Shop Local for the Holidays Giveaway: Why Shopping Small Matters & Enter to Win A Toronto/GTHA Prize Pack from Nine Local Small Businesses!

Cover image for the Shop Local for the Holidays Giveaway based in Toronto and GTHA featuring nine local small businesses with a giveaway worth over $400. Enter on Instagram - you can find the contest start through @alyssekennedy on Instagram

Putting it simply, this holiday season is different. Yet, one thing that remains the same every year is my love for shopping small and local. Doing this means we get to support the talented small business owners, entrepreneurs, artists, bakers, makers and all-around incredibly creative and crafty people that live right here in our community. 


The COVID-19 pandemic has hit small businesses hard. Perhaps you’ve personally experienced the financial repercussions of the pandemic. Or maybe you’ve seen your favourite community restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops, or retailer shutter, or learned that your favourite musician or photographer lost and is losing crucial income as a result. 


With the holiday season fast approaching, we feel it’s more important than ever to raise awareness about supporting small Canadian businesses right here in our community, instead of multinational corporations that have disproportionately benefited as a result of the pandemic. 


With this in mind, my friend Paula (founder of the fabulous Poppy & Rose Vintage)  had the idea to gather a group of small business owners for a local, community-centred GIVEAWAY based right here in the Toronto and Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Obviously, I loved this idea and we reached out to some of our favourite local movers, makers and shakers in the hopes of collaborating. We are so thrilled to be joined by others in offering this Giveaway. Our goal is to raise awareness of the importance of shopping local in general but especially this holiday season. Click here to enter our SHOP LOCAL FOR THE HOLIDAYS GIVEAWAY on Instagram. 


Read more about WHY shopping small and local this holiday season is critical, learn about our NINE entrepreneurs giving away amazing prizes in this Giveaway, and see a copy of the Rules and Regulations below. 


Why Shop Small and Local? 


Supporting small and local has the double impact of not just supporting our local community but also supporting a tradition of gift-giving that can have a smaller carbon footprint on our earth overall


Shopping local means what you are shopping for is already nearby. It’s here! You don’t need to dispatch it from an Amazon warehouse. You don’t need to furiously refresh the Canada Post tracking website, worrying that your gift that got stuck at the border won’t make it on time (spoiler:  it probably won’t!). 


Consequently, shopping local cuts down on the carbon footprint related to transportation to physically get a gift to your loved ones. It also cuts down on your anxiety since, as long as you order before a given holiday cut-off time (very important!), it’s fairly easy to get your hands on whatever you’re after since these local businesses are legitimately within reach


Shopping small means that, in most cases, what you are supporting typically has a smaller negative impact on the earth. Small business owners are operating on a – you guessed it – smaller scale. 


Small business owners often take extra precautions to avoid unnecessary waste in production and daily operation and in promoting and packaging their products overall. Unnecessary waste isn’t just bad for the planet, it’s bad for business, and small businesses literally can’t afford, in most cases, to take a hit like this by acting wastefully


I know this because I see the beautiful handmade packaging my items have arrived in, in various states of repurposed and recycled materials. I’ve received pottery wrapped in newspaper and shipped in a shoebox. I’ve opened my mailbox to find scrunchies in an extremely chic handmade envelope that was made from pages ripped out of a glossy old fashion magazine


I’m constantly in awe of the inventive, creative and eco-friendly considerations that are taken. They make my earth-loving, media arts-happy heart sing.


I’ve even received a face mask (made from gorgeous deadstock fabric) that was literally “shipped” via my stepsister’s jacket pocket because – of course – the maker is her friend and lives in her neighbourhood. I’ve never had faster next-day delivery, not even from Amazon 🙂


I also know this because I get heartbroken when something in a limited quantity (like a mug) is sold out and that literally means I’m out of luck. Because unlike in a big box retailer, there isn’t some secret backstock of hundreds upon hundreds of mugs ready and waiting like some sort of pottery army (and ultimately ready to be discarded when the next trend season begins). 


Meet the Makers Involved in Our Shop Local for the Holidays Giveaway


Just like in slow food, slow fashion and slow beauty, supporting small and local businesses means you have a greater opportunity to actually get to know the people behind the products and services they provide


I’m all about stories, and making information relevant and meaningful. So to me, there’s nothing more inspiring than learning about the real people behind the business, and the real visions that drive their passion. 


