Small Business Saturdays: Supporting the Maker

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

photo of Peter and I shopping on Small Business Saturday from this news article

I was really struck by this story posted on a friend's status a year ago. I decided not to post it then, as it was her story to tell and not mine. But supporting small businesses is important to me, so I thought I'd share it here- or at least a more anonymous version. Big business is not necessarily a bad thing- look at Nordstrom, a huge brand that is allowing its employees to enjoy Thanksgiving, for once. And did you know that Small Business Saturday was the product of an American Express Campaign? I didn't!

This involved another big business that clearly does not treat people so well.

 I responded to a sample request from ____ for one of my ornaments which they wanted to potentially use for a Christmas collection, thinking that wholesaling ornaments would be a quick, easy job. I paid to overnight the ornament at the request of the buyer for it to arrive in time for an important review meeting. The UPS Code she gave me didn't work (the woman at UPS told me they hadn't allowed access to business accounts in 5 years) and I promptly requested to be reimbursed for my costs. ____ informed me that they would not be purchasing any ornaments (giving me bogus reason-that the embossing wouldn't show up on images on their website EVEN THOUGH they liked it enough to request samples from an internet image that I took) and, after a few emails, responded to my request to return samples and refund my money, which I invoiced them for via Paypal right away at the buyers request. Now, more than a month later, I have yet to receive the samples OR the refund, and my pleas and emails are all ignored. After a little more research, I am finding MANY stories of copyright infringement where artists such as myself have had their samples kept and designs later produced without their knowledge or consent. I believe this is the case for me, and I fully expect to see my "lace snowflake" ornament on the___ website come December. I realize I may never be reimbursed for my huge shipping bill and will probably never see these samples again. Tomorrow, we will harass them on the phone one last time...

As you can see, this is not a good company. Sure, it's not a factory building collapse {though they're probably involved in sweat shops too,} But this practice is essentially thievery, making these companies and their CEOs no better than modern day Sheriffs of Nottingham. This happened to a nice girl, just trying to support herself and her child by making things with soul, creativity and love {see what I did there?} Her products have essentially been stolen from her for a profit.

If you're interested in supporting her work, you can check out her Etsy shop. She's really very talented.

And in the name of supporting small businesses, here's a few tips on how to keep your Christmas shopping small:

1. Tap your friends' talents. Chances are, you've know people who are makers. I am a medical student- we are not a particularly creative bunch {not in that way, anyhow.} Yet on my facebook feed I see friends marketing their pottery, jewelry, kitchen utensils, knitwear, stationary, even bicycle bags. You don't have to look far to find people trying to make a living off of their handmade goods- and I'm not talking about cute little crafts without any genuine purpose. I would purchase products from every one of the above shops and makers- they are of genuinely beautiful quality, and most also serve some purpose in a household

2. Think outside. Literally- this time of year, at least in Florida, there are so many outdoor markets going on- farmer's markets, Christmas markets, you name it- full of great small businesses trying to get their names out there. Sip on some home-made hot cider while you peruse the stalls, make a day of a trip to the nearest craft fair- I promise you there's something going on near to you right now- all you have to do is google it!

3. Think beyond 'stuff.' Stuff is great. We Americans love our 'stuff-' we love it so much at my house we have actually filled our garage to the ceiling with it, leaving the cars out in the rain. But guess what? Small Business Saturday is not just limited to crafts and trinkets- you can buy gourmet food, or alcohol. Heck, you can buy music- yes, iTunes is a big business, but you know what's not? The up and coming musicians selling their albums digitally. And since Spotify doesn't seem to be making them quite enough revenue, you have yet another reason to purchase their music.

4. Seek small businesses out. I guarantee you there's dozens of small businesses in your area. They don't have the funds to post giant billboards up, but they're there, in the quiet little corners of your community. You just have to look for them. Ask friends- I often find the best evidence of a good shop or even restaurant is word of mouth. And here's another great way to find small businesses in your area.

5. Start earlier. This one might be a hindsight-is-twenty-twenty kind of thing, since we're already a month away from Christmas, but regardless! If you want a beautifully customized gift, it's going to take some time. And if you want that beautifully customized gift to be churned out by a one or two-man show a few weeks before Christmas- well, best of luck to you. Small shops simply can't afford to have hundreds of employees churning out unique made-just-for-you pieces with only a week to spare {unless maybe they are superman} Just keep this in mind when you're eyeing that monogram necklace for your niece (like I did) four days before the 25th. Yea. Whoops...

6. If you have to, just go big. Sometimes your brother wants nothing more than a new book for his Kindle. Sure, you could get him the title from a used book store, or something, but keep in mind that Christmas is not about you and your principles. {It's actually not about gifts, period. It's about the birth of Christ.} Maybe you could get your sister a super cute chunky knitted scarf and gloves from Etsy, but if she asks for a Gap gift card, just get her the Gap gift card.

Happy Thanksgiving! What's your favorite small business or Etsy shop?


  1. Replies
    1. Yes! Exactly!

      Although, I would not recommend shopping for Christmas at a pediatric office.


  2. I hadn't heard about either these pieces of news -- Nordstrom's being closed or small business days being an American Express campaign. So fascinating! thanks for sharing Georgia =)