12 Meaningful Ways to Support Generous Businesses This Holiday Season

Fundraising. Ugh. It seems like a four-letter word to me – even though it has way more letters than that! Asking people for donations is pretty high on the list of things I LEAST like to do.

But the reality is that very few important get done without fundraising. That’s why, despite my distaste for it, I find myself doing it more than I want. If that has annoyed you, I’m sorry . . . But not really. 🙂

Most recently, I collected donations for a charitable auction to support the Activity Club at my kids’ high school. The Activity Club sponsors many meaningful programs, such as providing food and toiletries for high schoolers in need, connecting high school and elementary students through a mentoring program, providing scholarship opportunities for seniors, and coordinating an after-prom party and a Baccalaureate celebration in the spring.

Soliciting donations is never a fun pastime, but soliciting donations from businesses DURING A PANDEMIC is especially difficult. Many small businesses have struggled to stay afloat since Covid drastically altered shoppers’ budgets and routines. I expected that donations would be hard to get – and for good reason. But I was wrong! The generosity of the companies listed below was mind boggling, and most of them are small businesses. I can’t overstate my appreciation for their generosity, as well as my gratitude for the individuals who contributed, as well.

I don’t know about you, but I feel better about spending my money (and I probably spend a little extra) when I know the business profiting from my purchases has a spirit of generosity and a love of community. As you are Christmas shopping this season, please consider the ideas below and support these business owners, who have been generous even during a time of economic struggle. In addition, I hope these ideas motivate you to investigate more local businesses needing support in your own community!


1. Birch Bear Co.

If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you already know I’m a superfan of this company that started as a little t-shirt shop on Etsy and has now expanded to print t-shirts, sweatshirts, blankets, and more. I wear Birch Bear shirts often and have gifted them to my mom, my SIL, and my friends. The owner, Kayla, has become a friend, even though we have never met and we live a state apart. Most importantly, Kayla’s creations are THE BOMB. (I know that my slang is outdated, but if you were a teen in the 90’s, you still appreciate it. Don’t lie. ) Long story short: shop at Birch Bear Co. You won’t regret it. Customer service is top notch, and Birch Bear will even help you design what you need this holiday season.

Here are a few of the faves that I wear or have gifted, including the Still Chasing Fireflies design <3:

2. Just a Jar Design Press

You guys, Just a Jar Design Press is a quiet little shop in my hometown of Marietta, Ohio, and let me just say two things about this business. First, the owners Sara and Bobby Rosenstock are personable and kind. Second, this business has been flying under the radar for too many people for too long! Just a Jar Design Press produces woodcut and letter press posters, t-shirts, and greeting cards. Their prints are absolutely beautiful, and you can buy their greeting cards individually or in bulk. If you are buying mass-printed cards at the store, trust me – you need to STOP. 🙂 These cards are hand-pressed, and the artwork is beautiful. The cards themselves are a gift! This Marietta, Ohio shop is a gem, and, fortunately for all of us, Just a Jar’s talent is available online. I know from experience that their customer service is excellent and quick, as well. Check out these pictures from the Just a Jar Design Press website showing how one of my favorite cards is produced:

3. Patterson’s Farm

Patterson’s Farm is a successful small business owned by the ultimate “girl boss,” soap-artisan, and goat mama – Kathy Patterson. I will let Kathy speak for herself with this description from her website: “I milk my dairy goats every morning, and use that raw, fresh goats milk to make luxurious skin care products. The addition of goats milk to soap creates a bar that is truly a treat for your skin. Then, the art begins. Roses, swirls, hand piping, pour techniques, clays, micas, embedding, scent blending…this isn’t grandma’s soap!”  Patterson’s Farm is in Marietta, Ohio, but the products are available for online orders. In full disclosure, I put my Christmas order in on Saturday, and it was hard to stop putting things into my cart. Kathy is a Star Seller on Etsy with over a thousand five-star reviews and quick customer service. I can’t recommend one product because I have tried many and enjoyed them all! Her products make wonderful gifts, from a stocking stuffer to a beautifully packaged box of products!

