5 Reasons to Shop Small, Local & Handmade - this holiday and all year round

Artists Working while promoting Buying Handmade and Shopping Local

Small Business Saturday, held the Saturday after Thanksgiving, was originally created and promoted by American Express in 2010, in the midst of the recession, to encourage holiday shoppers to support local brick-and-mortar businesses rather than big box brands or online-only stores. In 2011, the day became a nationally recognized when the US Senate unanimously passed a resolution in support of the day. It has now become an annual holiday shopping tradition — just one part of the larger Shop Small Movement that supports small businesses every day and everywhere.

In addition to the Shop Small Movement, there is also the lesser known but older Shop Handmade Movement. In 2007 a group called the Handmade Consortium (made up of the American Craft Council, Design Sponge, Etsy, Interweave Press, and others) launched a website encouraging people to be conscious of how they spent their money and to buy handmade during the holiday shopping season. On the website, people were asked to take this simple pledge:
“I pledge to buy handmade this holiday season, and request that others do the same for me.”

As artisans and small business owners, we at MAKE MADE couldn't agree more with both movements (Heck, our name is all about MAKING!) Here are the top reasons why we think you should care too:

1. Small businesses and Handmade businesses give (more) back to the local community.

  • When you support a local business, you’re also supporting your city and neighborhood because the revenue stays within the country and community. In addition to the sales tax you pay when you purchase an item, the local business also pays taxes to the city, county and state.
  • Small businesses bring more jobs to your community.
  • Each handmade purchase supports local craft industries and people - gives the artist a confidence in their product, a chance to develop their skills further, and an opportunity to support themselves and to re-invest the money back to their business and community.

2. Buying Handmade is the new American Manufacturing.

  • The sad truth is that the past few decades have seen a consistent decline in traditional American manufacturing. However, the Handmade Movement is a strong type of American small-scale manufacturing --- one that embraces human potential and gives individuals a unique voice they might not otherwise have.
  • When seen throughout a community, multiple times over, an entire city can find new life. We see it happening all across the nation today and it’s making our nation a better place, one community at a time.
  • Handcrafted products support a tradition of skilled work. As technology makes it possible to replace skilled workers with machines, it’s important to preserve hand-making skills and keep them as a financially feasible career choice for future generations.

3. Buying Handmade is more SUSTAINABLE and GREENER.

  • Unlike mass produced commercial items, Handmade products are created in small batches or are one of a kind items. They are usually made in small studios, not large production facilities, and they do not need to travel tens of thousands of miles to reach the consumer. All of this means Handmade products require less energy to be produced and have a lower carbon footprint.
  • More than likely, when you buy handcrafted, you buy with the intent of keeping the piece for a lifetime.  These purchases are more meaningful, and often become heirlooms.  These pieces are of higher quality materials and construction, and are more likely to be repaired than replaced. These characteristics help minimize the impact of "fast products" and "fast fashion" and keeps less waste out of landfills.  
  • Sustainability is important to us at MAKE MADE and we have made an concerted effort use recycled metal, fair-mined or lab-grown gems, recyclable packaging and use eco-friendly studio practices whenever possible. We truly believe when buying from an individual you are doing something good for the planet.

4. Handmade goods always have a STORY and offer a fuller experience.

  • Most artists have a story to tell --- about their inspiration, technique or materials. As a result, each handmade product has it's own story that is truly one of a kind.
  • Each Small Business and Handmade Shop has a person who dreamed it, created it and put their time, effort and heart into making an experience unique just for you.  When you shop in small, locally owned artisan boutiques, you often get the privilege of chatting personally with the owner or maker, and building a relationship with them.  You can literally see (and know) the person behind the brand, and know that you're more than just a number to them --- you're a collector, a friend, someone who's been with them since the beginning, or someone whose support personally makes their dream a little more achievable.  
  • The story continues when you purchase a Handmade item --- you become part of this individual story! The story grows:  it includes what connected you to a particular artist or piece, as well as why, where and for who the purchase was intended for.  Sometimes this story even continues for generations...

5. Small businesses provide the BEST customer experience and service.

  • Small business owners strive to survive in this big box, online world filled with disposable goods and fast fashion - and one of the biggest advantages they have over large retailers is the ability to provide more personable, hands-on, and memorable customer service.
  • Small businesses are genuinely happy to assist and it truly brings them joy to share their goods with you and see the pleasure it brings to you as a new customer or friend.   
  • Small maker-run businesses pride themselves in their craftsmanship and skill.  They will work harder, longer, and spend more time obsessing over details for you than any 'big box' competitor.  Every time.  Good quality matters to a handmade business in a way that a 'quality control' department can't even begin to understand.

In short, we believe that Shopping Small and Buying Handmade should be an all year practice --- not just for one day a year or one season of the year. It is a way of life that is best for the environment, our communities and our hearts. We hope you join the movement!