By Marielle Mohs

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Some Minnesota small businesses are getting creative this holiday shopping season.

They are leaning on each other to thrive during a difficult time to be a business owner.

Jessica Winnie created MN Black Box back in May. It’s a monthly curated box that she puts together, featuring products from five to seven Black-owned Minnesota businesses in each box. She’s hoping the holiday season people will not just support local, but specifically Black entrepreneurs.

“There’s a story and a person behind each of these products,” Winnie said. “Bath bomb by Kobi and Co., Kobi Gregory is a senior at DeLaSalle High School. The money she raises is going to go towards her college.”

In a year of civil unrest and uprising, Winnie is catering to the people who want to intentionally spend their money at black-owned businesses.

“I think there is shift in spending, and also this mentality that we have to do more than just have a dream in a sense,” Winnie said.

The Barre3 workout studio in Edina may be closed for the next three weeks. Lucy Gardiner is one of the co-owners.

“It’s been hard, it’s been challenging to say the least,” Gardiner said.

Despite the temporary closure, she is still taking advantage of Small Business Saturday.

“We took our play lounge and turned it into a little retail pop-up shop,” she said.

She’s not just selling their own retail, but featuring other Minnesota and Wisconsin businesses, including “some beauty companies, ceramics, some jewelry vendors.”

Winnie is supporting several business in a box, Gardiner is sharing her small space with several businesses. It’s clear this holiday season, business owners are leaning on each other to survive.

“We’re all in this together,” Gardiner said. “We just know now more than ever that we need to support each other.”

Barre3 is continuing their pop shop through the rest of the year. It’s open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.; and Saturdays and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. They also offer private shopping appointments, which can scheduled via email at edinastaff@barre3.com

Minnesota Black Box is releasing more December boxes after already selling out. Click here to purchase one.

By late summer and fall however, Stillwater saw some business pick up, as people looked to book local staycations, according to Christie Rosckes with Stillwater/Oak Park Heights Convention and Visitor Bureau.

“The springtime was very hard on the tourism and hospitality industry,” Rosckes said. “But looking into winter we are certainly very nervous and all of these businesses need your help.”

Small businesses have tried to adjust to the COVID-19 shopping experience: masks and social distancing are required, hand-washing stations have been set up, and some stores are even offering private shopping experience.

But another way to support these local shops is to shop online.

“Think of those hotels and the salons, the boat tours and the restaurants and purchase gift certificates as gifts online,” Rosckes said. “That’s a great way to support small businesses.”

Stillwater has 100 independently-owned businesses along its main street.

Marielle Mohs