Small businesses across the Illawarra are finding ways to support the community and each other in the lead-up to Christmas through a trail of festive local pop-ups.
The Doing It Tough Trail provides inexpensive options for locally made gifts while also encouraging residents to expand their horizons.
Floral designer Adriana Mazevski from Tuesday Euphoric decided to start the trail to support those who might be struggling over the Christmas season.
“It’s supposed to be a fun, joyous and peaceful time of year, but unfortunately for a lot of us, it isn’t,” she said.
“It can be very stressful and it kind of leads us to push the boundaries of our budgets when we feel obliged to.
“This is a little way to help people out who might need that this season.”
Adriana reached out to her friends and colleagues across the region to see if they would be interested in stocking her wreaths, plants in upcycled pots, gift packs and floral cards to help take the stress out of finding gifts that fit people’s budgets.
“I pride myself on having a business that caters to everyone’s individual budgets because I know that not everyone has the same budget, we all have different needs and livelihoods,” she said.
“For the trail, I wanted to keep everything under $50 because some people only have a few bucks to spend.”
Wollongong’s Lily J Cafe owner Raquel Jaque jumped at the opportunity to get involved and support others.
“I think this year has been tough on a lot of people, especially with all the things that have been changing, all the things going up like inflation, and having that option to give back and have something nice and something homemade is just a really lovely thing to do, especially around this time of year,” she said.
“We love our community, we love our neighbours, and if we can give back a little bit of what we received when we were going through that tough time, it’s something that we are definitely on board with.”
She said it had been such a beautiful collaboration working with like-minded businesses and joy seeing the response from customers.
“It’s just been a really lovely experience having people come in and grabbing wreaths and looking really happy to have found gifts that they can actually afford,” she said.
Sarah Stein from Retro Roast Coffee Van at Mt Kembla is dedicated to providing local options and said many customers are seeking out products made in the region.
“Being on a tourist drive, we get a lot of people stopping in over the weekend and they are looking for small business items, something unique, something handmade,” she said.
But Sarah was admittedly surprised by the way the trail had not only benefitted the community but also connected businesses to help build each other up.
“I didn’t really appreciate that part until it’s been running,” she said.
“It’s so awesome because even as a viewer on social media, you might see another business that’s tagged and involved and say ‘I’ve never been there before, let’s go check it out.'”
Businesses joining the Doing It Tough Trail alongside Lily J Cafe and Retro Roast Coffee Van include Port Beirut and The Shave Cave, both located in Port Kembla.
“By having it at different locations and actually creating a physical trail it is more accessible for people who might not have a lot of time on their hands,” Adriana said.
“They can go to the closest one to them instead of having to go to one place.
“We also added onto that free delivery for this busy week leading up to Christmas because I know some people just can’t get out there.”
The variety of locations also hopes to connect communities with their local businesses that work so hard to serve them.
“A lot of the time, micro and small businesses are family run, we’re providing for our families, we work hard and it’s a lot about passion usually than profits,” Sarah said.
“People can relate to the little cafe across the street or the barber shop around the corner or the floral designer who’s working from her garage,” Adriana added.
“I just think it’s a nice way to celebrate everyone at a time of year that’s all about celebration.”
The businesses are open at various times in the lead-up to Christmas.