Holiday Shopping Made Easy!
25 Small Businesses To Support During The Gift-Giving Season
On Monday morning, I woke up brainstorming what pie my boyfriend and I will make for Thanksgiving, writing my weekly grocery list, and thinking, “what the heck am I going to get my family and friends for the holidays?!” I, like many consumers, would typically default to Amazon, Target, Walmart, or other large corporate companies for gifts-- and why not? It’s quick, easy, and often where my loved ones’ wish lists send me anyway.
As I thought more about it, the notion struck a chord with me. I know from first-hand experience that running a small business is not easy. For Sambar Kitchen, I’m constantly planning social media posts, website deals, calling buyers, and formulating collaborations with bloggers and other small businesses on the rise. And in spite of a global pandemic, I have been extremely lucky to meet hard-working business owners this year. That’s when I realized: why not highlight them?!
Over time through personal purchases and recommendations through my network groups, such as Her Agenda (check out their inspirational posters!), Brown Girl Magazine, and Million Dollar Women, I can safely say I’ve found a stockpile of go-to small businesses that have never disappointed! So here is my tested and trusted list of small businesses to support with your holiday shopping this year!
This bookstore was recommended to me by my professor, T Kira Madden at Sarah Lawrence College. I deeply admire Madden’s social justice work for incarcerated people, and can’t wait to follow in her footsteps with the Right-To-Write Program when it is safe again. In the meantime, this independent bookstore, through the Beacon Prison Books Project, takes book requests from incarcerated readers, then fills those requests with your donations. Pick a book to sponsor, and Binnacle Books will take care of the rest!
Social Media: https://www.instagram.com/binnaclebooks/?hl=en
Supports a campaign
Politics & Prose
This Washington, D.C. based bookstore is great for finding books, gifts, and even remote classes! I attended the virtual book launch for Alisson Wood’s Being Lolita, which was an amazing experience! They uplift marginalized voices and feature their works-- especially those focusing on the current political climate.
Social Media: https://www.instagram.com/politicsprose/
This LA-based bookstore recently hosted the launch for “Best of Brevity”, highlighting the literary journal’s best flash nonfiction essays. This concise journal is beautiful, publishing both renowned and emerging writers. Bookstores like this one are highly important to small literary journals and rising authors, and it is imperative that we support them too! Their online store even includes a holiday catalog filled with staff picks and new releases to make shopping their collections easier than ever.
Social Media: https://www.instagram.com/skylightbooks/?hl=en
Well Read Children
I came across this recommendation by Arika Lawrence in my Her Agenda network. This online store was made with the intention of uplifting self-published authors and getting their books into school book fairs! Founded by Toni R. Settles, The Well Read Child Book Fair believes in partnering with schools and organizations in disenfranchised communities, with 20% of all sale proceeds donated back to the host organization for critical needs funding.
Bookshop.org splits all of its profits to support all independent bookstores.
Food & Beverage
The Guilty Grape
Description: As a Rosé lover and very serious wine drinker, I had to include The Guilty Grape, who I interviewed for Her Agenda this year! Nicole and Nichelle Nichols are two badass female entrepreneurs that are taking their love of wine to the next level. Not only is their Rosé the perfect balance of dry and sweet, they just released their “Gold Collection” which includes their Peach Mango Bubbly, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay. I am in love with their iridescent wine glasses, which they now offer in gift sets making them a perfect gift for the holidays!
Social Media: https://www.instagram.com/theguiltygrape/?hl=en
~Inserting shameless self-plug here~. I mean, hey, it’s 2020, and women need to be less apologetic-- especially when it comes to business ;) All jokes aside, the last year of building the Sambar Kitchen community online has been a blast. I smile every day when our customers share the twists they’ve concocted with our sauces, the new recipes that are innovatively whipped up, and the fact that I get to spread my family’s traditional meals with the world! It is a remarkable experience that I hope makes your holiday season special too.
Social Media Handle: https://www.instagram.com/sambarkitchen/?hl=en
I met founder, Bri Makaric, in Chicago on a work trip circa relentless college student building her company-- Brite Bites! Her healthy snacks and gift sets would make AMAZING stocking stuffers, but mostly her awesome entrepreneurial energy will make you motivated to tackle 2021 like no other! Just be sure to fuel up with her Brite Bites beforehand!
Social Media: https://www.instagram.com/brite_bites/?hl=en
Oh. My. Goodness. I cannot RAVE about this Indian inspired bean to bar chocolate. This Austin, Texas-based company is taking the delicious blend of Indian spices and sweets to a whole new level. My mouth waters when I think about Rose Pistachio Dark or the Masala Chai Dark Bars, and their labels are so stunning that you’ll be tempted to save them and turn them into wallpaper! Check out their decadent products and gift boxes now!
