Start a Small Town Revolution With Local Business Gift Certificates this Christmas

by Joanne Steele on November 8, 2011

2011 is the year of the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street. revolution sign

Let’s bring that revolutionary spirit to small towns and local business, and give our friends and neighbors, our local customers, a chance to REALLY shop local this year.

Here’s the Craig’s List Rant that got me started:

As the holidays approach, the giant Asian factories are kicking into high gear to provide Americans with monstrous piles of cheaply produced goods — merchandise that has been produced at the expense of American labor. This year will be different. This year Americans will give the gift of genuine concern for other Americans. There is no longer an excuse that, at gift giving time, nothing can be found that is produced by American hands. Yes there is!

It’s time to think outside the box, people. Who says a gift needs to fit in a shirt box, wrapped in Chinese produced wrapping paper?

Everyone — yes EVERYONE gets their hair cut. How about gift certificates from your local American hair salon or barber?

Read the full post here:

This is a revolutionary shop local idea that is going viral on Facebook and probably showing up in a zillion email boxes.

But only YOU, the small local business owner, have to inspire your customers to revolt and take action!

Remember that marketing phrase you’ve heard since you went into business: “Call to Action.”

Now is the time for a shop local Call to Action.

Do you offer gift certificates? If you’re an auto mechanic or local musician or cleaning lady, probably not. This year, do it.

Craftspeople and artists? You need those certificates too! They let the receiver pick their own art.

Then, don’t make that certificate the best kept secret in town. This is a Revolution!

Make signs. Make placards. Tweet it. Put it on your Facebook page. Email everyone you know, and copy the craigslist rant directly into that email – don’t make your customers click through to read it.

We must take saving small towns and rural communities into our own hands.

In the United States nearly a quarter of retail sales occur in the next two months. And most of that money unfortunately is not spent in local business in rural communities and small towns!


Small town folks tend to be pretty conservative, so starting a revolution is totally out of character.

But it’s about time, don’t you think!!

Put your heads together with other local business people in your town, and get this done.

Give discounts for those gift certificates. Give a gift certificate package with your neighboring store for those big spenders in town.

Talk to your Chamber of Commerce right now and get a town-wide local business certificate created, and shouted about on the streets.

Local business gift certificates and rural tourism are a match made in heaven!

If you’re a rural tourism business, you have a client list that you can offer your certificate to.

Visitors who spend their time in rural areas are a special breed. They love the idea that their visit helps to support something they value. YOU!

Become the rural tourism version of the Heifer Project! You are the heifer! Offer yourself! Today!

Just in case you didn’t click through and read the whole article, here’s the inspiring end of that craigslist rant:

You see, Christmas is no longer about draining American pockets so that China can build another glittering city. Christmas is now about caring about US, encouraging American small businesses to keep plugging away to follow their dreams. And, when we care about other Americans, we care about our communities, and the benefits come back to us in ways we couldn’t imagine. THIS is the new American Christmas tradition.

I’m going to stop now and let you talk. Please share what your town is doing to keep shopping local this year.

Again, here is the link to the full post:


Photo on Flickr by Brian K. Leadingham Photography



1 Annette February 25, 2012 at 3:26 pm

I just came across your interesting blog and thought I would share how our Chamber of Commerce has had great success with introducing a Gift Voucher which is redeemable in over 100 of our member business stores. You can read an article here

2 Joanne Steele February 28, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Thanks Annette,
Gift vouchers are excellent local sales tools, and you’re town has clearly embraced the opportunity with over 100 participating businesses!

3 Alison Cassin November 18, 2011 at 12:50 pm

I love this Joanne! My sisters and I usually buy hair cut and local gym gift certificates for my mom, but I never thought of breakfast gift certificates. We have a couple of family members who are regulars at their local breakfast place – I’m going to check to see if they have gift certificates. Thanks for the great tips!

4 Kara Lynch November 9, 2011 at 7:44 am

I’m originally from a town in western Kansas, population 1,300. I now live in a much larger place, but I ran across your website several months ago. I have so much respect for the work you’re doing. I think the post today is especially motivating. I remember back to a day 35 years ago. My dad was a teacher but also had kind of a DQ brazier type restaurant. We knew that a whole bunch of cyclists were going to come through down. I ask him if I could make a wooden sign and place it in my grandparents yard so that the cyclists would know that if they kept cycling through town, that there was a business that welcomed them, provided a restroom, and would give them a discount on anything they ordered. Turns out that sign meant something to them. It was a call to action of sorts. I’ll never forget how tickled my dad was at how well something so simple worked.
Keep up the good work!

5 Joanne Steele November 11, 2011 at 2:14 pm

Thanks so much Kara! You reminded us that simple and doable things that work are not all on the internet!

6 Peggy Hyde November 9, 2011 at 7:23 am

Hi Joanne,

Great post and some wonderful ideas!
I thought you’d like to know that your links to craigslist are not working.


7 Joanne Steele November 11, 2011 at 2:15 pm

Thanks Peggy! I’ll get that fixed right now!

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