Updated: Oct 21, 2020
As the world continues down an uncertain path due to the pandemic, a great way to support others is to support small businesses this holiday season. Keep in mind that every purchase from a small operation is made with love. Small businesses will truly benefit and appreciate the support during the never ending dumpster fire known as 2020.
I am not going to sit here and say never buy from big retailers or large online outlets. We all, at some point or another, typically buy from such retailers, whether it is for mere convenience or simply because we can't find the product we want at another location.
However, since it is October and the holiday season is not yet fully upon us, now is the ideal time to get a head start and really look around at all the amazing options small businesses have to offer.
As a new owner of a small business, facing down her first ever holiday season, and a person who finds herself part of an incredible community of entrepreneurs and small business owners, I wanted to share how you can find us! So, without further ado, here are some tips:
1. Go beyond Google by searching hashtags on social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest.
Unless you've truly wanted to get your content seen on social media as a business or influencer, you probably don't understand the pure artistry that goes into selecting the hashtags on a post. I know I sure didn't get this memo before having to use hashtags for people to find what I had to offer. Hashtags are great because you don't necessarily have to follow the account. Think of it as the mega search of social media! There is a hashtag for almost anything and they can be general (to serve as a starting point) or super specific (to bring you exactly what you want).
A great starting point for someone who isn't quite sure on what they would want to get as a gift, but they know they want to shop small, is to simply search the #smallbusiness or #shopsmall hashtags. Also, everyone should look at the #shopblackowned and #shopnative hashtags. You will see there are plenty of results and so many incredible options to chose from.
If you find yourself with something a bit more specific in mind, you can always check out the "forsale" hashtags. For example, as an artist on Instagram #artforsale is typically on my posts. Come find us talented artists! The hashtag, though, goes beyond just art and can be used for almost anything. Some examples include #jewelryforsale, #handmadeforsale, #crystalsforsale, #booksforsale, #potteryforsale, #clothesforsale, you get the idea!
Lastly, if you have something extremely specific in mind, just put a "#" before whatever you are looking for. A complete list of options for hashtags containing that item will pop up, and off you go! For example, say you were looking for a nice baby blanket for a friend. Type "#babyblanket" into the search bar and see where it takes you!
2. Check out art or holiday markets, gem shows, fairs, festivals, and farmers' markets in person or virtually.
A big way for any creator or small business to reach customers is through events such as markets, fairs, and festivals. Of course, if you are able to attend such events in person because you are in an area where these events are taking place and you are comfortable enough to attend these festivities, by all means, consider heading to these events to find new creators.
If you are doing your best to stay at home due to the pandemic (or because you, like me, prefer shopping from your house with your hair up in a messy bun), check out virtual fair options. Many markets and fairs have transitioned to having virtual options for their creators. At a minimum, even if you can't attend a virtual fair, by going to the event's website, you can find different creators and their business information. From there, you can head to the creator's content and either reach out to them to purchase a piece or buy directly from their online store.
Here are some great virtual market options to start:
3. If you head to Amazon, check out Amazon Storefronts first.
While Amazon has options from all over the world and numerous companies, they also have a section on their platform dedicated to small and midsize businesses. These small businesses are owned and operated by people who simply use Amazon as a platform for fulfillment, shipping, or inventory warehousing depending on the business. The fact that Amazon is being used as a platform doesn't necessarily negate the fact that the business is a small business. The small business is just leveraging resources the best way they can to get their products out there.
Many of the products through these small businesses are available for Prime shipping, which means that these options may be particularly wonderful if you wait and find yourself in a time crunch. Amazon not only has these businesses separated by product category, but they also provide you with the option to shop local! You can shop by region. And, as if this wasn't cool enough, you can also shop based on the nature of the business (i.e. family-owned, woman-owned, Black-owned, military family-owned, and more).
So, if you decide to go the way of Amazon, check out their Storefronts first.
4. Think outside the box and consider adding fun services as a gift option.
Retail and custom retailers aren't the only group who have been impacted by the current state of the world. Service providers like restaurants, spas, salons, tattoo parlors, bars, hotels, and really anything related to travel have been hit hard.
In the past, some people may have said that getting a gift certificate as a present isn't very thoughtful. Personally, I never had qualms about gift cards, but I especially don't have them now. For example, gifting a service at a spa will most often help the business by putting money in their hands while also spreading the word about their business. And this process doesn't just apply to spas. Send out a gift card for a local restaurant where people can order take out. Do the same for a local hotel and your friend or family member can have a little stay-cation.
Also, think a little bit beyond just these typical places to spend gift certificates. A good option may be to get your friend a gift certificate for that reiki healing session or tattoo that they have been wanting since last year. You can gift your friend a tarot card reading or a cooking lesson. When this much thought goes into the gift because it is something that your friend will enjoy and it is a way of helping others, no friend I know would ever be offended or upset. So, get on it!
5. If you have an idea for a gift, rather than jumping right online, ask your friends and family for recommendations.
One of the greatest assets of any small business is customer recommendations. Word-of-mouth is one of the main ways businesses are able to grow and retain their client base. Help small business owners out by taking advantage of this!
Say you want to buy a handmade wallet for a friend. Instead of simply heading to the internet and searching away, talk to some of your other friends or family and ask if they've bought anything like this. Most likely, one of them will have made a purchase recently and they will be able to offer a recommendation.
Also, ask people who are in the business! Small business owners tend to know other small business owners. So, if your friend sells handmade pottery but you are looking for a nice necklace, ask your friend who makes pottery if they know any great jewelry makers in the area. Whether at a market one time or through social media, it is highly likely your friend who makes pottery can point you in the right direction of another small business owner that makes exactly what you need. And, on top of finding exactly what you want, you can have confidence in the seller because your friend knows them or has worked with them in the past.
I know you may be thinking: All of that seems like a whole lot of extra work when I can just run to the store or hop onto a major retailer's website. You may be right, but the joy and excitement you will bring to any small business owner by supporting them and their passion is immeasurable. The few extra minutes it might take you to find their work will mean everything to them, especially in such a difficult year during the holidays. So, if you can spare the time and you are fortunate enough to have a little extra money to spare this year, please be sure to shop small.
***NOTE: This article is not affiliated with, sponsored by, or marketed by any vendors or companies mentioned herein like Instagram, Pinterest, Amazon, etc. The MidCity Menagerie LLC does not directly receive any compensation for mentioning these parties or any others in this article. Also, any mention in this article of a company or event does not explicitly constitute an endorsement of that company or event.