Let’s face it – following your passion means you have to be brave, especially when it’s your livelihood on the line – and the livelihood of your family. Even in “easy” times (like, say, without a pandemic and lockdown) it’s still not for the faint of heart.


Let’s hear it for some amazing small creatives by hearing about the passionate people behind these products and services themselves. Below you’ll also get a breakdown of the incredible prize pack (valued at over $400!) you could win through our Giveaway

Giveaway partner Poppy and Rose Vintage

1. Poppy & Rose Vintage (Prize: A $50 Gift Card to Poppy and Rose Vintage)

What Paula’s all about: Toronto-based vintage clothing curated and sold online with quick and easy shipping. If you’re looking for dreamy made-in-Canada lingerie and other easy-breezy pieces that are perfect for working from home, this is your wake-up call to check out this shop run by Paula

She’s pretty much a modern-day Indiana Jones (she recently graduated with her doctorate in Art History & Aegean Archaeology) so you can feel confident that she’s dug up some classic styles of  bodysuits, slips, sleep sets, camisoles, to name a few


2. Bakesmith (Prize: A Dozen Freshly Baked Cookies from Bakesmith)

What Karen’s all about: Toronto-based freshly baked small batch cookies that I can confirm are DELICIOUS (especially the Nutella Bela – a chocolate chip cookie filled with Nutella and garnished with big flakes of sea salt – there was an option to add an espresso base and you know I did).

After baking for years, Karen officially began selling her delectable cookies online this summer, offering tried-and-true crowd pleaser cookie flavours as well as some jazzy innovative ones and seasonal sweets sprinkled in the mix. Karen does custom orders for any special occasion – birthdays, baby showers or, in my personal experience – a random Thursday, ringing true to her motto that any occasion is the perfect occasion for cookies. 


3. Sui Generis (Prize: A Handmade Catchall Dish from Sui Generis)

What Ari’s all about: Toronto-based dainty home and cannabis decor made with your rings and… other important things in mind 😉 I was introduced to Ari through Paula, and wish I knew her years ago when I bought a (less cute and not Canadian-made) ring dish on Etsy. Her designs are adorable and would feel right at home in your place or a loved one’s. 

Her elegant catchall dishes and rolling trays (!!!) are handmade from polymer clay and adorned with itty-bitty brushwork designs or self-love mantras. They are a perfect gift for you or your best bud!


4. Framed Fibres  (Prize: A Handwoven Wall Tapestry from Framed Fibres)

What Hannah’s all about: Toronto-based woven decor and accessories. You know when you look at something so fuzzy and fluffy and you can’t help but want to take it home forever? This is both the story of how I met my dog, Fritz, and my experience of when I first encountered Hannah’s Etsy shop, on a recommendation from an EcoSchools friend.

A Vancounver transplant, Hannah’s background in fashion design and art history while living in Montreal exposed her to weaving as a hobby in 2016. Now she calls Toronto home and works in healthcare by day, and weaves beautiful pieces at night. One of her fluffy blue babies hangs in our home and, despite the warnings on her shop page, I can’t help but give him a little pet each time I walk by. 

5. Kirty Bird Beads (Prize: A Pair of Beaded Antler Earrings from Kirty Bird Beads)

What Kirstie’s all about: Handcrafted Métis jewellery for all nations. Learning the craft during her previous work as a Cultural Interpreter with The Métis Nation of Ontario, Kirstie uses beautiful beads and natural materials to make gorgeous creations she lovingly refers to as “(he)artworks”.

As a Wiisaakodewikwe (Métis) artist who has also worked in Trauma and Addictions and Community Wellness and Education, beading has been a way for Kirstie to connect to her culture and has served as good medicine during the pandemic. In regards to bridging social justice and environmental considerations in her work, Kirstie says: 

As a Métis woman, it’s very important to me to respect and protect our land for future generations. When I source my materials, such as leather for the backing of my earrings, I go treasure-hunting in scrap bins and am able to use up little pieces that may have otherwise been thrown away. I also use recycled household cardboard as a stabilizer in my earrings to help them hold their shape.

Another project I am really proud of is my collection of best selling “bead soup” stud earrings. When creating these pieces, I am able to utilize small pieces of felt, leather, leftover thread and miscellaneous beads to create something beautiful, being mindful of protecting the earth. 

