23/05/2024 7:42 PM


The Queen Of Beauty

New campaign offers big prizes for shopping at Portland’s small businesses this holiday season

November, it turns out, is half over.

It is now less than two weeks until Thanksgiving, and then Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year.

A reboot of the shop local “Little Boxes” campaign in Portland, now called “Small Shops Big Hearts,” is hoping to entice Portlanders to do that shopping locally.

The new campaign will partner with local payment app Kuto to offer shoppers prizes and incentives to buy their holiday gifts at around 90 local shops on Nov. 26 and 27.

Sarah Shaoul is the former owner of Retread Threads and Black Wagon. Now, she’s a business consultant in Portland. When the pandemic hit, she created PDXSOS, asking people to buy local gift cards and do their holiday shop locally online to save Portland businesses.

“You can only sustain a distress signal for so long,” Shaoul said over the phone Sunday.

Shaoul decided to build on her online directory of 800 businesses, which small brick-and-mortar businesses in Portland can join for free, to help draw more customers to local shops.

A holiday program seemed like it had potential and this year, unlike last, Shaoul thought people would be shopping in person again.

Two of her advisors, Betsy Cross and Will Cervarich, co-owners of jewelry boutique Betsy & Iya, were behind the original shop local campaign, Little Boxes.

“We just took it over and rebranded it,” Shaoul said.

The partnership with Kuto was a natural fit. Shaoul and Kuto developer Kiyo Kubo, already worked together on a small business gift card. The Portland-made alternative payment app is designed to save businesses money on credit card fees by charging them only 1.5% per transaction.

Kubo created the app that will power the Small Shops Big Hearts event.

“I think for a lot of small shops this is a real make-or-break moment,” Kubo said.

“The last year and a half has been brutal,” he added. “Now with delta, inflation, difficulty getting workers, and all the supply chain chaos, it’s been a crazy year and a half. … So, this is a real key moment going into the holidays.”

Participants in Small Shops Big Hearts will get points for just visiting participating shops and more points for buying something. Extra points are awarded for paying with Kuto. Shoppers will get more points if they make more purchases.

Those points serve as raffle entries in a huge raffle with prizes ranging from gift cards at a long list of local retailers to jewelry to hotel stays.

After their first purchase, shoppers will get 10% off at all participating retailers.

“The app just tallies up all the points,” Shaoul said, adding, “the app is going to make it so much easier for the businesses and all of us.”

For Jessica Doss, owner of Little Rituals, a gift and plant shop in the Sellwood/Moreland neighborhood, being part of Small Shops Big Hearts is about more than just making money.

“My hope is that it’s bringing more awareness for people about where they are spending their money,” Doss said.

At Little Rituals, Doss said, they sell products created by over 30 local makers.

“It’s not just about us,” she said. “It’s also about other people in my community.”

“When you spend your money in the community, you are supporting the growth of it,” Doss added. “It’s helping revitalize Portland as well, and I am hoping that people are mindful of that this year.”

Community is an ongoing theme for Small Shops Big Hearts. “Be in community,” is a pillar of the whole project, Shaoul said.

“We’re not asking you to shop with abandon,” Shaoul said, “but with intention.”

— Lizzy Acker

503-221-8052, [email protected], @lizzzyacker