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Over the years, the holiday deals have gotten a little insane between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. But I’ve also noticed the shop small movement gain more traction and there is no sign of it slowing down. I couldn’t be more proud that our little business is growing up in a world where consumers are becoming more perceptive and aware of what they’re buying and where it comes from.
This topic is something very personal to us for obvious reasons. You’ve probably heard it’s good to shop small, but why exactly? There are too many reasons to list all of them and the reasoning probably differs from person to person. Whatever your reasoning, I hope to give you a unique perspective through my eyes as a small business owner and maker.
Small businesses can offer you just as much value, if not more so, than big box stores. They often provide you with a personal level of customer service. Let’s say you’re interested in a handmade item and ask a question about it. The response will most likely come directly from the artist. For example, with our business, when you send us an email, it’s either Jacob or I responding to it and no one else. Since our hands make everything, who better to ask? And how cool is it to be able to talk with the person who actually made it? What big corporation can say that?
When you buy handmade you are supporting artists, not the big box stores. Obviously, right? But really, you actually made a conscious decision to help support the American Dream of an individual who’s working hard to do something they believe in and love. That one individual wears about one hundred different hats in their business, from cashier to designer to manufacturer, photographer and more. And that deserves some major kudos.
Small businesses are an un-matched strength in our communities and there is usually a lot more to them than just meets the eye. They can be the difference that makes a vibrant neighborhood your favorite go-to spot or one you stay away from. You’ve probably heard that when you spend money in your community, it’s more likely to stay in your community. Well, it’s actually true- the proceeds are more likely to be recirculated around the local economy. In other words, the profits aren’t sent far away to fund the CEO’s second yacht. You know what I mean?
Personalized and custom items are a great gift idea that really show that you put some time and thought into it. Since handmade items are, well…handmade, many makers, including ourselves offer custom or personalized items. You can usually talk with the maker and request a special size, color or even something completely different! This is sometimes harder, if not impossible to do at a big box store.
When you buy a handmade item, the quality is usually significantly better. There typically isn’t the big business mentality of the cheaper the cost, the more profit, the better. The makers take extreme time and care into what they sell, down to how they make it and what it’s made of. Each material they use was picked with intention, and each item was made with real hands of experienced artists, not a machine to mass produce it, or even worse, underage children in sweatshops.
In most big box stores you could expect to find the same exact thing, store to store. Probably the same thing online, too. Well, this is great when you’re looking for something in particular, but maybe not so much for something unique or one of a kind. When you buy directly from the artist, you aren’t influenced by what the department buyer decides is hot right now, you’re buying whatever that artist feels inspired by at the moment. With every item that is handmade, they all turn out slightly different. This adds a lot of character and makes it a true one-of-a-kind piece. Definitely not something you would be able to find in a big box store.
Forget the mall this holiday season and hit up a local makers market instead. Similar to a farmers market, makers markets usually host a variety of local artists and makers from around the area. The holiday season usually brings out the best markets and they seem to be getting better and busier every year. Check out your local news and event sites as well as Etsy Local to find a makers market near you.
On a side note, I remember going to my first makers market with Jacob when we started dating. It was so inspiring and we were both in awe of the raw talent. And to top our experience off, there was some delicious food from local food trucks as well as live music. It’s definitely a must do and a perfect day date.
As a maker and small business owner, I can personally tell you that you are buying something so much more than just an art print, piece of jewelry or object. Sure, you’re seeing the final product in all its beauty and accompanied by glamorous product shots, but what you don’t see is the hundreds of hours of dedication it took to make the piece. Before that piece was made, there were hundreds of failed attempts and experiments that went wrong. There was frustration, probably some tears, but also moments of joy and satisfaction, which ultimately makes for a final product and one hell of a story to accompany it.
We get asked all the time, “What inspired you to make that? How did you get into this?” If it’s something people connect to, it’s a story. There is something that makes a product a little more special when you know the story and the inspiration behind the piece and how it was conceived. And artists are usually thrilled to let tell you about it.
I won’t bore you with our story again, but hop on over to read it, just in case you haven’t yet.