Supporting Small/Independent Business When You Can't Afford the Products

Flashback Summer: Supporting Small Independent Business When You Can't Afford the Products

Most of us in the vintage community are big believers in buying quality, sustainable items. Although all of us are in this hobby for the fantastic vintage fashion aesthetics, a lot of us also love vintage for its quality. We love it for its uniqueness. We love it for the environmentally-friendly impact of secondhand shopping. We love the small, niche businesses that recreate vintage aesthetics and/or preserve the tradition of craftsmanship in our modern day.

You guys are probably like me in that there are SO MANY small and independent companies that I fangirl over. They create such beautiful garments, shoes, accessories, hats, jewelry, etc., and they're owned by amazing people that take pride in their craft and lift communities with them. I'm all about supporting them, but sometimes my budget is not so on board. So how can we support these small businesses with the budget constraints that many of us have?

Here are 9 ways you can show these companies love while respecting your budget at the same time:

1. Engage with them on social media.
For all you tech-savvy people out there, you already know that social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram are regulated by algorithms that decide what posts show up in people's feeds. The more you like (and especially comment!) on a brand's posts, the more their posts will show up in others' feeds, and the more exposure they get!

2. Share their posts on social media.

Another way to help these smaller companies gain more exposure, share about them on your social media platforms. Even if you don't have a bunch of followers, every little bit will help. You could be sharing the info with their next best customer!
Flashback Summer: Supporting Small Independent Business When You Can't Afford the Products
3. Don't complain about their prices.
There's very little that deflates an artisan or craftsman as quickly as someone talking about how unaffordable their products are or asking them to sell them for cheaper. Particularly for small businesses, the pricing takes into account all the work and expertise they've put in, and it's generally at a far lower profit margin than cheaper fast fashion brands. Especially if you love what a brand is doing, don't bring them down with complaints. If you'd like, reach out and ask about pricing in a way that shows you want to understand. You may be surprised at how reasonable prices are considering the work that has gone into them.

4. Buy the product secondhand to try it out.

Many repro/vintage-inspired companies have been running long enough that you can now find their products for sale in secondhand groups, shops, and websites. Although purchasing secondhand won't help the business financially, you'll now be able to speak firsthand about the quality of their product to others. Post a review, tell your friends, spread the word when you're happy with a brand! 
It's also a good way to decide if splurging on a brand and purchasing from the business directly will be worth it for you as far as quality and sizing.

5. Save up and purchase carefully.

Oftentimes it's not a matter of truly not being able to afford something, it's a matter of being disciplined and saving up for it over a longer period of time. If you really love a brand and find yourself swooning over its products for months on end... Perhaps saving up and splurging on one of their pieces is a good idea. It sounds like it could become one of the most beloved pieces in your closet that you'll keep for years to come! Although you may not be their most frequent customer, what more could a small business owner or craftsman ask for than a customer that cherishes their work?

6. Talk about sustainability and the importance of small businesses with your circle of friends. 

One of the reasons many smaller brands seem so "expensive" is because of how fast fashion undercuts the industry and undervalues the work of makers. Talk about fair trade, environmentally friendly practices, and fair wages. Talk about these issues with your friends and work through what you can do to support ethical businesses in general, even if it's just a small first step.
Flashback Summer: Supporting Small Independent Business When You Can't Afford the Products

7. Help people appreciate craftsmanship.
I don't know about you, but once I figured out how long it would take me to make a t-shirt... suddenly the prices of t-shirts in fast fashion stores boggled my mind. I wouldn't be paid anything if I made a t-shirt and sold it at those prices! In the same way, as I learned other crafts and skills, I began to better appreciate those who have mastered them and made it into a business. Share your experiences with people that may not know how to make garments or accessories. Talk about how much time that sweater cost you to make, or the number of years you've been sewing to develop the skills to make a suit. Share the behind-the-scenes with making in general; hopefully it will help people value the work of other makers running small businesses more, too.

8. Tell others what you know and love about a business.

Even if you can't speak directly to the quality of a product because you haven't been able to buy it for yourself, speak about what you DO know about a business. Do you love the way they have diverse people modeling their garments? Do you appreciate the sustainable ways in which they source their materials? Do you value their transparent communication highlighting how exactly they work with local artisans to build communities? Talk about these things! Share the fantastic things a company is doing with your circle and talk them up.

9. Wait for sales and take advantage of them!
Most businesses will offer sales, coupons, and discounts at some point during the year. Follow their social media and sign up for newsletters to stay up to date on offers coming out. Save up and be ready to click and buy to support brands you love but may not be able to afford all the time.
Flashback Summer: Supporting Small Independent Business When You Can't Afford the Products
In the spirit of these tips, I wanted to share about some companies that I am a huge fan of but don't buy from all the time due to my budget:

Hiptipico - I LOVE LOVE LOVE their platform and way of doing business. They are very transparent about where they get their textiles to make their products, who the artisans are, and how they work with them. They highlight and value the traditional culture of Guatemala and are sensitive in bringing it to an international audience. I'm happy to say I *just* bought my first item from them today, taking advantage of tip #9 and Labor Day sales in the U.S.!

Mrs. Polly's Lucite - I recently bought my first piece from this small company, and I love it! Although I haven't purchased gobs of items from her... I sure want to! I also know that the piece I bought will be worn again and again, and I'll be tagging them in social media posts as I wear it.

R. Riveter - This is a company founded and operated by US military spouses, and I haven't splurged on a bag from them yet (though they seem totally worth it)! They're something I'm saving up for, personally. What I DO know about the company right now, however, is that they have a wonderful structure that helps military spouses--a greatly underemployed demographic--support their families. They also make really timeless, classic designs.

Rocket Originals - This is a well-established brand in the vintage world but it's still a "small business." This is one of the brands that I've tried first by buying secondhand to check quality and fit for me. Finding the pair of shoes I bought to be utterly fantastic in design and quality, I'll be saving up and buying intentionally from them in the future (once my pregnancy swollen feet go back to a reasonable, consistent size, ha!). 

All Heels on Duty - These shoe designs are very versatile and classic, and I know the ladies that run the business are sticklers for accuracy. So, when the starter campaign began, I splurged and bought a pair of the shoes. Although I haven't worn them a lot yet due to swelling pregnancy feet, I know they'll be a wardrobe staple post-pregnancy.

What small and independent businesses are on your "fangirl list"?  Have you used any of these tips to support a brand you love? Do you have any other tips?

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