The 2 people who will make or break Laurel’s #shopsmall movement

Historic Laurel Leader Call“Once a Year Value” “You Must Come See!”

The advertisements scream at me as I look through a yellowed issue of the Laurel Leader Call from 1978.

“Red Hot Bargains!” “Big Clearance Sale!”

Who were they talking to? Did they even know?

Near the bottom of each ad is a little statement that reads “Downtown Laurel Mall.” At the top of each – a business name that is unfamiliar to the downtown we know today.

Nearly 40 years later we are at a tipping point.

Now, we see what used to be the remains of a once-bustling city center bursting back into life. Now, we see change ahead.

But who will be responsible if we fail, like so many before us?

It’s you, entrepreneur.

If you’re like me you live and breathe your business. Our ability to love our business is nearly unshakable.

It’s in this love, this blind adoration, that we lose sight of what it feels like for those standing on the other side of the “open” sign. It is this self-love that causes us to scream at those we hope will step through our doors. “1 day sale!” “Best!” “Quality!”

But it never works – not really, not sustainably.

Why don’t they love our businesses the way we do?

In my marketing and growth work with local businesses and main street programs I’m finding this seemingly hidden truth – empathy is the key to success.

It’s not your love for your business that will spell out your success, but your love, your true undying love for those who walk through your doors that will carry you through.

Our very best marketing successes, the rebranding and websites and stories that truly shake even my own understanding of what local businesses are capable of, are all based in empathy – in a deep understanding of the people who are able to see your business the way you do.

On November 26th, we will join together with businesses all over the country to promote our businesses for Small Business Saturday and the #shopsmall movement.

But this year I want to see real success.

On November 15th we will come together at the Downtown Merchants meeting to brainstorm ideas. We will work together to find the best way to love on our people, and I will be on hand to help you with specific ideas for your business. The meeting will be held in the conference room at the 1st National Bank building beginning at 5:30.

This year I want to see our downtown businesses show up and show out in love for our local folks. I want to see products and services designed just for our people.

I want to see events that show an understanding of our people and what they actually want from us. I want you guys, the downtown entrepreneurs, to make this event the biggest show of love a town has ever seen.

Pull off your blinders, see our people, and show them that we don’t take them for granted. Show them what Laurel-love looks like, and I will stake my reputation on your success.

If you love, really love, we cannot fail.

But local folks, it’s up to you too.

I know you. I am you.

I walk the streets of Downtown Laurel wondering what is coming next. What will be in this old building, or that one? We need this, or that, or that other thing!

I talk with friends and family about what is happening here and feel excitement for all that is to come. I feel excited because I feel that finally – Laurel is becoming the home town I always wanted.

But who made us spectators?

Who said it was ok for us to sit back and watch and wait and hope for new things to come?

Even if you don’t feel the pull to risk your savings on a new business, or don’t choose to buy a home in the historic district, or don’t want to serve on a committee or volunteer at an event – it is still up to you to play a part in making our home town into something we can be proud of.

It is up to you to support the folks who are doing those things. It is up to you to love them back.

Our downtown businesses have been preparing for you for a long time.

They’ve spent so much time hunting for just the thing you’ve been looking for. They’ve been traveling across the country to markets looking for unique items that seem to be made just for our Laurel folks.

They have used their talents to craft and create one-of-a-kind items just for you.

They’ve spent countless hours deep into the night making their shops worthy of your visit. You are their guests – and they are waiting for you.

On Saturday November 26th you have the opportunity and responsibility to give back to those who have been working so hard.

Here is how you can love them back:

Today –

Make a true, honest and loving commitment to spend a portion of your Christmas shopping budget in locally-owned businesses. Write it down. Tell someone. Hold yourself to it.

This week –

Much like you would tell the world if your child or grandchild won an award or was performing in a play, tell others about what is happening in the town you love so much. And ask them to commit to supporting it as well. This means sharing your commitment on Facebook, calling or texting a friend, or telling your family about it at the next get-together.

Saturday, November 26th –

Show up for those you love.

Come to Downtown (or to any local Laurel business) and actually put that commitment to the test. Spend in our local shops, buy one-of-a-kind gifts, and show your friends and family what it means when you say “#iliveinlaurel.”

Downtown entrepreneurs and Laurel folks – it is up to you. You will make or break not only Small Business Saturday, but the future of our hometown. It is us, the folks who love this town and want to see her become a shining beacon of success, who are most responsible for the outcome.

Make a commitment to show out in love November 26th, and we will show the world what it looks like when Laurel refuses to fail.