Your 2023 Small Business Gift Guide for Slow Living & Sustainability (from a Small Business)

Gifts like a tonic jar, napkins, candle sticks, and caramels

We love a good #giftswithpurpose roundup, and this list has been hand chosen by the Slow North team to support small businesses.  

These gifts are unique and a lot of them are local to Austin (but you don’t have to live here to love and buy from these shops!). 

We’re platforming other amazing shops we can’t get enough of, because we believe in supporting small businesses and in community over competition! 

Ready? Let’s go!

For the Friend Who Really Loves Japanese-Inspired Design: take heart shop

Take Heart's Owner Nina Gordon standing in her shopPhoto from take heart

take heart shop is a small boutique and a childhood dream of owner Nina Gordon. The shop features beautifully designed and surprisingly unique gifts, but what makes it especially delightful and fresh is its emphasis on Japanese designs! 

It’s tough to not fall in love with *checks notes* everything in this thoughtful shop, but this Hasami Porcelain Tall Teapot will haunt my daydreams in the best way. 

Hasami Porcelain is a Japanese manufacturing craft that’s more than 400 years old. It’s fashioned from clay and crushed stone from Hasami, a village in Nagasaki, Japan. Each vessel is totally unique, just like the friend you’re gifting! 

(And if your friend isn’t a tea drinker, can I interest you in a Dandelion Paperweight or a Bird Vase?)   

For the Handwoven Basket Lover OR that Friend Who Does a Fair Bit of Worrying: Ten Thousand Villages

Two Women from different parts of the world and makers and their goodsPhoto from Ten Thousand Villages

Ten Thousand Villages is a large online shop that features only Fair Trade goods. Fair Trade is a certification that tells us that the hand made goods we’re getting were made by artisans who are being paid fairly and sustainably for their work. 

Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard of Guatemalan worry dolls. According to Guatemalan legend, children can tell each of their worries to one of these hand made dolls, and by morning, the dolls will have taken those worries away. 

I love the worry dolls as a sweet gift to that friend who’s always worrying (and also, likely, taking care of everybody else), but if worry dolls aren’t quite it, you can also check out this swoon-worthy collection of handwoven baskets

(And yes, if you must know, I do have a handwoven basket addiction. But I can also say with confidence that pretty much everybody loves a handwoven basket. You’re welcome.) 

For that Friend Who Loves Candles and Going Non-Toxic: Hand-Poured Candles from Slow North

Jon + Michelle Simmons of Slow North outside of the ShopPhoto by Paige Newton

These candles are GOALS and I love the backstory: Michelle Simmons wanted a clean, safe candle option when she got pregnant for the first time and started doing research on common household toxins. 

In typical mama bear fashion, Michelle took things a step further and started hand pouring and selling her own natural candles, made with essential oils and zero gross ingredients. Now, she runs the whole Slow North shop, which is filled with gorgeous, all-natural goods! 

I gifted the Eucalyptus + Lavender candle to my mother-in-law recently. She loved it (it came beautifully wrapped and it smells like a million dollars!) and I love being hit with its scent it every time I walk in her house! 

For the Book Lover: a Book From Black Pearl Books That Will Make Them Laugh/Cry/Stay Up Late 

Black Pearl Book Pop-Up with booksPhoto by Black Pearl Books

If you love small businesses, here’s why you’ll probably love independent bookstores: according to Black Pearl Books’ website, when you spend $100 at a local-owned business, more than half of that stays in your community. 

But when you spend $50 with an online, remote vendor, with no sales tax dollars go to your local community. 

Not only that, but local small businesses donate to charities at more than twice the rate of national chains! 

If that’s not a great reason to switch to buying your books from local shops like Black Pearl Books, I don’t know what else is! 

Black Pearl Books is one of our Austin favorite small businesses, but they ship nationwide and are built to promote diversity, inclusion, equality, and cultural awareness. 

