Think of your average businessperson in the Okanagan Valley for a couple of minutes and you’ll realize they are anything but average. She might have grown up here, started or bought a small business that she runs diligently enough to nourish and care for her family. He strives to get ahead and in doing so drives local commerce and community.
On March 31, the Downtown Kelowna Association launched Small Shop Saturday. The idea of celebrating and appreciating small business is catching on around North America and it is one of the Okanagan’s best ever ideas. Small businesses are the heart and soul of our Valley and they deserve shop-local appreciation.
It is easy to forget or simply not appreciate the added value small business people bring to our local economy. The human brain is well suited for forgetting or not comprehending true value throughout most of our lives.
Today, small businesses is under attack. It not only must compete with big(ger) business, it must also contend with multinational corporations with incredibly deep pockets. What might it be like to go head-to-head with one or more of the 143 transnational conglomerates that effectively control 40 per cent of the world’s money and commerce (Okanagan Life November/December 2011)? If they aren’t here with bricks and mortar, they are lurking somewhere out there in cyberspace.
To make things worse, for decades we were force-fed a steady diet of propaganda that lead us to believe that small business and the public sector were inept and unqualified; at least compared to corporate CEOs, who are angelic, gifted and omnipresent in their ability to manage money and people. Big is better—it’s communistic to believe otherwise.
Many of us bought into this notion and the more disconnected we became from one another the more we were manipulated by the multinationals’ illusion of easier, quicker and cheaper. You see, just like you, I am a cognitive miser—hardwired to find the quickest solution to any problem—not necessarily the best. Plutocracy and its wealthy leaders took over western civilization, all the while putting the boots to small business.
Today, we live in a world that includes the Walmart Waltons, four billionaires on the top 20 list of the richest people in the world with over $95 billion (hoarded) between them. Web-gods that once promised us that billions of dollars would be available in the long tail of the Internet. Instead, Google, Facebook, Twitter, iTunes and Amazon became monopolies, and “Wall Street math” enabled a single man to make $3.7 billion on one shady transaction. How much money does one man really need?
In the Okanagan, thankfully we live in a world that also includes main street and the locally owned shops that still open their doors. Let’s re-brand Small Shop Saturday as Small Shop Every Day, giving local businesses the boost they need to prosper in an ever more uneven playing field.