Small Business Saturday 2016 in Chicago

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It was a great day to stroll the neighborhoods and catch a glimpse of Small Business Saturday 2016 in Chicago. Here's a re-cap.

I started out by heading downtown for the official kick off at Daybreaker, probably best described as a "morning yoga dance party". Shop Small's national corporate sponsor, American Express, supplied the DJ's, drummers, mylar balloons, and a bevy of locally-produced breakfast treats ranging from Dark Matter coffee to Munchy bars and Milk and Honey granola. It was nice to see support and exposure for many small entrepreneurial food ventures in the city. This was definitely an energetic boost to kick off a day of shopping small.

From there, I headed north to visit one of the city's most unique eyewear stores, Eye Spy Optical in Lakeview. The boutique store carries many hard to find designer glasses from Europe and beyond. Owner Alissa Fields has worked hard to promote not just her business, but other neighboring businesses with creative co-promotion ideas like photographing fellow owners wearing her unique frames.

Up next was a quick trip on the Brown line to the Lincoln Square Ravenswood (LSR) neighborhood, where the chamber of commerce there put together one of the best organized and comprehensive neighborhood events in the city. Besides individual efforts, the work of local chambers and associations to collectively harness the strengths of a group of businesses in a neighborhood is an important component of any "Buy Local" effort. Local First Chicago was proud to have worked with LSR to expand their efforts citywide with the Neighborhood Rewards program. As I walked by many of their member storefronts, I snapped photos of the ice sculptures placed in front of their entrances. Later on in the day, there were carolers and a lighting of the tree in Giddings Plaza.

The final stop of the day was further south, in the Wicker Park neighborhood, where a temporary pop-up event, Handmade Holidaz, featured jewelry, fashion, and treats from several independent crafters and artisans. While much of SBS marketing focuses on retailers with storefronts, let us not forget that much of Chicago's creative capital and economy is increasingly driven by work from home crafters, who do business online via sites like Etsy, and also at pop-up craft fairs like Renegade and A Show of Hands. Many startup entrepreneurs use these platforms as a way to launch their businesses and indeed many of their items are carried by independent storefront retailers as well. It's important to include them in your shop local holiday purchasing decisions.

Local First will continue highlighting upcoming events and opportunities to support your local, independent business throughout the month of December and into 2017. Stay tuned!