Archive for Holiday Gifts

Alternative Giving for the Holidays

Alternative giving is catching on. With frustration over the increasing commercialization of the holidays, the public is looking for alternatives to “shop-to-you-drop” consumerism in an attempt to get back to the true spirit of giving. So I’m continuing my annual round up of alternative giving that I started last year. Whether you tire of buying gifts you can’t afford; you prefer to make a socially-conscious statement; or you wish to donate to those truly in need, I’m sure you’ll find a worthy cause to contribute to below.

International Organizations

  • Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres) provides emergency medical care to millions of people caught in crises in more than 60 countries around the world. They have also been on the forefront of assisting with the Ebola crisis in Africa.
  • Heifer International provides livestock and training to people in developing communities so that they can feed themselves. They have a special gift-giving brochure to help gift-givers with ideas during the holiday season.
  • Women for Women International provides women survivors of war, civil strife and other conflicts with the tools and resources to move from crisis and poverty to stability and self-sufficiency.
  • Outreach International has an online catalog of sustainable gifts in a variety of categories and price points to satisfy the fashion-conscious as well as the socially-conscious. The organization’s mission is to provide sustainable solutions to help end extreme poverty around the world.

Local Organizations
In addition to the international agencies mentioned above, there are also a number of local causes worth giving to – either for yourself or on behalf of others as a gift:

  • Central Union Mission provides food, clothing and shelter to the homeless in the DC area.
  • The House of Ruth helps women, children and families in greatest need with an emphasis on ending homelessness and chronic abuse.
  • Food and Friends provides meals, groceries and nutrition counseling to people living with life-challenging illnesses such as HIV/AIDS and cancer. They also have pies you can purchase for the holidays; the proceeds go to advancing their mission.
  • By acquiring food and distributing it through its network of partner agencies , the Capital Area Food Bank feeds those who suffer from hunger in the Washington metro through its network of partner agencies; and educating, empowering and enlightening the community about the issues of hunger and nutrition.

This list is not exhaustive. If you are so-inclined to give gifts with a purpose, there are plenty of causes to donate to — on behalf of loved ones, or in lieu of buying gifts for someone that she really doesn’t need. If you’re participating in alternative giving during the holidays, I’d love to hear from you. Please share what you’re doing below.

Happy Holidays.

Etsy Success: 3 Things You Need to Know

Have you ever wondered why some Etsy sellers flounder while others seem to flourish? I have. So I asked several dynamic Etsy sellers three essential questions:
1. What marketing or sales strategy do you attribute to your volume of sales?
2. Is there anything that you changed since you began your shop that resulted in increased sales?
3. What advice do you have for beginning Etsy sellers?

Here is what they had to say.

Quiana Taylor of Soul and Substance creates African- and Native-American- inspired art and jewelry. She says, “You are your own best marketing. I wear something that I make as often as I can because if someone admires it, it opens a door to introduce them to your items.” In terms of strategies to increase sales, she says that “social media is amazing because it links you to many many people who may have never even heard of etsy. I am an avid instagrammer (@soulnsubstance and @_readysetglow).” As to advice she has for beginning Etsy sellers, she says, “Don’t expect to just know it all. Because you won’t. Link yourself with people who are successful at something and glean from them.”

Sheryl of Hand Painted Petals makes original, heirloom designs on wine glasses, glassware, jewelry, and keepsakes. With over 500 sales since November 2009, she attributes her success to narrowing her market focus to maximize search results. “That means I work hard on my tags, titles and descriptions to keep up with trends, SEO, seasons (current and upcoming), competition and my own new designs and listings. Also, about a year ago, I expanded into the wedding and anniversary market, which has been fruitful for me — and a lot of fun, too!” The most important thing that’s contributed to her sales is improving the quality of her photos. “My photos are like a ‘shop front.’ If my photos look dingy, dark or unclear about what’s being sold, I can’t expect people to take time to explore my shop. Instead, I have to (metaphorically) meet them at the front door with reasonably clear and inviting photos.” Shery’s advice to new sellers is “to get involved in teams and learn as much as possible; ask lots and lots of questions and then be willing to spend the time to make the suggested changes.”

Zoe of Diaspora Designs opened her shop featuring jewelry from the African diaspora in August of 2010. She attributes her 1500-plus sales with “staying in touch with my customers the old fashion way–I send them post cards in the mail every time I have a coupon code or sale happening. I think it is important to stay in contact with them and garner repeat business.” Improvements that have contributed to her success include what she calls the “countless changes” she’s made to “frequently go through my listings and update them with new and improved photographs, tags, and new items. I am never satisfied and I try to keep updating every time I have a new idea.” Zoe’s advice to beginning Etsians is “not to give up! It is easy to want to close up shop after weeks or months without turning a sale. But, if you continue to make new and improved items the customers will come. Once you gain momentum it tends to have a snowball effect.”

Esther Prat’s Wrapped in Leather shop features Unique Leather Wrap Bracelets. Esther says that she feels it’s important to be part of Etsy teams “that are pro-active in supporting team mates.” What’s helped her increase sales is improved photos. “Although I’m still learning to take better photos, [there’s been] a great improvement from the initial ones.” Her advice to new Etsians is to “join a proactive team, learn to take good photos,” provide excellent customer service and integrity, and deliver quality [products].”

This is advice we can all take into 2014 as we endeavor to improve upon what we accomplished in 2013. Stay tuned for what other Etsy artisans have to say in Part 2 of this post. If you’d like to share your Etsy success, please leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you.

Three Reasons to Buy Local and Shop Small During the Holidays

As we enter the season of buying and giving, you have the choice to shop at big box stores or to support small businesses and local shops. Here is why buying local and supporting small businesses matters:

  1. Small businesses have always been and continue to be the the backbone of our economy. Supporting small businesses supports us all.
  2. Schumacher had it right: Small is Beautiful. And people (that’s you and me) should be at the center of economics.
  3. Shopping local helps reduce our carbon footprint which is a smart consumer choice and is better for the environment.

For my part, I’m participating in Shop Local Week 2013, a partnership between Think Local First DC and Causetown to promote independently owned, community businesses as the preferred option for holiday shoppers. During the week, businesses like mine will feature a number of promotions, notably the Charity Cash Mob, where we will give a portion of purchases to any school or charity customers choose when they mention Shop Local Week.

RAM Jewelry Designs is Participating in Shop Small Saturday

RAM Jewelry Designs is Participating in Shop Small Saturday

Shift Your Shopping

RAM Jewelry Designs contributes to charity via Causetown

RAM Jewelry Designs contributes to charity via Causetown

What are you doing to buy local and shop small this holiday season? Please comment below and let me know.
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