Small Business Saturday ... is it really that small? Whether it’s your local high street or the larger retailer whose sales are just too hard to pass up, the question we all must ask ourselves is … DO WE NEED THIS MUCH SHIT IN OUR LIVES?
Shopping small is much bigger than you think, because shopping small equates to supporting your local economy. And that's huge. But to me, what's even bigger, is the idea of shopping SOFT. Because by shopping soft, you’re doing much more than supporting your local boutique, or buying that crafty item that you might not find elsewhere. You’re making a choice to not over-consume, no matter where or why you consume. You’re buying products that carry a story for you or the recipient. You’re enjoying connection with community, and the experience of curating that special gift for yourself or someone special. I started thinking about how these days it seems like there are two options, small business or dinosaur, and there’s not much in between. It's no wonder the term small business carries such heavy weight. So regardless of where, why or how you're consuming this season, I challenge us all to beg the question “Do I need this? Do THEY need this? Is this product useful? Is this company soulful? Who made this? How was this made?
Why is shopping small such a big deal? Because most often smaller businesses are run by heart over ledger, are relentlessly nimble to adapt to the changing needs of employees and consumers alike, and are run by real humans who make products for real humans. But shopping small doesn't always equate to shopping soft, and sometimes shopping big brands actually leads to more meaningful and useful products. I remember my days working for NIKE and and Red Bull, both huge brands with major marketing power. But the one thing that they couldn’t market-down is their size. During the emergence of conscious consumerism, big brands were begging to feel small, homegrown, niche, and sustainable. Conscious consumerism and global awareness spawned a generation of activists who demanded change. And with that, big brands were forced to make change or die off. There are a few who have finally followed the dirty path of cleaning up their supply chain. Patagonia has been brilliant at pioneering change with their Worn Wear Re-crafted collection. And this year NIKE created a manual for their designers that lays out the principles of circular design. Designing the waste out of the supply chain, rather than recycling wasteful materials.
While we all know that the big brands, big box retailers, and big margins are big contributors to this global crisis, these very same brands also have big money to effect big change. So while we, and many of my colleagues are small, niche, and special, we also get that you might need sneakers and a puffy coat. This season let’s shift our mindset from size to impact, from shopping small to shopping SOFT. Because someday my wish for all of the small businesses I know and love that we/they will become big business so that we may all continue to make softer products for you and for the planet.