I recently traveled to Chicago with one of the best people I know, Malori. Malori and I quit our day jobs around the same time to pursue our businesses full-time, so I've always felt that we're somehow connected because of that. She's one of my favorite people to talk business with (she runs the floral studios Hoot & Holler and Noir Floral, among other ventures), and if you own a business, you know that a lot of the time, "talking business" is just bitching.
So naturally, as Malori and I were sharing a bottle (or two) of wine on the patio one beautiful night in Chicago, we started bitching. The details of the bitching are pretty unimportant in this context, but whatever were were gabbing about that night turned into a conversation about the importance of shopping small.
While in Chicago, we visited one of our stockists, Gather Home + Lifestyle. The owner, Kristen, had recently shared an instagram post that really resonated with me, and her and I started chatting about it when I was in the store. Here's a little excerpt:
"Small businesses truly need your loyalty and support to stay in business. I get it, big box stores can be inexpensive and offer perks that the little guys just can't compete with. (I'm looking at you Amazon Prime.) But sometimes as consumers it's important to understand the value of the dollar spent. Maybe buying from a local shop means you spend a little extra, but your dollar is significant to their success. You are keeping the lights on and the door open, and ultimately contributing directly to the community. And I think we can all forget that sometimes, even I can."
So as Mal and I continued to drink (and continued to bitch) this concept kept weaving its way into our thoughts.
Amazon came up a lot.
Amazon is fantastic. I can order printer ink, snacks for the office, supplies we need for production, and a new toy for my dog, and it will all just show up at my door tomorrow. I didn't have to run all over town. I didn't spend an entire day running errands. It saves me so much time.
But what does that mean for the local shop that sells printer inks, or snacks, or dog toys? It means no one is shopping there. It means they are going out of business. It means the life they've worked hard to create for themselves is no longer an option. It means they are closing up shop and finding a job.
These things are some of my greatest fears.
In addition to being terrified of my own business being pushed out of the market, its also pretty scary to imagine a world where one company does everything for you.
My husband and I recently went to see The Big Sick (fantastic movie, by the way). At the beginning of the movie, as all of the companies involved in making the movie had their logos flashing across the screen, I noticed one for "Amazon Studios". This sent my imagination spinning into an alternate reality, where you wake up in the morning to your Amazon alarm, eat your Amazon breakfast, go to work at your Amazon job via Amazon public transportation, while wearing your Amazon clothes, then go on a date to an Amazon restaurant, and see an Amazon movie... It went on like this for longer than it should have, but you get the idea.
So yes, Amazon is incredible, but I don't want to live in that world. I want to live in a world where you know the owner of your neighborhood boutique, and your favorite restaurants are representative of the community you live in. I want to buy my friends gifts from companies that are run by people with passion and dreams.
I also think "shopping small" and "shopping local" are used interchangeably too often. I love my local community. Phoenix has some of my favorite shops and restaurants, and I love spending my money there and directly supporting them. Something I've learned from running a small business that sells a product, though, is that it no longer matters where you're based. Whether you live in Phoenix or Pittsburgh, you're supporting my small business when you order something from my website. And you're supporting TWO small businesses when you buy one of my products from one of the boutiques we sell at across the country.
So, getting to the point of this very long and rambling post:
That night in Chicago, Malori and I decided that if we were going to bitch about people not supporting small businesses, we needed to be walking the walk. We decided to challenge ourselves to only buy from small businesses starting October 1 through the end of the year.
Some thoughts we had on the challenge:
Can I buy items from a small business on Amazon?
Yes, because your purchase is benefitting that small business!
What if I buy things from giant corporations, but I'm buying them from a small independent store?
Go for it. You're supporting that independent store!
But what's considered a small business and what isn't? Where do you draw the line?
Use your best judgement. Nordstrom isn't a small business. The local grocery chain with 12 locations in your state is. Also, do your research. The big box stores are really great at making a new concept seem like a cute little local spot.
Say I need new underwear. A local boutique sells some, but I'm not looking to spend $40 on a pair. What do I do now?
We realize that there will be times when we just don't have a choice, and this is fine. Just make sure you really exhaust every avenue before you pop into the Gap to stock up.
I'm super excited to challenge myself, and interested to see the areas where I tend to spend the most money with businesses that aren't exactly small.
If you want to follow along as this experiment unfolds, be sure to follow my personal account (@samstandard), Malori (@malorimaeva), and the hashtag #samandmalshopsmall.
Interested in doing the challenge yourself? Let us know how it goes, and be sure to share your experiences via the hashtag!