Local entrepreneurs look forward to Small Business Saturday

Steve Jamison of Blue Sole Shoes (The Philadelphia Tribune)

Steve Jamison of Blue Sole Shoes (The Philadelphia Tribune)

This story originally appeared on The Philadelphia Tribune.

Steve Jamison recognizes the value of Small Business Saturday, a national day established to support small retailers across the country during the holiday shopping season.

The owner of Blue Sole Shoes said the Nov. 28 observance is needed, particularly since the coronavirus pandemic has negatively impacted many businesses.

“Whenever you highlight a small business like mine it just puts extra emphasis on the fact that we need the support of our communities now more than ever, especially because of the COVID restrictions and the fact that businesses have been struggling,” said Jamison, whose Center City-based store is a destination for high fashion footwear.

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“The fact that we are small makes us more vulnerable — more susceptible to fluctuations in the business environment.”

Blue Sole Shoes was among the businesses around the city that were ravaged by looters in May during the George Floyd protests. Jamison credits support from elected officials, his customers and media coverage with helping him to rally back from that crisis.

“I think that the attention made it really important for people to understand just how needed they are,” he said.

The entrepreneur said small businesses play an important role in Philadelphia’s culture and flavor.

“It’s why people come here for cheesesteaks and for pretzels,” Jamison said. “Blue Sole Shoes is the cheesesteak of shoes, if you want to call it that. Our job is to do what we do in a way that is more unique than anyone else. So that is why you have to support small businesses, because without small businesses we do not have any flavor.”

American Express created Small Business Saturday in 2010 to help small merchants get more customers during the Christmas shopping season. Spending during last year’s observance hit a record high with an estimated $19.6 billion in reported sales, according to American Express.

Saturday marks a special occasion for Tina Dixon Spence as she officially opens Buddha Babe’s brick and mortar studio in Mount Airy. Buddha Babe, which was established as an e-commerce business in 2014, specializes in offering accessories for babies, toddlers and the home.

A number of factors led Dixon Spence to open her shop, such as an attractive commerce real estate market and a significant growth in sales.

“Fortunately I was able to pivot to mask-making during the pandemic and what I decided to do was just take advantage of multiple factors,” she said.

“I just kind of the took the leap and I knew that if I could just weather through this storm I could emerge out of the shutdowns and pandemic at large and have a really wholesome, warm and inviting addition to the community.”

A grand opening celebration will be held at 9:15 a.m. Saturday at 7101 Emlen St. The grand opening day features gifts with purchases and wrapped treats to go from a neighboring small business, the Frosted Fox Cake Shop.

“I think that part of the significance of me opening on Small Business Saturday is to really create a highlight and draw focus and attention to the plight of the small business owner, especially during this challenging time and really conditioning people and giving them an opportunity to be really super thoughtful in their gift purchasing and giving this particular holiday season,” Dixon Spence said.

“I think for small businesses particularly, the shopping period between Black Friday and Cyber Monday is our chance to actually shine and get out of the red.”

“A lot of the times Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals are discounted because these huge manufacturers or huge companies can afford to take a little bit of a loss, but small businesses need the support during this shopping weekend,” she said.

To help spur support for local makers, NextFab has created an online 2020 Holiday Gift Guide. The guide features more than 40 artisans offering ornaments, collectibles, hair and skin care, home and kitchen goods, jewelry, art, custom furniture and gifts for kids.

Sharif Pendelton, the owner of Philadelphia Laser and Industrial Design, welcomes being included in the guide.

“Whenever there is some kind of collaborative effort to help bring attention to small businesses, I think it’s really important and I personally appreciate it,” said Pendelton, whose Cherry Street Pier-based studio sells laser-engraved coasters, ornaments, desk nameplates and cards.

“I think that it sort of has a multiplying effect because when people who can, shop with folks like me, I put money back into the community.”

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He carries goods from six other designers of color at his shop.

Pendelton said the holiday season is essential to being able to keep his doors open.

“It’s not only essential to the financial bits of the business, but also the social aspects of the business,” he said.

“During the holiday time is probably when I have the most interaction with customers. Because I’m such a small outfit it really gives me insight in talking to people [and] what they are really looking for and what resonates with them.”

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