Local & Small Faves

This is it! The Christmas I’ve been waiting for. This is the year when internet shopping has become so easy that it is now a thousand times easier to support small and local businesses and find uber cool gifts from the comfort of your desk (couch, bed, coffee shop).

As I’ve gone to fairs and events this past year I’ve noticed that even the smallest vendors now accept credit cards and almost all have a web site.   The big box stores and malls are worried and they should be. Millions of people are selling unique, local, personal items that I want to give my friends and family. I love supporting small and local businesses just as much as I love finding the best stuff.

So I want to share a few of my favorites with you and I hope you will join in and share some of yours. The one thing local and small businesses don’t have is advertising budgets. Let’s help each other out and give up the goods on where you’ve found some really great gift ideas.

Makeda’s Butter Cookies – I personally met Makeda at a street fair where she told me her cookies were butta-licious. Damn, she was right! They are the essence of butta-love. She’s a local girl from here in Memphis but you can order her cookies from her website (click here for the link). Not only are these great to send as a gift, but you can order some for your own holiday party. And if you’re like me you’ll need to order some for yourself, you know, that bag you hide from the kids.

Bow and DrapeBow & Drape – These are super-clever, chic, glitzy sweatshirts (and other gifts) that you can customize or order from their suggestions. They are made NYC and beat the goofy sayings on the mall shirts by a mile. (Link here)

 

Speaking of custom–Etsy. If you haven’t found this wonderland of cool gifts yet, set aside a few hours (or days) to get lost in all the perfect, often handmade, items. The really beautiful thing here is that it’s all searchable. If you specifically want a rainbow tutu you can search it and will find so many great options. It’s all small businesses looking big by banding together.

Amazon — I know they are the biggest of the big, but they are also the au laitmarket place for many small businesses (like authors…) The trick is finding the small guys on this mega site. If you find one, please share! Years ago my parents brought me some incredible lotion from Scotland that I thought I would never be able to find again. I can now order through Amazon. If you don’t like strong scented bath products I can’t recommend the Au Lait Scottish Fine Soap Company enough. Here’s a link.

Finally, don’t forget your local coffee shop for gift cards. These are great for people you know live in the same area; teachers, friends, etc. I broke myself of the drive-thru-Starbucks habit when I found my local shop, Pinks. The owner is super supportive of me as a local author, her food and coffee is delish and I always end up finding out all the news that would be in our local paper (if we still had one.)

So spill–tell the world about your favorite small and local business that have the coolest or yummiest stuff that can be ordered online. Clue us in to your best secrets in the comments below.

 

 

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Is Pinterst Your New Google?

When I need to find a v-neck white blouse with a bow, I search Pintrest. If I have no clue what to make for dinner but I’ve got a pound of shrimp, I search Pintrest. More and more often I find myself frustrated with the search results I’m getting from Google or Bing but entirely happy with what I find on Pintrest. Why are so many others making this same switch?

While Pintrest doesn’t have the same saturation as Facebook or other social sites, yet, it is growing quickly both in the U.S. and internationally. Some still see Pintrest as a place to store some recipes or craft ideas, but it has become so much more. According to Penny Fox in an article on Busines2Community.com, “At it’s core, Pintrest is the place for people to plan and aspire about what they can do to enrich their lives.” So yes I have a board for recipes and one for crafts, but I have about thirty others too. I have quotes that inspire me, images and quotes that evoke the right mood for the novels I’ve written and pins that just make me think or laugh. So all the results I get when I search the site are important things that were worth saving to other people. I get search results with a personal touch.

In the article Ms. Fox also notes that understanding your search results on Pintrest is much easier because, “Most people are visual learners. We connect faster with images because it’s easier to scan visual search results over a list of text links.”

So on Pintrest my search for a blouse or recipe will net me images that I can scan to find what I am looking for. But the benefits don’t stop there. Once I find an image I like I can click on it and follow it to it’s source. More and more often that source is a retail site where I can purchase the item I want. Large retailers and one-woman Etsy shops are quickly tapping into the power of the Pintrest search and creating their own searchable pin boards.

But it’s when I am looking for ideas more than a specific item that Pintest far exceeds the other search engines. If I’m planning a cruise I can find ideas for things to pack, excursions in each port, hints from others who have already taken the trip, and pictures of the ship and ports. I can combine all of these and save them to a board that I create. When I’m ready to pack or book excursions,I can refer back to that board and easily find what I need (again, the images help a lot). Or, I can just look at them and dream (which is half the fun of planning a trip).

Finally, through my searching I can find others who share my interests and connect with them. Another feature that is not available on the big search engines. When I log onto Pintrest I see pins from people I follow, people I share interests with. The latest fall fashions, best healthy recipes, hottest pictures of beautiful men and uplifting quotes that speak to me are lined up on my home page and change often. It is easy to get pulled in and just keep scrolling and clicking and scrolling (you get the idea).

source: 5 Min for Mom.com
source: 5 Min for Mom.com

If you need a Euro to dollars conversion, go with google. The web address of your local dentist–bing it. But for most of life’s other dilemmas, I say, throw it up on Pintrest and see what comes up. I think you’ll be amazed at the results.

Is Pintrest your new go to search engine? What’s your favorite way to use Pintrest? As always I’d love to hear from you.