Unlike the mood in my breezy picture above, 2020 has been pretty gloomy for many of us.

Last year, I started my own business here in Shanghai providing photography, digital marketing and content writing services.

Just as business was taking off beautifully, Corona hit and most of my projects flew out the window. Luckily, things started picking up again in March-April, and I’ve had a somewhat smooth recovery since then.

But it’s still an uncertain time for many small businesses. For some more than others.

The entrepreneurial culture in Shanghai is pretty amazing. Both from the eyes of an entrepreneur, as well as a consumer. Without the hundreds of small businesses improving the quality of everyday life, Shanghai would be a very different city to live in. These businesses have a huge impact on our lives, and I really hope we all do what we can to support them.

With that said, here are 5 of my favorite small businesses* that, in one way or another, add a little bit of happiness to my everyday Shanghai life.

*An interesting observation: As I was thinking about these 5 small businesses, I realized all of them are founded or run by women. I love that! This was completely by coincidence, but that just goes to show what a great space Shanghai is for female entrepreneurs. And what incredible women we have in this city!

Spare Leash

Photo by me for spareleash.com.cn

Spare Leash is a platform that connects pet owners with qualified and vetted pet-sitters. Pet sitting, house sitting, dog walking, vet-runs, cage-free boarding. Whatever pet related situation you have, Spare Leash has a sitter that can help you out.

Robert and I were on the fence about getting pets for the longest time, mainly because normally we travel quite a lot. After being introduced to Spare Leash, the decision of adopting our two cats was easy.

Now every time we leave Shanghai, we either book someone to check in on the kitties once or twice a day, or hire a sitter that lives in our apartment while we’re gone. So it’s a pretty sweet deal for the sitter. Kind of like reversed Airbnb where the person staying with you is the one getting paid. Plus they get to cuddle with two of the best cats.

We’ve always found great, reliable sitters through the Spare Leash platform. The rates are reasonable and services flexible.

Spare Leash has been awarded the best lifestyle service in Shanghai for several years in a row. Rightfully so!

The lovely Spare Leash team is offering a RMB 50 discount for everyone booking a sitter with the code SHANGHAISTA50. Just remember to send the code to their customer support when booking through WeChat (WeChat ID: SpareLeash).

Goma Greens 

Photo by Goma Greens

If you follow my Instagram Stories, you might have seen me mentioning Goma Greens a few times.

Goma Greens is a weekly subscription service that delivers fresh veggie boxes to your door. With every box, you get a few seasonal veggies that are automatically included, and a bunch to choose from yourself. There’s no commitment and it’s easy to skip a week or cancel anytime.

Goma differentiates from online supermarkets and other grocery stores by having better quality control and higher standards. They partner with small local farms and consistently test products agains pesticides. Some of the partner farms are certified organic, some are not, but Goma guarantees that pesticide levels don’t exceed levels allowed in the EU.

As someone who is more and more concious about what I eat, I can’t tell you how much I love that Goma is doing this. China is a tricky country to live in when it comes to clean food, so I want to do what I can to support businesses that have a genuine focus on just that.

My friends at Goma Greens are generously offering a 20% discount on the first box for everyone who subscribes with the code SHANGHAISTA. Subscribe on WeChat through the Goma Greens official account (WeChat ID: gomagreens)!


Zoaje Guatemala earrings. Photo from zoaje.com

I fell in love with Zoaje the first time I saw their display at a Common Rare weekend market a few years ago. Zoaje has the prettiest dainty minimalist gold-filled jewelry that I just can’t get enough of.

I have a few pairs of their earrings (of which the Guatemala hoops above are my absolute favorite) but that’s nowhere near enough.

Next on my wishlist is the Bulgary or Tanzania necklace. Or the Sri Lanka or Asia ring set. And the Oman necklace set. So basically I just want all of it.

I bought my first Zoaje pieces 3 years ago. The quality seems to be very good since they haven’t lost any color after almost daily use, and I haven’t had the slightest sign of an allergic reaction, which is often an issue for me with other jewelry.

Zoaje has a really cute showroom together with a few other local design brands on 255 Anfu Lu, room 303. They’re usually open on weekend afternoons, I can highly recommend popping in if you’re in the area.

Shop beautiful Zoaje pieces at zoaje.com and make sure to use the code SHANGHAISTA for special perks: get free shipping for international orders, and if you order within China, you’ll get a small gift with your purchase; a jewelry travel box!

Soapnut Republic

Photo by Soapnut Republic

In a city where pollution and other environmental issues can get pretty bad, it’s nice to have products for the home that aren’t toxic for you, your family or the planet.

Soapnut Republic has an amazing range of home cleaning products that are safe, non-toxic, allergen free and biodegradable.

My favorite product from their range is definitely the Multi Purpose Spray, because – just like the name indicates – it works for everything. And it’s also super gentle.

I’m pretty careful about using products with strong chemicals, but I avoid it especially when it comes to surfaces that often come into contact with skin or food. That’s where the Multi Purpose Spray is amazing. I use it on all kitchen surfaces and things like yoga mats, the cats’ eating area, handbags etc. It’s effective and safe.

A few of my other other Soapnut Republic favorites are the laundry liquids (both the regular and the one for silk, cashmere and delicates), the eucalyptus floor cleaner that smells so fresh, and the fruit and veggie wash. They also just released a new body wash. Really looking forward to trying that!

Soapnut Republic is generously offering you all a 15% discount on all full priced products until July 5th. Follow Soapnut Republic on WeChat, purchase via the Shop tab, and enter the coupon code SHANGHAISTA at checkout. (WeChat ID soapnut-republic.)

Lizzy’s All Natural

What would I do without Lizzy’s green smoothies?

Lizzy’s All Natural carries an amazing range of superfood smoothies and other healthy food products. I’m a heavy Lizzy’s smoothie consumer, averaging at probably 1,5 bottles per day. It’s my green fix on the days when I don’t have time to cook, and just a healthy snack on the days I do. 

What makes a big difference for me is that they pay a lot of attention to food safety, quality and where ingredients are sourced. 

Having been in China for a while now, I’ve become increasingly aware of what I put into my body. I try to do what I can to live a cleaner, healthier life. I’m very grateful for businesses like Lizzy’s that focus on quality products with whole foods from clean sources, making healthy living in Shanghai a little bit easier. 

My favorite Lizzy’s green smoothies are Vital Greens (so fresh!), All Hail the Kale (a bit more filling) and The Warrior (love the cayenne pepper zing). I usually opt for green, but the other, more fruity options are so delicious too. Get Up And Glow and Paradise Island for example. So good. 

Find Lizzy’s at More Than Eat on 758 Julu Road, or order from Kate & Kimi or through food delivery apps like Eleme and Sherpa’s!

Bonus Pick – Charlotta Gandolfo

Photo from charlottagandolfo.com

I haven’t had the chance to wear any of Charlotta Gandolfo’s beautiful clothes yet, but they’re all so stunning that they deserve to be added as my bonus pick for the list! 

Charlotta Gandolfo is a Shanghai based Scandinavian resort wear brand. I’ve had my eye on a few of their pieces for a while, like the Grace Maxi Skirt in white, or pretty much anything made out of that stunning fabric with the gold flowers. Going down to their boutique, Xinle Lu on 414 Shanxi Bei Lu, is definitely on the to-do list for this summer. 

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