The madness has begun. Having forgotten an important “Honey-Do” on his way home from work last Friday, my husband walked into the house without the milk I asked him to stop for. No worries. I jumped in my car to make a quick trip to the corner market. It just so happens that I have to pass a large shopping mall near our house. Now mind you, we haven’t hit Thanksgiving week yet, but the holiday advertising descended upon us with a vengeance before we had even walked out of the stores with our Halloween candy. Still, as I headed for the Mom-and-Pop store on the corner for my milk, I noticed a line of small tents on the sidewalk outside of the well-known electronics super-store. I know that I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. As a result, my gawking and slowing down caused the driver in the car behind me to honk me back into the moment. A line of shoppers, gearing up for consumerism battle on Black Friday, which at this point, was a week away. After years of seeing this spectacle, you’d think I’d be used to it. But it still causes me to shake my head in amazement.
When I got to the little market for my milk, I asked the store owner if he’d seen the line of campers that had already formed. He laughed and called them “squappers”, a mash-up of the words “shoppers” and “squatters”. He remarked that they were a bit late in starting this year. Last year, they were lined up by Veteran’s Day. Yes, the mall parking lots were already filling, the shopping shuttles had begun. “But,” he added, “I have to say, I wouldn’t be one bit bothered if they were lining up outside my store. Business is business and I’d be a happy man if they were shopping here.” I nodded in agreement. Yes, if I were the owner of a small business, I guess I’d be pretty happy too. In an article called “America Runs on Small Business”, Small Business Advocate and Counselor Mike Clough writes:
A recent study by the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Advocacy counted 26.8 million businesses in the United States. Of those, 99.9% have fewer than 500 employees and as such are considered small businesses. This means that only one-tenth of one percent have more than 500 employees. Yet, more notable is the fact that according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 98.2% have fewer than 100 employees. And if you are impressed with that number, you may be amazed to learn that in the same report it states that 89.3% of the businesses in America have fewer than 20 employees! Bear with me for just a moment more as I drive this point home. Even more amazing is the fact that 78.6% have fewer than 10 employees and 60.8% have fewer than 5 employees.
It doesn’t take much to see that small businesses in America are much like that favorite childhood story about the little engine with the optimistic mantra; “I think I can.” They’re the job creators and the economy boosters. That’s one of the very reasons that last year, I did all of my holiday shopping at local small businesses, both brick-and-mortar and online. I’m committed to doing that again this year, and I’ve encouraged friends and family to do the same.
Since 2010, American Express has promoted Small Business Saturday; the Saturday after Thanksgiving during one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year. Small Business Saturday encourages holiday shoppers to patronize businesses that are small and local. This year, Small Business Saturday fell on November 24th. Last year, a consumer survey showed that over one million people joined in to Shop Small in their local communities. One million people…if you could imagine that number as a line of tents outside your favorite Mom-and-Pop store, you can easily imagine how that could help drive the economy, and keep small businesses running in America. Happily, we don’t have to line up or pitch tents for days on end and become “squappers.” That’s one of the joys of shopping small. We can easily frequent and patronize our small businesses close to home – small family businesses like Scooter’s Jungle. A gift certificate for Open Play or Toddler Time would be a great gift for the holidays and an awesome way to support small business.
You can find out what small businesses in your community participated in Small Business Saturday by visiting www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/Shop-Small/. Join the one million from last year and help keep those small business gears turning America’s engine.
Scooter’s Jungle in Aliso Viejo gives kids and parents the chance to be wild.
By AMANDA PAZORNIK / The Orange County Register
Sharon and Scott Diener live their lives in a jungle – or at least it feels that way sometimes.
The pair owns Scooter’s Jungle, a facility filled with a huge inflatable slide, a tropical bounce house, a rope swing and more for kids and adults.
Elsy Nguyen and Siriya Feigenbaum
Sisters Elsy and Siriya have been part of the hospitality industry since childhood. Growing up in Thailand, their family operated hotels, and as a result, the girls learned the importance of customer service very early on. Upon emigrating to America, their family opened a restaurant, and the sisters came to realize the most important things about operating a business were 1) customer satisfaction is key and 2) the importance of a strong work ethic and how everyone plays an integral part in a successful business –.
They continue to apply these lessons throughout their professional careers, and recently at Scooter’s Jungle Simi Valley –showing patrons an amazing time with a personal touch is key to a thriving business. .
Both Elsy and Siriya have lived in Simi Valley for more than a decade and are very involved in their community. The two of them are active on the PTA for their children’s schools and have chaired various events and served as board members. Elsy’s husband Kyle has coached their son’s basketball teams for five seasons, and Siriya’s husband Ray has served as a Cub Scout den leader for the past four years.
Previous to opening Scooter’s Jungle, Elsy practiced estate-planning law, and Siriya served as an accountant/bookkeeper.
Why Scooter’s Jungle:
“When visiting Scooter’s Jungle for the first time, we were so impressed with the great time that the kids had and how connected the staff was to everyone that came through the doors. There was such an emphasis on customer service, and staffers were constantly asking us ‘how are you?’ ‘Are your kids having fun?’ ‘Are YOU having fun?’ Independently, we had thought how great it would be to have a place like Scooter’s Jungle in Simi since there really isn’t a place for kids to have a fun, safe time or a distinctive birthday party. We also love that Scooter’s Jungle’s focus is on being active, so the facility is completely free of video and electronic games; plus the cleanliness is unmatched. The uniqueness of Scooter’s Jungle paired with their incredible customer service is really what sealed the deal for us.”
“Short-term, of course we want to be successful, but we also really want to establish the business as part of our community and continue to be involved not only as parents but also as business owners. We aim to establish Scooter’s Jungle as the neighborhood destination for parties, fundraisers, team bonding events and more. Long term, we’d be open to operating additional Scooter’s Jungle locations.”
“Obviously getting the location up and open has been the first hurdle to overcome. Between the permits, inspections and construction, it’s definitely an undertaking, but we are confident that we will open in November. In the end, we are so fortunate that our first location is in the City of Simi Valley, where the response has been supportive and full of encouragement!”
Elsy’s nine-year-old son has requested employment to be the “official pizza tester at Scooter’s Jungle” with a salary of $1 per year.
Hi Kiddos! Scooter here, from Scooter’s Jungle. What? You’ve never heard of Scooter’s Jungle? Then I’m the guy to tell you all about it because, lucky me—I live there! Scooter’s Jungle is an awesome place for kids and grown-ups to jump, play, and have a blast on huge inflatables, massive play structures and lots of other “active” games and toys! I work hard on my homework just like you, but when I’m done, I love having fun on all the totally cool equipment. My favorites are the ginormous slides and the zippy zip-line, but I like playing air hockey and bouncing in the inflatable bounce house too! You know what else I love? I LOVE playing at the amazing kids birthday parties at Scooter’s Jungle. They’re so much fun and I know moms, dads and parents have a great time too. My amazing team makes sure everything is taken care of from start to finish, so all Mom and Dad have to do is play and have fun too! And did I mention that we have the yummiest food that you can serve to your party guests? Our fresh home-made pizzas, corn dog minis, and chicken bites are so good it makes my tummy happy! We have everything you need to have a Scooterific party, school fundraiser, sports team event. We even have Toddler Time and drop in Open Play times too. Take it from me, there’s no place more awesomesauce than Scooter’s Jungle. So be sure and tell Mom or Dad to go to my website at http://scooter.coalitionteam.com and get on my email list as fast as you can so I can send you an invitation to come play in the “jungle”. Hope to see you soon and don’t forget your socks!