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Project Best Life: Local Handmade Gifts

Oh 2020, what stress you have brought to us all. And now in the midst of full-on holiday mode, what can we do to make this unusual year a bit more tolerable and perhaps, dare I say, enjoyable? Meet three local, woman-owned businesses that are offering a little something special this December. These businesses and the women who run them understand that small conscientious shifts can have substantial ripple effects, and may be exactly what we need right about now.

Healthy Helper

Kaila Proulx is a health and wellness dynamo. She began her business, Healthy Helper, while in high school, offering tips and daily motivations to help people attain and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Kaila primarily reaches people through social media with over 23,000 Instagram followers and almost 2,000 posts, sending a clear message of clean eating and daily movement. Her advice is backed by certifications in nutrition and personal training.

I asked Kaila how people can pay attention to wellness, both physical and mental, during this pandemic. Her immediate reply was addressing mental well-being first and foremost. “I talk about mental wellness a lot lately. I’m not a counselor, but I always remind people to check in with family and friends often. The holidays tend to be difficult for many people regardless of a pandemic, so it’s important to check-in with anyone who may be having a rough time now.” Kaila adds that moving your body every day, and getting outside for an hour or so can have a dramatic impact on your psyche. She says,”Exercise doesn’t have to be an intense hour of a strenuous class. Going on a walk or bike ride, or taking a yoga class is all you need to feel good.”
When it comes to food, Kaila’s advice is seasonal whole foods that are locally produced and non-processed. Some foods that are particularly anxiety-reducing and immunity-boosting include spinach, Swiss chard, kale, pineapple, sweet potatoes, and cinnamon.

One of Kaila’s tricks that she shares with her followers is turning typically unhealthy foods and snacks into nutritious and delicious alternatives. Here she shares her spin on her mom’s White Trash Candy recipe, reinvented as Not-So-Trashy Candy. This treat is great as a energy snack, and makes for a perfect home-made gift for the holidays, that comes from the heart – a gift of wellness.

Website | Facebook | Instagram


Maureen’s Buffalo Wholesale Flower Market

In Buffalo, when someone asks for a recommendation for a florist, the response is often, “Go to Maureen.” Maureen would be Maureen Bartley, florist of over 50 years, and proprietor of Maureen’s Buffalo Wholesale Flower Market for over 20 years. Truly an iconic business in Buffalo, Maureen’s is located at 441 Ellicott Street downtown, and is a go-to for special events and floral deliveries. But many people love to seek out Maureen’s affordable greens and flowers to put together their own displays for the holidays or any day.

I asked Maureen about the importance of bringing live foliage into our homes. She explained, “Natural beauty soothes our souls, lifts our spirit, and helps us to heal during this strange time we are living in.” She continues, “Fresh botanicals in our homes helps to remind us that true beauty does exist, and we will get back to it once again.”

At the moment, the market is closed to indoor shopping, but crates of greenery sit outside for sale. Maureen gave me a quick lesson on just how easy it is to select your own greens and create a beautiful display indoors. Greens such as pine, cedar, or fir are great spread along a buffet, sprinkled with lights and a couple candles tucked in. Top the greens with some sprigs of magnolia and eucalyptus for some interest, and maybe a poinsettia or two. A dining table centerpiece can be made by adding some dried and preserved ferns and pampas grass to a vase, along with some red berries and thistle. Nestle the vase in some greens, add a couple candles, and you’re done.

While the inside of the store is closed to the public, there are staff and Maureen herself on hand to offer advice and assistance. Maureen’s is open weekly 9am – 5:30pm and Saturdays 9am – 1:30pm.

441 Ellicott Street Buffalo NY 14203
(716) 852-4600
Monday – Friday: 9:00 am  to  5:30 pm | Saturday: 9:00 am  to  1:30 pm
Website | Facebook | Instagram


Buffalo Women’s Consortium

Buffalo Women’s Consortium (BWC) was founded a year and a half ago by Jen Stockman and yours truly, Holly Doyle. While it may seem odd for me to be writing this bit, it is important to understand that BWC is not about the owners. BWC is comprised of over 50 local female artists and artisans who we call our members. Our local business is in actuality a business full of over 50 local businesses, and it is the members who make BWC what it is.

Jen and I began BWC in an effort to form an organization of women makers and to support them in pursuing their passions in a community environment. Our store is located at 5759 Main Street in Williamsville in the Yotality Plaza at Garrison Road. Inside you will find hand-made, one-of-a-kind items that are made with love, and perfect for gift-giving this holiday season.

BWC takes pride in supporting women, the Black Lives Matter Movement, and the LGBTQ community, and our membership make-up reflects this commitment. Making a purchase from BWC shows a level of support for those ideals while supporting the artisan community as a whole. Many of our members have really struggled since March when all fairs, festivals, and marketplaces were closed due to Covid throughout the summer months and now through the holidays. We are thrilled to be able to provide a marketing and selling point for our members’ wares.

BWC sells a wide variety of products from natural skin-care to home decor, with a price-point for every budget. Check out our website for easy online ordering with convenient curbside pickup or delivery options. There is much more in the store than what is online, so feel free to call for a private virtual shopping experience. BWC aims to make shopping for a meaningful gift simple and fun.

As a reflection to all of these incredible women-owned businesses and others throughout Western New York, it is important to recognize that our children are watching the decisions that we make. Teach them that supporting each other, not just now but always, is crucial to our future as a community and theirs.

5759 Main Street, Williamsville, NY 14221
(​716) 276-3146
Website | Facebook | Instagram


For more tips and inspiration to help live a healthy, happy and balanced life to the fullest, subscribe to the Project Best Life newsletter.

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Narrated by Bradley Ross
Written by Holly Doyle

Photography by Devin Chavanne
Audio Editing by Vincent Berbano
Produced by George Johnson and Jessica Marinelli

Written by Holly Metz Doyle

Holly Metz Doyle

A Buffalo native, Holly spent quite a bit of time traveling the globe, but after living on the West coast for a bit was called back to her roots in Western New York.

View All Articles by Holly Metz Doyle
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