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Small Business Saturday promotes local businesses

Maya El-Naffy and her sister dreamed of opening their own shop, offering stylish yet affordable fashions for women.

So, after working in marketing and fashion positions, she and her sister Nayla opened Monc Boutique in South Miami in August, filling the store with women’s clothing and accessories.

“We love fashion and we wanted to bring fashion into Miami under $100,” said Maya El-Naffy, 32. “That’s our goal and we worked really hard to get that concept.”

Like hundreds, if not thousands of other small businesses around South Florida, Monc Boutique is participating in Small Business Saturday, a nationwide event this Saturday sponsored by American Express to encourage shoppers to spend at local businesses.

Nationwide, small businesses account for about 54 percent of all U.S. retail sales, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Calling small businesses the backbone of the nation’s economy, the SBA says that America’s 28 million small businesses create two out of every three net new private sector jobs, with half of working Americans either owning or working for a small business.

This year, with fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, small businesses say they need the holidays — and the attention focused on Saturday — to make a big splash.

For the first time this year, the Wynwood Arts District Association’s group of 126 small businesses will participate in Small Business Saturday with a street art program that includes the unveiling of a Shop Small mural from artists Evoca1, on the side of a soon-to-open small business called R House Wynwood.

“We have such a diversity of hip, cool, edgy businesses in Wynwood, and we want to educate people that there are great opportunities to purchase unique items and gifts,” said Jose Nava, director of the Wynwood Arts District Association. “We want to create that culture of people buying in small businesses.”

For Small Business Saturday, Frangipani, in Wynwood, sent out an email blast, posted on Facebook, and has local artists’ displays. The lifestyle boutique offers personal items for men, women and kids, home accessories, clothing, jewelry, stationery and gifts, said owner Jennifer Frehling.

“We have a lot of handmade items and items made by artists in small quantities, so there is a lot of local representation,” she said.

For Frehling, “Small Business Saturday is more about supporting a very local neighborhood.”

Now in its fourth year, Small Business Saturday is a reminder to consumers to “shop local” not only during the holidays, but year-round. It’s been recognized by Congress, endorsed by the SBA and supported by American Express and the National Federation of Independent Business..

About 70 percent of small-business owners — those with fewer than 100 employees — say the Saturday event helps draw customers, according to a recent joint survey by the NFIB and American Express. And 18 percent — double the proportion in 2012 — plan to advertise their participation on radio, TV or in newspapers.

Nationwide, mom-and-pop stores get plenty of help from Small Business Saturday sponsors to get the word out. There are free templates of emails and Facebook posts to send customers. FedEx will print two free copies of a company’s Small Business Saturday poster. Twitter will provide $100 in free advertising credits to the first 10,000 new business users who open Twitter accounts.

And for shoppers, those who use their American Express card this Saturday to buy at least $10 of merchandise from a qualifying local retailer can get a free $10 credit on their next bill.

In South Florida, the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce is hosting a full day of events with more than 110 participating businesses.

Artigiano, a Coral Gables store that has offered men’s custom and ready- to-wear apparel for nearly 11 years, has sent out emails to customers. The store is having a sale for Small Business Saturday, with at least 50 percent off selected items, said co-owner Alex Odio.

Dozens of businesses in Broward and Monroe counties are also participating in Small Business Saturday.

Sunrise Laser & Hormone Institute is offering $35 facials and $79 laser hair removal on a small area, representing substantial discounts off regular prices, said owner Mike Adams.

Local businesses in Islamorada are planning a block party, with local restaurants donating food.

Monc Boutique in South Miami is offering 10 percent off on Saturday for shoppers who use their American Express cards, said El-Naffy, who grew up in Beirut, Lebanon and Santiago, Chile before coming to Miami at 15.

“Isn’t that the American dream?” she said of opening her own business. “When we came here, like a lot of other immigrants in Miami, your dream is to have your own business, and to work as hard as we did for the other companies – and even harder, for ourselves.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.