Reigning Jewels is one of the participating businesses.

Small business is crucial to the success of a community. In fact they employ over half of the American workforce. Building a small business is the backbone of the American dream as much as owning property or becoming whoever you want to be.

Our Declaration of Independence states we as Americans are free to pursue certain unalienable rights, 'Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness.'  People still and always have flooded our shorelines, pursuing this dream.

The idea of being able to come to a place where you have the freedom to do whatever you can dream, live where you want, and be who you are willing to work to become, is very much an unreachable dream to many in this world. Yet here we have this privilege on our very own soil. As fellow Americans, we should support each other and help cheer our neighbors on as they work towards their own American dream. Yet many variables can send us scurrying to the big box stores, price, convenience etc. Some believe that big business is the biggest supporter of the economy, but that is a common misconception.

Big box stores and corporations are believed to dominate the economy when in fact according to the Small Business Association 99% of businesses in the US employ less than 500 employees, meaning small businesses account for 52% of those Americans employed.

Furthermore, According to the United States Department of State, "some 19.6 million Americans work for companies employing fewer than 20 workers, 18.4 million work for firms employing between 20 and 99 workers, and 14.6 million work for firms with 100 to 499 workers; by contrast, 47.7 million Americans work for firms with 500 or more employees."

It is a labor of love that requires a huge commitment of time and funding. At first you are Boss, financial backer, secretary, bookkeeper and the only employee, but the passion for what you do drives you. Long hours are part of the equation.

Locally in Henderson County, 509 small businesses registered in 2019. It is estimated around 2000 small independent businesses are in the area which means a minimum of 2000 employed by small businesses. This does not include the employees they hire, which is hard to track. Walmart has around

Small businesses are valuable to the community for many reasons, and our support of them ensures employment opportunities, ensures specialized service, and someone who is in touch with the needs of the community and it's needs.

“Small businesses are powerful entities of employment,” said Mike Elsberry, director at the Small Business Development Center. “Small businesses bring innovation, many of them started because the owner had a better idea of how to do something. Small business owners are in touch with the community, they know the customer.”

The community of Athens is no different. We have an abundance of hidden treasures just waiting to be discovered. Did you know we have a yoga class? A cobbler? Many people make the trek to Tyler this season for their holiday shopping but the majority of what you need is right her in your own community, minus the traffic.

How many times do you walk into a small business and they have a dog? Small businesses have personality, and when you walk into a locally owned business you generally speak to the owner and a real person who lives in your community.

“These people are your neighbors. They may volunteer at the same organizations you do, believe in our town and generally are pretty strong in dedicating their funds and energy back into the community.” Elsberry said.

Shop local Saturday is approaching and is the perfect opportunity to get out and see what we have.

Between now and November 30, visit one of the participating businesses and purchase a ticket for $25. The ticket includes brunch catered by Karaboo's Bakery. Each participant will receive a map and list of participating businesses and a chance to win prizes at the end of the day.

“Athens will be the place to be on Nov. 30, so get your tickets early,” the East Texas Independent Business Alliance stated.

Businesses will also have some unique artists, popup shops inside their storefronts, so please try to visit each business, who also will have their own specials and door prizes.

Drawings at 6 p.m. along with live music provided by Don Andrews Band at Boogies in the Alley. The Small Business Development Center will be there announcing winners. Tex, the small business mascot will be available for pawtographs. The only rule is you must visit 10 local participating businesses to have your ticket marked for prize eligibility.

This of course is not a requirement to visit these great businesses and do a little shopping. Tickets are only required for brunch and prizes. So please go and shop local Nov. 30 and get your Christmas shopping crossed off early.

For more information please contact Traci Wilkes at 903-681-5185. You can also email them at easttexasiba@gmail.com.

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