Great holiday gifts from companies with great missions.

Great holiday gifts from companies with great missions.

It’s December; we’ve got shopping on the brain. Many of us are thinking hard about how we spend our holiday dollars, buying some—or even all—of our holiday gifts from businesses that focus on the common good and the bottom line. (Think Noonday, or fashionABLE.)

I heard Becca Stevens speak back in October, and I’ve had six weeks to kick her thoughts around.

Stevens runs a social enterprise in Nashville called Thistle Farms, which is run by the women of Magdalene, a residential program for women who have survived lives of prostitution, trafficking, addiction and life on the streets. They make artisanal bath and body products by hand. High quality ingredients and living wages are expensive. 

Most social enterprises like Thistle Farms fail. They can’t compete in the marketplace because the margins aren’t there. Most consumers want the cheap candles you get at Target, not top-notch hand-poured soy candles with high-quality essential oils made in Nashville that also provide a living wage for the women who make them, a wage that is crucial to these women as they rebuild their lives.

But in the past few years, that consumer mindset has been slowly changing. Thistle Farms is succeeding because they’re convincing customers that when you buy their products, you get what you pay for, and you get more than just a great candle. You can feel good about how your dollars are spent all the way down the supply chain.

Thistle Farms isn’t alone. These are 4 of my favorite businesses that make amazing products and have amazing missions.

thistle farms

Thistle Farms

Thistle Farms sells handmade natural bath and body products by hand that are as good for the earth as they are for the body. Purchases directly benefit the women by whom they were made. Favorite products include body balms, candles, soaps, and essential oils. (I’m burning my lavender Love Heals soy candle as I’m writing this.)

Christmas order deadline: December 17.

giftresponsibly1

Johari Creations

Johari Creations is a marketplace for handcrafted products made by artisans in developing countries. They seek to come alongside their artisan partners with sustainable incomes, holistic development, and shared responsibility. “Johari” is the Swahili word for jewel, and refers to the artisans themselves.

Favorite products include glass bead necklaces, tagua bracelets, and batik headbands. They also have a great line for kids.

Check in daily for their 12 Days of Christmas promotions.

Christmas order deadline: December 17.

fashionable collage

fashionABLE

The fashionABLE mission is to create sustainable business in Africa. When you buy a fashionABLE product you provide new opportunities to vulnerable women, many of whom have been exploited due to the effects of poverty. fashionABLE is best known their scarves, handmade from Ethiopian cotton in the capital of Addis Ababa, but their newer jewelry and leather lines are also gorgeous.

Favorite products include the scarves (I particularly like the cute and easy to wear Selam game day scarves), the Able necklace, and the Mamuye tote.

Check in daily for their twelve days of Christmas promotions.

deadline: last day for ground shipping: December 18. Last day for rush shipping: December 23.

noonday

Noonday Collection

Noonday Collection’s mission is to create economic opportunity for the vulnerable. They partner with artisans in the developing world, empowering them to grow sustainable businesses. They also offer interest-free loans, make advance payments on orders, and offer scholarship programs and emergency assistance.

Noonday has branched out in recent years, adding belts, bags, and home accessory products. But their jewelry remains my favorite. (My Noonday necklace is a compliment magnet.) I love the Inca steps necklace, tangled beads bracelet, and raindrop earrings.

Christmas order deadline: December 15.

I’d love to hear about your favorite businesses in comments. 

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16 comments | Comment

16 comments

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  1. Terry says:

    One of my favorites, from here where I live is Worn for Peace. Their website says: “WORN is a socially-conscious business of Catholic Charities Fort Worth. The mission of WORN is to provide refugee women living in the United States a supplemental source of income, empowering them to rise above poverty. All products are hand-knit in the USA by women who have survived the afflictions of their war-torn and poverty-stricken homelands.”

    Here is a link to their website: http://www.wornforpeace.com/

  2. Sara K. says:

    Mercy House is another great one. Started by Kristen Welsh and her family (www.wearethatfamily.com), Mercy House is a maternity home in Kenya for young women who find themselves pregnant after being forced into prostitution. Mercy House provides a place for these girls to live, get health care for themselves and their babies, to gain some skills to help them thrive, and most importantly to hear the gospel!

    The girls who live at Mercy House create beautiful crafts that can be purchased here:

    http://mercyhousekenya.org/

  3. Bets says:

    Flying Scarfs– Started by US Airforce Men to support Afghan widows of Taliban

    Gorgeous Pashminas

    http://www.flyingscarfs.com/

    In the summer of 2011, four Air Force officers deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Along the way they came across beautiful hand-crafted artisan scarfs created by a group of women who had lost their husbands to the Taliban. It was through this encounter that they saw a greater need to empower the local population beyond their military duties. Thus, the relationship between these Afghan women and the military officers began, and Flying Scarfs was officially formed.

    Today these four social entrepreneurs have reshaped the manner in which many Americans think about social change. Through a lens of free market capitalism and micro-economic development, Flying Scarfs is an enterprise dedicated to the empowerment of the artisans in Afghanistan and around the world. What started as a global security initiative to provide employment after Americans had withdrawn from Afghanistan has turned into a worldwide mission to find similar situations in underdeveloped countries.

  4. Lee Ann Roberts says:

    What lovely ideas, either to treat yourself or to give to others! Thanks, Anne, for putting this list together.

    We have family members who don’t want more “stuff,” even if it’s for a good cause. For them, we have donated to The Heifer Project http://www.heifer.org

    Another idea is giving a microloan through Kiva http://www.kiva.org You can choose a recipient who does or makes something important to your giftee.

  5. Candice says:

    This makes me think of another gift dilemma, especially since you have quite a brood of kids yourself. I’m sure they get invited to lots of birthday parties of other kids. How do you buy gifts for all of those kids without breaking the bank?

    • 'Becca says:

      I keep an eye out for things at yard sales that are in really good condition. I often find like-new books or unopened craft kits.

      We do tie-dyeing as a family every few years, and we always do some extra T-shirts and socks to give as gifts. Dharma Trading is an excellent place to get affordable white clothes (including organic and made in USA options) as well as dye and advice on how to do it right.

  6. Susan says:

    I’m a big fan of Nisolo (www.nisolo.com), which helps get high quality Peruvian leather goods to American shoppers.The company is run by one of my former undergraduate students and after spending time with shoemakers in Peru, he decided that with a little investment and help getting their products to broader markets that the impact could be huge. He’s spent the last three years making that a reality.

    Their mission statement is “As consumers, we are not alone in the world. We recognize that our small choices have a big impact somewhere else. As producers, we are not alone. We have access to the global market and fair compensation for our work. We are a team of makers, doers, and storytellers working together to facilitate a healthy connection between consumers and producers in the global marketplace.”

  7. Beth Anne says:

    Love this. Thank you for sharing about these great companies, Anne! 3 of them are brand new to me, and I’m checking them out. I try to remind myself often that how I spend my money says a lot about what I value/what matters most. (Confession time: books are a big part of my fun money budget!)

  8. Bonnie says:

    Amazina Ministries founded by Katie Davis of Kisses from Katie fame has some beautiful handcrafted jewelry made by ladies in Uganda.

  9. 'Becca says:

    Wonderful ideas! I have found some very nice gifts at Ten Thousand Villages, which has a store in my neighborhood as well as an online store. They buy handmade items and a few fair-trade foods (like coffee and chocolate) from struggling people around the world and sell them at reasonable prices. Often an item there is priced the same or lower than a similar item in a mainstream store, but a much larger portion of the money is going to the artisan. Many of their things are made from reused materials. They have a great selection of Christmas tree ornaments!

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