Here's an interesting tidbit: one of the very first posts to this blog way back in 2010 was a gift guide. Yes, this blog has been around for that long...and it is interesting to look back on that old post and to realize how much has and hasn't changed. Anyway, I wanted to provide an index of all the businesses that provided me with gifts for my loved ones this season (I also posted pictures to the Facebook and Instagram pages earlier this week). The uniqueness of this list is that most of the items featured here were purchased from small businesses owned by women and people of color. Where possible, I included a picture and/or link to a website.
Another timely tidbit: Even though I do not personally celebrate Kwanzaa, I do want to highlight that this index is offered in the spirit of the fourth day when the focus is Cooperative Economics or Ujamaa.
BZB International, Inc.
Back in 2012, I began attending this annual holiday pop up bazaar that takes over the Family Life Center at my church every weekend in December. Because it reminded me so much of the Market Fridays that used to take over our Student Center on campus, my first impression was that it would be a cool place to do personal shopping for jewelry and maybe some stocking stuffers. Well, every year I've found more unique gifts and have managed to do some serious shopping, so it sucked that I was only able to go once this season, but here are a few of my finds (past and present):
Black Pack Playing Cards
I saw these and immediately thought of my younger brother, who has been a card shark since the age of four. Seriously, he would play spades and bid whist with our grandfather for hours, and by the time he was a teenager, he had graduated to black jack and poker. This probably isn't the type of deck he would want to use, but it is definitely a collector's item that I hope he will display.
One of my favorite vendors at BZB is Lisa McFadden, who is making quite the name for herself these days. One of her designs is on display at the MET. I met her when she beckoned me over to her table and styled one of her signature CRUSH hats for me. I bought two hats that year; this year, I bought three, one as a gift for my mother. And I can tell you that the hat pictured here kept my head nice and warm on a recent trip to the city via the Staten Island Ferry.
Persona Luggage Tags by Helena Deneen
This is one of those gifts that I should have bought for myself, but in the spirit of the season, I bought one in every color for each of my sisters-in-law last year. I put it in the category of gifts that become practical when you realize that you need something like it, so I can't wait to find out if I can get one personalized for myself.
Handcrafted Pens by Marjorie
Here is another gift that I should have gotten for myself because I am always digging down into my bag in search of my car keys. I bought seven of these clips for my sisters-in-law this year (two married into the family on both sides). Such a cute idea!
There is always some crafty person who can turn everyday items into works of art. I came came across this vendor of hand-crafted ornaments this year and thought that some would make nice additions to someone's tree. I bought two ornaments made of natural materials and one doll.
Woodcrafts by Obanion
I had a lot of time to really browse last year, and this is one of the artisan vendors I discovered. I bought this piece, along with a mirror for my niece and her husband last year as a housewarming/wedding gift.
Bases Loaded Authentic Clothing and Kaps (B.L.A.C.K. 4 U)
This is another one of my favorite vendors; alas, I missed them this year because of that stomach bug that grounded me the weekend before the holiday. They have been my go-to for Negro League baseball themed gifts for the Hub and my brother. Last year their offerings expanded to include merchandise for the Buffalo Soldiers and the Tuskegee Airmen. Pictured below is the first jersey I bought the Hub:
Izzy & Liv Brown Sugar Box
Everyone has a subscription box these days, and this is my second year of membership with Izzy and Liv. The great thing about this box is that it offers its own name brand tees and accessories, but it also includes various products from other small businesses. I had a lot of options for all the women in my family as well as several friends. And believe it or not, I managed to keep several cute items for myself as well!
Businesses on Social Media
I discovered Izzy & Liv thanks to an advertisement on Facebook. Many of the businesses listed below were also advertised on social media, and after placing initial orders at other points in the year, I was pleased to patronize them again during the holidays:
One of my line sisters suggested this brand to me, and I believe that it was before Rihanna introduced Fenty Beauty. I was unsure if I wanted to repeat my brown matte lipstick phase of the 90s, but I bought the Fall trio in 2017 and now wear Nude La La practically everyday. They have expanded their offerings to include glosses, shadows, and blush, and I can't wait to try new some new colors. I gave the lip gloss sets to my nieces.
I was introduced to this brand in an online group when someone posted a picture of a travel bag that had been created for Spelman alumnae. Another member of the group raved about the quality of the backpacks, so the next thing I know, I'm ordering this adorable lunch box for the Kid last summer and a backpack for the Niece. I had to buy a replacement lunch box this Christmas for the Kid (mommy mishap), so I bought myself a tote bag that I cannot wait to show off in the coming months.
I saw this company advertised on FB this summer right after I had placed an order for a set of puzzles by another brand on Amazon. Those puzzles were too easy for the Kid, who had suddenly advanced to more pieces, so it worked out for me try this out this company's offerings. I ordered two puzzles--one box was the size of a cell phone, but the other was normal size. I gave the smaller one away and ordered a few more as birthday gifts. Pictured is the puzzle the Kid received for Christmas, and yes she insisted on wearing her leotard while putting it together...so I think this answers any questions you might have about the impact relatable images have on children.
Mess In A Bottle
Someone referred me to this Baltimore-based brand, and just on the social media feed alone, this is an interesting company. The owner has a compelling personal story, but what's more intriguing is her 'each one teach one' philosophy of offering classes on how to start a tee shirt company! I've ordered a couple of shirts, and my only complaint is that when I purchased multiple shirts in one order, I only saw the option to include a bottle with one shirt for a $9 shipping up-charge (check the FAQs, which I neglected to do). However, that is a minor issue and I will happily buy other tees in the future.
