Even those of us who devote our lives to small business don't always walk the walk. Amazon can be so very, very convenient. But it's important to us at Alice to shop small and local whenever we can.
That's why, when choosing the staff gifts for Alice's holiday retreat, chief of staff Jillian Benvenuti had a master plan. She lives and works in Sonoma County, which was recently crippled by the Kincade Fire. After a call with Peter Rumble, the CEO of the Santa Rosa Metro Chamber, Benvenuti was inspired. "Post-fire, businesses up here were starting to close down or were really, really struggling," she recalls. "I said, 'Hey, I have a pretty healthy budget. I can raise awareness around the fires and help support those businesses.'"
So she headed to Windsor and Healdsburg for a shopping spree. "In most cases, I went around the store with the owner to curate the gifts," Benvenuti says.
But not everything came from California. She also wanted to give a chance to fledgling business owners she'd met in her role at Alice. The only rules were to keep everything unisex, small enough to fit into a carry-on bag and get through airport security (the gifts were being presented at the company's San Francisco retreat, to which Houston-based employees had to fly), and within the budget.
It all started with a box from a Santa Rosa location of shipping store PakMail, owned by Matt Cohen. The shipping boxes were dolled up with bows and stamped with the PakMail logo.
Oliver's Market is a four-store Sonoma County chain that's been locally owned and operated since 1988. During the power shut-offs related to the fires, the markets lost all perishable items in stock. For the gift box, Benvenuti picked up lotion and beard balm from Three Sisters Apothecary, owned by Emma Mann, her daughter Sabrina, and sister Pandora.
Benvenuti went to Roost General Store, which owners Heather Walters and Therese Gabaldon were forced to close for many days due to fire evacuations and power shutoffs, for Truck & Barter candles. Julia Hohen pours the fragrant candles in Petaluma.
Miracle Plum is Sallie Miller and Gwen Gunheim's home for pantry items and staples from local farms in Santa Rosa. Benvenuti bought Alice staffers bags of Rancho Gordo crimson popping corn, along with seasoning blends to boost the snack. Both Miller and Gunheim were personally evacuated, and had to close the store due to power shutoffs.
Michelle Schultz had to close her Healdsburg store Market 377 for more than a week due to the fire. Benvenuti purchased colorful reusable grocery bags for Team Alice.
The items from outside California included leather business card holders from Oowwee Products. Benvenuti met founder Gabriel Hargett at Inc. 5000 and was impressed with his mission of employing people with autism to stitch all of the company's leather goods.
Finally, Rana Lustyan, a trained chef, is a member of Alice's WomanMade Community and is an active Alice user. Benvenuti thought her edible cookie dough, Edoughble, was the ideal sweet finish to an evening full of special gifts.
Team Alice appreciated her impeccable taste, but were even more pleased with her eye toward helping business owners who need our support right now. After all, isn't paying it forward what the holidays are all about?