Small Business - Sweet Success?

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You know that wonderful relief when you realize that all your Christmas shopping is done with time to spare? Yeah, I don’t either. This year I did pretty well until I remembered I needed to get some ‘stocking stuffers’. With no small children to purchase for, I was at a loss as to what to get for little money. Then I wandered into the Simply Sweet Shoppe located on Rangeline just north of Main Street in Carmel, IN. As the name implies, their specialty is candy. They make some of their own tasty treats which they sell towards the back of the store. Before you get to those treats you walk through a wonderful array of strange goodies. Nostalgic brands, character candies, oddities such as nose flutes and bacon gum, as well as flavored popcorn and knickknacks greet your senses. I loaded up on all sorts of goodies including pickle candy canes, bacon candy canes and lollipops of assorted flavors (sriracha, chocolate bacon and habanera tequila to name a few). The trip to this small yet unique store was a fun and educational experience.

Why educational? Because I came face to face with a problem we are all aware of but do not always consider to the depth deserved. That problem is the plight of the small business owner. During a brief conversation with the owner, Jill Zaniker, I felt her anxiety regarding the likelihood of staying in business at their current location. We as Americans voice our support for small businesses. We even have Small Business Saturday, sponsored by American Express, to encourage patronage of small businesses the day after Black Friday. But, where do you do most of your shopping?

I’m not writing this to bash online retailers or big-box retailers. They both employ many people and provide their own special answers to our shopping needs. However I am concerned that we will lose the unique character that is the small business. Big retailers will be experiencing a come-back against online retailers as their use of technology allows them to offer an improved experience (see “IBM reveals its top five innovation predictions for the next five years”, point 2 – buying local will beat online). But many of these technological advancements are not financially feasible for the small business owner. So how can the small business owner compete? They do need to understand marketing, especially social marketing and guerilla marketing techniques. They need to have a good location that is convenient to their desired customer. They need to have a name that entices people as well as explaining what kind of business they are (avoid the self-gratifying tendency to use a name with personal significance but doesn’t tell passersby anything useful). But most importantly, they need us. We need to put in the effort to visit and buy from these establishments. We need to talk to the owners so they know what we like and what we don’t so their business can become a better shopping experience. Most importantly, we need to tell others about our experience.

So, if you are ever in Carmel, stop by the Simply Sweet Shoppe, say "Hi' to Jill, buy some yummies and let them know they are appreciated!