Small Business Saturday was the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The day after Black Friday is supposed to be a day to support small businesses. Ironton had an Elf Scavenger Hunt and Santa and Mrs. Claus were at the City Center, where the Lawrence County Humane Society was gift wrapping for animal rescue donations. We at Guardian Animal Medical Center had a Santa Paws for pets and kids.

Saturday was the day. Small Business Saturday is the annual holiday shopping tradition that gets communities everywhere out to support their favorite small businesses.

More jobs are created by small businesses than corporations. The 29.6 million small businesses employ almost 48% of US workers. Actually, 99.9% of the employers are small businesses. Two out of every three new jobs are created by new businesses. If consumers shifted 10% of their business to local business, half a million people could create $53 million in new wages. That is just by shopping small.

When I started Guardian Animal in 1991, I spent the first week without any employees. Brian Story, a future vet, came and asked me for a job. Like many small business owners, I didn’t know if I would have enough money to pay him or not. By the end of the first week, I knew I needed help and Brian became my first paid employee. (Matt would continue for a few years as an unpaid employee.) Guardian Animal now employs ten people with a sizable payroll. Of every dollar spent here, over twenty-three cents goes to non-veterinarian staff.

Spending money in your community helps to boost the economy and enhance neighborhoods. On average, for every $100 you spend in a local small business, $43 goes directly back into the community. If you buy the same thing at a local national chain only $13 returns to the community. But there are more indirect effects also. The local businesses pay local employees, local utilities, equipment, and inventory. Then other local businesses recirculate the money back into the community in the same manner. Also, the business owners and employees spend money in the local community. Local buying means a stronger local economy.

Businesses also pay more in property taxes and for electricity than for the same value home or service. Last year we spent $12 of every $100 income in utilities and property taxes.

Local business owners have a deep stake in the welfare of their communities. Small businesses give a higher percentage of revenue to their communities than national chains. It seems that we are asked almost daily for contributions and we have to say no to most, but we still contributed over four thousand dollars last year to local organizations. This is not even counting the twenty to forty thousand that we spend on adoptions and wildlife rehabilitation each year.

Client service tends to be better at a small business, because they need to keep their clients. They are more likely to go above and beyond to add value which can mean better customer service. One stop shopping is possible in a big box store, but it lacks the relationships of a small store. Local business owners are much more likely to special order items or stay open late for you. Just tonight, a client forgot to call at 4:30pm to check on their dog. Daisy will get to go home because we know her owner wants her at home, even though it was seventeen minutes before we closed. (We stayed late.)

If you get a hand crafted item, it is more likely to last. A solid wood piece of furniture will outlast a fiberboard furniture kit that comes in a box. By the time you replace it a few times, the longer lasting item saves much more than you saved in the short run. With a smaller client base, local owners want your repeat business and will work with you if at all possible.

I was recently volunteering at the ER when a dog came in that had been spayed at one of the local corporation practices. Even though the incision had opened and there was an opening into the abdomen, the vet at the corporate office refused to treat the dog. Needless to say, the owner was a tad upset when she brought her bleeding dog to me. (Yes, I fixed it and it did fine.)

Many of the small businesses are trying to assist consumers with the ease of buying online. This also brings the problem of incomplete medical records. Because medicines can be prescribed or filled without the local veterinarian’s knowledge, drug interactions can be deadly. This bothers me more than any potential lost income. Human pharmacies report back to the MD, online pharmacies do not. (Big pharmacies have paid huge fines for not having a valid client/patient relationship before selling prescription drugs.) It may seem cheaper to buy medicines online from big box pharmacies, but there are certain costs that must be paid. If independent veterinarians are going to remain in the community, they can either make a little money on pharmacy items that they stand behind, or they can raise service fees. Either way, they have to pay the employees, taxes and the bank. And if something goes wrong with the pet, you are really going to want your vet to be able to help. Not only is it better care for your pet, but loyalty programs, small business economic benefits, and other perks can be better for the owners also.

Saturday, we had a great time with a great Santa. Small Business Saturday included free photos with Santa. Our Santa was an amazing sport with all the various animals and folks. Honestly, we didn’t think about it as Small Business Saturday. It was just one of the things that we do to give back.