NRF took a 4,605-mile virtual road trip from coast to coast during one week in June to connect four small business owners with their elected representatives through virtual store tours.
The visits were hosted by military- or LGTBQ+-owned businesses featured in the Qurate Retail Group and NRF Foundation’s Small Business Spotlight. The program showcases businesses of diverse backgrounds that are at the heart and home of their communities.
These businesses shared their stories and products live on QVC and HSN in May for Military Appreciation Month and June for Pride Month. As part of the Spotlight program, participants further amplified their voices and impact by hosting their lawmakers on an NRF Store Tour.
We kicked off our week of virtual visits in Irvine, Calif., at Cre8ive-D, a photo mat company and creator of Snowcone the Happy Unicorn. Owner Dena Fargo met with Representative Katie Porter (CA-45), shared her brand story and discussed several issues impacting her company.
Learn more about our store tour series and how you can get involved.
Snowcone was created to share a message of positivity and kindness to young children, Fargo said. “The unicorn’s mission is to instill confidence and love into kids everywhere, while also teaching them that their differences are what makes them special,” she said.
Fargo also told Porter about challenges impacting Cre8ive-D including difficulty sourcing materials that are made in the United States and the need for more access to mentorship programs for the small business community.
Next, we connected with Representative Marilyn Strickland (WA-10) at a visit to Sgt. Hart’s BBQ Sauce, 1,115 miles north in Olympia, Wash., where CEO Makieda Hart told the backstory of her product. “While we were stationed overseas, we ran out of sauce for our team barbeque and my husband [Sgt. Ret Hart] made some from scratch in our pantry,” she said. “It became a hit and we decided to sell it.”
Hart spoke with Strickland about the unique challenges facing her company, including workforce development and the importance of diversity in the small business community. Strickland echoed Hart’s message on diversity, saying, “I want to thank the NRF for working to highlight minority, women-owned businesses and amplify the work they put into starting their businesses.”
We then virtually traveled 2,800 miles east to Wayne, Pa., where Representative Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-05) visited Out There Outfitters, a premium outdoor gear and clothing retailer. The company’s president Sarah McDonald shared her concerns about the high cost of payment processing fees for small businesses with Scanlon. As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, Scanlon is part of the committee that considers issues related to payment processing.
“One of the top three expenses we have comes from payment processing fees. It’s one of our highest sources of overhead, but we don’t have room to negotiate with the credit card companies,” McDonald said. She also called for increased competition in payment services: “Without competition, there’s no innovation.”
Our week of virtual tours wrapped up 639 miles down Interstate 85 in Powdersville, S.C., with Representative Jeff Duncan (SC-03) who visited Hive & Honeybee, an ecommerce retailer known for its honeybee-inspired products. Owner and Executive Director Tim Shirey told Duncan about his concerns with affordable shipping for his small business.
“With a heavy product like honey, shipping costs add up quickly and we are doing everything we can so we don’t pass those along to our customers,” Shirey said. He called for support for small businesses to reduce costs of shipping to “help get new businesses to first base.”
As small businesses face challenges across the country, NRF is proud to play a role in empowering them to share their stories and affect change. Learn more about NRF’s store tour program.