4. Wit & Whimsy

Wit & Whimsy is another Marietta, Ohio, business with an online shop, AND it is one of my favorite shops on Front Street near the river. Wit & Whimsy sells “unique gifts and uncommon goods for your personal lifestyle.” Owner Laura Pytlik has such a kind and generous spirit; when I spoke to her, she was quick to talk about the artisans she works with rather than focusing on her own creations (like a skeleton-key necklace my mom bought me for Christmas) or her own lovely shop! Wit & Whimsy is the ultimate one-stop gift shop – clothing, jewelry, keychains, artwork, and so much more. Products are made in the United States, with many made by artists in Ohio and West Virginia (including Kathy Patterson above). You MUST check out what she is offering online, but please stop by the shop to see even more products when you have a chance to visit! Here are some of my favorites from the Wit & Whimsy website and blog:

5. Dad’s Primitive Workbench

Dad’s Primitive Workbench is another of my favorite shops in downtown Marietta. When I visited Dad’s Primitive Workbench recently, I was delighted to discover that it is owned by one of my former students, Charlie Clay! (I will share that fun story with you later!) Charlie’s business has expanded to include online shopping, with many pieces of boutique clothing available in his online store. Please check it out, but I truly hope you get to visit his store. Charlie’s brick-and-mortar location is packed with products – from clothing to jewelry to stickers to rustic decor to seasonal decorations to candles – all displayed just beautifully. I shared this store with some friends in August, and we left with a bag filled with boutique jeans, a bracelet, a fall wall hanging, and a pumpkin and floral accent. There is a lot of variety in this eclectic small business! I think this picture from the website illustrates just how cozy Dad’s Primitive Workbench is. Marietta peeps, GO TO THIS STORE before Christmas!

Photo from Dad’s Primitive Workbench website


6. Home Improvement Gift Card

If you live in northern Columbus, check out Holmes Lumber (a division of Carter Lumber) in Sunbury, but if you live somewhere else, consider buying a gift card from a home improvement store near you. During Covid quarantine, most of us grew tired of the painted walls we were staring at, but prices for home improvement have increased, and many people have been forced to tighten their budgets. A home improvement gift card may not seem like an exciting gift to give, but I’m betting that most of the adults in your life wouldn’t mind an excuse to make a trip to a home improvement store near you! Just make sure that the business you choose carries the types of products you think the recipient may want or need.

7. A Yard Card Greeting

Let’s be honest: Some people on your Christmas shopping list aren’t easy to buy for. Maybe they are grandparents who don’t want or need any more “stuff.” Or maybe they are kids who already seem to have ALL the things advertised on television. Why not think outside the box for loved ones who might appreciate something different? One unexpected option that will definitely bring a smile to their faces is a yard card, sometimes called a yard greeting! If you live in the northern Columbus, Ohio area, I recommend renting your greeting from Cardinal Yard Cards, a small business run by some student entrepreneurs. If you live elsewhere, know that yard sign businesses became especially popular during quarantine, so there is likely a yard sign business near you! We have both bought and received yard cards, and they have created special memories and neighborhood chatter, so consider sending a “Merry Christmas” or “Happy New Year” greeting. As Cardinal Yard Cards shares on their website, “We believe when you really want to say it, the best way is to display it!”

Photo from Cardinal Yard Cards website

8. A Cooking Lesson or A New Kitchen Gadget

Since my son is a senior in high school and I am a hot mess thinking about it, I’ve been intentional in planning an activity for us to enjoy together each month until his graduation. The time we have spent together each month has been priceless. I highly recommend considering gifts that are investments in your relationships rather than gifts that are investments in the things that will eventually decompose in a garbage dump. (Sorry, but I’m a realist!) For example, create a gift basket of ingredients, recipes, and kitchen gadgets, and plan a time to cook the meal together. Or sign up for a local cooking class to learn something new AND spend time with one another. In Marietta, I highly recommend visiting The Cook’s Shop.

