For those of you who are unfamiliar with The Little Market, it is Lauren Conrad and her best friend Hannah Skvarla’s online market place. Together, they have changed the lives of female artisans worldwide!
Below is what they had to say about their journey together so far…
What exactly is The Little Market?
The Little Market is a nonprofit online shop that offers a selection of fair trade products made by artisans around the world. We seek out partnerships with artisans who follow fair trade practices and empower women. We work with our artisan partners to curate and design handmade goods. We purchase every product upfront to guarantee that the artisans earn a fair and timely wage for their work. We warehouse all of the products in Orange County, California so that we are able to ship them to customers quickly. Our online platform allows us to share these beautiful products with a wider audience than the artisans are able to reach within their own communities.
What is your mission?
The Little Market was founded to empower women around the world and to help artisans help themselves while they’re making their products and preserving traditions that are passed down through generations. With every purchase of the fair trade goods, we’re creating sustainable jobs and a positive, long-lasting impact. Artisans are able to support themselves and their families while making their beautiful goods.
What inspired you to start The Little Market?
Lauren and I started The Little Market because we wanted to find a way to empower women around the world. When we travel together, we love visiting local markets and discovering beautiful handmade goods while meeting the artisans who make each product. Many artisan-made goods preserve skills and cultural traditions that have been passed on for generations. We were determined to find a way to help women generate a much-needed, sustainable income, without any limit by location. We continue to get inspiration from each of the artisans we work with and the stories they share with us.
Where did you get your inspiration from?
We get a lot of our inspiration from the trips that we take and the artisans with whom we meet during our travels. While traveling, we always visit local marketplaces to discover new products. Colors, textiles and designs we find in our travels lead to a lot of our inspiration.
How do you find the artisans that make the products?
We find artisans through word of mouth, referrals, the Fair Trade Federation, and social media. We encourage anyone who is interested in working with us to fill out an application on our website. Our team checks each application to decide if the artisan group meets our fair trade requirements. A fair trade expert on our team reviews every application that is submitted and conducts research in the communities because it’s important to us that the artisans earn fair wages and are in safe working environments.
Do you have a favorite product you sell?
So much love, passion, and time goes into every single product, so it’s almost impossible to choose! I always love our latest discovery or the product we are currently designing. The candles have a special place for me because we put so much time into them — from selecting every fragrance to designing the packaging to developing our special occasion and custom offerings.
What is the hardest part about running The Little Market?
There is a lot of coordination that goes into bringing our artisan-made products to the United States from countries around the world. It is challenging when packages do not make it here, when miscommunications occur with colors and patterns, and when products are held at customs. It can be hard to find ethically made versions of some of our favorite products, which is also why it’s so rewarding. We recognize our challenges are nothing compared to the struggles that our partners face, and their appreciation for our partnerships motivates us to continue to work hard on their behalf.
How do you spread the word about your company?
All of our marketing and promotional efforts are organic. As a nonprofit, all of our proceeds support our artisan partners, so we keep our costs as low as possible. We are active on social media, including Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter, every day. We have also recently launched our blog, which is where we will tell the stories behind our products, share design and style inspiration, talk about causes that are important to us, and show behind-the-scenes details about our mission. Our team sends a newsletter one to two times a week, as well, and you can sign up on our website to follow along.
Do you have a favorite quote or go-to saying?
Anna Lappe said, “Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.” I think it’s important for each of us to acknowledge our buying power. Shopping ethically means you can make a positive impact on the life of the person who made the product.
Do you have any advice for young entrepreneurs?
Always try to learn and gain as much experience as you can before you officially begin in the world of entrepreneurship. I definitely recommend interning and working in similar fields. It’s important to do something you are passionate about and have an interest in so that it does not feel like work.