small.” We are all faced with choices on how to spend our hard-earned dollars for the people we love. Often, it comes down to shopping wherever is most convenient and most affordable.

There is nothing wrong with an Amazon gift card. But, the neighborhood bookstore helps bring the joy of reading to communities in a way that is irreplaceable. The added benefit of shopping locally, whether it is during the holiday season or beyond, is that small businesses tend to support your kids’ Little League Team and understand local mission-based nonprofits in a way that inspires them to donate to local fundraisers. Supporting local small businesses helps put your neighbors to work, which is something we can all appreciate.

Our small pants company in White Sulphur Springs, with all of Montana’s small businesses, join the 23 million small businesses nationwide who provide 55 percent of all jobs in America and 66 percent of new jobs since the 1970s. There is value in "better not bigger" business. We are immediately accountable to our customers and neighbors. Know thy shop keeper.

Whether you choose to “Shop Small” on Nov. 28 or whether you still need to fill your elk tag, just know that small business owners everywhere are grateful for your year-round encouragement and the fellowship that comes with our ability to keep jobs in Montana and give back to the communities.

Beyond Small Business Saturday, anytime you shop locally, you are part of an awesome ripple effect that strengthens the economy from the ground up. And for that, we thank you.

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Sarah Calhoun is the owner of Red Ants Pants in White Sulphur Springs, the director of the nonprofit Red Ants Pants Foundation, which has to date delivered $45,000 in grants to support women’s leadership, working family farms and ranches, and rural communities. Calhoun is also the producer of the Sixth Annual Red Ants Pants Music Festival, set for July 28-31.

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