Small business owner Jen McPherson of Saline, Michigan, has been on a mission to highlight local artisans and encourage people to shop locally. A former preschool teacher and dance teacher/choreographer, Jen’s journey to running her own business began in 2017 when she secured a lease for a vacant building that was once the city’s library. That’s where she opened McPherson Local, a general store that showcases the products of local makers and artisans.

“I wanted to support and highlight the amazing small business makers we have in Michigan.”

Today, McPherson Local is home to 180 makers and showcases a range of products, including food, handmade crafts, fine art, candles and bath and body products.

Jen and her team are working every day to carry out a mission proudly displayed in her store for all to see: McPherson Local is a Michigan-made general store striving to bring back enthusiasm for Shopping Small and supporting local Artists, Makers and Farmers.

Julienne Marie Photography

Ask Jen what it takes to run a successful business, and she’ll give all the credit to the people who work with her: “This ship would not sail without my incredible team.”

Jen and her team truly care about the work they do. It takes dedication not only to run a small business but also to keep it up and running seven days a week.

“We are hustling every day for the makers and small businesses of Michigan. We are champions for them and cheerleaders and supporters, and we take that responsibility seriously. When you shop small and purchase from us, you are helping a maker support their dream.”

You can also find McPherson local on social media, which Jen and her team use “to stay connected to the community” and help promote her store and Michigan makers. She has close to 4,000 followers on Facebook who receive regular updates about products, discounts and special events. She also has an active Instagram account filled with updates and even posts you won’t find on Facebook.

Bankrate insight

Data from the American Independent Business Alliance shows that for every $100 spent at a small business, $52.90 stays in the community. On the flip side, only $13.60 stays in the community when you shop in big box stores.

“We pride ourselves on being a safe and welcoming place for all, and we try to use our business platform for good.”

Jen’s mission goes beyond just helping Michigan makers. She makes sure to keep McPherson Local actively involved in the community.

“We believe that all humans should be treated with dignity, love, and kindness. We are a space that strives to feel like home for those walking in our door. We are supportive and active in our community DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) efforts as well as vocal in our support of our LGBTQIA+ community and BIPOC community.”

Julienne Marie Photography

In addition to a scholarship fund for an art student at Saline High School, here’s a look at just some of the organizations Jen and her team have raised money for:

“Some of my greatest accomplishments are staying through a pandemic”

In the past, Bankrate has reported on the struggles of small businesses to survive the pandemic. Jen knows firsthand how hard it was to navigate a prolonged lockdown. She and her team were forced to get creative and find ways to “get our story and products to people no matter what we had to do.”

Some strategies Jen used included quickly pivoting “to an online store and shipping — two things we hadn’t done previously. We also provided delivery to porches, curbside pick up, and appointment shopping.”

“Owning a small business means that you spend a good majority of your time trying to get people in the door, and it’s becoming more and more difficult to do that.”

Jen’s strategy paid off, and unlike so many other small businesses, McPherson Local survived the pandemic. But she and her team are still having to deal with the after effects. “The biggest challenge right now is just getting people to support and shop small.”

Jen currently uses a business line of credit and two loans to help cover expenses. But that still isn’t enough, and Jen would consider another business loan in the future “to cover costs and expenses due to the after effects of the pandemic.”

While the best small business loans can be a lifeline for many, it’s important to understand what you’re getting into before applying. There are many types of business loans and even more types of lenders. From low-interest loans like SBA loans to high-risk loans like merchant cash advances, it’s important to research the best option for you.

I would advise other owners to really check rates and know your lender.

— Jen McPhersonOwner of McPherson Local

“My goal is to stay open”

Jen firmly believes that “communities need small businesses” and is working hard to push past a difficult 2023 to show people “how much it can mean to shop small.” She’s looking forward to Small Business Saturday, which has typically been McPherson Local’s biggest sales day of the year. And heading into 2024, she and her team are looking to “develop some new class offerings and partnerships” beyond its current items for sale. This includes a mug club and subscription boxes.