Social Media: https://www.instagram.com/madhuchocolate/
Did you really think I wouldn’t include my favorite dessert?! That’s right-- I’m talking macarons! This chic place helped me through every college breakup, late-night study session, and post-run craving back when I lived in Cincinnati, Ohio! They ship anything from variety packs, birthday packs, and build-your-own boxes-- so you can experience all their amazing flavors… and trust me, you NEED to! My favorites are pistachio, red velvet, and birthday cake! Not to mention the Executive Chef, Nathan Sivitz, is a graduate of my alma mater Xavier University, go X!
Social Media Handle: https://www.instagram.com/macaronbar/
Phenomenal Women Action Campaign
The personal is political, and this campaign is making their message loud and clear! Each unique product supports dozens of different organizations including Black Futures Lab, Justice For Migrant Women, Native Voices Rising, and so many more! I have their super cozy sweatshirt “phenomenally brown” and of course, their “samosas, mimosa” shirt! I mean, HeLlO?! SO CUTE! Their latest design inspired to Demand justice for Breonna Taylor is in collaboration with the African American Policy Reform (AAPF) #SayHerName campaign and WNBA players who helped to create the design. All profits go directly to the Breonna Taylor Foundation.
Social Media: https://www.instagram.com/phenomenal/
Black and brown owned
I DONT MIND
I met Edward Schmit, Co-Founder of IDONTMIND, while living in NYC. This wonderful awareness campaign and lifestyle brand aim to normalize discussing mental health issues. Not only does the campaign inspire
and work towards ending negative stigmas surrounding mental health, but all of their proceeds support Mental Health America as well. I am grateful to have met Eddie at this time in my life where my mental health was in one of the worst conditions it had been in-- with battles through PTSD, anxiety, and depression. Eddie and his company continually serve as a reminder that we are not alone, and there are hundreds of resources to seek and provide help for ourselves and others.
Social Media: https://www.instagram.com/idontmind/
This past year, I was lucky enough to discover the work of okko. okko = “Our Kind of Knockout” is based on the founder’s upbringing as an Asian woman grounded in minimalism with designs that are exactly that. These super comfortable undergarments are beautiful, sexy, and better yet extend their mission to the most vulnerable women - women in the criminal justice system. Their partnership with the Women’s Prison Association focuses on women who are incarcerated or previously incarcerated to donate gently used bras and underwear, the most requested items of women in vulnerable situations. Women experience more poverty, lower employment rates, and have fewer safe housing options than men immediately after incarceration. Mass incarceration of women is complex and challenging, and supporting companies like OKKO is one step towards change.
Founder, Danielle Burns is one of the strongest women I have never met. Yes, you read that correctly, I never met her. Her vulnerability, passion, pain, and beauty has been intriguing to watch over the years as I have watched through Instagram, one woman to another. I first came across Burns’ because she was a fellow NCAA Track & Field athlete in the Big East Conference at Villanova University. Being a Cross Country and Track runner at Xavier, I was always very excited to see other athletes from Philly, my home. Miracle Bandz is a company developed from Burns’ circumstances of loss, grief, beauty, culture, pain, and striving for happiness. I only hope that others can see how this company is born strength.
Social Media: https://www.instagram.com/miraclebandzofficial/
Wow, the founder of CPC Swimwear does it all! Caroline Christ and I crossed paths in our advocacy work earlier in this pandemic summer, and it seems like we were made to find each other, or I was at least made to find her swimsuits! LA-based Social Worker by day, and fashion designer by night, Christ makes adorable ethically and sustainably sourced swimsuits ready-to-order or even custom made to your body! I don’t know about you, but the second we have a COVID-19 vaccine, I will be on a flight somewhere warm and sunny and sipping mimosas in one of her fabulous swimsuits.
Social Media: https://www.instagram.com/cpcswimwear/
Edge of Urge
I discovered this little store hidden in Wilmington, NC on a trip for Writer’s Week at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. I was determined to discover the heart of downtown that I only saw in One Tree Hill episodes, and my excitement was met when I walked into this store. Edge of Urge is filled with clothes, gifts, accessories, books, and more from independent artists everywhere. I personally send my boyfriend multiple things I added to my holiday list, I’m sure you will too ;)
Social Media: https://www.instagram.com/edgeofurge/?hl=en
I’m With The Band
Description: This women-owned company will have all your stocking stuffer gifts covered with their super cute scrunchies, headbands, scarves, and now masks! Many of their products are made from recycled and sustainable materials, and all the designs being inspired by the music and culture of the 70s.
Social Media: https://www.instagram.com/imwiththeband/
This women-owned company is spreading their message of inclusion and empowerment through their beautiful backpack designs. HERO was born out of the childhood story of founder, Alissa Lentz. As a Russian immigrant, Alissa struggled to fit in, but when a friend drew a superhero inside Alissa’s backpack, a hero ignited in her. Each HERO backpack purchase provides one day of tuition for a girl who is a first-generation college student. HERO backpacks are fashionable, durable, high-quality, affordable, and inspiring. Look good and feel good!
