Now in its fourth year, Small Business Saturday Shop RI is going virtual Saturday, Nov. 28 showcasing more than 100 local Rhode Island businesses.
As part of Small Business Saturday nationwide, Small Business Saturday Shop RI this year brings together 117 small businesses from across the state. Hosted by the Rhode Island Developmental Disabilities Council, along with the Veterans Business Outreach Center and the Center for Women and Enterprise, the virtual event kicks off at 9 a.m. Saturday.
The previously in-person event is going virtual in 2020 but the venue change isn’t keeping it from being a success or exciting local business owners.
For Lauren Ruggiero, owner of Buppy Pets, this will be her third year participating and she says having the event is going to be great for the community.
“I’m super grateful they’re giving us the opportunity to do something,” she said. “Obviously a lot of businesses have had to pivot with what’s been going on with the pandemic. We’re taking what we have as a resource and selling in a different way.”
Customers visiting Buppy Pets at this year’s event will find a limited edition for the holiday season — a newly launched Christmas treat ornament using your dog’s favorite recipe.
This is Alana Almonte’s second year participating in Small Business Saturday Shop RI. She said she had such a great experience last year that as soon as she got the application for 2020 she quickly signed up. Almonte is the owner of Anchored Soul.
“For me, this has been a little ray of sunshine to look forward to in all of this COVID darkness,” Almonte said. “Even though it’s the first time doing this virtually, I have really good feelings about it. I’m also excited to see what other local businesses are doing to get themselves out there from a social media standpoint.”
Customers visiting her virtual store Saturday will find her offerings of handmade art made from collected seashells, driftwood, sea glass, rocks, and more. She is also a Reiki master teacher and tends to incorporate healing crystals and stones in her art, as well.
Small Business Saturday Shop RI which brings together small business owners, individuals with disabilities, Rhode Island farmers, veterans, and minority-owned businesses, started in 2017. That first year 94 businesses participated and approximately 1,500 customers attended, according to Sue Babin, co-director and director of operations for the Small Business Saturday event, and RIDDC’s director of special projects. In 2018, 204 businesses and more than 2,000 attendees participated, and last year the event sold out with 135 businesses and more than 3,000 in attendance. The 2020 event was on track to sell out as well before COVID hit.
“It’s a representation of the diversity of small businesses in our state,” Babin said. “Over 90 percent of the businesses in our state are in fact small businesses. We created this event to showcase all of them and to show to the general public that people with disabilities are also viable business owners with services and products.”
Throughout the year, Babin said, RIDDC, in collaboration with the Center for Women and Enterprise, has been offering business classes to help these individuals learn marketing skills, develop business plans and assist them with social media. Babin said these resources have been beneficial since many had to close their shop or those who had products that were in stores lost that ability when the stores closed due to COVID. Additionally, many of these small businesses weren’t eligible for the state resources for affected businesses due to their small size and are struggling financially.
Small Business Saturday Shop RI helps support these businesses who need local support now more than ever.
Some, like Keri Hickey, owner of Bee Friendly Flowers, had to change her business focus due to COVID. Specializing in personalized flower delivery, Hickey had to put her personalized flower delivery service on hold due to the pandemic. Now Bee Friendly is making pressed flower art and pressed flower natural wood ornaments, which will be available at Saturday’s event. She’s been a Small Business Saturday Shop RI event participant since its inception and is excited to be part of this year’s virtual event.
“It’s a new and exciting way of selling things,” Hickey said. “We’ve been involved every year and this year it’s going to be virtual. Everyone is online shopping so it’s cool all the vendors will be there and everyone can still shop small.”
“We just feel that Rhode Island is a small state and this is an opportunity for us to support our neighbors and help provide an opportunity for them to make a little money over the holiday season and in turn, you’re getting some unique gifts and items that are personalized, that are hand made, that whoever you are going to give them to will be happy to receive them,” Babin said.
Ruggiero says it’s been amazing to see the community support over the past few months. “The notes we get, the people we talk to and events we can do and the people who come out the right way and safely being able to talk to them — it’s all so uplifting still being able to do business. I can’t wait to share that gratitude and pay it forward, once we are able to, down the road.”
Almonte also says her business has been doing great and picking up this week alone, she says no doubt due to the buzz of local businesses needing support right now.
This year’s Small Business Saturday Shop RI event kicks off online at 9 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 28 at http://sbsshopri.com. There you’ll find the 117 participating vendors with offerings ranging from photography to jewelry to health care products, clothing, greeting cards, jams and jellies, posters, painted signs, candles, soaps, sea glass items, pet treats, pet supplies, birdhouses, garden stones and more.
“There’s such a variety of things that we feel there’s something here for everyone,” Babin said.
This year, instead of closing the event at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Small Business Saturday Shop RI’s website will stay up through Dec. 31 so if you don’t get the chance to shop Saturday for any reason, you can go and shop up until the last day of the year. Additionally, the web platform will allow some of these local businesses to get their wares out there beyond Rhode Island, according to Babin.
“Our vendors and our team are going to be able to share this virtual site across the United States,” she said. “This gives these companies and businesses the opportunity to be global and get sales in other states.”
Besides strolling through the virtual mall of vendors, throughout the day Saturday, shoppers will have the chance to win $25 gift cards from randomly selected vendors. These drawings will be held at different points throughout the morning and afternoon hours.
Shoppers can also learn more about the businesses they are shopping with in their own words. Twenty vendors participated in short interviews about their businesses and offerings which will be available for viewing.