The Value Of Shopping Small
Over the course of the past few years of being a working artist this is a question that I've heard time and time again. "Why is it so expensive to shop small?" I totally get it, and it's a valid question. It DOES cost more to shop small and support a small business than it does to walk into a mega store and get a seemingly similar item - and I say seemingly because while "a pin is just a pin" or "a mug is just a mug" there truly is no comparison to handmade and small batch goods. I see a lot of folks lash out at customers when these kinds of things are said, but I'm a big believer that most people aren't aiming to be mean - they just genuinely do not understand, and it is so much more beneficial to teach someone than to get angry with them. So I wanted to get kind of candid and shed some light on this topic with you so that hopefully you can understand a little more about our lives as small business owners, begin to understand where that price gap comes from, and see more of the value in shopping small.
In the day and age of Amazon Prime and the Target Dollar Section we're kind of accustomed to things being cheap, and getting to us quickly. As a working artist married to a working artist, I'm no stranger to a budget so I definitely understand that a lower price tag does have it's benefits. However, it's important to keep in mind that while a mass produced item from a mega-store may have a smaller price tag, it doesn't have the same value as an item that is handmade by an artist, or thoughtfully and locally produced by a small designer.
When it comes to making products, there is a lot, and I mean a lot of overhead and costs to consider behind that final item. Also, when you purchase a product from a small business like mine, we only get to keep a small portion of those proceeds. There are a lot of different costs involved in making and selling products that the average consumer may not consider such as the production cost of the item, the taxes we have to pay each time we sell an item, our website hosting fees, the fees from the credit card company that we pay each time you purchase from us, and so on, and so forth. And those are just the costs to sell a product - that's not even skimming the surface of the cost of time spent designing and creating something, product photography, packaging and shipping materials, our electricity, computers, software, pens, paper, ink, paint… do you see where I'm going with this? Making things is expensive. Selling things is expensive. Operating a business is very, very expensive. And most small business owners, myself included, do not actually take a paycheck from all of the hours worked drawing, painting, packing orders, answering emails and performing all of the other tasks that are required to keep a business afloat. We also have to supply our own health insurance, dental insurance, and whatever other kind of insurance we require. We don't get employer paid vacation time or sick days, all of those things are on us to figure out.
A big factor in the price gap between mega stores and small businesses is that us little guys do not have the luxury of purchasing thousands or even millions of a specific product to sell in the way that a large corporation does. That means that the actual price per item is higher for us because we aren't able to take advantage of the incredibly deep discounts associated with high-volume orders. For myself personally, I will only work with manufacturers that have ethical labor practices, pay their workers a fair wage, and are local to me in Michigan whenever possible - most of the folks making the products I sell are small mom and shop businesses too and that means that my actual cost to produce an item (no matter how many I order) is higher right off the bat. But supporting other small businesses while growing mine is important to me, and something that I absolutely refuse to ever budge on. To go even further, when I purchase a new item for my shop, I do not have any investors or financial backers who are fronting me the money to do so - I am taking money from my own bank account and investing it into a product that may, or may not sell well in my shop. Every launch and every new product is a real financial risk for me and my family. We're real people, and each launch, each new product can truly make or break us.
I'm sure you've all seen the image that floats around the internet, it's a sign that says "When you buy from a small business, you are not helping a CEO buy a third vacation home. You are helping a little girl get dance lessons, a little boy get his team jersey, a mom put food on the table, a dad pay a mortgage, or a student pay for college" and that's exactly what it is. When you purchase something from my shop, you are helping me to pay my bills that month. You are helping me to stock our fridge and make sure that my son has clothes that fit him and afford his soccer lessons. That we can afford our car payments and put gas in the car to drive him back and forth to school. That's something that I, and all of the other small business owners out there, will never take for granted. We don't have all of the zeros in our bank accounts that the big CEOs do - each and every sale matters to us. That is why I love packing orders so much - it is a time where I can sit down and literally write out a thank you to each and every person who spends their hard earned dollars on my work. I add little bits of confetti and wrap everything up nicely because when you hold that package in your hand, I want you to feel as happy as it makes me feel to send it to you.
Having this career is something that I will never take for granted. I live, breathe, eat, and sleep thinking of Honey and the Hive. Making art and designing products is my absolute passion - I put so much of myself, of my heart, into each and every thing that I make and do and to have people all around the world who love it too is nothing short of amazing. This is the thing that keeps me up at night, running to my laptop at 2am or jotting notes when I'm out and about - I am completely in love with it. Running a business is hard, having the discipline to sit down each and every day and draw and make things and work on my website and all of those other tasks is hard - but it's also my absolute passion. When you have a small business and sell products that you have dreamed up and made yourself, it's such a personal experience. It's something that I truly believe that you can see and feel in our products - and that right there is the value of shopping small and supporting the makers out there.
I hope that in sharing some of this you see and feel the value of shopping small, of supporting the movers and shakers and makers and dreamers who awake from a deep sleep with the next bright idea and rush to their office to write it down. I am lucky enough to be friends with some incredible small business owners and getting to watch so many incredible women's dreams become a reality year after year is the most beautiful thing in the world to watch. None of that would be possible without those of you who support our dreams through shopping our websites and sharing our makings with your friends and loved ones. I hope that this holiday season you shop small - even for just one gift. I promise you that the person whom you buy from will be doing a little happy dance knowing that the gift you just bought allowed them the ability to spend another day supporting their family while living their dreams.