Buying Custom Gifts from Local Makers

Written by Nikky Starrett

Unique custom gifts can be a wonderful way to integrate branded or personalized goods into your everyday marketing routine, and it showcases your values and personality while supporting local small businesses. The tips below will help you hire the right maker in a way that makes it easy for everyone.

STEP 1: Do Your Research
Begin by brainstorming potential items that fit your needs and then getting to know the small businesses available to you. This may include makers in your neighbourhood or anywhere within the country. The product will define your proximity and that’s ok. Once you have a shortlist of potential makers, consider a small purchase to get to know their customer service and product quality. This option won’t always be possible but can be very helpful. It’s important to not get too attached to any one small business at this stage. Have three to five options ready to compare quotes.

STEP 2: Write a Brief
Before launching the dialogue with a maker, it’s important to know the direction of your project. You don’t need to know everything but you should know your budget, timeframe and intended use of the items.
Prepare your project details in a single page document with your contact information and a few images for inspiration. This information page is called a Brief and acts as a project outline to keep everyone informed of expectations.

STEP 3: Meet Your Maker
Now is the time to reach out to your top 3 to 5 favorite businesses. Be upfront that you are still browsing your options. Ask them for a quote based on your project brief. Inquire if they have worked on other custom orders before. Always follow up regardless of your decision. If you are choosing someone else, let them know why and thank them for their time. It’s easy for a maker to become excited that they may get a large order. Don’t leave them wondering what happened.

STEP 4: Making Goods
During the time that your custom order is being produced, you are allowed to ask for updates. While you don’t want to pester your maker, you can ask for progress reports. Standard practice includes approving a sample before mass production begins. For convenience, a photo of the sample is often enough. Remember that small business owners wear all the hats of the business. If your maker is busy crafting your order, email replies may take a few days. If you are changing the design of the project, call them as soon as possible or you may end up paying for wasted materials.

STEP 5: Sharing is Caring
What’s better than a custom product? The story behind it! When you hand out your custom product, consider telling your guests who made it. By sharing the story of the gift you will strengthen the meaning behind it. This can become a highlight of in person events for many people. This also helps the maker by spreading awareness of their business.

Ask for the item to come with a product card. Who made the product and how to connect with them is important to the authenticity of shopping from a local small business.

BONUS: Wrapping Up
Go ahead, make their day! Take a few minutes to write a Google Review or compose a LinkedIn Recommendation after the transaction is complete. You can also include a short intro about the maker in your next email newsletter or social media post. By telling your community that you worked with your maker, you not only amplify their voice but you also tell your audience what your values are.

The buying process of hiring custom goods is not unlike that of using large corporations. The final result is what makes the difference. When we utilize small business we are often met with a higher quality and much deeper connections with those receiving the unique item.

Nikky Starrett is the founder of Pomp & Sass, a Canadian small business specializing in custom Turkish Towels alongside an e-commerce store. Towels are ethically and sustainably made with a portion of profits donated to charity. Shop today at