This is the Part II of our story feature on small shop owner / entrepreneur Sarah Savoy, who is an avid supporter of local, small businesses. For a full introduction of Sarah and her boutique Much & Little, please read the Part I of her story here.
The following interview centres on her view in supporting local ventures, and why Sarah deems shopping small to be essential for the health of our community.
How did you get started in your career?
Sarah: I feel I’ve recreated myself several times over the years. I’ve been an interior designer, a yoga teacher, and right before starting M&L I was a part-time art consultant in the hospitality industry. When my son was going into kindergarten I decided it was time to launch into something of my own creation, and the idea of Much & Little was born.
Why do you think it is important to support local?
Sarah: Supporting locally made goods and local businesses makes senses simply because it puts more money back into the local economy! The carbon footprint is much smaller, and we’re also more apt to support other local businesses because we have the mindset to support local as well. Local businesses also care more because we are personally invested in our neighborhoods and local non-profits; as opposed to faceless corporations that don’t know anything about the communities they are situated in.
Canada is made up almost entirely of small businesses (firms with less than 100 paid employees), according to statistics we found on this informative article.
What is the biggest challenge when it comes to selling and promoting smaller brands?
Sarah: The biggest challenge is that smaller brands don’t have the name-recognition or cachet that established brands have. The quality and style may very well be there, but often people will associate a certain brand with having a certain distinction just because of the name. It’s ironic because often the larger brands aren’t even very high quality.
How receptive do you think our community is of the higher pricing found in slow fashion / ethically-made products?
Sarah: I think it’s hit and miss. What is considered too expensive to some people is perfectly reasonable to others. Some people really understand that you can’t expect a garment to be made locally yet have Uniqlo prices. It’s a continual education process, but I think generally people who are conscious about fashion and how clothing is produced are receptive to this.
Sarah's Tips on Shopping Small
As a retail shop owner, how have you been impacted by the raising rent / real estate prices?
Sarah: In fall 2018 my rent doubled. I had to downsize, by moving next door (same building, same landlord), but my rent for a unit half the size is still more than what I was paying before. That was a huge blow. 2019 felt like running a new business, as I also had to pay off the cost of renovating. It’s been challenging and it’s a difficult environment for small businesses to survive in. I feel certain neighborhoods are at a tipping point with rents, where independent shops are on the endangered species list. When there are units sitting vacant for one, two+ years, I really wonder what the landlords are thinking, what they are holding out for.
How has COVID affected your operations?
Sarah: Like many businesses, I had to shut down. The brick and mortar shop was closed for 2.5 months. I’m still not open full time. I live with an immunocompromised person, so I am hesitant to open full time again. We have capacity limits of just four customers at a time in the shop. Of course my revenue is down but it’s not terrible. It’s okay considering we are in a pandemic. What else is one to do?
What are some of your favourite small brands, and why?
Sarah: Well obviously there is Vestige. There is also Moss Grey. Both are local clothing brands and I love what they are doing because they both have such strong vision and integrity behind their work. Both brands are a true extension of the person behind the label and they really tell the story of who that person is. You can almost see their world view through their clothing. It’s beautiful.
Sarah: Other brands are Brand & Iron and Field Kit. These are both candle lines, the former is in Vancouver, the latter based in Calgary. Again, they both have such a strong vision and sensitively in their work- and they produce high quality candles. I also love Kalika Bowly pottery; she is based in Golden, BC. Her ceramics are quietly beautiful. They are not flashy at all, not highly embellished, but simple, subtle, functional. I find her ceramics really calming in their colours and shapes.
For more goodies from small, ethical and local brands, visit the online shop of Much & Little!