Social Media: https://www.instagram.com/herobackpacks/
John’s Crazy Socks
I am so glad my friend Caroline (Founder of CPC Swimwear) brought this wonderful company to my attention! This father-son inspired venture is Co-founded by John Lee Cronin, a young man with Down Syndrome. Their mission is to spread happiness and donate to the Special Olympics, which have helped play a vital role in Cronin’s development. Their fun designs and mission are a reminder of what is possible when hard work, passion, and talent come together. Choose happiness this holiday season with John’s Crazy Socks!
Social Media: https://www.instagram.com/johnscrazysocks/
I don’t even remember how I came across this company, but all I know is the designer and founder, Ashley L. Fouyolle, makes the gift-giving experience vibrant and unique. Through gift wrapping paper, greeting cards, and home goods as Fouyolle amplifies artists from around the globe. Make your gift-giving experience different, in a good way.
Social Media: https://www.instagram.com/unwrp/
This mother, daughter duo is inspiring and implementing self-care practices in the Black community through their candle company, Brookai. Their positive messaging and amazing blends of fragrances will make a great gift for any home. I am definitely putting the sweet potato pie candle on my Christmas list! This company was highly recommended by a colleague in my Her Agenda network.
Social Media: https://www.instagram.com/bybrookai/
Kula Village is a one-stop shop that carries multicultural and world heritage products created by Deepika Pillai. She has curated this wonderful shop for brands of all different backgrounds to come together to promote their culture, community, and love. You can find many of the brands I have previously listed, including Sambar Kitchen. However, there is so much more for home decor, kids books and puzzles, and party decorations. Pillai is constantly bringing in new brands to her marketplace so keep checking out Kula Village often!
Social Media: https://www.instagram.com/kulavillage/?hl=en
Your pup will be chichest dogge on the block with House Dogge’s line of sustainable and minimalist chic products. House Dogge’s products are all created from sustainable, nontoxic materials so you don’t have to worry about your doggo’s health and safety. A percentage of sales are donated to various non-profit organizations that are committed to rescuing and healing neglected or abused dogs so they can find their fur-ever home. You and your furry bff will not be disappointed by House Dogge’s products. 4 out of 4 paws!
Social Media: https://www.instagram.com/housedogge/
Wellness & Beauty
Oui The People
Oui The People is a revolutionary beauty line committed to “The reConstitution of Beauty”. Oui The People aims to provide customers with products that are thoughtfully designed, effective, and empower you to love the skin you’re in- not change it. Their line ranges from their new “Patriarchy” candle (let’s burn that sh*t down) to their shavers to hydrating body gloss. This line is made for everybody and encourages us all to go #againstthegrain.
Social Media: https://www.instagram.com/ouithepeople/
I first fell in love with Live Tinted when founder, Deepica Mutyala, launched a digital community focused on inclusive, and diverse beauty. The community served as a safe space for me and others to express concerns that were underrepresented in the beauty industry. It wasn't before long that Live Tinted launched their own products for people with my skin tone and background. Mutyala is a true entrepreneur, empowering everyone around her. Especially her Live Tinted community.
Social Media: https://www.instagram.com/livetinted/
BITCHSTIX donates to retailer-nominated nonprofit organizations that support survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault. Their use of the word "bitch" turns a word that has historically been used to inflict shame, and attaching it to an agent of restoration. They have products in a number of flavors and scents that inspires, empowers, and changes lives for the better.
Social Media: https://www.instagram.com/shopbitchstix/
Support The Community
Safe Berks provides safe haven and support to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Our advocacy and education programs increase awareness of oppression and promote the prevention of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Our programs address the region’s most pressing and immediate youth issues of education support, after school programming, and mentoring – all of which are provided by caring and knowledgeable staff. We adhere to the national Boys & Girls Club of America’s initiative to help young people between the ages of six and eighteen get a healthy start and enter school ready to perform to the best of their ability cognitively, physically, socially, and emotionally.
Sarah Lawrence College's annual toy drive is open! We are once again collecting toys for the children of the Community Gardens Project run by Greyston Foundation in Yonkers. This year we are asking you to choose a toy – or several – from one of two wish lists. The toys will be delivered directly to Greyston. Please purchase by December 7th so gifts will be delivered in time for the Greyston holiday celebration. Shop on Target or Amazon.
(Note that you have to “register” to view the Amazon list).
Donating items is easy! Click on SHOP next to the organization you would like to support and purchase the items you would like to donate. You will be emailed a tax receipt at the time of purchase. At the end of each drive all items purchased for donation will be shipped directly to the nonprofit organization. Thank you! Your contributions will make the holidays brighter and strengthen our community by helping others in need. Donate now.