Another holiday season has arrived, but this year there is a unique environment surrounding the hustle and bustle of Christmas shoppers. In a typical year, this would be the time when locals would gather with friends and family, line up outside stores to buy special gifts for their loved ones, spend their Christmas bonuses with members of their community and so on. In the event of the COVID-19 global pandemic and its subsequent economic impact, with loss of customers, jobs, spending capacity, many small businesses have been forced to close . For Vancouverites, this can be the perfect opportunity for holidaymakers to support their local, small businesses by shopping local. Our writer, Neelia Fuad, looks into five local businesses that Vancouverites can support during this holiday season. This article was edited by Brittany Christian.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how Vancouver has operated. As we come to the end of 2020, we see that people have lost their jobs, some of these large companies, such as Forever 21 and Papyrus, stopped operating and have moved their businesses online. According to Statistics Canada, the first two months of the COVID-19 pandemic saw the closing of more than 14,000 businesses in B.C. From this, it is evident that Canadian businesses were struggling to keep afloat due to the pandemic market. For small businesses, this is the time where they had to change their business strategies in order to cater their products to customers. As the holidays draw near, one way to help these small businesses is to share the products that they offer and buy local! Here are five amazing local businesses that people can support during this time:
With the holiday season being different this year, these virtual meet ups might need a little spark! ATLEASTCOLLECTION, is a female founded jewelry brand based in B.C., that offers products that are ideal for this year’s Christmas or New Year Zoom Call. Kim Tran worked on this project for a year as she had a passion of creating jewelry pieces that are durable and minimalistic. “I knew that I did not want to rush on putting jewelry out there if I am not completely satisfied with the product”, says Tran. For Tran, creating a jewelry line of her own has made her feel that her hard work is different because passion exists.
Since opening itself to the public in October 2020, ATLEASTCOLLECTION’s Kim Tran has aimed to create pieces of jewelry that people can wear every day. As a brand that started their business journey in a pandemic, they spread positivity through offering an assortment of jewelry pieces that clients can purchase. Though they are new to the jewelry industry, their passion and hard work towards the brand has allowed them to connect and creates many relationships with their customers. Tran has
so many plans for the brand which she says she is excited about sharing with her customers.
To ring in the New Year, ATLEASTCOLLECTION has planned upcoming launches and ideas so that potential clients can wear jewelry as if it is their second skin. Their wide range of jewelry and accessors can be viewed on their website and Instagram page.
“I took a huge leap into this business, knowing that it will be a huge risk to take on during a pandemic, but every business has to start somewhere, and in the end it was successful and I love the direction it is going to now!” – Kim Tran, 2020
HEMLOCK AND OAK
For Christmas shoppers looking to stay organized, Hemlock and Oak offers planners in various colors to help people manage their time more effectively. Established in 2020, Hemlock and Oak, a Vancouver based planner company is here to help steer people towards understanding their values. Tia’s goal was to remind them to be mindful of other behaviors and traits that have been neglected because of a work-centric lifestyle. This weekly planner prioritizes self-care and the individual’s well-being which can be reviewed on a regular basis.
“If my past-self had this planner, I would have had a reminder to focus on the more important aspects of my life.” – Tia, 2020
For Tia, the pandemic shaped Hemlock and Oak into what it is today and she is proud that she was able to find a local manufacturer to create these products despite it being difficult and expensive. In the next couple of years, she plans to create more products in order to make Canadian-made stationery accessible and easy to find. This local business is also accessible and easy to find as their products are showcased on their website and they talk about their progress towards creating the planners on Instagram; enabling individuals to achieve goals, without burnout. Tia also writes blog posts on the website where she shares her experiences and helps others dive into their inner self.
Karibu Soaps, a local micro-business based in New Westminster, offers unique handmade soap bars that are created through locally sourced natural ingredients. Ken, the founder of Karibu Soaps started this micro-business in order to play a role in curbing the spread of this coronavirus disease. Ken holds pride in his business as he creates safe and simple bars of soap with basic natural ingredients which he believes is needed for a clean healthy product. The founder claims that these products are gentle and nourishing for the skin based on the locally sourced ingredients that he used for them.
“The word Karibu means ’Welcome’ in Swahili, the native language of Kenya, where I was brought up before moving to British Columbia, Canada.” – Ken, 2020
Due to the pandemic, Ken was unable to sell his handcrafted soaps at in-person artisan markets. As a result, the business did not do well during the fall season. However, Ken’s morale peaked as he realized that the holiday season is a good time for people to purchase these goodies. In the future, Ken hopes to create youth employment and boost the local economy. While the current focus is on soaps, he also sees the business creating a variety of new personal care products and creating new partnerships. For those who love products that are natural and environmentally friendly, these soaps could be ideal as holiday gifts! Visit their website and look through their Instagram to see all the vibrant colored soaps that they have!
KNEAD FOR CAKES
Christmas is the time where people purchase various kinds desserts to share with their loved ones. Kneadforcakes, a local bakery based in Vancouver, sells custom cakes, cupcakes, dessert tables, dessert boxes and pastries suitable as gifts for the holiday season! This is a home-based bakery that was established in December 2019 by Sharon Singh. Singh’s goal in creating this bakery was to go above and beyond for the customers and make their visions come to life. This up and coming bakery is not restricted to limitations and is happy to deliver their baked goods at the highest excellence.
Despite the business changing due to the pandemic, Singh and her team see a promising future for this upcoming bakery. As they continue to build their clientele, Singh hopes to offer do-it-yourself treats for home-based activities that people can purchase for festive celebrations! Those who are interested can have a look through their Instagram page and see the assortment of cakes they have made for their clients.
“We see a clear vision of what kneadforcakes holds for the future, this bakery will develop different desserts that Vancouver has never seen before.” – Sharon Singh, 2020
PACIFIC ARTS MARKET
In this pandemic, art has been used as a creative platform for people to express their thoughts and emotions. Pacific Arts Market is a local art space established by Crystal that has been running since Dec. 2018. This local business offers an affordable and inclusive space for artists to display and sell their work. The goal for Crystal was to create a business that catered towards the community and she did so through Pacific Arts Market. Over the course of this year, Crystal’s business was hit hard in the spring and summer; causing her days to be full of stress and tears. However, with the kind words of the artists and customers, she was able to push through and come out strong; allowing for the business to thrive.
As the main decision maker for the business, she ensures that high standards for service and quality are applied to the artworks that she displays. From handmade cards to leather goods, these are all available at Pacific Arts Market. Not only can local artists be supported, handcrafted works of art can be brought back home or be given as a gift for the holidays. Head to 1448 West Broadway or have a look at their online store to see the different and various pieces of art that they have!
“My goal is to open more spaces like this, and to see the online store grow into more provinces. I believe in growth and development, I never like to get comfortable!” – Crystal, 2020
Go Local For The Holidays!
All the interviewed business owners urge Christmas shoppers in Vancouver to shop from local businesses this year, to help them grow and ride out the pandemic market of 2020.
By supporting small businesses and business owners, the money would also remain in the local economy which can help local development, says Dayna Winter, as opposed to going to chains and franchises which are often owned and headquartered outside of Canada. Winter also see local entrepreneurship giving inspiration and facilitating more business opportunities which allows small brands to be amplified. While some people may see it as just benefiting the small business itself, it could be that through purchasing products from businesses that are start-ups, people are able to save more than what they spend during this critical time. Ultimately, shopping local is important for the community as it strengthens communal relationships.