Small, Local Businesses Seek to Cash in on Buzz of Black Friday

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DES MOINES, Iowa - Alexandra Bandow is a small business owner. A really small business owner.

"It is an animal pocket tee brand that I run in Des Moines, and I also sell animal bone necklaces and scarves," she said of her business, Wolf Toof Clothing. "Everything's hand-made. And my grandma sews for me. So it's 50 years of sewing going into a pocket shirt."

Her store is entirely run online through an Etsy account. Advertising, done through social media.

"I've never sold somewhere in person in Des Moines, so I'm trying to get more people to get to know my brand and what I do with it," she said.

You'll find no big-box stores at this Black Friday sale; vendors here call it Market Day - held every Black Friday at Capitol Square in downtown Des Moines. They're packing the venue hoping for something more valuable than a single sale; they're hoping for exposure.

"All of the vendors that you see here today are going to be local artists and makers," said Nicole Rutherford, another vendor. "Everything is hand-made by the people that you see here. Everybody is from the Greater Des Moines area, or Iowa, at least."

Rutherford is the owner of Nicole & Dime Designs - an assortment of hand-made jewelry. Her business lives online, too. That's where she says everyone is heading.

"Everybody's got an iPhone, everybody's got an iPad," she said. "Everyone wants to just buy their Christmas presents from their couch. I know I'm buying all my kids' Christmas presents on Amazon Prime, so, it's an easy way for people to shop and get those deals."

But Rutherford admits, a physical presence has its perks. For small, online businesses, she says you still have to somehow get people to know you exist.

"There's definitely a challenge, and it takes a couple of years to really sort of build that business, and get that momentum going," she said. "I definitely was not able to start with just a website. That has only come after places like this. Having something like Market Day to showcase my work, get my name out there, have people recognize me and my work, and then they can go to my website and find things."

Not just collecting cash, but collecting customers. That's the name of the game for the smallest of businesses on Black Friday.

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