17 cool and unique gift ideas from small businesses we love

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

  • COVID-19 has negatively impacted a significant amount of small businesses.
  • We rounded up a list of small businesses offering gifts ranging from tasty food to cool clothing.
  • Looking for more gift-giving inspiration? Check out all of Insider Reviews gift guides here.

COVID-19 has drastically reduced foot traffic to brick-and-mortar stores. Now more than ever, people have the opportunity to make a difference for these small businesses, all while scoring great gifts for ourselves and loved ones.

To make it easier, we put together a list of some of our favorite places to shop small. Many businesses on the list below have been started by single families, marginalized communities, and people passionate about advancing social issues. In fact, 20% of all small businesses are owned by minority entrepreneurs, a number that is continuing to rise.

We understand that it’s not always financially feasible to buy gifts from independent businesses – and that is totally okay. You can also support small businesses free of charge by following their social media accounts, as well as liking, sharing, and commenting on their posts to help spread their content, so that you may encourage someone else to look to these businesses for gifts.

Here are our favorite gifts from independent businesses:

A unique necklace for the city dweller

Talia Sari Necklace

Product Card (small)

If the city you love is somewhere you want to show off to the world, a custom Talia Sari necklace, ring, broach or earring set might be up your alley. Shoppers can pick out a pre-made map or have one custom-made for a one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry. 

An empowering sweatshirt

asian american girls club

Product Card (small)

Asian-American Girl Club is an apparel company that aims to uplift the AAPI community and redefine what it means to be a modern Asian-American woman. You can buy cute hoodies, shirts, and hats with messages of empowerment on its site. AAGC’s other goal, though, is fostering important discussions about identity through its social media community. Founder Ally Maki says of her brand, “I wanted to change the narrative of what a club should feel like, what a club can be for you, your self-worth, identity, and confidence.” 

Unique scents to spice up your house

Korean BBQ - Korean Soy Candle - Seoul Scents Candle

Korean BBQ – Korean Soy Candle (small)

The Korea-inspired candles from OhJoha Candles can make even your stinkiest of rooms smell great. The brand truly has a candle for everyone with options ranging from a floral Hydrangea Leaf Tea candle to a bold Korean BBQ flavored option. Candles and packages ordered from Etsy show up quickly and don’t clash with other smells throughout your house. 

A tasty tea box

Brooklyn Tea

Product Card (small)

Brooklyn Tea, a small tearoom in Bed-Stuy, is committed to selling high-quality and organic teas that taste good and benefit your health. You can find classics like chamomile and lemongrass tea in its online shop, along with eccentric blends that include Belgian chocolate rooibos and the bestselling Kyoto cherry rose sencha tea. Brooklyn Tea carries over 90 different tea blends, so if you’re having trouble picking out your own, we suggest trying the tea boxes that come with an assortment.

A subscription box for the fishing enthusiast

mystery tackle box BOX FROM THE OUTSIDE

Product Card (small)

Mystery Tackle Box offers a solution for fishing lovers at any level who are jealous of Birchbox and other monthly subscription services. These monthly boxes come with fishing lures, tackle, and information about how to best put them to use. 

A pair of custom, handmade shoes

Adelante Shoes

Product Card (small)

My Chelsea boots from Adelante Shoes are without a doubt my favorite pair of shoes. The company’s focus on sustainability, customization, and economic development in Guatemala (where craftsmen working on these shoes are located) shows through in the final product. I came across the brand at a street fair and was able to customize the front, back, pull tab, elastic, stitching, and sole on the spot because the company makes shoes to order, rather than exclusively selling what they have on hand. They are more expensive than the average Chelsea boot, but if you’re looking for a high-quality shoe, and okay with keeping up with the care, they are the perfect boot! — Lily Oberstein

Gifts that highlight Chinese designers

chop suey club gift bundle

Product Card (small)

Chop Suey Club is a New York City Chinatown boutique that showcases contemporary Chinese designers of clothes, jewelry, art, home goods, and pretty much anything else you can think of. At a time so plagued by xenophobia and racism related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Chop Suey Club is doing extremely important work by making independent Chinese design accessible to the general public. So whether you’re looking for Mahjong tile-shaped ice cube molds, bougie fish red envelopes, or White Rabbit candy socks, Chop Suey Club is sure to have your latest obsession. 

