By Gretta Monahan
As the owner of small businesses, I always aim to keep my gift buying focused on hometown holiday shopping. Wherever you live all over the country, I always urge people to not just buy online for gifts, but to look to their own nearby neighborhoods to discover the incredibly cool things being made right there. As just one example, my hometown (Boston) has a huge abundance of creative entrepreneurs — and their small businesses and start-ups are full of innovation and offer specialty curation and differentiation in almost every category.
This year I was just lucky enough to discover even more of them through a contest I helped out with. Mastercard and Bank of America have a unique interest is helping small businesses in the Boston area, so they held their #Growyourbizcontest for local owners to pitch how they planned to grow their business for the chance to win $25,000 and one-on-one expert business advice.
The contest’s big winner was More to Love Yoga, owned by Rachel Estapa. She created her company when she realized that much of the clientele at boutique yoga classes are not particularly accepting of bigger yoga practitioners.
At a studio space in the Somerville Arts Armory, she has set up a supportive and empowering way to practice yoga. More to Love is having a terrific holiday special (classes are usually $39 and are now $9.99) that is a perfect gift for friends and family — and they have holiday gift cards at moretolovewithrachel.com.
Other finalists from #Growyourbizcontest were also full of innovative promise and fab gift ideas. Consider the start-up Birch Baby. Started by a woman as a cloth diaper store and now run by two dads, the company sells a ton of hand-picked gifts for the wee ones in your life — from self-balancing scooters and Ecobricks building blocks to gifts for new moms such as supercool strollers and adorable diaper bags.
Next up is the genius gift of thicker, shiny and dreamy goddess locks, for anyone you know who is as obsessed with clip-in extensions as I am. Intriguing Hair is doing unstoppable business as a hair extensions expert, selling virgin extensions that are shiny, silky and thick — an exceptional quality for the price. Order online or give a gift certificate to anyone whose Christmas wish is to have thicker, longer hair.
Want a holiday celebration blow-out — literally? Look no further than Paddy Wagon Pub. A creative group of local guys came up with the clever idea to rent out instantaneous, blow-up pubs in which you can put on a party virtually anywhere. They will also provide traditional Irish food, drink and entertainment, if you like.
But even beyond #Growyourbizcontest, Boston is filled with burgeoning businesses churning out plenty of great unique gifts. A few of my favorites:
The phenomena success of Boston-based Rue La La is no surprise to fashionistas all over. Every day, the site curates designer boutiques and offers them at sweet prices for its members over the course of the day. Looking for an incredible Celine handbag or Burberry shades at a huge discount for your loved ones? This is your go-to source.
And then there are other innovative products — lots of them equally wearable. You must check out Alps & Meters, the Boston ski gear and sportswear company founded by a former global director of strategy and innovation at Puma. Inspired by the retro styles of the past several decades of skiers, the brand’s current designs fuse performance and style rooted in alpine-sport-cool.
And what does anyone need to have while wearing such awesome gifts? Another gift: A Moon Selfie Light — so they can properly document that awesomeness, even when skiing at night or while out at clubs, when darkness ruins way too many photos. Invented by two guys out of Harvard, the light is basically an upgrade to pics for whatever lucky soul you gift it to.