The holiday season is officially in full swing, and this year is unlike any that have come before it. For months, and under extraordinary circumstances, small business owners have been planning how to deliver big on great gifts and even bigger on much needed safe and easy shopping, with a side of holiday cheer. Here are five businesses who are getting into the spirit and inspiring the small business community and customers alike.

 holiday decor display by Sneeds Nursery
A magical display of Christmas trees and sparkly decor among organic plants curated by Richmond, Virginia-based Sneed's Nursery. — Sneeds Nursery

Jenny Jenkins-Rash, operations manager, Sneed’s Nursery

Who we are: A Richmond, Virginia-based organic plant center and florist where you’ll also find beautiful and festive baubles and decor.

A lot of the changes we made this spring are helping us as we go into the holidays. July and August are when we start planning for Christmas and we recognized that things were going to still be different.

Christmas is huge for us, but we knew we couldn’t have our typically packed preview party where we unveil the Christmas cottage displayed with all of our decor or our open house event. So, we pivoted to a two-day preview party where we sold $30 tickets for a scheduled, 50-minute time slot, during which customers got that $30 back to shop.

We sold five tickets per shopping window and sold out days before the event. We had a local baker put together 100 treat boxes filled with a decorated cookie, personal mini bundt cake, brownie and candied popcorn, which was given as a gift with purchase. Everyone raved.

Throughout the holidays, we communicate with our customers through social media and email. We are continuing to add more Christmas inventory to our online shop. We are offering customers that are homebound a FaceTime appointment to walk through the store with our online sales specialist and shop that way. Our goal is to do whatever it takes to make our customers, who are like our family, feel safe, cared for and excited for the season. Follow Sneed's Nursery on Instagram: @sneedsnursery & Facebook: @sneedsnursery.

 a bitters & soda can with a drink on display by Hella Cocktail Co.
New York, N.Y.-based Hella Cocktail Co.'s bitters & sodas collection serves up refreshing and festive flavors with recipes and pairings to please any palette. — Hella Cocktail Co.

Jomaree Pinkard, co-founder and CEO, Hella Cocktail Co.

Who we are: A New York City-based mixology company offering uniquely crafted bitters & sodas, cocktail mixers, specialty kits and more.

While COVID has changed the way that customers discover taste, Hella Cocktail believes that we can still meet them for that discovery during the holidays. In previous years, we created pop-up store experiences in New York City's Bryant Park. However, this year we've had to pivot our focus to creating everything from virtual happy hour destinations and classes to giveaways and custom menu recipe creations for larger-format corporate gifting. We've also leaned into partnering with both alcoholic and non-alcoholic similarly occasion-based companies/media partners to digitally help amplify both our stories and values.

Our holiday insight is for businesses to digitally revisit their origin story with a festive twist. Customers want to support small businesses during the holidays, so businesses shouldn't be afraid to tell their story and remember why they started the business in the first place, why they are so passionate about what they create and why they want to share it. Follow Hella Cocktail Co. on Instagram: @hellacocktailco & Facebook: @hellacocktailco.

 gift basket of asheville, n.c. themed gifts from asheville goods
The proceeds from purchases of Asheville Goods gift boxes go back to support each of the featured local vendors. — Asheville Goods

Celia Naranjo, owner & manager, Asheville Goods

Who we are: Retailer of curated gift boxes featuring an assortment of local Asheville, North Carolina-made goods.

Our mission at Asheville Goods is to tell the story of Asheville's thriving craft and artisan community through the curation and distribution of its locally produced, unique and high-quality goods.

Throughout these challenging times, we have continued buying from local makers. Asheville Goods has always offered nationwide shipping and local pickup, and we added curbside pickup during the pandemic in hopes that people can experience our gift boxes from the safety and comfort of their homes.

Our curated gift boxes offer an opportunity to send an authentic Asheville experience even for those who have not been able to visit this year, and for those who love Asheville and its makers. Our boxes have been very popular during COVID, as people are not able to shop in traditional retail markets and have been unable to travel to deliver gifts to friends and relatives. There have been businesses that wanted to send a bit of Asheville as consolation for canceled or postponed meetings that were originally scheduled to happen in Asheville. In addition, local essential businesses that continued to provide their services during the pandemic awarded employees with our gift boxes.

All the purchases from us also support each one of the artisans that are included in the box they send, which is especially important to our small entrepreneurs during the pandemic. And by supporting Asheville’s small business community, we are working together to build growth and sustainability in our local economy. Follow Asheville Goods on Instagram: @ashevillegoods & Facebook: @ashevillegoods.

 Weekly Facebook Live events help keep Cozy Creative Center customers connected, engaged and purchasing new and holiday-themed products.
Weekly Facebook Live events help keep Cozy Creative Center customers connected, engaged and purchasing new and holiday-themed products. — Cozy Creative Center | Cozy Quilt Designs

Daniela Stout, owner, designer & publisher, Cozy Creative Center | Cozy Quilt Designs

Who we are: El Cajon, California-based online and brick-and-mortar store offering an extensive range of quilting and sewing supplies and classes.

When the customers can’t come to us, we must go to them. Cozy Creative Center caters to the quilting, sewing, creative community. For many of our customers, sewing has been a therapeutic release from the worry and fear of COVID.

Since we can’t hold our usual in-shop clubs and events, we have turned to social media to help keep the connection alive with our weekly Facebook show we call “Monday Night Live.” This little weekly venture has turned into an amazing way to keep up customers’ sewing energy, and ours, and to keep cash flowing and product moving.

Adding CommentSold to the mix has allowed us to show and sell right through our live feed. To enhance the holiday feeling and drive viewership, we are releasing instructions for a mystery Christmas quilt over the next six weeks, step by step.

While we have them watching to get the free pattern, we are presenting our first ever Get Cozy Box, a curated mailer of Christmas coziness that will include a never-before-seen sewing project and other festive items to brighten up a quilter’s holiday. And as we get closer to Dec 25, we’ll start a stuff-your-own stocking event, presenting and selling items they can buy for themselves (or others) to make the season merry and bright. Follow Cozy Creative Center on Facebook: @cozycreativecenter & Instagram: @danielastoutatcozy.

 an assortment of vegetables on a kitchen counter displayed by Ask Aunt V
From the garden to the table and the classroom to the community, Ask Aunt V wants to make you feel like a guest at your own table. — Ask Aunt V

Veronica Porter, owner, Ask Aunt V

Who we are: Naperville, Illinois-based organic cooking and gardening classes with an emphasis on sustainability.

Ask Aunt V teaches hands-on cooking classes and organic gardening programs for indoor and outdoor gardens. Our focus is to use real food (fresh, local, seasonal, organic) as your main ingredient, teach the techniques to prepare your meal properly and eat well!

“Home for the holidays” takes on new meaning this holiday season, with many people preparing their first holiday meals entirely by themselves. Our goal for any event is for you to be a guest at your own dinner table and to enjoy the holiday — stress-free.

We offer private classes, online coaching and are also posting, through blogs and social media, the steps for traditional holiday meals. We walk you through the preparation for the event, like when to buy the food, how much to buy, how to properly prepare the food, shopping lists, etc., as well as what has to be done the day of the gathering and the order of tasks leading up to sitting at the table.

Ask Aunt V is also offering a series of online workshops through the New Year to answer questions, go over traditional recipes, provide healthy alternatives, offer advice on how to prepare for guests who have any special dietary preferences or requirements, and provide suggestions so everyone can enjoy this very special holiday season. Follow Ask Aunt V on Facebook: @askauntv and Instagram: @askauntv.

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