 Fun fact: Kirstie and I went to elementary school together! It’s been so inspiring to see her embrace her roots and share her cultural identity through her jewellery. 


6. CMP Couture (Prize: A Wool Tartan Mask and Silk Velvet Scrunchie from CMP Couture)

What Christine’s all about: Toronto-based designer, dressmaker, pattern maker and seamstress. Christine pretty much does it all, and does it all by hand after being taught to sew by her mom at a young age (her earliest clients were her Cabbage Patch dolls). Seeing issues in mainstream fashion led to her designing and then creating her own clothes and she’s committed to sharing these solutions with everyone.

From ethereal ball gowns (seriously – her dip-dyed watercolour dresses are magical) to just making sure your favourite outfit is also your best-fitting outfit, her services cater to any style or size.

With the pandemic, Christine began making face masks from deadstock fabric and soon there was strong demand for her diverse styles. Her designs range from whimsical, colourful and eccentric (I bought two of such kind for myself and my husband) to more minimal styles in perfect hues you can’t find in big box stores. 

7. Eyekah Foto (Prize: Ten Holiday Greeting Cards from Eyekah Foto)

What Angie’s all about: Toronto-based documentary wedding and portrait photographer. As if I haven’t gushed enough about Angie’s work photographing our engagement shoot and our eco-friendly wedding! Angie is an incredible photographer and the only one Andy and I trusted for our wedding day.

She’s a magician with light and suspiciously talented at capturing those subtle little moments – a sideways glance across the aisle, a stranger’s smile in the background of a photo, the city skyline quietly peeping out in the horizon. I’ve done two other photoshoots with her (a boudoir to celebrate my 30th and a recent holiday session with Andy and Fritz) and I always leave with my face hurting from laughing the whole time. She’s also probably the dog-friendliest photographer I know 🙂 Fritz and her dog, Tofu, even enjoyed a beachy playdate during our engagement photos!

We also love Angie for her strong commitment to social justice and supporting the community. Eighty percent of the proceeds from her FaceTime photo series that took place during our first COVID-19 lockdown went to provide President’s Choice (Loblaws) gift cards to feed families in need, as well as supporting local artists and food banks. In regards to current initatives, Angie says:

At the moment, I’m donating portions of sales to several worthy causes specific to Indigenous communities, outreach programs for youth and organizations that are advocating for homelessness in the city. I’ll be also transitioning to delivering photo images digitally instead of USB keys and working with local print labs moving forward. During this time, I feel its incredibly important for businesses big and small to rally behind all people of in our city no matter what walks of life. 2020 has been an eye opening experience how much small actions can ripple and create change.

I consider myself lucky that my job brings me so much happiness. As a photographer that focusses on real people and real life – it has been an incredibly rewarding 10+ year journey. An added bonus is knowing that I also get to support my family as an artist. In times like now, capturing people in this time in history has been especially uplifting for my spirits and for my community

She does so many different types of photography shoots – personal brand content, boudoir, family portraits, maternity shoots, holiday shoots, engagement and – when possible with COVID – weddings. This year she has gorgeous holiday prints available as well as cards to send to your loved ones but you’ll need to act fast to get them while they’re available. 


8. Olive Tree Pottery (Prize: A Handmade Ceramic Vase & Star Ornament from Olive Tree Pottery)

What Brooke’s all about: Hamilton-based beautiful ceramics for your home and loved ones. Brooke launched Olive Tree Pottery out of the tiny studio she lovingly assembled herself in her home she shares with her partner in Hamilton. From planters to plates, mugs to matchstick holders, not to mention vases, pinch pots, bowls and now holiday ornaments, there is truly something for everyone on your shopping list.

Her handcrafted pieces pack high impact. If you don’t believe me, you can read all about my favourite red mug that came from her studio and pretty much changed my life here.

As a member of the EcoHamilton Collective, Brooke intentionally packages her pieces with both flair and demonstrated care for the environment (she’s the one I mentioned who sent me my order in a repurposed shoebox with newspaper!). When asked what inspired her to start her business, Brooke says:

Just over a year and a half ago, I started taking pottery classes at the Tett Centre in Kingston, Ontario with the Kingston Potter’s Guild. Pottery very quickly sparked something in my life, and drove my passion deeper as an artist. I gained a new appreciation for the earth and the art forms we can ethically and respectively make from it. When I wasn’t throwing, I was taking books out of the library to read and study raku, how to mix glazes, hand building techniques, or how to harvest clay, and so much more.

