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TPG’s picks for Small Business Saturday holiday shopping

Nov. 28, 2021
10 min read
Two mature women and teenage daughters window shopping during holidays
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American Express held the first Small Business Saturday on Nov. 27, 2010, with the goal of using the Saturday after Thanksgiving to encourage people to #shopsmall and put the spotlight on small businesses during the holidays.

During the 11th annual Small Business Saturday, held on Nov. 28, 2020, U.S. shoppers spent a record $19.8 billion at independent retailers and restaurants, according to the 2020 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey from American Express and the National Federation of Independent Business. Online shopping at a small business on the day was up significantly, too, with 56% of shoppers making a purchase online, up from 43% in 2019, mainly driven by the pandemic.

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I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by some really great small businesses, especially in my former home city of Baltimore, with favorites such as Charm City Chocolate and Ejji Ramen (where I get my fill of authentic Japanese ramen).

This year, I’m again focusing on women- and minority-owned businesses for my holiday shopping. Check out my curated list of 11 small businesses that sell items that would make wonderful holiday gifts for friends and family — or as a treat for you.

Related: Use the right card when shopping at local small businesses

Charlie Rose Company handcrafted soy candles

(Photo courtesy of CharlieRoseCompany)

I was always a fan of scented candles, but the pandemic made them a must-have component part of my self-care program. If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you have seen my raves about these candles from the Charlie Rose Company. Owned by a Black woman, the company, located in Augusta, Georgia, handcrafts incredible smelling signature candles and wax melts made of organic, natural soy wax and natural fragrance oils in small batches. My favorite scents include rosemary sage, eucalyptus mint, lemon pound cake and sea salt orchid (bought for me by TPG senior writer Katie Genter). There are also some great holiday scents, including hot apple pie and mistletoe.

The tag line is "Extraordinary candles by barely ordinary people" -- and it's true. You can get these candles in eight ounces ($14.50) or 17 ounces ($21.50).

Kwohtations greeting cards

(Photo courtesy of Kwohtations)

I have always enjoyed sending and receiving unique greeting cards, especially ones that don't always fit into the Hallmark mold (like the "made it through some real hard s**t"). Janine Kwoh founded her company, Kwohtations Greeting Cards, in 2011 to share her life in greeting cards. She offers her own truths about navigating love and loss, (re)defining family and success and figuring out what it means to show up for herself and others -- with a dose of humor. Her cards, at $6 each, cover the usual occasions, along with everyday encouragement, Pride and what she calls the mystery misfits grab bag ($12), which has six or seven items that are either slightly imperfect or discontinued designs that are ready to send and available at a great price.

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Takeoff Collection's Expat Bag

The Takeoff Collection's Expat Bag. (Photo courtesy of the Takeoff Collection)

I've become a big fan of the Takeoff Collection's carry-on, the Expat Bag. The brainchild of travel writer and influencer Imani Bashir, this three-in-one bag was designed to allow travelers and parents to get up and go. I bought the bag ($149) in the cocoa color and put it through its paces on a grueling Baltimore-New York-Paris-Newark-Baltimore trip.

The bag is made from a durable fabric that’s waterproof and has wide zipper pulls that make it easy to open and close. But what really makes this such a compelling bag is its versatility. Not only is it a full tote, but you can also unzip one or both side segments. Both segments turn into individual backpacks and one is even insulated to keep drinks and snacks cold. The non-insulated segment includes backpack straps and a strap that fits around the waist. I was able to leave my purse at home and just use the backpack.

It's a bag that can be used for quick or longer trips. If the $149 price tag is a bit steep, you have the option to do four $37.25 payments every two weeks.

Local Eclectic


Alexis Nido-Russo launched Local Eclectic in 2013 to share her favorite jewelry designers’ unique pieces, with 94% of them being women-founded/owned and 72% of them having five or fewer employees. I'm not a big jewelry person, but I do like unique earrings, like these Helena drop earrings with baroque pearls ($83), made from recycled gold by London-based designer Shyla. She uses recycled materials in its packaging and is motivated to ensure that women empower other women. In addition, Shyla works with small charities teaching some of the poorest women in India a craft so they can support and sustain their families.

Thank You Mother Earth room and linen sprays

(Photo courtesy of Thank You Mother Earth)

Patrice is the owner of Thank You Mother Earth, a Charlotte, North Carolina-based company that sells serenity in the form of bath salts, scented lava rocks and sachets, hand-poured soy candles and body butter. As someone who cherishes serenity in her home, I'm a big fan of room and linen sprays which sell for $10 and are a TSA-friendly two-ounce bottle. You can enjoy scents including lavender soother (lavender, lemon and cedar), cleanse (sage, sandalwood and chamomile) or drift (tobacco, teakwood and spice).