Homemade vintage jewelry that helps the planet


Product Card (small)

If you’re looking for more gold to add to your everyday jewelry collection, Yam is the perfect place to start your search. These contemporary pieces with a modern twist are made with both vintage and upcycled materials, incorporating gold and brass with colorful beads and pearls. All items are handmade to order in Astoria, New York. 

A floating shelf to show off jewelry

wall-mounted jewelry organizer

Wall Mount floating Jewelry Holder (small)

This wall-mounted jewelry organizer lets me show off all of my favorite pieces in an elegant and organized fashion. I had a really hard time finding something that matches the aesthetic of my earrings, has space for studs and rings, plus is durable, and FigureGrain organizers have all three. Handmade in California, this organizer comes in 12 colors so you can be sure you are getting a color that complements your space, plus installation is easy with screws and drywall anchors included. — Lily Oberstein

Chili oil for the spice-loving foodie

boon sauce

Product Card (small)

If you’re looking for a gift for the spice connoisseur in your life, consider leveling up by ordering them some Boon sauce. This small-batch chili oil was created by Thai-Chinese chef Max Boonthanakit after he sought to add more flavor to the chili oils currently available on the market. Boon sauce was recently featured on the YouTube food show Worth It and is experiencing a well-deserved boon (!) of good publicity. Boon sauce is only available in batches, so be sure to grab some while it’s still available. 

A moisturizing bar of soap

Sallye Anders

Product Card (small)

Besides gracing you with pleasant and soft aromas, Sallye Anders’ Essential Soaps have an aesthetic that presents well on any soap dish. With the generous sizing, you can get plenty of use out of one bar. The brand also offers shampoo bars, shaving soap, skincare products, and baby products

Boldly flavored tea for the chai connoisseur

Spice Professors

Product Card (small)

In college, my best friend and I discovered the Spice Professor while visiting the shops at Bryant Park’s Winter Village. We loved using my electric kettle to brew cups of the Spice Professor’s loose-leaf tea, which comes in a unique variety of deliciously bold flavors. The Earl Grey Green was our favorite, and the Chocolate Lover’s Chai was a close second. 

The spices are just as rich and tasty as the brand’s teas and an easy way to level up your cooking. Sprinkling the Smoked Paprika over deviled eggs has been a real game-changer for me. — Sarah Toscano

Island-inspired beauty products

Balmyard Beauty

Product Card (small)

Balmyard Beauty carries an assortment of luxe skin oils, cheek tints, and bath treatments with ingredients sourced directly from the Caribbean island of Jamaica. Because of their ease of use and buildable but pigmented color, the brand’s popular lip and cheek tint rivals that of Glossier’s Cloud Paints.

To give back to those who influenced the brand, Balmyard donates a portion of its proceeds to Jamaican community organizations. 

Bright and intricate paper goods

worthwhile paper poster

Product Card (small)

This woman-led Michigan-based company creates beautiful screen prints and paper goods from eco-friendly materials. All of the prints are hand-drawn, and you can buy everything from posters to paper cards to stickers on the online store. I was gifted this 8×10 screen print over a year ago, and the colors remain as cheerful and vibrant as ever. — Allison Jiang

A pair of earrings made with hand-cut stones

Octave Jewelry Earrings

Product Card (small)

Octave Jewelry is the perfect place to find high-quality jewelry, with all pieces made from sterling silver and hand-cut stones. Plus, the Black-owned business offers 10% off your first purchase.

Long-lasting and cruelty-free nail polish

Image of a hand with nail polish from Triple O Polish

Product Card (small)

Specializing in shades for darker skin tones, Triple O Polish’s nail lacquers are high achievers in both color and quality. I own four of their polishes (Fon, Aja, Wassu, and Askia Musa), and they are by far some of the best I’ve tried, in both shade and longevity, making them a steal for only $10 each. All lacquers are handmade, and the company is Leaping Bunny certified (no animal testing here). — Shannon Stubbs

An all-natural, Instagram-famous face mask


Product Card (small)

Golde’s motto is “powered by superfoods,” using food and other all-natural ingredients to create clean skincare and powder supplements. You’ve probably seen one of your favorite beauty influencers wearing the Clean Greens Mask that detoxifies the skin with chlorophyll and spirulina. Alongside its Instagram-famous masks, the brand carries latte blends and powders that can be mixed into hot drinks or used for baking.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Biden calls on all US employers to pay full-time workers for time missed due to vaccines

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden.

