BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - In 2010, American Express launched the national Small Business Saturday campaign to encourage people to spend money locally during the holiday season. This Saturday, local businesses welcomed customers to their shops to help them thrive.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, over 97% of businesses in the state are owned by locals. It's no surprise that small, locally owned businesses impact Louisiana's economy.
Anne Milneck, a trained chef, and owner of Red Stick Spice Company said when she opened 5 years ago, she knew she was filling a niche in the community by providing freshly blended spices and teas but she didn't know her sales would skyrocket. Milneck said she feels lucky each time a customer enters her store.
"I had no idea that it was going to become something where people return again and again and we end up on first name basis with these customers. It's just amazing that it's turned into such an important part of people's lives," she said.
Milneck along with several other businesses credit their customers for their success. Take for instance the Popcorn Bistro that serves up locally made specialty popcorn. The manager, Anna Rudesill, said during a time when clicking on an item seems more convenient, they're thriving even getting to know their customer's weekly orders.
"I know him by name and he knows me by name. He doesn't even have to order, I just already have it made for him," Rudesill said.
A few miles away is a new concept for some, it's called a benevolent boutique where Rachel Viele is encouraging customers to shop in your backyard to help the local economy and those internationally. Viele sells products that give back. That means if you buy a candle a hungry child in another country will eat for a day or if you buy a pair of rainboots, another pair of boots will be given to a child in need.
Viele might be new to the national Small Business Saturday campaign that started in 2010 but her drive to start her small business and help others has been lifelong. So far, she says her loyal customers have helped feed over one thousand people and it's only through them that she's able to still dream big.
"It's just exciting to know that we're changing peoples' lives just by shopping. What I hope it provides for customers is that hope that they can make a difference," Viele said.