Okay, okay… I know everyone is banging on about this at the moment. But do you know why?
Because it’s SO important.
Over these last few years, and especially since launching Chouette Events, it has become so important to me to support small businesses and share their incredible work. The first time I remember it hitting me was when I was working in a hotel not far from my home. One day, when I was just going about my usual pre-wedding checklist, a family came into the room. They were a Polish couple with a young daughter.
Mum came over to me and asked if she could start setting up - she was the florist. “Actually, it feels strange to say that”, she told me. “I did used to work in a flower shop in Poland. It is my dream to be a florist, so maybe one day. I’m working on it”.
She was a close friend of the bride, and she had been trusted with making the centrepieces and the bouquets for the wedding. She was beaming. The way she showed off each one to me (whilst I was stood trying to match vodka shot wedding favours to their appropriate place settings), was so endearing.
Her husband and daughter had come to help. The young girl said to me “it’s my birthday today”.
“Wow”, I said. “You are so kind working on your birthday to help your mum”.
Her mum whispered to me, “she thinks we didn’t get her any presents. But when she gets home there’s a new bicycle hidden behind the sofa”.
And then I realised. Making these flowers was not just a hobby for this woman. It was her passion, and her dream. And it was how she was hoping to pay for the bicycles and the toys and the clothes for her kids in the future.
I find it so incredible that people pursue such interesting and varied careers. That’s probably because I’m so jealous that I don’t have a single creative bone in my body… and I really wish I did! But how wonderful for someone to find something they love so much - taking photos, creating music, cooking - and be able to do it every day.
What’s heartbreaking is that these are the people who have been hit the hardest by the Coronavirus pandemic. Many are having to work 10 times harder to rethink, rebrand and come up with new ideas, but for a fraction of the reward. Many have closed. So many received no government support, and even those who did are finding it is nowhere near enough. No furlough scheme. No redundancy pay. So the cameras have been put back in their cases, instruments kept out of the spotlight and our favourite restaurants and bakeries have closed their doors.
That’s why, right now, it’s so important to show your support and give these guys your business. And do you know what? What you’re getting in return is so much better. Why give someone a gift you picked up in a supermarket or mindlessly purchased online? Why not show someone you really care with a personal, thoughtful, handmade gift… something different, something fun. And in the process, you’re supporting a small business and a family, helping them not just buy the bikes and the presents but pay their bills and put a meal on the table too.
I’ve put together a list of businesses I love - and I would love to hear your suggestions too!
Obviously, there are hundreds of other great ones out there but hopefully this will get you started. Clicking on the picture will take you to their website or social media pages.
Firstly, some suppliers you may recognise. Those below are featured on our website - or are a sister company/a side project created by someone who is! Lots of lovely ideas for wreaths, stocking fillers and gorgeous treats for yourself and loved ones this Christmas. Some have Gift Vouchers available too!
I’m also super passionate about food, and the way that the hospitality and restaurant industry has suffered this year has been so upsetting. Here are some of the GREATEST independent restaurants and cafés around the Birmingham area (& Worcester too!). Our food culture is incredible; our street food scene is going from strength to strength and, did you know, we have SIX Michelin Stars and counting?!
Consider buying gift vouchers for Christmas - it's a great gift to give, allowing people a chance to one day enjoy some of the best food in town, and also keeping these amazing businesses afloat until they can re-open their doors fully!
Don't forget some of these guys are still delivering and offering some goodies in lockdown too, so keep checking and supporting where you can!
Click the pics to take you to their site.
You can go to the Independent Birmingham website to see a TONNE of other incredible local stuff. Our city is bloody brilliant.
And finally here are a selection of little businesses that I just LOVE, and think will be excellent for your Christmas shopping this year. Some of them are local to me and some are a little further afield but they are fantastic, and I am proudly getting behind every single one!
Greetings cards, jewellery, toys for your little ones... there's a little bit of everything here. Click the pics to visit their website.
I could probably think of a load more, but hope this has given you a little food for thought.
You may need to get a little organised as buying from little companies like this sometimes means you need to order in advance. But it is SO worth it. Your friends and family are going to love receiving these gifts, and, BELIEVE ME, their makers are going to be overjoyed with each and every purchase.
Let me know your best suggestions for Christmas 2020...