Living where I do – on a farm in North Dakota – I am deeply connected to farmers, small towns, and small businesses. In some ways, I am surrounded by entrepreneurs, people who are in business because they see a direct need in the community and are able to fill it. Nearly everyone I know is connected to a family business in some way.
Supporting small businesses is not just for “Small Business Saturday,” or as a backlash against big-box retailers. For many communities across our gorgeous country, small businesses are the backbones of towns, and they need us right now.
The Wonders of the Internet
At this moment, I’m incredibly grateful for the powers of technology to connect us. The Bear Creek community is global, a fact that still stops me in my tracks some days. I get to keep in touch via Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube where we share our progress, frustrations, victories, and expertise about our shared passion, needle felting.
Think about it, we are all staying in our homes in an effort to stem a pandemic, yet we’re keeping connected to our friends, family, and fellow crafters! It just goes to show how much we all crave connection, especially during uncertain times. It makes my heart sing!
I also love being part of the Etsy community – more than two million “makers” who use the platform to reach buyers who may never know about their wares otherwise. I picture us all in our respective homes, lovingly creating, then running off to the post office to ship our orders.
When we shop, it’s easy to overlook a community like Etsy or to forget about a smalltown bookstore or handmade clothing shop. The “Amazon Effect” is a real term to describe the get-anything-now expectations we’ve all developed. Yet, personally speaking, I treasure the items in my home that come with a story or are hand-crafted over those items of convenience.
So here’s my challenge while we’re all reducing our travel: find the small retailer when you need something! Make a thoughtful purchase instead of the easy buy. Order granola from the seller at the farmer’s market, track down the name of that cute shop you saw on your trip, send flowers using the local shop. Yes, it takes a little more effort, but you’ll be supporting a small business in the process!
When I was introduced to fiber arts, I wanted to learn everything all at once. If someone could have downloaded everything into my brain, I would have gladly done it! Thankfully, in addition to the Woolly Women, and some other amazing mentors, I was able to satiate my thirst for knowledge.
Again, we also have the Internet to support us in our quest to learn “all the things” about needle felting. My own EweTube channel is a great place to begin as is this blog (try using our search feature – it rocks!). I’ve even collected all of my favorite resources onto one page.
Of course, you can also use this time of isolation to take an online class. There’s a whole world of online teachers – most of them are entrepreneurs – who offer online instruction for nearly every subject! From free “how-to” videos on YouTube to paid masterclasses, you can learn almost anything from the comfort of your own home. Better yet, sign your kids up for a class!
Naturally, I’m biased about the Bear Creek Needle Felting Academy where needle felters come together to level-up their skills with the aid of personal instruction, video lessons, homework, and a supportive community who are always willing to jump in and help. This is a perfect time to jump in!
Since most of us are creative by nature, we probably have more than needle felting supplies in our craft closets – I do! Here at the farm, we’re pretty focused on fiber arts, yet my daughter knits while I do needle felting. No matter what crafts you create, choose to buy your supplies from small businesses even when you can get a similar item from a big-box store or a super-retailer online. Maybe that purveyor supports your local economy, or maybe they are across the country, but you can choose to support small businesses with every click.