We are now getting close to the time of year when everyone is thinking of buying gifts for the Christmas holidays. I know that for those of you in the US or the UK, this season is well underway. Here in Spain, the big shopping splurge will start much later, but almost everywhere people will be thinking about their gift lists and preparing to buy. So what do most people do? My guess is that they head to the nearest big out-of-town shopping centre/Mall or spend a few hours with their computer and shop online. We all know the names, addresses or even URL´s of all the biggest stores. And oh my, how they must look forward to this time of year; customers practically fighting each other for the pleasure of handing over their cash.
But where do their goods come from? How are they managing to sell things so cheaply? Please people, before you hand over money, give these questions some serious thought. Are they managing to keep costs down by paying their workers a below living wage? If they are, just don´t shop there. Vote against this by not once entering their stores until they pay their staff a decent wage. Is a cheap gift really worth trading your morals for? Give them a big miss. Also think about where the goods are made. If that nice shirt you have your eye on was sewn by a girl working 15 hour days for a less than she can buy a meal for, then keep on walking. The only way this kind of abuse by big business is ever going to stop is by all of use refusing to take part in it.
So this Sunday I would like to praise all small businesses. The stay-at-home mums who help to keep the books balanced by making something; the single mums who provide not only a wonderful service or product of some kind, but support their children at the same time. The couples who get together and market something they have produced themselves. All the farmers who set up road-side stalls and sell zero-mileage food…..and remember most of the big supermarkets pay farmers so little that hundreds of thousands of them are going out of business every year. You can read about this here. This article is based in the UK, but it´s the same for any country that is dominated by a few super big supermarkets. Just don´t go there; stop by the road a buy some really fresh local food, or find a small independent producer. I can´t think of a single large business that I would trust to be trading in an ethical way. Learn to live without them. It can be done.
Look around your local area. Do you know someone who is making things either from home, or in their own small store? Take a look, there is nothing nicer than a home-made piece, rather than something mass produced; and you know that nobody is being abused in the process of making it. Need a special gift? Find someone close by who makes it and buy there. The same can be done for clothes, toys, food, household items…….everything that the big stores sell you, you can go buy from a small business. And you don´t even have to rely upon them being close anymore. If you want to buy online, nearly all these small businesses are online too.
I believe that if we all chose just two small businesses and promoted them for free on our sites or blogs, or even by word of mouth, not only would the small businesses benefit but people would become more aware of the idea that they don´t have to use the big stores, there is an alternative. So this Sunday I want to give praise to two small business that I know of. One is local to me, the other is based the other side of the world, in Australia. Both these small businesses are run by young mums with small children; both produce first class goods which they make themselves, and sell at very reasonable prices. And before you ask, no, I´m not related to them and I´m not receiving money or services of any kind for promoting them here.
Here are my two choices: The first is Jackie Fernandez, and I have already mentioned her on my fb page. She lives as I do, in Andalucía, Spain. She is married with two small children. Jackie makes fabulous cakes and cupcakes and you can visit her site here. In Andalucía, with unemployment running at 40% amongst young workers, small businesses need all the help they can get. My second choice is Jenna Harrington and she lives in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. She too is a married mum of two small children and she came up with the idea of making truly awesome cat posts. You can visit her site here . Read her story, it really is quite inspirational. A true small business, even the web site was made by her husband. Two businesses that involve no abuse of workers in third world countries; no staff abused with below living wages; no food producers driven to poverty. Good, honest and ethical; the sort of places I´d like to do business with.
Please, Christmas is a christian holiday; buy a gift this christmas that doesn´t come with a big wrapping of shame.
Have a good weekend everyone,