Here are three of my favorite books to give: 

  1. If You Want to Make Them Laugh: Professional Troublemaker: the Fear-Fighter Manual by Luvvie Ajayi Jones Such a funny, yet challenging and powerful read from our beloved (and hilarious) Luvvie! 
  2. If You Want to Inspire Them: What Kind of Woman by Kate Baer I have this slim little volume on my nightstand and I flip through it often. I love giving it to other women. It’s a personal, unique gift perfect that both inspires and affirms vulnerability in the people we love.
  3. If You Want Them To Stay Up All Night (in a good way): The City We Became by NK Jemisin. NK Jemisin is everything and trust me, I have never read anything like this story, which is set in New York City! It’s a novel that will keep you (or *ahem* your giftee) up all night to finish - it’s that good. 

For That Friend Who Loves Tea: A Tea Rituals Bundle from New Origin Shop  

New Origin Shop is an online woman-owned shop that currently features 72% woman-owned brands, 77% value-driven brands, and 6% minority-owned brands. Three cheers for incredible transparency! 

There are so many fun gifts in this shop, but I am in love with their tea collection from Modestine Tea. They offer favors in Let Go, Queendom Reign, Mimosa Blanca, and Up with Earl loose leaf teas (100% on the tea names). 

Plus, extras like a handcrafted Turkish Tea dish towel, a heart mesh infuser, hand carved spoons, and a wooden mini honey dipper. In other words, this gift bundle is an absolute delight! 

For the Friend Who Collects Pretty Paper and Loves Crafts: The Paper + Craft Pantry 

The Paper Craft PantryPhoto by Maggie Gentry

I know I keep saying all these gifts are my favorites, but this might be one of my favorite favorites! 

The Paper Craft Pantry was created by Pei to be an “oasis for paper people.” Pei sources independent designers and family-owned printers and donates a portion of their in-house line to the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Black Mamas ATX. 

There are so many gorgeous gifts at The Paper Craft Pantry (how cute is this snail mail postcard?!) but I have completely lost my heart to the Surprise Paper Parcel

There are four different size parcels at four price points, and after you’ve chosen yours, you fill out a form to give them more information about who the box is for. 

Then, they pick out stationary, goodies, and gifts just for your recipient, and ship it out! It’s a surprisingly thoughtful and super unique gift idea that I can’t get enough of!  

For the Succulent Lover: Succulent Native 

Succulent Native PhotosPhoto from Succulent Native

OMG, y’all. It’s a succulent in a llama. It’s a Llama Mama Succulent and it SHIPS! 

Succulent Native is a locally owned small business that ships absolutely delightful succulent arrangements nationwide. (And if you’re local, you 100% should not sleep on these Succy Love Boxes!)  

Succulent Native was founded by Shannon Donaldson. We can thank her background in sculpture and flower arrangement for the amazing plant designs she curates in her shop! Everything is 100% gift-worthy and has all of us making major heart eyes.  

For That Friend Who Already Has Everything: 

Kindred Black

Kindred Black PhotographPhoto from Kindred Black

Scrolling through Kindred Black’s website is like scrolling through a museum of amazing, gorgeous things and, oh can totally buy them and give them as gifts!

The shop itself is a retail project that curates luxury lifestyle goods. What makes it especially unique is that Kindred Black is committed to ethical small businesses practices: eco-responsibility, artisan production, and ethical manufacturing, among other things. 

For example, Kindred Black doesn’t use the standard plastic bubble wrap - instead, they use Green Wrap, a landfill alternative that’s biodegradable and fully recyclable. It’s the little things, right? 

It’s hard to not add everything to your cart, but I keep coming back to these Slow Skincare offerings. 

They’re incredibly high-quality skincare products (like this Dayspring Facial Cleansing Oil, made of Sonoran jojoba oil hand-infused with soothing calendula blossoms and chamomile flowers) and they come in glass bottles hand blown by master glass artisans in the US. 

