While holiday shopping is underway for many in Lao America, many are still contemplating what to buy for their loved ones. Tis’ the perfect season to spread your hard earned money and buy from local Laos-based entrepreneurs and businesses. The gifts aren’t just unique and locally sourced, but majority of these businesses return their investment back to the community with a conscious.
While the big box chains are always convenient to the typical shopper, they don’t always offer the best bang for your buck, financially and socially. There’s no argument that supporting small businesses is good for the local economy. There are almost 28 small businesses in the US, with over 50% of the working population working in the sector, generating over 45% of new net jobs since 1995. Read this point-by-point summary of why we need to support more small businesses. In other words, entrepreneurs are working it in the daily hustle creating and spreading more local wealth than the public cares to know about.
There are plenty of US-based Laos products imported or made right here stateside that deliver right to your door as well as Laos-based online boutiques that deliver internationally with a shipping and handling fee. While this isn’t an exhaustive and comprehensive list, here are some of our top favorites who rank high on our radar based on: ease of online shopping, accessible shipment across the US, locally-sourced and/or fair trade materials, and their commitment to reinvestment to the community. Happy shopping!
- Tie Theory
From fashionable bow ties and pocket squares, California-based entrepreneur Saengthong Douangdara creates designs with the sole purpose of giving it right back to the community. Proceeds benefit causes such as youth education and more.
- Red Green Rivers
Started by a group of Hmong women trailblazers, products include jewelry, home accessories and scarves. Made from the hands of local Hmong women artisans across Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, this Minnesota-based social enterprise not only makes gorgeous modern jewelry designs that hold high quality, they also tackle gender-based violence through women empowerment.
- Article 22
Buying back the bombs is their motto. From earrings, necklaces and bracelets; it’s a visual conversation starter to wear this holiday season as 2016 became the year of the Laos UXO issue. With simple and chic designs made from bombs dropped in Laos, Article 22 has paved a creative way for re-imagining healing through jewelry-making and economic empowerment for villagers in Laos.
- I am Loy
If Buddha is your home boy, you better check out these amazing graphic shirt prints by Florida-based Lao artist, Loy Khambay-Correa. She touts feng-shui and her Laos roots as primary inspirations, leaving us with kick-ass representations of the Buddhist imagination. Read our latest about Loy here.
- Lao Apparel
As part of the conglomerate of the most popular social media influencer and comedian, BGZTV, Lao Apparel has tapped into the inner-city consciousness that makes up the majority of Lao America. Their products include graphic sweaters, shirts, tanks and hats in some creative varieties but mostly the royalist throwback of the Lane Xang symbol.
- Cool Jerk Jerky
As a creative duo, Minnesota-based Mali Kouanchao and Mike Davis ventured into one of the coolest brands of Laos-inspired beef jerky. With enticing flavors from lemongrass to killer ghost pepper, the tummies of your family and friends would be happy. They continuously support the Laos UXO issue and use fair-trade organic beef. Now available in a few select stores and online.
- Sap Sap
Helmed by Alex Hanesakda out of Wisconsin, packaged foods include wholesome fresh ingredients such as kaffir lime sausage, beef jerky, the famous Mamma’s Eggrolls and spicy jeow dips and sauces. Now available in a few select stores and delivery. Check out their Facebook for the latest updates.
-SHIPPED STRAIGHT FROM LAOS-
Keep in mind with a hefty international shipping cost and potentially long wait times for arrival to the states, these are all worthy products to have in your hands.
- Saoban Crafts
As a social enterprise in the heart of Vientiane, Saoban boutique is a part of PADETC, the Lao NGO that was started by Sombath Somphone, the famous development worker who disappeared four years ago. Now run by his niece and wife, PADETC connects sustainable development programs in agriculture, microfinance, handicrafts and community leadership. They have an Etsy store filled with indigo scarves and houseware.
- Traditional Arts & Ethnology Centre (TAEC)
Based in Luang Prabang, Laos; TAEC has been a well-known stop for tourists and conscious shoppers visiting the UNESCO World Heritage town. From books, toys, accessories and home decor; their in-person centers are packed with educational resources, exhibits of ethnic groups across Laos and their online boutique has a handful of selections that can be shipped internationally.
- Ock Pop Tok
With a name that translates to “East Meets West”, Ock Tok Pop boasts a network of some of the highest quality textile artisans with a community program that educates tourists about this traditional weaving art form. If you ever visit Luang Prabang, make sure to stop in their boutiques to check out the gorgeous array of home decor, clothing, scarves and accessories.
What are some of your favorite small businesses that sell Laos-based products locally? Do tell.