Social Good Profile: Lisa Pozin, Giving Gifts Co
We all say that you should get to know your neighbour, your butcher, your gardener… but what about your local gift store owner? Being an advocate for local buying, I try to get my gifts and greeting cards from local stores instead of the shopping malls. Having moved to the excellent Main Street neighbourhood last year, I was blown away at a retail space called Giving Gifts & Company, which was started by mother and ‘perfect gift’ shopper, Lisa Pozin. Not only are all of the businesses in the store local, but the store also has a Climate Mama seal of approval. Can’t disappoint those green mamas! The company also “gives back” in an admirable way to various children’s charities.
Let’s learn more about Lisa and how this amazing business unfolded.
How did you you arrive at running Giving Gifts & Company? How did the cooperative aspect of it come about?
Giving Gifts & Company happened by chance, really. A group of us that were interested in running a pop-up store got together and tried it in the space at 4570 Main St. for 2 months. It is an interesting space as it was made for offices, so it is divided into 5 rooms. It worked so well during those two months that I decided to keep it as a permanent store, repainting the entire building and fixing it up so it is now a beautiful store featuring local artists and ethical small business[es].
What charities or social or environmental initiatives is your retail space or vendors involved in?
For our first year anniversary at Giving Gifts and Company we did a month-long campaign for Somaly Mam, an anti-human trafficking organization based in Cambodia. Giving back is an important part of Giving Gifts. 10% of all sales are donated to local and international charities that benefit children. Giving Gifts sponsors a little girl in Benin through Plan Canada, we donate to Carli’s Kids and BC Children’s Hospital, and other initiatives that aid children.
Did you picture yourself running a shop like this growing up?
I’ve always loved retail and have wanted a proper brick and mortar store for a couple of years before establishing Giving Gifts and Company, but I have another job and three small kids so I couldn’t imagine how my dream could become a reality. It wasn’t until finding the space and receiving the enthusiastic response from other small business owners that Giving Gifts and Company came to be. Giving Gifts and Company naturally evolved into what it is and it is constantly changing and evolving with each new vendor that joins us.
What “feel-good” initiatives have you personally been involved in, on a volunteer basis or through your business?
Giving is the most important thing to me. I truly believe that we make a life by what we give. All the products I sell give back to the world. By nature, both of my jobs allow me so many opportunities to help out and make our world a better place. I help out by feeding the hungry in Vancouver, playing soccer with homeless youth, providing books for kids in inner city schools, providing food for the weekends to kids on school lunch programs on a regular basis. I have been involved in many charity initiatives in the past as well. Last year, I raised $10,000 through Giving Gifts and Change Heroes and built a school for kids in Kenya.
I have a motto, “Buy the change you want to see in the world,” and I really try to live by that with my own purchases as well. At the store we sell beautiful tote bags that are made by the Tikkun Olam Gogos. They donated their time to sew the bags and all the money is donated to the Stephen Lewis Foundation Grandmothers to Grandmothers campaign. We sell them and other products like that at the store because they are a direct donation to charity and don’t make money off of their purchase. The Tikkun Olam Gogos have raised $40,000 so far for AIDS [relief] in Africa.
What should we expect at Car Free Day on Main Street?
Car Free Day on Main St is amazing! It is on Father’s Day each year and the entire street from Broadway to 30th is one huge party. There are so many great food vendors and local artists and small businesses on the street. There are great activities for kids and musical stages every few blocks. I organize the block outside of our store between 29th and 30th and it is always worth making it to the end (or beginning, depending on where you start) of the festival. We have a fabulous stage at 30th and lots of activities for kids. In the past we’ve had kids yoga and a fashion show. We also have a huge sale in the store every Car Free Day.
What are some of your other personal passions?
Giving back, taking care of the environment and people, especially kids. I love teaching and learning from children. I teach kids a couple of times a week. I try to spend lots of time with my kids – they light up my life and bring a smile to my face. When I have time to myself, I like to go on long runs. I use it as time to think and often come up with great ideas for my business while I’m running.
If you could meet anyone in the world, living or passed, who would it be and why?
Two close friends that I looked up to a lot died very suddenly and much too young recently and I would love to spend more time with them. Neither had lots of money but both had beautiful gifts to share with the world and I would love the chance to spend more time with them, learning from them so that I can live my life like they lived theirs and share their ideals.
What’s the best gift you’ve given? Received?
My kids! They are each such a beautiful gift!
Also, my wedding ring was an amazing gift. It is made of Canadian diamonds because my husband is the most ethical person I know and he gave it to me at a beautiful spot overlooking the ocean at Stanley Park. I am blessed with incredible gifts in my life.
What do you love about living in Vancouver?
The ocean, the mountains, the mild weather that allows me to run and bike and be outside year round. The quick drive to the mountains to go hiking and skiing. I have traveled a lot and Vancouver is the most beautiful city to live in the world. I moved out here from Toronto for University and have never [gone] back. We are so lucky to live in Vancouver.
What is one thing we can do each day to make the world a better place?
“Buy the change you want to see in the world.” As consumers we have power. Every time we make a purchase we can think a little more about the impact of that purchase and what we are saying with our money. In University, I wrote a 20-page paper on the grapes I purchased from Chile and was so upset by the end of it. We have a global economy and we can use our money for a lot of good if we think a bit more before spending it.
Consider shopping at Giving Gifts & Company next time you’re passing through Main Street!
4570 Main Street (& 30th Avenue)
Feel-Good Finds at Main St.’s Giving Gifts
By SHERI RADFORD
This ethically minded cooperative shop is filled with fascinating products
"If objects could talk, oh, the stories they would tell at Giving Gifts. Rooted Beauty packages its lip butter in the beauty industry’s first eco-tube: made from 100% post-consumer recycled paper and completely biodegradable, able to be composted in just two weeks. FashionABLE scarves are made by former sex workers in Ethiopia who are learning new skills, receiving counselling and being paid a fair wage. Necklaces and bracelets from 31 Bits are crafted by women in Uganda who take part in a five-year program that teaches business and financial skills, pays a fair wage, gives micro loans to help with the purchase of bicycles for transportation, and offers health education as well as HIV testing and treatment.
Owner Lisa Pozin is passionate about her store and eager to share the tales behind each of the products she has so carefully sourced—and the space dedicated to Pozin’s unique finds is just one of five rooms. The other four feature equally fascinating items, everything from jewellery, terrariums and yoga gear to chocolates, antiques and kids’ clothes. Every few months the vendors change, necessitating a repeat visit to discover all new treasures.
An excuse to shop some more? Sounds good to us."