“Celebrate the nation’s independence by celebrating your independents,” read posters displayed in store windows across Tampa, Florida, during the first week in July.
Twenty locally owned businesses—including restaurants, a record store, a grocer, a hardware dealer, clothing stores, a gift shop, and a bookstore—participated in this year’s second annual Independents Week celebration. The event is designed to broaden awareness of the value independent businesses and encourage residents to shop locally.
In addition to displaying the posters and other information, each merchant held raffles during the week where customers could win gift certificates for the other participating businesses.
The event was conceived by Carla Jimenez, co-owner of Inkwood Books. Jimenez had long used Independence Day as opportunity to remind customers of the importance of supporting independent businesses.
Last year, she invited other businesses to join her and launched Independents Week. “Our intention is really to work as a cooperative venture,” Jimenez said. “And even though we may be competing for the same dollar, we want people to know we are of, by and for the community.”
The event is so easy, contends Jimenez, that even the busiest entrepreneurs could manage something similar in their own communities. Although simple, Independents Week has been very effective in reminding residents of how their spending decisions affect the community and making them more aware of the individual businesses that participate.
Independents Week has also garnered significant coverage in the local media, including this year, a front page story in the local section of the Tampa Tribune.
One particularly important message Jimenez hopes to covey is that locally owned businesses support a web of local economic activity. “We make our decisions locally,” she said. “When we need shelves, we have them crafted here in Tampa. We have a local printer, accountant, local bookkeeper, we even have a local, independent pest control company.”