This year, more than ever, I have become an avid supporter of small businesses. Not that I wasn’t before, but seeing some of my closest and dearest friends start their own small business ventures this year - having a front row seat to see their struggles and achievements - has made me want to re-think how I purchase gifts for my family and friends this holiday season.

I know what you’re thinking, it’s only the second week of November and I’m already talking about Christmas presents? Well, if you must know, I am that “Christmas person.” I listen to Christmas music at random times throughout the year (who doesn’t like a little Christmas in July!?), my list of “Present Ideas” in the Notes app on my phone is updated on a regular basis, I put my Christmas tree up the day after Thanksgiving, sometimes the night of (and it’s a struggle to wait that long), my Christmas decorations take up the majority of my guest bedroom closet (and most of the closet in the foyer) and yes, I’ve already purchased quite a few, lets face it, A LOT of presents.

However crazy you think I may be, buying presents for the people that I love brings me so much joy and happiness and I’m proud to say that the majority of the presents that I’ve purchased thus far have come from local artisans, artists and small businesses in my community. I have an electric array of amazingly unique, creative and personal gifts that I know my friends and family will love - I've even purchased holiday wrapping paper from a local, environmentally-friendly shop that also makes hand-illustrated artwork and fabrics. The joy of holiday shopping has doubled for me this year, knowing that I’m supporting awesome entrepreneurs and artists and supporting the amazing city that I call home.

So, how can you go about shopping small in your community?

Local arts events and artisan markets

Many of these events happen several times throughout the year and there’s always more to attend during the holiday season. Museums, parks, breweries, churches, arts districts and farmers markets are all places where I’ve shopped local.

Facebook

Facebook has been a big help when finding events in my community. The majority of the event pages that I’ve found list the businesses and artists that will be in attendance at the event and they even post the goods and products that will be available for purchase; so you can plan out your own “Present Ideas” list.

Instagram

Whether I found a shop by attending a local event, or saw their business on a Facebook event page, I always make sure to find and follow their page on Instagram. Instagram is awesome because you can see pictures of new products as soon as they are available, sneak peek behind-the-scenes of how your product was made or first-looks at products that aren’t available yet but you can drool over the pictures until they are. Local businesses tend to follow other local businesses on Instagram, so look at who they’re following; and they usually post whenever they attend events in your community, too.

Shop Small on November 26

Mark November 26, 2016 in your calendar and celebrate #SmallBusinessSaturday! Small Business Saturday takes place every year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and it’s a day to spend your holiday dollars at small businesses in your community, whether in person or online.

If you live in the Coastal Virginia area, here are some of my favorite local shops to get you started:

Perch Shop

The Wild Wander

North End Bag Co.

Simplistic Evolution Products

Kitsch

West Elm Va Beach (they host local pop up shops and have a local section in the store!)

Crafted Va Indie Arts & Craft Market (they have the BEST events!)

Subtlesea Candles

Serendip, Ltd.

Lightbox Print Co.

Byrd Jewelry