  • Joe Biden on Wednesday called on all US employers to give their workers paid time off to get vaccinated.
  • The president also reaffirmed his commitment to a paid-leave tax credit to help small businesses offset the cost of the time off.
  • This comes ahead of Biden’s upcoming announcement that the US met his goal of 200 million shots in 100 days.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden will announce on Thursday that the US met his vaccination goal of 200 million shots in 100 days. And on Wednesday, he announced new plans to ensure every American employee can get a shot.

A White House statement said that Biden is calling for every employer in America to provide paid time off to get vaccinated, which would include the time it takes to recover from any of the vaccine’s side effects. He also reaffirmed his commitment to a tax credit that will offset the cost for small businesses with fewer than 500 employees to provide full pay for workers who want to get a vaccine.

“Providing paid time off for vaccinations is an investment in the safety, productivity and health of an employer’s own workforce and their community,” the statement said. “No working person in this country should lose a single dollar from their paycheck to take time to get the shot or recover from it.”

The paid-leave tax credit was included in Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus law, and it ensures that “no small businesses or non-profits will lose a single dollar by providing such paid leave to workers receiving a vaccination.”

According to the White House, the credit will offset the cost for small businesses for up to $511 per day of paid sick leave offered between April 1 and September 30, and it will apply to nearly half of all private sectors in the country.

And along with the tax credit, Biden’s wants employers to help employees get vaccinated by making “commitments to provide accurate and timely information and incentivize all Americans to get vaccinated.” Those could include discounts for vaccinated people, product giveaways, or promotions.

Biden pledged in a March press conference that 200 million shots will be administered by the end of April, and on Monday, every American aged 16 and older became eligible for a vaccine.

“We have enough of it, you need to be protected, and you in turn need to protect your neighbors and your family,” Biden said in a video on Monday. “So please, get the vaccine.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

The pandemic may have caused 200,000 business closures – fewer than expected

Store closed coronavirus
A store closure in New York.

  • A Fed survey found that 200,000 extra US businesses have permanently closed in the past year.
  • That’s on top of the estimated 600,000 businesses that close in a given year.
  • Small businesses were not hit as hard as expected, which could be because of government aid.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In recent years, Federal Reserve economists have estimated that 600,000 US businesses have permanently closed each year. But a Fed study released on Thursday found that the pandemic has resulted in an additional 200,000 permanent closures of businesses over prepandemic levels – or about a quarter to a third above normal.

Individual companies account for about two-thirds of the closures, while personal service providers, like hair and nail salons, were the hardest hit, accounting for 100,000 permanent closures between March 2020 and February 2021.

“Business exit implies permanent job destruction, potentially detaching workers from the labor market and limiting the speed of the employment recovery,” the study said.

The study also said that small businesses had lower exit rates than expected from early on in the pandemic, and while the Fed economists did not provide a reason for this in the study, many small businesses have managed to stay afloat with the help of government aid.

The expectations early in the pandemic were dire for small business. For instance, the National Federation of Independent Business found in a July survey that 23% of small businesses expected to be closed within six months unless economic conditions changed.

Government aid may have accounted for some of this upside surprise. Insider reported on March 16 that most small businesses continued to pay their bills during the pandemic through the Paycheck Protection Program, which gives loans to small businesses.

On top of stimulus aid, Biden’s infrastructure plan could also help mitigate the toll the pandemic has had on US businesses. The president proposed a $400 billion investment to strengthen and protect America’s businesses, which would encourage and promote domestic production of goods.

But the aid can only last so long, and The Wall Street Journal reported that businesses that have not yet permanently closed could soon collapse under the burdens of back rent and unpaid loans.

Insider also reported on Friday that the situation remains challenging for businesses that are open – they’re struggling to hire because of a labor shortage caused by a number of things, including unemployment benefits disincentivizing people to work and fear of contracting COVID-19.