When Covid-19 first hit, I lost studio access and didn’t have the space to continue pursuing ceramics at home. My partner and I already had plans in place to move to Hamilton for their PhD in June, so I began researching as much as I could on setting up a home studio. Those 4-5 months without touching clay only showed me all the more how much pottery meant to me and the significant role it played in my life. Pottery is a very spiritual experience for me, and it’s about so much more than making ceramics. It’s not just shaping clay and pulling up the sides; it’s shaping me, and learning how to pull myself back up. The process means everything to me and it’s when I’m most myself. Coming out of that process with finished and functional pieces of art still blows my mind. Being able to share those pieces with others in a way that financially supports this outlet for me is something I will forever be grateful for. 


9. Neighbourly Love(Prize: The Rory Reading List Poster from Neighbourly Love a.k.a. Andrew and Alysse Kennedy-Dupuis)

What Neighbourly Love’s all about: Toronto-based couple creating pop culture art prints (well, just one for now…). Neighbourly Love is Alysse and Andrew, a two-person team who went from neighbours to best friends to falling in love within the few feet from his front yard to her lobby. They now make art together in Old Toronto in-between listening to Nina Simone, watching everything on Netflix and going for long walks with their ridiculously cute dog named Snickelfritz (also known as Fritz).

Oh, hey, that’s us! So, it’s a bit cheesy (ok, a lot cheesy) but I’m going to tell you anyways the story anyways 🙂  I love Gilmore Girls. I grew up watching it with my sister and my mom and it’s always been “our” show. I also grew up as that kid who always had a book in her hand, and I loved how much they highlighted Rory’s love of reading in the show. Flashforward many years later to 2016,  I mentioned to Andy, my then-boyfriend, now husband, that it would be cool to be able to read all the books that Rory is seen reading on the show – all 339 across the original seasons. That Valentine’s Day I opened up a gift and it’s THIS – the Rory Reading List! 

I was so happy with it I shared a photo of it to my social media and a few friends, colleagues and acquaintances reached out wanting to know where I bought it from. When I explained my partner had made it, they asked “Can he make me one, too?” and – like any good partner – he obliged. We started with a small print run of 20 printed locally and hand-delivered posters to our supportive group of fellow Gilmore fans. I pressured Andy to open an Etsy shop and when he didn’t I did it anyways and…nothing. For two months. Maybe two sales. Then one day in September right before the Netflix Revival my phone started going crazy with these hilarious little “cha-ching” sounds on the Etsy Seller app – and I received a text from a friend saying “Buzzfeed picked up your product and used it as the Facebook hero image for a product round-up on Gilmore Girls. You’re Buzzfeed famous!’ 

Four years and going strong, we’ve been so touched to be able to share this little labour of love and a love of the show with so many fellow fans. It’s especially nice to receive support from local shoppers – it’s so nice to get to meet-up for a quick in-person handoff and smile instead of shipping into the abyss when possible with people who are literally in our neighbourhood

And if you think shopping local and small doesn’t matter – when Andrew and I got engaged in 2017 on our six year anniversary, he proposed using a ring he’d had custom created (by another local small business, to boot), thanks to the support shown for our Etsy shop! So, now that you know the whole cheesy story, it’s even cheesier because all of you who have supported this tiny shop over the last four years are actually a BIG part of our love story. I told you I loved stories. Thank you for being a part of ours 🙂

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about why shopping local and small makes a big difference to the people behind these little businesses and meeting the eight other AMAZING small business owners taking part in our giveaway. Don’t forget to enter our SHOP LOCAL FOR THE HOLIDAYS GIVEAWAY open now until Nov. 30th on Instagram! 




Rules & Regulations

See full details for how to enter on Instagram

Enter everyday until November 30 11:59 PM EST!
-Contest runs Nov. 24-30 (11:59 PM EST). Winner will be announced Dec. 1 at 12:00 PM. Winner will be contacted via Instagram and must respond in 48 hours.

Open to the City of Toronto; entries in and outside the GTA are permitted, but the winner must pick up the prizes. Prize delivery available only within the City of Toronto. Prizes must be accepted as awarded and cannot be redeemed for cash. This giveaway is not affiliated or sponsored by Instagram. Void where prohibited by law.