Let's talk about supporting small businesses.
I'm so sorry to bring it up before we’ve even got past Halloween...but...CHRISTMAS!
There. we've got the dreaded C-word out of the way, everybody take a deep breath.
Now for a little admission: I've already done the majority of my Christmas shopping for the year!
This is partly because Super Seconds Saturday was a roaring success (well done to Sophie of Ink & Bear for pulling off such an amazing online event. You're bloody amazing), and partly because I love Christmas: I love the buzz, the decorations, the songs (apart from Mariah Carey. That one I hate), I love giving thoughtful gifts to my fave people.
This year though, I'm approaching Christmas a little differently. I’m trying to shop locally or with small and independent businesses as much as possible.
Why I’m shopping small this year
My life revolves around two small indies.
As some of you may already know, when I'm not making earrings, I run a small indie craft beer shop in Horsforth, Leeds. And boy oh boy, am I passionate about it! I'm always trying my hardest to support the newest, smallest breweries to become household names on the Leeds beer scene, I'm all about buying in locally produced beer and I'm all about supporting the other indies in the area (honestly, Horsforth is utterly amazing for the amount of small local biz it has).
So, considering this, it seemed fitting that I join A South London Maker's Market in their Christmas Pledge to “Shop Small” this year.
I want to support other indie babes.
I want to help other small business owners to keep their ambition and entrepreneurism alive through what has been arguably the toughest year for traders in a long time.
I want to encourage my friends and family to support a person who relies entirely on the survival of their passion projects.
I want to line the pockets of the individuals striving to create something unique in a world full of fast fashion and knock-off consumerism.
I want to gift somebody else what I’ve been gifted: support from friends and family, from indie brewers, from amazing customers; A feeling that yes, actually, I AM doing an awesome thing that’s worth the time, energy and dedication I give it.
What is shopping small?
An easy definition of shopping small is shopping with independent retailers that are not part of a chain. They can be local if you choose, but there’s nothing stopping you researching online and finding other cool indies from further afield that call out to you!
Why you should shop small/indie
It feels like you’ve properly spoilt somebody.
Been gifted an indie-made item always feels so special to me, and I love being able to bring that joy to other people.
Picture this: It’s Christmas morning. You’re sat in your customary Christmas morning present-unwrapping spot (for Mr VL and myself, this is sat in bed with a coffee, a plate of handmade gingerbread and the two cats). You unwrap a gift and see a cool logo, a cute presentation box. You open it and find a gorgeous handmade print/t-shirt/necklace. You realise that the person giving you this gift has taken the time to research independent businesses that sell the things you’re into.
They’ve probably taken a few hours to trawl through hashtags and websites, or walked around the city seeking out those hidden gems.
They’ve REALLY thought about you, instead of maniacally dashing from shop to shop, affronted by all the wholesale items that every shop is selling because that’s what fashion has this year dictated as the “must-have” seasonal gift, eventually giving in to fatigue and panic-buying and picking up something that “will do”.
You’re actually “Double Gifting”
Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you’re buying twice as much!
Gift One: bringing joy to the person you’re buying for.
Gift Two: bringing joy to the person you’re buying from. Indie makers do it because they love doing it, not because it makes a fortune (hint: it doesn’t make a fortune).
Option Gift Three: You can always make it a triple gifting experience by tagging that maker on social media so that other people can see how excited you are about your purchase, in turn encouraging others to support a small biz.
The high street companies don’t need your support
The two thousand richest billionaires (here’s looking at you, Jess Bezos) in the world have increased their collective wealth by £7.6 TRILLION since the start of the worldwide Covid lockdowns. They don’t need your money. They can afford to pay their workers (both more than they already do, but also just in general. They don’t need to bail-outs they keep asking for and receiving).
How can I find local and indie biz babes?
Utilise social media
Social media is my go-to as both a seller and a buyer.
A great starting place is searching specific hashtags that relate to the things you’re looking for (Scroll to the bottom of this post for a list I use regularly to snoop out cool stuff).
This way you can scroll through, click on the posts that catch your eye and find sellers!
Once you’re following that seller, you’ll soon notice that they’re sharing bits from other indies (we’re a tight-knit community who love celebrating each other’s successes).
Following online maker’s markets is also a fab way of finding out about lots of small sellers without much effort on your part. They tend to work by putting up individual posts for each maker (their “stall” for customers to browse through). You then click through to their profile and then the website link in their bio. It’s my favourite way of finding cool people and I’ve listed my go-to online markets at the end of the post.
You could also whack a story up and use the “questions” sticker to ask for recommendations: people are passionate about their fave small shops and love to tell others about them!
Find out what your local area has to offer
Take the time out to research independent businesses where you live. I’ve lived in Horsforth almost 3 years and I’m STILL discovering new indies!
Ask your local coffee shops for recommendations, take a walk around your suburban high streets (they tend to be hot spots for cool little shops), ask your mates, google it!
And finally…the Indie Christmas Pledge
**I pledge to shop small this Christmas **
And I would love it if you would do the same!
You can do this however you want: buy everything small biz, buy token gifts small, or dedicate a percentage of your budget to shopping small.
It would also be fabulous if you helped to spread the word, by either sharing this blog for others to learn from, or by sharing the Pledge on your social media (you can find my shareable pledge here) and encouraging others to do the same.
Who/what to follow
Ps. A note on “but shopping small costs a fortune”.
I know that a fair few of you probably think that shopping small can be expensive, but that’s not always the case. Some small biz babes choose to keep their prices more accessible to everyone and there are often newer brands out there who have lower prices. You are also likely to find a “seconds” or sale page on their websites for those cheeky stock clearance items.
And for those that are more pricey, I’d like you to pause and think about how much time and energy goes into each item they sell: With any handcrafted item, you’re paying for the maker’s time. You’re paying for their time to come up with a unique item, plus the time it takes to produce a first draft of that item, then their time to produce a piece for sale. You’re paying for their attention to detail and their passion to produce something unique. And finally, you’re paying for the cost of the materials.
The process behind hand-crafted and indie gifts is so much more intense and consuming than a factory produced item from a high street store. The items you buy from indies will be unique (and they’ll likely last a hell of a lot longer than that cheaply made version you got from a retail chain).