Read the original article on Business Insider

White-owned small businesses are twice as likely to get financing as Black- and Latino-owned firms, Fed survey finds

black owned business sign
  • A Fed survey found white-owned small businesses were twice as likely to get non-emergency financing as Black-owned ones.
  • It also found that 46% of Black-owned firms that applied for financing didn’t get anything.
  • Black-owned businesses also experienced delays in receiving Paycheck Protection Program loans.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Small businesses have been hit hard financially by COVID-19, and government aid from President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package, along with regular, non-emergency financing from banks, has helped those businesses stay afloat.

But access to funding – or lack thereof – still often breaks down along racial lines, according to a new survey conducted by 12 Federal Reserve Banks.

The survey, conducted in September and October 2020, yielded 9,693 responses from a small businesses with between one to 499 employees, and another 4,531 responses from non-employer firms, with responses corresponding to the prior 12 months. It found that aid from banks, along with Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding, has disproportionately gone to white-owned businesses, and firms owned by people of color have in many cases gone without the help they need.

According to the credit survey released on Thursday, white-owned small businesses were twice as likely to be fully approved for financing as Black- and Latino-owned businesses last year. Among Latino-owned firms with low-credit risk, 25% received requested non-emergency financing, while 48% of white-owned firms received all requested financing. The survey also found that Black- and Latino-owned business with low credit risk were approved for full financing at nearly the same rate as white-owned businesses with medium to high credit risk.

Here are the other key findings of the survey:

  • Businesses owned by people of color were more likely than white-owned businesses to report reduced operations or temporary closure during the pandemic;
  • 13% of Black-owned firms received all the financing they sought during the pandemic, compared to the 40% of white-owned firms;
  • 46% of Black-owned firms that applied for financing received nothing;
  • And among non-employer firms, those with white owners were twice as likely as those with Black owners to receive all the PPP funding they sought.

Insider reported on March 16 that the PPP has factored into small businesses maintaining strong credit standings due to aid provided since the start of the pandemic, but experts said the government needs to provide more targeted aid beyond the pandemic to ensure equitable distribution.

“Let’s find those businesses that really need the help,” Brett Theodos, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, told Insider last month. “Let’s support entrepreneurial ecosystems where they’re not well developed, let’s help de-risk loans that really are high risk, let’s overcome the race equity gap that exists and business ownership in this country, and let’s be more intentional around our targeting.”

On March 30, Biden signed the PPP extension into law, which allows small businesses to receive aid from the program through May 31, and he also included $50 billion in small business aid in his $1.9 trillion stimulus package.

But since the program was established under the CARES Act in March, it has run into a host of problems that prohibited eligible businesses from receiving aid. For example, although loans within the program are intended for businesses with 500 or fewer employees, some large companies got them, such as fast-food chain Shake Shack getting $10 million, which it later returned.

And Brookings data from last year found that businesses in communities of color were least likely to have existing relationships with large banks, causing an average 31-day delay for small businesses in majority-Black zip codes to receive their PPP loans.

Read the original article on Business Insider

House passes bill to extend PPP small business aid for 2 months

Blaine Luetkemeyer
Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO).

  • The House voted to extend the Paycheck Protection Program through May 31.
  • The bill also allows the Small Business Administration to process loan applications through June 30.
  • The 415-3 bipartisan vote may ensure small businesses won’t experience a lapse in needed aid.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

To continue providing aid to small businesses recovering from the pandemic, the House voted on Tuesday to extend the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) by two months, ahead of its expiration on March 31.

The bill to extend the PPP had been introduced on March 11 by Small Business Committee Chair Nydia Velàzquez, Ranking Member Blaine Luetkemeyer, Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux of Georgia, and Rep. Young Kim of California. Less than a week later, the House overwhelmingly voted by 415-3 to extend the program through May 31 to avoid a lapse of aid.

The program has provided small businesses with $700 billion of emergency loans to date, according to a press release.