A note about The Cook’s Shop . . . When I was soliciting donations, I expected small businesses to decline, especially during this period of financial recovery, but I was disheartened by businesses that wouldn’t respond to messages at all. The shining exception was Dagmar Kupsche from The Cook’s Shop, who sent a kind reply expressing regret that she could not help, while also mentioning that Covid had negatively impacted the business. I was impressed by her. If you live in Marietta, check out The Cook’s Shop’s unique kitchen items and please support them this Christmas!**

9. A Life Coaching Session

Adjusting to life during a pandemic has been difficult. The personal losses and increased isolation motivated many of us to evaluate the pace and the priorities of our lives. If you know someone who is interested in self-improvement, who wants to hit the “reset” button after the past 18 months, or who generally wants to live with more intention, a session with a life coach may be a perfect option. Why not contact a life coach in your area and pay for a session for your loved one as a gift? In northern Columbus, I recommend Lesley Cross at Bridges Counseling of Ohio. While Lesley is a licensed counselor, she is also a certified life coach who can offer coaching services to help someone reach a personal or professional goal. If you can help someone reach their full potential, there is truly no better gift than that!

10. Tickets to a Local Attraction

I’m not a gambler, but I’m willing to bet that your local community hosts interesting events that you haven’t even explored yet. We humans tend to overlook the engaging opportunities that are right under our noses while we wistfully fantasize about the excitement of someplace else. Do some research and discover what is available right around the corner. For example, does someone on your list love history? Consider buying them tickets to tour a local historical home or a museum. Many towns have quirky tours and landmarks to visit if you really explore. In my hometown of Marietta, Ohio, Ghost Tours are available through Hidden Marietta. That sounds like a fun evening to me! The Washington County Historical Society is also a generous source of local history in southeastern Ohio, but you can check out your own local historical society and your local visitor’s bureau to find more ideas tailored to wherever you live.

Photo from Hidden Marietta website

11. A Gift Card OR a Meal Delivered from a Local Restaurant

Some of the best local eats are found in small, family-owned establishments. Before you buy a gift card to a chain restaurant that catches your eye in the grocery checkout line, consider stopping by a local small business and buying a gift card there instead. Even better, tell a mom or dad you love not to cook dinner one night during the busy holiday season and have dinner delivered to them, or pick it up and deliver it yourself. You are not only giving the gift of delicious food, but also the precious gift of TIME. In Marietta, Ohio, I recommend a gift card to Austyn’s, a long-time favorite that serves mouth-watering meals and is owned by a high school friend of mine. If you live in central Ohio, The Whitney House is always a special treat and is also owned by local friends. Last year, the boys and I started a new tradition of ordering from The Whitney House two nights before Christmas, and we are already looking forward to doing it again. Both Austyn’s and The Whitney House are beloved and generous within their local communities, and when you support one of them, you are supporting a local family and their local employees!

12. An Invitation to Get Coffee at a Local Coffee Shop

Instead of buying a gift card to the most famous coffee shop on the planet, buy a gift card to the local coffee shop down the street. Tuck it into a mug or an insulated cup with a note that says, “Let’s meet for coffee!” And THEN get a date on the calendar as soon as the gift is opened. Now you have gifted a friend some time away from home, free coffee or tea, and an opportunity to become even closer friends. Voila! It’s so simple! If you live in Marietta, Ohio, you can swing through the drive-thru at Stoked and then drink your coffee by the river or in your breakfast nook with a friend. Alternatively, the two of you could shop downtown and then enjoy the ambiance created by the old brick walls at Jeremiah’s Coffee Shop on Front Street. Both are local businesses that are managed with a spirit of generosity!

Christmas shopping is not only a way to show your love to friends and family, but also an opportunity to support small businesses all over the country, invest in family-owned businesses at the heart of your local community, and reward businesses big and small that are generous in giving back. Hopefully these ideas will spark your own creativity and inspire you to explore new ways to shop this Christmas season!

Happy holidays!

~Mary Ann