2020 Took A Toll On Small Businesses. These Are The Ones You Should Support Right Now.

·5 min read

On average, I find myself lusting after something I never knew I needed about thrice daily: DTC toothbrushes, natural wines, flannel nightgowns, the list goes on. The unifying factor, of course, is not the products themselves, but the visual marketing. I’m a sucker for a sans serif font, an illustrated checker board, shades of neon green — and the more time I spend perusing The Internet, the more impressed I am with the world of aesthetic advertising. By the day, brand logos and assets are becoming more visual, more memorable, and more deeply infused with a sense of personality.

This is not a bad thing — rather, it’s an opportunity. More than ever before, consumer brands, restaurants, apps, and organizations are finding opportunities to add some artistry to their marketing materials. Logos are no longer minor to-do list items to be ticked off and stamped on a business card. Instead, they’re opportunities for entrepreneurs to find artistic ways of representing their brands’ core identities (in as few words as possible).

That’s where 99designs by Vistaprint comes in. The graphic design platform is home to a global community of more than 150,000 talented freelance creators equipped to help small business owners build up their brands through custom, memorable design — from logos to menus to website layouts. And after more than a year of restrictions, financial setbacks, and countless other roadblocks, small business owners are in need of support more than ever before. With that in mind, 99designs by Vistaprint is launching an initiative titled 99 Days Of Designs to help rebuild independent brands through design makeovers and financial grants.

As part of the program, 99 businesses from across the globe were selected to receive brand refreshes, along with financial grants for rebuilding. And here at Refinery29, we nominated 11 operations close to our hearts to participate. So, for those looking to support small-scale, independent makers right now, we’d suggest starting with the below: A roster of creative, driven, R29-beloved brands, all with inspired, new visual branding, courtesy of 99designs by Vistaprint.

Chop Suey Club

This Manhattan-based boutique is all about vending contemporary Chinese art and design. But the place is more than a retail destination: It’s also a gallery, a social club, a neighborhood fixture, and a community hub, working to fight back against xenophobia.

Selva\Negra

Latina-founded clothing label Selva\Negra is all about making sustainable, small-batch garments that are as fashion-forward as they are comfortable.

Leland Eating & Drinking House

Opening a restaurant in Brooklyn is never an easy feat — let alone in the midst of a pandemic. But the husband-wife duo behind this charming, natural wine-forward corner spot devoted this past year to hand-painting and personally renovating their (dream) space with their own hands. And at long last, they’re finally operating at full-scale.

Sense of Shelf

No matter what it is you’re looking for — clothes, candles, prints, hair clips — you can find it on the Sense of Shelf homepage. But it gets better: the site is all about championing BIPOC-owned, sustainable brands, so you can actually feel good about spending your $$.

Daughter

Sure, an all day cafe-meets-wine-bar is nothing new. But Daughter is an operation all of its own: Not only does the Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn-based kitchen offer free meals to folks in need every day between 4 and 5 p.m., they also donate 10% of all profits to a rotating philanthropic organization of their choosing.

Alimentari Flaneur

Think of Alimentari Flaneur as 2021’s take on the quintessential farmer’s market: the roving, indoor pop-up offers locally sourced produce, homemade bruschetta, and other culinary delicacies from an eternally charming array of wicker baskets.

Bluestockings Cooperative

While this independent, progressive bookstore has been around since 1999, the place has been worker-owned since 2021 — which is a rare and incredible feat. As something of an NYC landmark, the venue houses event series, readings, writing workshops, and community meetings, all in addition to operating as a wildly inclusive, brilliantly stocked depot for literature.

Wear Your Snacks

You’ve probably seen Wear Your Snacks’ signature jewelry on Instagram (think beaded bracelets that read “tinned fish” or necklaces spelling out “maldon salt”). But get this: The full operation is helmed by one woman. Which is to say, the project is about as *indie* as it gets — and even so, the founder has managed to donate a substantial quantity of the project’s proceeds to a spread of worthy organizations.

Hibiscus Brew Café

Jamaican-born Allison Dunn never aspired to be a restaurateur. But when the perfect café space opened up in her neighborhood, she was struck by the fact that this was her opportunity to give back to her community — both through healthy food and drink options, and the dissemination of some much-needed positive energy.

Oat Cinnamon

It might seem somewhat paradoxical to find a born and bred city kid in the floral industry — but Ryan Norville of Oat Cinnamon is all about taking inspiration from urban spaces and incorporating them into her floral arrangements. Suffice to say, her work is one of a kind.

Tiny Makes Things

For the most part, we’ve all spent an egregious amount of time staring at our computer keyboards this year — which is why Tiny Makes Things vowed to alleviate some of that ennui with custom key caps. Made for all kinds of mechanical keyboards, the caps come in a whole variety of creative editions (think: hamburgers, Pokemon, baby animals, and more).

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