Copper and Brass Paper Products
This is one of two paper companies owned by Spelman alumnae that feature Black Santas (I am placing an order with the other company, Midnight Reflections, as well). I saw a congratulatory post on Facebook based on an Instagram posted by a local Atlanta celebrity, so I placed a quick last minute order thinking that I could just save the bags for next Christmas. My Sister not only responded immediately with my order, but she also has interacted with me on social media, and I appreciate that personal outreach. Most of the photos I took of my gifts were taken with the C&B Santa design in the background. I look forward to seeing what other design options are available throughout the year.
Christmas in Color
This is another company that is owned by a Spelman sister. I saw something posted in one of our Facebook groups, and also saw a recommendation by another friend to check out their Black nutcracker decor. Initially, I could not think of anyone to receive these (because everybody I know has way too much Christmas stuff), but at the last minute I decided to order them for a neighbor and they arrived just in time. I bought the ornaments for my parents, so I am excited about adding some new colors to the tree.
Melanin is Life
I saw this company mentioned in an article about Black-themed tee shirts. The same younger brother who is a card shark also collects unique tee shirts, so I picked out the classic X tee from their Black History 365 Collection. I saw a few other shirts that I liked, so I shall return.
A bearded friend told me about this brand, so when I saw the advertisement on Facebook, I thought about my other brother who has a beard and is always concerned about ingredients. The promotion was for 50% off, so I bought the travel size Beard Collection and the brush. It's a little pricey for me to give to anyone other than a close relative as a gift, so this is a recommendation for other Busy Black Women to consider as gifts for the gentlemen in your life.
Rapid X Charger
Technically speaking, the Rapid X 5-port charger is included on this list because it was recommended by the Oprah on her list of favorite things for 2018. And something suggests to me that until Oprah made that fateful choice, this company and its products were better known among techies than the masses. But they delivered on time, the brother-in-law who received it spends a lot of time driving his kids places, and he was really excited about putting it to good use.
Brick and Mortar Local Businesses
I wanted to distinguish these businesses because they are actual brick and mortar stores that I have visited (and plan to visit again in the New Year).
Hunny Bunny Boutique
I drove by this cute boutique every week for almost two years before I ever ventured inside. When I did finally go inside, I met the owner who was very courteous and helpful. Then I returned to replenish some product with the Kid in tow, and she remained patient and courteous in spite of...she also carried handmade soy candles by Freres Branchiaux, which I bought as gifts for my teen nieces.
Petals, Ribbons and Beyond
This card, gift, and flower shop is run by a Spelman sister and is literally down the street from where I live. I've been buying flowers there for years, beginning with the arrangements she designed for my wedding back in 2002. On a recent visit, I bought two Spelman umbrellas as gifts for friends to support the fundraising efforts of her class, which will celebrate 50 years in 2020.
The Spice Suite
For our 10th line anniversary this Spring, the Spice Suite was one of the sponsors of the festivities. I don't recall what that entailed (possibly one of the activities I skipped), but I began to follow her on Instagram this Spring. In addition to having a unique concept, the space also hosts other small businesses for a weekly pop-up. I finally found my way there, and met the owner who was very friendly and helpful while assisting me with my selections for my sisters-in-law.
Toys, Babies, and More
I went into a Toys 'R Us for the first time in decades in 2016...so for the record, count me as one parent who, despite the nostalgia for the store that was, shed no tears for the chaos and crazy it had become. I saw this article on Facebook and made it my business to check out this new offering (but didn't make it to the actual store until Christmas Eve). Thankfully the owners were genuinely patient and helpful, and the toy Santa brought has been appreciated. I plan to return in the future because good customer service will always make up for other shortcomings like a limited selection.
In an era when it is so much easier to order books online from Amazon, it takes real effort to venture into a bookstore. It takes more effort to find an independent bookstore, but somehow we're seeing a return of those small shops in the city. Thanks to the East of the River Book Festival, I bought several children's books from some really cool authors as gifts for some of the new little people in my life. I finally made it over to Mahogany Books, where I bought a nice gift for the Hub and for a few other young people. And though I went to Busboys & Poets to buy a him gift certificate for lunch/dinner, I ended up buying a book for my Dad and for the Kid instead. I need to include an honorable mention for Politics and Prose, where I intended to buy a book for the Kid's classroom book exchange (but the location I visited was closed on Mondays).
Dawn Price Baby
This local store just announced plans to close its doors in the New Year, which is sad. I don't remember when I first shopped there, but one of my fondest memories occurred the day after Easter in 2015 when I was nine months pregnant and hanging out with my then five-year old Niece. I waddled in and watched her play with everything from the classic Fisher Price toys to the toy trucks. My daughter has done the same thing many times, and the staff has always been tolerant and helpful. My last purchase there was the aforementioned book for the Kid's classroom exchange, and perhaps I will make it there before the doors finally close at the Capitol Hill location.
So guess what, Christmas comes only once a year, but entrepreneurship is a year-round thing. Below are several other small businesses I patronized at other points in the year (and hope to do so again soon):
African American College Alliance
Ask Me Tees
Brown Girls Do Ballet
I'm So DC
Mann Made Designs
On Us Tees
Waju Designs on Etsy
Your Destination Day Spa