Everyone knows a small business that they love. Whether it is their local florist, corner pub, or seven-eleven, small businesses help to shape our local areas, bravely battling the uniformity of our high streets. Online shopping, out of town centres and retail giants have all had an impact on making it increasingly difficult for smaller businesses to hold their own.
Yet we haven't, until now, designated a particular time of the year to celebrate all that small businesses give to our communities. That's what Small Business Saturday is all about. The idea was conceived in the US, with the day designed to coincide with the first Saturday after Thanksgiving. Last year the day generated £3.5billion worth of sales and ongoing custom according to the organisers in the US. In the UK, we'll be using Saturday 7 December - one of the busiest shopping days in the calendar to encourage people to spend their Christmas shopping money locally, not only boosting the local economy but saving on transport costs too.
I'll be joining in with local plans in my constituency in West Norwood which involve over 100 businesses who have got on board. Not only do small businesses contribute to the national economy, they also bring so much to the character and vibrancy of my area. My walk about will start a Beamish & McGlue a fantastic family business which offers everything you would need in a corner shop from fruit and veg to toothpaste, but all with an ethical bent.
My day will culminate with the switching on of the lights hosted by West Norwood Feast - an incredible meeting of local minds which has helped to transform Norwood Road. Over the last two years, the volunteers who run the feast have built a monthly street market which has truly lifted spirits and helped to create a sense of place.
Our responsibility to support small business should extend beyond just one day a year. That is why the Labour Party has pledged to cut business rates for 1.5million business properties and our freeze on energy bills would save the typical small business £5,000. One of the biggest problems small businesses tell me is the lack of bank lending which would help them to expand or secure their future. Labour's plans for a network of regional banks is one measure which could help to get the block on lending lifted.
But these plans are for the future. In the meantime, pull on your warm clothes and pledge to spend tomorrow discovering the local gems in your area. You'll be surprised by the friendliness, the discounts and perhaps it will change the way you view your local area. You can find out more about Small Business Saturday by visiting the website.
Dame Tessa Jowell is the MP for West Norwood and Dulwich