Please Show Some Love to Franchising on Small Business Saturday by AMEX

Paul Segreto
5 min readNov 21, 2022

Many people that know me ask why I am so passionate about franchising and it’s minimized participation in Small Business Saturday by American Express. Well, the reason is continued confusion as to perceptions about franchising and that franchises are all big business.

McDonald’s comes to their minds as the typical franchise with large marketing budgets. The perception, as related to me eleven years ago by American Express executives was that the McDonald’s parent company pays for all marketing and that in and of itself creates a huge advantage for McDonald’s franchisees over local businesses. Obviously, this is totally off-course and couldn’t be further from the truth.

In any event, franchising has made some progress over the years as American Express has slowly expanded its efforts to allow franchises to participate in its Small Business Saturday program. Unfortunately, it still is not enough as limits continue to be imposed for franchise brands based upon the number of locations.

The number of locations is irrelevant when determining whether or not a business is considered small business, and a local business at that. It’s all about the individual location’s ownership. It’s about the investment made by the owner. It’s about the risks taken to pursue the American Dream of business ownership.

What is still being missed is the reality that thousands upon thousands of individuals that own franchises across our great Nation are basically in the same position as any Mom & Pop operator up and down Main Street USA. Yet, the majority are excluded from participating in Small Business Saturday events.

At the end of this article I’ve listed links to various articles chronicling my initial efforts to have American Express recognize franchising as small business. My concern now is that in addition to how the franchise business model is viewed by AMEX, how are other business models being viewed?

There’s a plethora of business models that have become quite popular for business ownership. I’m referring to home-based and virtual businesses. All are small businesses with many owned by individuals and families, no different than local Mom & Pop shop owners, the very target of American Express in its Small Business Saturday campaigns. If you disagree, please take a look at the typical image for the event depicting a small business storefront.

Other business models that are small business include sole practitioners offering professional services including real estate & insurance sales, financial planning, and the fast-growing coaching profession (business, life, health, and other areas of expertise). They’re really no different than the small business offering personal services such as hairstyling, massage, manicures & pedicures, and full-service spa experiences.

I am happy to see of late, more attention given to restaurants with #DineSmall but it’s not enough. I’m not sure if that was an AMEX initiative, but it should be, and one that should be expanded to piggyback Small Business Saturday. After all, besides the large company-owned restaurant chains, all restaurants are small businesses. And like other small businesses, restaurants (and bars) are the brainchild of an individual or family or, if a franchise restaurant, they are owned & operated by individuals and families, just the same.

American Express explains its Small Business Saturday campaign on its website. It states, American Express cares deeply about thriving communities and believes small businesses are at the core of every thriving neighborhood. That’s why — in the midst of the recession in 2010 — we created Small Business Saturday® on the Saturday after Thanksgiving to encourage people to Shop Small and bring more holiday shopping to small businesses.

In 2011, the U.S. Senate even passed a resolution to support Small Business Saturday, and participation in the event has expanded to all 50 states. Read more about the history of Small Business Saturday HERE. Momentum continues to build, but is it enough for ALL small businesses?

Investopedia explains Small Business Saturday as an annual event that was created to encourage consumers to shop locally in person and online at small businesses.

However, I don’t necessarily agree with some of the points made on the site as it specifically states this event is intended to encourage consumers to shop at small and locally owned businesses. That includes retail stores and restaurants as well as other small businesses, such as salons, grocery stores, and service-based businesses. It also extends to small businesses that exist online.

If there is any truth to the latter part of the statement, I’d have to say the efforts to promote the same are just not there, or certainly, are just not enough. To me, it may have been added as all encompassing lip-service.

Further, there is an Important Message on the Investopedia site that reads, Businesses must meet American Express guidelines regarding size and payment acceptance to be added to the Shop Small map.

So, is American Express more interested in driving AMEX card sales, or is it more interested in, as stated on the Investopedia site, to give small businesses a revenue boost during the holiday shopping season. Or, as referred to on various American Express sites, to help local communities thrive.

Please don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the Small Business Saturday initiative. I thought it was great from day one which is why I encourage my franchise clients to participate across all locations. Unfortunately, that is what led to discovering the exclusion (and subsequent limitations) on franchise businesses.

Nevertheless, I still love Small Business Saturday. I just don’t want to see any small business owner left out. In other words, I’d love to see all small businesses promoted. I’d love to see all small business owners have the opportunity to benefit by the program.

As mentioned above, here are links to various articles about my initial efforts to include Franchising in the Small Business Saturday initiative:

11/21/11 Franchising Excluded from AMEX Small Business Saturday Events!

11/25/11 Was Franchising Slapped in the Face by American Express by Accident?

11/26/11 Franchises Excluded from Small Business Saturday — AMEX Responds!

11/29/11 AMEX Reassessing Policies for Small Business Saturday

11/24/12 Franchising Not [Completely] Respected by American Express!

11/30/13 Franchising Supports Small Business Saturday

Please help make a difference and encourage everyone you know to shop at franchises AND independent businesses on Small Business Saturday, as well as before and after this year’s event on November 26th. I suggest that each time they make a purchase at a franchise to let American Express know by using #ShopSmall in their social media activities along with #ShopFranchise. We must continue to let American Express know that franchises are small business, too.

We’re all in this together. We must all do what we can to strengthen our local communities and the businesses that support those communities.

Have a great day. Make it happen. Make it count!

--

--

Paul Segreto

Proven Small Business, Restaurant & Franchise Growth Strategist; Fueling the entrepreneurial spirit is my passion!