May 26, 2023 | Meet the 2022 Small Business Saturday Neighborhood Champion Innovation Contest Winners | By: Liz Shenk, Manager of Marketing and Outreach
Earlier this spring, we invited Main Streets that participated in the 2022 Small Business Saturday® Neighborhood Champion program to apply to our annual Neighborhood Champion Innovation Contest. 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.
This year, our judging panel was looking for the most innovative ways Main Streets engaged with the next generation of shoppers in their community. From selfie booths to local influencer marketing to pop-up shops to partnerships with local schools, our judges were blown away by the level of creativity in this year’s pool of applicants.
Read on to learn more about the winning ideas:
Grand Prize Winner: Sweetwater Main Street
Our grand prize winner at Sweetwater Main Street in Sweetwater, Tenn., created a city-wide game based on their brand (“The Sweetest Street in Tennessee”) called “Sweetest Street Sweepstakes” that kicked off on Small Business Saturday. To enter the drawing, participants received stamps at local businesses. To submit a game card, participants had to receive a stamp at six Main Street businesses on their game card. The winner of the drawing was awarded a grand prize of $500.
In addition, they gave out $500 in $10 increments of “Main Street Bucks” to the first 50 people to show up in the downtown district on Small Business Saturday. Funded by Sweetwater Main Street, Main Street Bucks are printed cards that function as trackable gift certificates at participating businesses, usable only on Small Business Saturday.
Sweetwater Main Street also had activities scheduled from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Small Business Saturday, starting with Breakfast with Santa, followed by pet pictures with Santa, and culminating with their annual Small Town Christmas event, which included carousel rides, vendors, and more. Over 8,500 people attended their Small Business Saturday events.
To better engage with the next generation, Sweetwater created a TikTok account to help spread the word about their programming and events. They also involved high school and college aged volunteers at events to keep them in the loop and encourage word-of-mouth marketing. They also featured vendor booths with products that appeal to the next generation of shoppers, including permanent jewelry, clothing, accessories, and more.
2nd Place: Calumet Area Industrial Commission
This year’s second place winner, Calumet Area Industrial Commission in Chicago, Ill., created a multi-tiered, long-term plan for Small Business Saturday in 2022. Their team took several steps to encourage the community to support small businesses, beginning with early promotions on social media and through flyers throughout the community. They also sent out regular newsletters to local businesses and community members. They also collaborated regularly with local business owners, reaching out on a regular basis to involve them in Small Business Saturday programming and assisting with promotions.
On Small Business Saturday, they hosted a Holiday Pop-Up event called Mistletoe, Mingle, and Shop! at a local community art gallery, which included local arts and crafts vendors, games for kids and youth, booths for local businesses -- all themed around the holiday. All participating vendors were local to the Chicago Pullman/Roseland neighborhoods, and 100% BIPOC and women owned. During the event, the venue hosted an art exhibit titled, “Excelsior!”, featuring several works featuring local artists around Chicago. They also offered a hot chocolate bar for guests to enjoy festive treats while they shopped. Topping off the event, Dreezy Claus, Chicago’s Black Santa, made a special appearance.
“Our communities of Roseland and Pullman, located on Chicago’s Southside, for decades have been systemically under-invested and under-represented,” wrote Melissa Campos, Calumet Area Industrial Commission’s Project Coordinator. “By hosting this event, we were able to showcase our local businesses to the community and help start the creation of an entrepreneurial ecosystem.”
To connect with the next generation of shoppers, they created a social media campaign involving strategic hashtags, influencer marketing, and gamification on Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, Twitter, and Facebook. During their Mistletoe, Mingle, and Shop! Event, they also brought in arcade games in attract next generation community members. They also focused on sustainability in their events, as environmental and social issues are important to their local youth population. For example, they hosted The Hive, a bee-keeping company in Chicago that educates youth about the importance of bees in the environment’s ecosystem.
3rd Place: Ortonville Downtown Development Authority
Our first third place winner, Ortonville Downtown Development Authority in Ortonville, Mich., designed their Small Business Saturday programming around creating an experiential holiday shopping experience. The campaign consisted of retail pop-ups and artisan market that used vacant storefronts and public community spaces; a “Local Gems” Sweepstakes that invited participants to submit a selfie photo at a local business they consider a local gem for the chance to win a prize; marketing toolkits for local small businesses to help them promote their specials; Downtown Dollars provided to retail businesses to be used in their stores for a drawing on Small Business Saturday; Scratch-&-Win cards for businesses to give out to Small Business Saturday shoppers.
To connect with the next generation of shoppers, Ortonville used selfie photo frames for their Local Gem Sweepstakes, provided regular updates on their social media sites, and created volunteer opportunities for next generation audiences such as social media programming, event set-up and take-down, and distributing materials to local businesses.
3rd Place: Main Street Oceanside
Another third-place winner, MainStreet Oceanside in Oceanside, Ca., brought back its award-winning holiday shopping event series, ‘Tis the Season to Shop Local, adding several new additions to appeal to the next generation of shoppers. New in 2022, they created a partnership with Oceanside’s local community college. The college’s participation in and sponsorship of our event series contributed to the largest and most well-attended Small Business Saturday in Downtown Oceanside — and the development of the next generation of business owners and shoppers.
’Tis the Season to Shop Local invited the community to explore Oceanside's retail establishments and to shop local for the holiday season, from Small Business Saturday through Sunday, December 11, 2022. This fun and distinctly local holiday celebration included a craft beverage tasting event, a Downtown makers fair with the addition of new Millennial and Gen Z student makers, a tree lighting celebration during the weekly Sunset Market, a holiday mobile scavenger hunt, and a variety of heavily promoted in-store events held by participating local businesses.
MainStreet Oceanside also offered their Oceanside Holiday Challenge with three grand prizes: a one-night staycation at a Downtown resort, a $500 Downtown shopping spree and a one-night staycation at a historic Downtown hotel. 136 participants registered and 44 players activated and played in the Oceanside Holiday Challenge game on the GooseChase app, choosing from 82 selfie and video missions at 20 participating businesses and at ’Tis the Season to Shop Local events. Each point earned in the app equaled one drawing entry, with a minimum requirement of 5 points for entry into small prize drawings and 25 points for entry into grand prize drawings. As a further reward for supporting local businesses, all participants who earned at least 25 points that did not win a grand prize were offered a free nontransferable 2023 Sip & Shop Downtown Oceanside ticket.
3rd Place: City of Stockbridge Main Street Program
And the final third-place winner, Stockbridge Main Street in Stockbridge, Ga., has grown their Small Business Saturday promotion from a one-day event to a month-long engagement, with over thirty participating businesses including restaurants, retailers, and service industry businesses. They call their event the Stockbridge Small Business BLITZ and spans the entire month of November, including continuous social media posts, videos showcasing local businesses, contests, and more.
During the BLITZ, they hosted several business and community engagement initiatives to bolster the Shop Small season. For example, through a partnership with our area’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC), they offered business classes to BLITZ participants that specifically focused on small business marketing, social media management, and finance.
To connect with the next generation of shoppers and to streamline the experience for all customers, the organizers created a new shopping passport app that allowed consumers to plan their shopping and dining excursions while also getting the opportunity to learn about what the BLITZ businesses had to offer. Next generation shoppers were especially enthusiastic about two contests during the BLITZ. The first was a drawing for a $100 American Express gift card, where shoppers had to show proof of shopping on Small Business Saturday. The other was a selfie challenge that encouraged participants to take photos at the places where they shopped and dined on the big day. These photos were posted on Stockbridge Main Street’s social media and a winner was selected.