“Based on recent economic data and the demand for PPP loans, it’s clear that small businesses still need support. We are making progress in our public health fight against this virus, but this pandemic continues to impact communities across the country, and we can’t let up on our efforts,” Velázquez said in a statement. “By providing small businesses with two more months to apply and giving the SBA [Small Business Administration] an additional month to process applications, we will help ensure critical support isn’t cut off.”

Under the bill, the SBA has until June 30 – a month after the PPP ends – to continue processing loan applications, giving small businesses the chance to continue receiving aid after the Program expires.

Since it was first established under the CARES Act in March, the PPP has encountered a host of issues with loan distribution. For example, although loans within the program are intended for businesses with 500 or fewer employees, the fast-food chain Shake Shack received a $10 million loan, which it later returned.

And recently, the Office of the Inspector General found that the PPP distributed more than one loan to over 4,000 borrowers due to flaws in the SBA’s controls.

However, despite the flaws, small businesses have not yet recovered from financial hits the pandemic brought on, emphasizing the need for a PPP extension. In President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan he signed on March 11, $50 billion was set aside for small businesses, including $7.25 billion specifically for the PPP.

The bill now heads to the Senate, where it may be passed before members leave Washington in mid-April.

“As America begins to open up for business and vaccines become more widely distributed across the country, we must provide targeted relief for small businesses that need it most,” Luetkemeyer said in a statement. “This bipartisan legislation provides a commonsense extension to the Paycheck Protection Program and the tools for Main Street USA to contribute to their local economies once again.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Americans want Biden to prioritize aid for small businesses. Here’s how his stimulus proposal would provide relief.

Store closed coronavirus
A store closure in New York, NY.

  • Americans want President Joe Biden to prioritize small business aid and provide further relief from the pandemic.
  • Richard Prisinzano, director of policy analysis at the Penn Wharton Budget Model, said that more aid is necessary to help businesses, but it is reliant on vaccine distribution and the pandemic timeline.
  • Other components of Biden’s stimulus proposal, like the stimulus checks and an extended moratorium on evictions, will also help small businesses.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Small businesses have been hit hard throughout the pandemic, and President Joe Biden intends to provide relief through his stimulus proposal unveiled last Thursday. But questions remain on the timeline for businesses to recover and how effective Biden’s plan will be once implemented.

In the American Rescue Plan Biden unveiled last week, $15 billion in grants will be allocated to small businesses employers, along with $35 billion in low-interest loans. On top of this, the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program will continue, which consists of $284 billion in loans to help businesses keep their worker employed during the pandemic.

As Insider previously reported, 82% of Americans view small business aid as the most important part of any new economic relief package. Richard Prisinzano, director of policy analysis at the Penn Wharton Budget Model — a nonpartisan economic analysis initiative — told Insider in an interview that until the pandemic is under control, small businesses will be at risk.

“The way that I think about this is that this money is a relief package,” Prisinzano said. “We know that we’re going to be in this for a few more months, how long is unclear at this point, and this money is designed to help folks get through the next few months.”

In terms of a timeframe in which small businesses can expect to see relief, Prisinzano said that a lot of businesses have already gone through cash reserves, so the new aid, combined with the Paycheck Protection Program, will help businesses in the short-term.

Other components of the plan are also likely to assist small businesses, such as extended unemployment insurance.

“A lot of small business owners are worried about what happens to their employees, and they worry about being unable to keep employees on full-time,” Prisinzano said. “They know that if they have to lay somebody off, there’s this extra unemployment support.”

The stimulus checks will also provide some relief, Prisinzano said, along with an extended moratorium on evictions.

Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen said in her confirmation hearing on Tuesday that Biden’s stimulus proposal would provide “the biggest bang for the buck” and is confident that the funding relief, including relief to small businesses, will benefit the economy overall. Prisinzano agreed and said that providing relief, although it may increase debt, is important because if the money is not spent now, “the danger is that the economy will completely collapse.”

“We need to get through this to then evaluate what we need to do in the future to make up for the extra debt that we’ve increased,” Prisinzano said. “This is a needed relief to get businesses through a tough time, and if we don’t help them, there’s a potentially very big negative effect on all of these businesses collapsing.”

A survey of small business owners in December revealed that 57% believe they will not be able to make it through June, highlighting the urgency for further aid. 


Read the original article on Business Insider