Saturday, November 30, 2013

Why We Do It, Part 1

It's Small Business Saturday!  I hope you'll take the time to support a local, internet, or favorite small business today!  And a heart-felt thanks to all of you who have or will visit the shop this weekend for our annual Black Friday thru Cyber Monday sale.

I know these sorts of promotions can be quite a bore for some of you and who among us hasn't gotten completely irked at an annoying sale commercial that plays over and over again?  We may not always be in support of all of the companies and their approach to this weekend but I do hope we don't let that help us fail to support the businesses we do value.  As you know, small businesses are pretty personally important to me.  It's not just because I am one.  Long before I was one, I was pretty devoted to the concept.  From shopping at the very first Whole Foods Market over in downtown Austin to mentoring small farmers and business growers to becoming a business owner myself, my entire adult life has been a journey around those values.  I have no real issue with big business - quite the contrary.  I feel it's important to say that from time to time because it seems that we tend, as human beings, to assume there has to be one side vs. another.  I think smart marketing is in realizing that we need both to compete, succeed, and prosper in a world market.

So, while I do not despise big business, my values lie in the world of the small.  That is not to say that I do not buy my paper towels at a large box store.  Or, to imply that I will spend a lot more money to buy something at a small store that I can get elsewhere for a fraction of the cost.  At the end of the day, I have a family to take care of and I believe wise appropriation of resources is always warranted.  It IS to say, though, that I appreciate and value the approach and experience that is being and shopping with small businesses.  I understand that there is a value in the personal, tailored experience of knowing and working with your provider.  When business becomes a relationship, everyone tends to get what they need.

And we NEED small businesses.  We need people who will/can think outside the box and create a place where truly unique things happen.  We need people who find innovative, new concepts and introduce them to us, show us how to embrace them and why we should, and support us along that journey.  We need creativity that doesn't come from a school or a set of rules or a chain with a pre-ordained shelf stocking list.    We need the guy who first thought to put beer, chocolate and salt in some hard cheese and sell it at a local farmer's market so that others would experience it and then realize they could put ___ and ___ and ____ in cheese and it would be AWESOME!  We need that small hardware store in town that knows that a large percentage of the houses in Maine are 100+ years old and drafty as all get out- so they stock all of the items you need to winterize at the time you need it.  The box store, who's home office is in Georgia or something, will catch on later and have the stuff a little cheaper but you'll be snug by the first snow knowing you're already all set.  That's the same box store that puts all of the pool chemicals out in March, when most of our pools are still a sheet of ice to skate on and stops ordering them by May when we are just starting to imagine it ever being warm enough to swim.  But, without that box store, we'd be out of toilet paper year round and, trust me - take it from a woman who lived off the grid and farmed and raised 3 kids for almost 10 years, roughing it is not necessary and any spiritual value you would derive from such existence can be very closely replicated by a remote week of camping twice a year.  Just trust me, we need both.

So, even when the holiday songs are making you need to bite someone, the people are cranky and sweet little old ladies steal your parking spot - I find it helps to remember the reasons why we do it. Sometimes it comes down to that very special gift that will make "insert person's name here" so happy because they will be so surprised and you know they want it and sometimes, less rewardingly, it's because you need toilet paper.  Sometimes it's because you've just found the perfect knitting pattern and, voila - it's on sale!  And, sometimes, it's because you know that everyone will be out next Saturday and you are procuring a batt to sit and spin so you don't follow through with that need to bite someone next week (planning ahead - cuz you are wicked smaht!).

For myself, as a small business owner of almost a decade, I can only partially put into words how grateful I am for the support and the relationships I have been privileged to forge over the years.  For the many times I have sat down to my holiday feasting table, looked at my ravenous family (I'm always late with the food, why am I always late with the food?) and thought of how grateful I am that you have supported me, challenged me, helped me grow as an artist and business woman - and made every day I've spent doing things that are meaningful and beautiful to me with my life.  You are why we do it.  Without you, we couldn't.

Thank you. 

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