When I sat down to write this, I knew what I wanted to write about already: why you should choose to shop at small businesses this holiday season. What I didn’t know is where this would take me. At first, I told myself to approach the topic from a very typical angle. You know the type of blog post I’m talking about:
“Five Reasons Why You Should Shop Local This Year”
“Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Shopping Local”
“Here’s Why You Should Support Small Businesses”
The titles jumped out at me from numerous Google searches as I worked to get inspired. Nothing seemed to feel right, though. It all felt a little like I would be speaking from someone else’s point of view.
Don’t get me wrong, I really really wanted to write about this. I am, after all, a small business owner myself! How could this be so challenging for me?
Suddenly, I realized that I was trying to write what someone else knows. Someone else knows five economic reasons why you should purchase from small businesses. Like in this article right here. Someone else can list ten effects small businesses have on their communities. Another blogger can explain all about the positive environmental effects of shopping locally.
Now my question became, what do I know? What can I tell you about shopping small and local?
The year I decided to transition out of my teaching career into a new phase of my life, I went back to the basics. I thought a lot about how I’d like to spend my time each day, with whom, and where. What were my interests? What did I love about past jobs I’d had? What did I hate about past jobs?
In the end, I settled on a couple part time positions to see which felt most natural to me. One of those part time jobs happened just by chance one weekend when I was visiting my sister in Easley, South Carolina. She had recently moved there, and invited me to take a leisurely stroll through the small shops and storefronts on the main street. I certainly wasn’t expecting to walk into a potential job interview, but as soon as we walked into Laughton & Co., I felt inspired!
I loved EVERYTHING in the store. Who knows how much I bought that day, but let’s just say it was as much as I could carry. As I was making my purchases, I chatted with the couple that assisted me. It turned out that their daughter-in-law owned the store and they were filling in for her on a busy weekend. They were absolutely lovely, and mentioned that she might need some help in the coming months, so I gave them my information and went about my business (pun totally unintended).
A few days later, I got a call from Brittney, the owner, inviting me to come in and meet her and discuss a part time position. My life has never been the same. Even though I am no longer working there, and haven’t made as many return visits as I’d like, some of my favorite times were spent laughing and working with customers at Laughton & Co. I can honestly say that it was one of my favorite jobs, and probably the biggest inspiration for opening my own store, Bleckley House Gifts.
A Turning Point
Until that point, I hadn’t really had any examples of women my own age that owned their own business, not to mention a successful business that was thriving and an essential part of the community. Watching Brittney make decisions, order inventory, create displays, and most of all interact with her customers was seriously motivating. Sure, she had a lot to do every day. Of course, things went differently than she expected. She never let it stop her, though, and that was all I needed to see to feel like I could also have a business of my own.
Earlier this year, right before the pandemic took over our lives, I met with Brittney to get some advice and catch up. Now she was a mom as well as a business owner, and I wanted to know how all of this was possible! I don’t know about you, but as a woman, I sometimes struggle with the future. I often hesitate because I just can’t imagine how things will work out. Could it really be possible to own a business AND have a baby? Or babies, plural? And have time for myself? How would this work?! As you can see, I was a little nervous about all of it.
Brittney is a testament to what is possible when you decide to just do it. That’s basically what she told me! You just have to do it, because you’ll never know until you try. And then, keep going. Even with a baby. Even with a pandemic. Even with the pressures of day to day life. Just keep going, and when you turn around, you’ll find that you have built this spectacular thing, a small local business!
Now, as I reflect back on what I observed at Laughton & Co., I realize that the reason shopping local is really the best decision you can make is that at its best, a local store is authentic. That’s why Laughton & Co. has been so successful in my opinion – Brittney’s style and authenticity shine through everything she does! From the decor and products for sale, to the music and mood, it’s all there to make you feel like you’re a part of something very special. And you really are!
So, here’s what I know about being a part of a small business, from an inside perspective. Let these be my reasons why you should shop local this holiday season.
- Community Connection
- Because they live in your city, your neighborhood, maybe even on your street, local shop owners know what is going on around them. They are plugged in to the specific needs of your local community, and can put energy towards making the community a better place to live.
- Getting to Know You
- Working in a local shop, I got to know the customers, what they loved, what they hated, and could immediately recommend products for them. I felt connected to the customers, listened to their stories, provided comic relief for them, and made them feel confident in their own skin by helping them find clothing and accessories that made them feel great!
- Customer Service
- Because I knew what the customers wanted, I could quickly help them make selections they felt good about. I also knew exactly where everything was in the store, and could give customers my undivided attention most of the time. I made it my mission to give every customer a great experience, and I like to think that made all the difference.
Since working at Laughton & Co., I have made it my goal to continue what I learned working with Brittney. Anytime I feel overwhelmed or nervous about my own small business, I remember the feeling I got every time a customer walked into the store. I was about to meet someone new, and get to know them. If they bought something, great. If not, I looked at it as an opportunity to make a new friend. This is how I want you to feel about Bleckley House Gifts.
This holiday season, I hope that you will consider purchasing at least a few of your gifts locally, from shop owners who care not only about running their business, but also about YOU. You are, after all, one of the main reasons we small business owners started our businesses!
And last, but certainly not least, don’t forget to check out the selection of small batch, handmade gifts (many of them locally made!) in the Bleckley House Gifts shop. Just click on the button below to head straight to the shop!
Calling All Makers!
As part of my commitment to support other small businesses, I have created a page on my website for local artisans to contact me about carrying their products in my shop. If you know someone who is a creator, a maker, an artist, whatever you want to call it, please share this with him or her. I would be so happy to “meet” virtually, and learn more about their craft.