As tempting as it is to give in to the countless Instagram ads offering half-off jeans, completely free pairs of sunglasses (if you disregard the $19.99 shipping), or various brands’ new bikini collections, I find that shopping locally is far more rewarding and sustainable from both an environmental and economic perspective.
In Santa Barbara, California, the options for supporting small businesses while finding that perfect pair of whatever it may be are endless. Here, women creators offer the most beautifully unique products and services. That being said, whether you’re a seasoned local buyer on the hunt for your new favorite Instagram shop or someone just getting into shopping small, here are three women-owned small businesses in Santa Barbara that you need to check out!
Moonlight Boutique is an online jewelry brand created and owned by Michelle Rivas, a Salvadorian first-generation third-year UCSB student majoring in Psychological and Brain Sciences. Michelle’s stunning handmade jewelry pieces are all inspired by astrology, space, nature, and Sailor Moon, her favorite anime. Though initially, she sold only earrings, Michelle quickly expanded her business to include necklaces, rings, and chokers, all of which feature quality materials and adhere to her unique style.
However, Moonlight Earrings goes beyond creating incredible pieces as the owner also has a strong message and motivation behind her creations. “I knew that I wanted to use my business to help spread awareness about the different issues I care about and raise money for those causes,” Rivas said. “Creating jewelry brings me a lot of peace, and it’s been amazing to take something I love doing and use it to spread awareness about the things I care about, like mental health advocacy and health equity.”
Since her first launch in September 2020, Rivas has learned a great deal about what it takes to be a successful and happy creator. “One of the best things I’ve learned as a small business owner is realizing how important it is to take breaks, as creating when you’re tired or unmotivated will not only hurt your mental health but will also reflect in whatever you create,” she explained. Following this lesson, Michelle promised to create when she feels inspired or motivated and take breaks when necessary.
Amassing countless customers she lovingly refers to as “Moon Babies,” Rivas is also eager to share some advice for other women looking to open their own small businesses in the community. “There are so many roles you take on as a business owner, like budgeting, digital design, and even research — so even if you don’t have a background in business, you may have a lot of these skills already, and you can learn the rest along the way!”
To find your new favorite magical pair of earrings and stay informed about pop-up shops she will be hosting in the Los Angeles area, be sure to check out @moonlightxboutique on Instagram!
Kraftzzz is another local jewelry business featuring handmade resin, beaded, metal, and polymer clay jewelry designed, created, and packaged by the owner, Maya Ha.
For Maya, a Second-Year Computer Science student at UCSB, the message behind her brand is deeply rooted in environmentalism. “You can have style without giving your money to fast fashion, enabling underpaid labor and mass production. The low prices these businesses offer are a cover-up for the real cost of supporting fast fashion,” Ha explained.
However, Ha is not only dedicated to bringing awareness to the harmful environmental effects of the fast fashion industry but also to providing stunning and affordable alternatives that “you can’t buy from a big business or fast fashion company.”
Though she began to make jewelry to pass the time during quarantine, as her business has progressed, Ha shared that one of the most valuable things she has learned is marketing’s multifaceted nature.
“Marketing combines creative, technical, and interpersonal skills; It can't just be one of the three. For example, suppose you just focus on the numbers. In that case, you ignore the bigger picture of creating a community with customers that will continue to purchase and spread the word about your business,” she divulged.
Exuding confidence and professionalism all the while keeping on top of her steady list of orders, Maya also shared her biggest pieces of advice for other women in Isla Vista looking to follow in her footsteps. “Before you open your business, think about your target audience and what you want to present to them,” Ha said.“Would you buy your product if you were a random customer?”
Ha also stressed the necessity for consistency and appearance of any brand, stating, “It is important to design a consistent aesthetic that you adopt as well. Especially as a small business without a well-known name, you have to rely on the customer's first impression when they come across your website or profile.”
With such a powerful mission statement and a talented creator, Kraftzzz is a brand of quality and style. To check out Ha’s creations, visit her Instagram and Tik Tok @kraftzzzz.
Santa Barbara Gift Baskets creates custom and themed gift baskets that can be picked up locally or delivered to friends and family anywhere in the country. This unique shop in Downtown Santa Barbara was founded and owned by Anna Pazier, a Santa Barbara native. Pazier opened her Santa Barbara Gift Baskets in 2009 and has always been committed to providing quality baskets filled with various items.
The size and objects in a gift basket vary, and products can include locally made gourmet foods such as wine, popcorn, soup mixes, and other snacks, mugs, board games, coffee, and even baby clothes. Pazier even categorizes the items in gift baskets on her website according to special dietary needs, giving anyone a chance to enjoy a basket.
Speaking about how she got into the gift-basket business, Pazier revealed that “[She] hasn't always been in the gift-basket business. While I do come from an entrepreneurial family, my background is really in Sales & Marketing. I have worked for Fortune 500 companies in New York City, as well as small to mid-size entertainment firms here on the West Coast.”
Pazier continued, detailing the risk she took to leave her former job and begin Santa Barbara Gift Baskets. She said, “For years, one of my many responsibilities was to order holiday and appreciation gifts for hundreds of high-end clients. It seemed I was always disappointed in the end product or service. So, when I gracefully left my last position as Sales Manager, I turned my $30,000 gift budget and former employer into my first customer.”
Moreover, Pazier has always felt a special connection to Santa Barbara and revealed that she chose to stay and open her business there because “Santa Barbara is my hometown, and I am so proud of it! I grew up here on the gorgeous beaches and among the red tile roofs, and I am thrilled to be raising my children on this, the American Riviera. Because Santa Barbara produces some of the world's best wine, boasts award-winning craft breweries, and is home to top gourmet food purveyors, we have access to all the best products to include in our baskets”
Finally, Pazier takes great pride and care in selecting products for her business, as each must go through a strenuous vetting process. She revealed how she makes her selections: "We have a strict policy here at Santa Barbara Gift Baskets if we wouldn't serve it to our friends and family, we certainly won't send it to yours. Before we approve any new products for our baskets, they are carefully vetted by my book club, mom's group, and other circles of friends who eagerly help me sample and discern what wins a place in our baskets.”
With so many products only found in Santa Barbara and a determination to spread joy through gift baskets, Santa Barbara Gift Baskets is one of a kind. To get a gift basket of your own or for someone special, you can visit Santa Barbara Giftbaskets in person on Magnolia Avenue in downtown Santa Barbara or order online.
Living in a place bursting with talented, driven women who want to share their products with the community makes shopping locally an effortless and enjoyable experience for Santa Barbara residents.
Furthermore, for those looking to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle while supporting their local economy, buying from small businesses is one of the most accessible practices. Each of these three women is an outstanding example of the gorgeous and affordable products available in Santa Barbara and of using their platforms to give back to their community and advocate for critical issues in our society.
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