And there’s no plastic packaging - they come sealed with wax and corks. 

If this doesn’t surprise and delight, I don’t know what will! 

For the Friend Who is Impossibly Cool and Intentional and Purposeful in Everything They Do: A Turkish Cotton Bathrobe from Lovecraft

Lovecraft is clothing goals in the best possible way (and located in the historic East 11th Street Arts District in Austin, Texas)! It’s women-owned and features ethically made goods, emerging designers, and sustainable brands. 

Awesome bonus: it’s named after a 1990’s Texas speakeasy! 

I’m a huge fan of robes in general, especially as gifts, but this Turkish Cotton Bathrobe is especially swoon-worthy since it's hand loomed using traditional techniques and woven with 100% premium Turkish cotton

Also, don’t sleep on this handcast enamel checkered ring, or this Palo Santo & Desert Rose travel perfume, made with the pleasantly grounding scent of pure Palo Santo wood balanced with floral sweetness.

For That Friend Who Loves Journaling, Cards, and Affirming People: Aya Paper Co. 

Aya Paper Co Image of women reading a cardPhoto for Aya Paper Co.

Aya Paper Co. has been called the “eco-friendly and Black-owned Hallmark we’ve been waiting for” and I am here for it

Aya’s founder knew that pollution and climate change disproportionately affect communities of color, so all of Aya Paper Co. is made with sustainability in mind. I also love the minimalist, earth-toned vibe! 

There are so many gorgeous cards but what I love most for gifting are the journals and Affirmation Greeting Cards! 

My favorite journal is this Intention Journal (you can choose lined or unlined - a very important choice, as any serious journaler knows). Sydney Parker wrote this in her review: “absolutely loveee this journal! I am so big on words and being intentional, and this journal truly just aligns with all that I am <3 thank you for this piece of ART! xo.” 

I’ve actually decided to gift *myself* this Affirmation Greeting Card set. I love how personal and meaningful these cards feel and I’m so excited to use them to send with gifts, or just because!  

For the Friend Who’s Really into De-Stressing and Self-Care Sundays (and Who Sometimes Gets Migraines): Therapy Packs from Slow North

Therapy Pack Bundles by slow north

I would not be your friend if I did not tell you about one of Slow North’s bestsellers for natural stress relief: the therapy pack

It’s like wrapping yourself in a warm cloud of love and comfort (or you can throw it in the freezer to make a soothing cold pack), and helps aching or tired muscles by relieving pain and providing comfort. 

Slow North’s therapy packs come in neck wraps or eye masks (hello migraine relief!), or you can buy one of each for maximum self-care in a bundle.

I love, love, love all the gorgeous patterns they come in, and they’re all made by hand with 100% cotton and linen fibers right here in Slow North’s local Austin, Texas studio.  

For that Friend Who Can’t Stop Talking About Zero Waste & Sustainability (and Restorative Agriculture): Miranda Bennett Studio

Miranda Bennet StudioPhoto from Miranda Bennett

(It’s me. I am that friend.)

The Miranda Bennett Studio is an ethical and sustainable apparel brand based in Austin, Texas. They plant-dye their own minimalist clothes (which are biodegradable and size inclusive!) and are a zero waste business. 

From their website: “A core tenant for our brand is that every woman -- from those on our team to our end customers, to mother earth -- are treated with dignity.”

Their reviews page is an absolute joy to read through (I swear it gives me actual hope for humanity), and one of the studio’s bestsellers is the Wrap Top, which just seems like the most beautiful, thoughtful, surprising gift you could give somebody.  

If you can’t visit this amazing local small business in person, the next best thing is to read about their incredible sustainability initiatives here and visit the online shop here.

Sarah Guerrero
Sarah Guerrero
Sarah Guerrero is a freelance writer and contributor to Slow North. She has a degree in international business from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, and writes about sustainable business practices and ethical living.