When Dean Wills, 8, was five years old, he took on the task of cleaning the glass door of Addie’s Boutique before his mother, Brandy Watkins Wills, opened for business on Small Business Saturday in 2018.
“Dean takes responsibility for cleaning the store and what he calls tinkering,” said Wills.
The women’s clothing boutique is now located at 4002 Jackson Street, Unit A.
“The holiday season offers plenty of reminders about why it pays to shop locally,” said Deborah Randolph, president of the Central Louisiana Regional Chamber of Commerce. “One of the most persuasive is the economic boost communities get from locally owned businesses. When we shop locally, more of our money stays local and jobs are created.”
Small Business Saturday is held the Saturday after Thanksgiving. It was founded by the credit card company American Express in 2010 as a way for communities to celebrate local businesses across the country.
“This event can help to open the door for young people to envision business creation and ownership as a career opportunity,” said Gary Perkins, director of the Business Acceleration System, part of Louisiana Central, the regional economic development organization. “New and growing locally-owned businesses are the lifeblood of our economy.”
Chericia Thomas, owner of Kuttin It Up Dog Grooming Salon and a published author, and her husband Wayne Thomas, owner of Cenla Moving & Delivery Services, LLC, encourage their daughters, Jania Thomas, 12, and Jamesha Juniel, 17, in their own business ventures.
Jamesha said her parents inspire her to succeed and make good decisions in life. They also instilled in her never give up no matter how much the world throws at her and to always keep “the train moving.”
She is an aspiring artist who is passionate about Black art culture. She also helps her mother in the dog grooming salon.
Jania is a young entrepreneur in her own right.
“I make and sell lip gloss, bath bombs, lip balms and sugar scrubs,” she said.
“Small businesses add to the diversity of products and services available to a community,” said Randolph. “Products from local artisans or producers allow consumers to share the special culture or characteristics of a local area with friends and family around the globe. And studies show that locally made products are no more expensive than other goods.”
Small Business Saturday can be a great learning opportunity for young people, said Jim Clinton, president of Louisiana Central.
“If they have a chance to learn early how locally-owned businesses create opportunities for all of us, it can positively impact the kind of citizens they will become,” said Clinton.
“I love having my children involved in Addie’s Boutique,” said Wills. And in return, both love to be involved.
“We spend time together while teaching the importance of work,” she said. “It is hard to be both a parent and business owner. Many times you neglect one over the other.”
Her daughter Addie, 10, for whom the boutique is named, loves to check out customers, do live social media videos for the children’s clothes, take product pictures and count down the register.
“She tells me every day that she is going to turn Addie’s Boutique into a national brand,” said Wills.
As a local business owner and one who comes from a family of business owners, Jessica Difulco, thinks it’s important for her daughters Giada, 9, Ella, 5, and Cailey, 21, to see other local business owners and how hard they work.
It also helps them to get to know their community and those around them.
“Sometimes they even remember my kids and it makes it really personal,” said Difulco who owns River Paddle Rentals. “It’s so nice to be able to go inside somewhere and they know who you are.”
Some of the businesses they shop at include Aspen Bleu, Kid B’Dazzled, LLC, Lainey B’s Boutique and Dressed to The Bixby.
They also dine at all of the local restaurants whether it’s eating breakfast, lunch or dinner.
“Those are our favorites,” said Difulco while laughing. “They absolutely know us all.”
Seeing and interacting with local business owners makes an impression on her kids that maybe they could one day own their own business, too.
It also helps her children learn to appreciate that local business owners help one another by shopping at each other’s businesses.
“Because as business owners, we’re parents and we’re families and we depend on our community to help us all take care of each other,” she said. “So I think the kids get to really understand that and appreciate it.”