By Erin Delmore
This holiday “tradition” is fast becoming a staple among Americans: Small Business Saturday. The “shop local, eat local” push toward community stores and restaurants falls between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
“With a small business owner, you’re going to get value, you’re going to get good customer service, and you have customers coming in, talking about what they’re doing and how they’re going to come back,” Kellie LeDet, the Small Business Administration’s Region II Regional Administrator, said.
That’s what we saw at Newark’s own Ancient African Formula on Halsey Street. Business owner Aminata Dukuray’s products are inspired by her upbringing in Sierra Leon and Gambia. She started creating bath and body products in her apartment in East Orange.
“I dried them at the window because I had small refrigerator, so sometimes I put them there and one lady asked me, I always see something in your window, can you tell me about it? I said it’s a hair product I make, it’s good for the hair, and she started buying it, too,” Dukuray said.
A loyal following among neighbors led to her first brick-and-mortar store, opened a year ago. Dukuray gave LeDet and Congressman Donald Payne Jr. the “grand tour” on the eve of Small Business Saturday.
“It’s just a labor of love,” Payne said. He worked in his family business in Newark, manufacturing computer paper in the 1970s.
“My uncle William Payne was the founder of the business, and was really ahead of his time,” Payne said. “He hired ex-offenders coming home from jail, and people from low-income backgrounds.”
Residents still appreciate and reward small businesses for their impact on the community, according to a survey from the National Federation of Independent Businesses and American Express. Eighty percent of customers said they’d be willing to spend slightly more for something purchased at a small, independently-owned retailer, rather than at a big box store, or online. And Small Business Saturday has been growing since its creation in 2010.
More than 88 million Americans shopped and dined local last Small Business Saturday, injecting more than $14 billion into local economies nationwide.
It’s one of many things Dukuray’s thankful for this holiday season.
“It’s a land of opportunity,” Dukuray said. “I never thought I would get here. [But] I’m a person, I don’t give up, so I start pushing, some stores they go to throw me out, but I don’t leave, I still go there, they tell me don’t come here anymore, I say ok, then the next morning, they see me again.”
It worked. You can find her products in nine Walmart stores throughout Northern New Jersey, and in 10 Shoprite stores in Philadelphia.