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A Cinderella story: The "This is Retail" edition

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In January, NRF announced a multi-faceted campaign as part of the Retail Means Jobs initiative to find the best retail story in America. After a panel of retail executives narrowed down the competition from nearly 100 submissions down to 20, America cast their votes throughout the month of April to determine the Top 3. As we announce our finalists for the This is Retail nationwide video contest, we can’t help but see a few similarities amongst them - all three are small business owners, dedicated philanthropists to their local communities, and women that understand the influence and opportunity of the retail industry.

But there's one more similarity that truly proves the diversity and strength of America's retailers. Tanna Dang of Eden in Love, Susan Kaufman of Market Alley Wines, and Kim Williams of The Polka Dot Press moved on to later rounds while some of the larger retailers were unable to garner enough votes to advance past their respective matchups. The takeaway: Retailers in small towns or markets are equally as important as those operating in big cities.

These three women are now local legends with the opportunity to share their stories on a national platform. Tanna Dang from Honolulu, Hawaii uses retail as an avenue to help charities in her community. Realizing she can use Eden in Love to give back, Tanna plans to use her winnings to help a village in Thailand or China by supplying tools and training to sustain healthy living. Susan Kaufman from Monmouth, Illinois is the perfect example of how powerful a community can be when they work together. She left her career to create a true destination for the locals of Monmouth and plans to start a jazz and wine festival with her prize money to make a greater economic impact on her town. Kim Williams from Tallahassee, Florida began as a one-woman operation and online only retailer, eventually growing to own her first store in The Market District. Her neighbors and customers in the Tallahassee community urged her to open a brick-and-mortar location and showed their appreciation by voting her into our Top 3.

From televisionradio, and print, to university newsletters and social media, everyone has come out to support these businesses. Even a few state governors, state retail associations, and members of Congress caught contest fever.

These three Cinderella stories are perfect examples of what retail is all about – making a positive and personal impact to communities all across America and beyond. The three finalists will be ranked rankings will be announced on May 16 at NRF's Washington Leadership Conference. Make sure you check back then to find out who will be crowned the Best Retail Story in America.