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Announcing the 2021 Winners of the Neighborhood Champion Innovation Contest

May 16, 2022 | Announcing the 2021 Winners of the Neighborhood Champion Innovation Contest | By: Liz Shenk, Manager of Marketing and Outreach

In March, we asked Main Street America members to submit the innovative ways they celebrated Shop Small® during the holiday season as an American Express® Neighborhood Champion.

From a city-wide scavenger hunt to a downtown dodgeball tournament, the winners of the Small Business Saturday Neighborhood Champion Innovation Contest had some truly creative ideas for encouraging their communities to Shop Small! The entrant with the most innovative idea received $5,000, a second-place winner received $2,500, and three third-place winners received $1,000 in recognition of their Shop Small efforts.

Read on to learn more about the winning ideas:

Grand Prize Winner: Main Street Oceanside (CA)

‘Tis the Season to Shop Small

Main Street Oceanside’s “Tis the Season to Shop Local” campaign encouraged community members to Shop Small throughout the holiday season through a variety of interactive events.

On Small Business Saturday, Downtown Oceanside hosted “Sip & Shop,” a ticketed downtown craft beverage tasting event that attracted 173 participants to shop small while enjoying local brews.

Local artisans and crafters exhibited their handcrafted goods at a Downtown Makers Fair, drawing approximately 3,000 people.

From Small Business Saturday through Dec. 12, local shops participated in a holiday window decorating contest along with a tree-lighting celebration.

Partnering with the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce, Main Street Oceanside organized a mobile scavenger hunt. Attracting 84 participants, the “Holiday Challenge” rewarded participants for shopping, eating, and playing local for the holidays with prize giveaways from participating businesses.

Main Street Oceanside’s festive, interactive, and season-long approach to Shop Small impressed the contest judges!

2nd Place: Stockbridge Main Street (GA)

City of Stockbridge, Georgia

During the month of November, Stockbridge Main Street’s Small Business Blitz invited community members to Shop Small through a shopping and dining passport. Through a set up promotional videos featuring local businesses and a strong social media and email campaign, Small Business Blitz helped to increase traffic in local businesses. In early November, Stockbridge Main Street staff hosted an Idea Smash event with demonstrations and tutorials using online tools from American Express to provide businesses with promotional ideas. They also partnered with the local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) to deliver marketing training and assistance to small businesses to help them spread awareness about the campaign. In honor of Small Business Saturday, the Stockbridge Mayor and Council hosted a special Proclamation Ceremony where Main Street employees passed out swag bags.

In the 6 years since the event started, community participation has grown from a mere four merchants and a handful of shoppers, to over 40 restaurants, retail shops, and service businesses citywide.

3rd Place: Tenleytown Main Street (DC)

Tenleytown, Washington D.C.

Tenleytown Main Street’s Tenley Winterfest was a week-long campaign inviting community members to participate in a variety of events, deals, and giveaways during the holiday season.

On Small Business Saturday, shoppers were invited to compete in a Yeti Scavenger Hunt, using a mobile app to perform tasks and answer trivia questions at local businesses. Winners earned TenleyBucks to spend at participating shops and restaurants. All shoppers were encouraged to visit the Tenleytown Main Street Small Business Saturday Welcome Station to record brief videos telling the community why they support small businesses and to pick up giveaway bags filled with coupons, samples, and brochures from businesses.

Restaurants were included in the fun, too. For WinterFeast,13 restaurants offered special promotions and specials to diners.

“Tenley Gets Lit!” invited businesses to compete in a storefront window decorating contest.

Other WinterFest events included a holiday market, a winter-themed trivia night at a restaurant, and caroling at the community park. Tenleytown Main Street also published an online holiday shopping guide with gift ideas from local shops, salons, and restaurants.

3rd Place: Downtown Springfield (IL)

City of Springfield, Illinois

Downtown Springfield, Inc. hosted an impressive number of events, activities, and specials to encourage community members to Shop Small during the holiday season.

Launching on Small Business Saturday, Old Capitol Holiday Walks included the annual lighting of the holiday tree, a Holiday Parklet Passport to help businesses activate their parklets, and a Red Ticket Raffle which had over $300,000 in sales and over 30 small businesses participating. For the Red Ticket program, businesses handed out one red ticket for every $10 sold in their stores. Those ticket holders were then entered to win weekly prizes. (Springfield obtained a state-issued raffle license for the Red Ticket Raffle event.)

The Illinois Department of Agriculture held their inaugural Holiday Market in an under-utilized parking lot downtown.

A local high school entrepreneurship program had students organize an ice-skating rink downtown, which drew 4,000 visitors.

Memorial Hospital brought their festival of trees, which included student- and designer-decorated trees in business storefronts, a gingerbread village, and crafts.

Several businesses had record high sales during the Shop Small events.

3rd Place: Downtown Wabash, Inc. (IN)

City of Wabash, Indiana

Wabash Marketplace, Inc. used both contests and events to encourage residents to shop, visit, and dine in Downtown Wabash during the holiday season.

The Friday before Thanksgiving, the Jingle Jubilee offered a “fill-all bingo card” contest, encouraging shoppers to visit all the shops in downtown in one night.

Starting on Small Business Saturday and lasting for one month, the “Shop Local to Win” promo allowed shoppers to enter to win a prize with every purchase made in downtown. With each purchase, shoppers scanned a QR code at the participating business. Prizes were awarded every Monday to encourage repeat shoppers. No proof of purchase was required to enter this sweepstakes event.

Also on Small Business Saturday, Wabash Marketplace, Inc. hosted a city-wide Dodgeball Tournament to bring more foot traffic downtown.

In early December, organizers hosted the first-ever Cookie Walk. Ten businesses offered tastings of 100 cookies to the public. Tasters filled a passport with stamps at every Cookie Walk location. One lucky winner won a gift basket full of local goodies.