I once saw a quote reading “when you buy from a small business, an actual person does a little happy dance”, and it really stuck with me. I absolutely love the sentiment of supporting independent creators, all the more so when I know they’re affected by long-term illness too. Employment and disability don’t always go hand in hand, something I’ve discussed many a time, and as I’m sure any of the following people will agree, it’s no small feat trying to earn a living when dealing with your health is a full-time job in itself.
Below is a super quick post that’s been sitting in my drafts for far too long, where I’ve highlighted some of my favourite chronically ill entrepreneurs and their businesses. I’m sure there are dozens more I could mention too, but the following are all organisations I’ve purchased from myself in the past and cannot speak highly enough of. And if you have some favourites of your own, do tell! I’d absolutely love to hear them in the comments below.
Back in the day, Jayne was one of the first ‘spoonie’ friends I met online. She’s a business extraordinaire through and through, and over the last few years her gorgeous wooden artwork enterprise has grown tremendously: she’s running an Etsy store, she’s a listed seller on Not On The High Street, and she’s a Young Ambassador for The Prince’s Trust too. How the gal finds time to rest is a mystery to me.
What I love about all of Jayne’s stuff is that it’s something different: her gifts are wholly individual, and they can be personalised to make them even more unique. Last year I purchased one of her ‘birthday vouchers’ for my mum, and it was the ideal way of symbolising something in a more concrete way: if you’re gifting somebody an experience, it makes it all the more special to give them something they can physically unwrap and keep too. If you follow me on Instagram, I’m sure you’ll have seen my personalised bookmark from Jayne featuring in posts multiple times too: it’s absolutely adorable, and such a thoughtful gift for fellow reading enthusiasts.
The ideal gift for: the person who has everything.
Like Jayne, Faye was also one of the first people I got to know in the spoonie community, and the gal is honestly one of my biggest role models. I’m lucky enough to have seen for myself just how BearHugs has expanded: we went from having cuppas and catch ups at Faye’s house, where she was running a business from her bedroom, to doing the same in BearHugs HQ amid stock and staff, and without a doubt the cutest working environment I’ve ever seen. I believe BearHugs have also moved to new premises since then as well, and if their Instagram is anything to go by, it looks adorable beyond belief.
BearHugs enables people to easily send luxury hampers, or ‘a hug in a box’, to anybody who might need one, and it has kindness embedded at every level of the enterprise. As well as people being able to express love and gratitude through sending a gift, BearHugs have also developed accessible employment opportunities, and they regularly support deserving charities and organisations too. I’ve sent multiple BearHugs boxes to friends and family in my time, and I’ve been lucky enough to receive a couple of them myself as well. I can still clearly remember one day around last year where I was stuck in bed feeling really unwell and utterly miserable, when a little BearHug from my pal Charlotte unexpectedly turned up on my doorstep and completely turned my day around. It’s the perfect act of kindness, and such an easy and hassle-free way of showing somebody that you’re thinking of them. Never underestimate the impact that can have.
The ideal gift for: surprising somebody going through a difficult time.
Nikki is without a doubt one of my favourite graphic designers: her work is cute, current and right up my street. She’s the one responsible for my current blog business cards which elicit praise every time I whip them out, and her shop Little Pencil Design produces a whole range of pretty, unique stuff. From planner stickers for organisation to gorgeous party décor, I personally think her designs really fill a gap in the market, particularly for people who fall into my age group.
I’ve gotten to know Nikki well over the last couple of years, from becoming friends on Instagram and from her invaluable time volunteering with Spoonie Survival Kits, and I can tell you, she deserves every success in the world.
She works so hard, has such good relations with her customers, and puts 100% into everything she does, even when life isn’t the easiest. And let’s be real, who doesn’t need unicorn stickers in their life?
The ideal gift for: the stationery addict, or for when you need a little pick-me-up of your own.
Sewing extraordinaire Holly is my absolute go-to for adorable, affordable Christmas presents. As you might have guessed, she hand-crafts everything herself, and creates such beautiful bespoke items. Hers is one of my favourite Instagram accounts to follow too: once you’ve laid your eyes on her gorgeous memory bears, you’d be hard pushed not to give her a like, or fifty.
For me, it’s her little hanging hearts and festive tree decorations that are my favourites: they make the ideal gifts for friends, and they can be personalised to include a name or short message too.
I can’t imagine how time-consuming it must be to keep up with orders as her popularity grows, but Holly really does have time for everybody, and goes above and beyond to make sure every order is just right.
The ideal gift for: friends and loved ones, to mark a special occasion.
Piece of Dough Bakery (currently closed)
If you know me at all, you’ll know that I’m prone to a rant about food allergies: the fact that whilst gluten and dairy free options are increasing (which is wonderful, don’t get me wrong), it’s a difficult time to have a peanut/nut allergy on top of that: everything seems to contain nuts, which is not ideal when the little terrors will kill you off within one bite.
However, not all heroes wear capes: my pal Katie launched her own vegan bakery, and is more knowledgeable and accommodating of multiple allergies than most corporate food outlets in the world today. Whilst free-from food can be rather hit and miss taste-wise, I’ve had the chance to try Piece of Dough’s choc chip cookies… and oh my goodness, I could have cried. They arrived in a beautifully presented parcel, it was the first time I’d found soft bake cookies that were safe for me, and I can now confirm they were officially what my life had been missing. My diet started on a Monday, the cookies arrived on a Tuesday, and all six were gone by Wednesday. I regret nothing.
The ideal gift for: anybody with taste-buds… regardless of whether you’re vegan or have food allergies.
And who would I be if I wrote a post like this and didn’t plug my own social enterprise? Spoonie Survival Kits is more of a fundraising project rather than a small business, in that it’s not my job or my income. However (although I’m obviously biased), I do think we have some pretty adorable stuff online at the moment.
All I’ll say is that we make bespoke ‘Survival Kits’ for chronically ill people, as well as other items and accessories. Fifty per cent of proceeds are donated to charity, and the rest goes towards meeting the costs of running the project. We have a gorgeous little team of like-minded volunteers who I’m eternally grateful for, and we hope to raise all the money, awareness and good vibes we possibly can.
It takes sweat, tears and mostly glitter, but let me tell you, it’s entirely worth it. You can also now purchase our charity book, Dear Chronic Illness*, and get your hands on our popular Sterling Silver Spoonie Necklaces too.
These are just a few of undoubtedly dozens of brilliant businesses run by chronically ill people. Do you have an enterprise you’d like to recommend? Do let me know: my spendy-happy self-control could use a challenge…
Links marked with * are affiliate links. I receive a small percentage in commission for any sales made through these links, at no extra cost to you!