Tote&Carry travel set

Tote&Carry's neon orange Apollo 2 travel set. (Photo courtesy of the manufacturer)

My obsession with travel bags got the best of me when I saw Tote&Carry's travel set. Made of vegan leather with a crocodile finish, the travel set consists of a backpack with either a regular or large duffle bag (starting at $229). You can even get a set with the backpack and both duffles, which all come in eye-catching colors. The company, which focuses on affordable luxury specializing in statement fashion pieces and travel sets, was co-founded by Tony Rey and Tony Dennis, who both emphasize protecting the environment by using eco-leather in their products.

The Traveling Esquire's luggage tags

(Photo courtesy of The Traveling Esquire)

I have a pretty cool collection of luggage tags that I like to switch up for my different trips. I learned about Traveling Esquire's store from one of my Black Facebook travel groups and loved these luggage tags. No one will accidentally grab your bag from the carousel if it's sporting one of these tags made from thick, durable plastic with a slot for your business card and a plastic loop. At $9.95, it's a great gift for your traveling friends.

B. Stuyvesant Champagne

(Photo courtesy of B. Stuyvesant Champagne)

Founder Marvina Robinson decided she didn't like champagnes on the market, so she took a trip to France for inspiration to create her own. Launched in February 2020 in Brooklyn, her line now includes Reserve, Rosé, Blanc de Blanc, Demi-Sec, Heritage and Grand Reserve. It can use the name champagne since the grapes for her line come from eight villages in France's Champagne region.

B. Stuyvesant Champagne is one of a few Black-owned wine shops in New York City. Her champagnes can be picked up in New York or shipped to eligible states. Prices range from $29 for the Reserve to $136.95 for a Rosé magnum.

Uncle Nearest Whiskey Smoked Ghost hot sauce

(Photo courtesy of Marshall's Haute Sauce)

I'm a huge fan of the Black, female-owned Uncle Nearest Whiskey, based in Shelbyville, Tennessee. For those not in the know, Uncle Nearest was a slave who taught Jack Daniels how to make whiskey -- and there's an exhibit in at the distiller's Lynchburg, Tennessee, honoring him.

Portland, Oregon-based Marshall's Haute Sauce, owned by Sarah Marshall and her husband Dirk, teamed up with Uncle Nearest to make this small-batch hot sauce. The sauce's onions were slow roasted in Uncle Nearest 1856 Whiskey and apple cider vinegar to make it slightly sweet. Then rehydrated dates and dried ghost peppers were mixed in the whiskey and vinegar to create a spicy, tangy and smokey sauce -- for only $10. Other flavors include Serrano ginger lemongrass and red chili lime and bird's eye basil, all great options to spice up your cooking game.

Lo & Sons O.G. 2 bag

(Photo courtesy of Lo & Sons)

The O.G. 2 from Lo & Sons is one of my original go-to bags. I use it for day and quick overnight trips. It's amazing how roomy this bag is, and the handles fit comfortably over the shoulder or you can use a padded strap. My favorite feature is a separate side bag that can be used for shoes, dirty laundry or an umbrella. The black hides dirt and the nylon outside is easy to clean. If you're also taking a rollaboard suitcase, the bag has a function that turns a zippered outside pocket into a sleeve that slides over handles. As of press time, the bag was on sale for $226.80.


(Photo courtesy of Omsom)

I am a foodie who has always been obsessed with Asian flavors. Earlier this year, someone (I still don't know who), sent me Omsom's Southeast Asian sampler ($29), which features Vietnamese lemongrass barbecue, Thai larb and Filipino sisig. The company was created by sisters Vanessa and Kim Pham and works with some of the top Asian chefs in the U.S. All you have to do is pour the sauce over a protein and vegetables, cook in a skillet and you have a great meal in under 30 minutes. I enjoyed them all, but I was so obsessed with the Thai larb I bought the starter three-pack for $12. All starters include recipes, and you can either make a one-time purchase or sign up for a subscription.

Bottom line

So there you have it — my list of small businesses you should consider when it comes time for holiday gift-giving. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on this particular segment of U.S. business, especially with the dire warnings about supply chain and delivery issues. Despite that, small businesses are still the backbone of the U.S. economy, so they need to be supported as we continue to recover from the effects of the pandemic.

Related: The best cards for holiday purchases

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.