Small Business Saturday holds plenty of promise for Amanda McClements, who this month opened her second boutique home goods shop in Washington.
In a unique twist, it may hold even more promise for one of her first employees.
Mallory Shelter, who still works weekends now and then at McClements’ Salt & Sundry stores, will hold a trunk show at one of the shops on Saturday afternoon featuring her growing line of handmade jewelry — an important opportunity for an entrepreneur working to turn a longtime hobby into a sustainable business.
“Obviously there’s a sales component, but it’s more about the exposure,” said Shelter, who works full-time in public relations while also selling jewelry she makes in her home in the District. “Jewelry is such a hard thing to sell online, because it’s very personal, so to be able to meet with customers face-to-face and explain to people my process and my story is such an amazing opportunity.”
Shelter isn’t the only online seller who will have a storefront to work from this weekend. American Express, which started the Small Business Saturday campaign in 2010 to steer shoppers toward locally owned stores on the day after Black Friday, this year teamed up with online marketplace Etsy to link home-based artisans with brick-and-mortar retailers willing to host their trunk shows and help them nab a slice of the more than $36 billion Americans are expected to spend this weekend.
Others local businesses hosting trunk shows include Covet Arlington in Arlington, Va. Shop the Muse in Frederick, Md., and the Cheeky Puppy in the District.
Over the past few years, the holiday has gained momentum and captured the attention of Washington’s leaders, with President Obama visiting a different local bookstore to support the campaign each of the past three years. McClements, who opened her first store two years ago in D.C.’s Union Market, said the store enjoyed “a very noticeable bump” in foot traffic last year, including a visit from Attorney General Eric Holder and his family.
Most importantly, though, the Small Business Saturday campaign seems to have “made more shoppers think about where they are spending their money and whether stores are locally owned,” McClements said, noting that patrons increasingly check with her to make sure the Salt & Sundry shops aren’t part of a large chain.
On Saturday, those customers will have a two-for-one opportunity of sorts, with the chance to shop at two locally owned businesses in one stop. And for McClements and Shelter, this isn’t the first time they have leaned on one another.
“We have kind of gone through this small-business experience together, where she was launching her first store and I was trying to establish my unique brand and decide whether or not to really start selling my jewelry,” said Shelter, who was one of McClements’ first hires when the original store opened in November 2012.
A former food and lifestyle writer in Washington, McClements started thinking about opening the store a year earlier — while holiday shopping — when she couldn’t find a shop in her neighborhood that brought together all of her favorite items. “Someone said to me, why don’t you just open it yourself,” she recalls. Now three years later, she recently unveiled her second location on 14th Street NW.
Shelter, meanwhile, has been tinkering with her craft since high school, when a family friend shuttered her jewelry business and passed some of her supplies, stones and trade secrets to Shelter. It was merely a hobby until a few years ago, when Shelter started taking metal-smithing classes in the District.
“That really did it,” she said. “It reinvigorated this love I had for jewelry.”
She started selling earrings and necklaces to family and friends last year, and she eventually started an Etsy store online, which quickly took off. Since then, she has sold several hundred pieces through Etsy, her own site, craft events and several wholesale accounts with boutiques in D.C., Maryland, Tennessee and Pennsylvania.
Her first line was sold in Salt & Sundry, which helped open the door to the other accounts. It would have been much more challenging to break into the retail space without that first connection, she said.
“All of us are trying to build our own small businesses in our own way, and there are opportunities to collaborate and create mutually beneficial relationships,” she said.