Little Market, Big Impact
Founders of The Little Market, Lauren Conrad and Hannah Skvarla, share their vision of conscious consumerism.
We were first introduced to The Little Market in 2018 at Create + Cultivate, an online community and conference for women looking to create and cultivate the career of their dreams. What caught our eye was both their intentional, curated selection of products and their considerate, people-led approach to business. What exactly is The Little Market? We’re so excited to tell you more about it.
The Little Market is a nonprofit fair trade shop featuring ethically sourced, artisan-made products. They are committed to alleviating poverty by supporting sustainable income opportunities worldwide. Their mission statement reads in part, “... is anchored in the fundamental belief that every person has the right to safe jobs and fair, livable wages”. It goes on to say that they, “...ethically source from the most underserved groups, including individuals living in poverty, people with disabilities, women transitioning out of homelessness, refugees and survivors of trafficking and domestic violence”. After reading this, of course we wanted to connect further.
We had the opportunity to sit down with founders Lauren Conrad and Hannah Skvarla to learn more about their vision and what brought The Little Market to life.
Why did you start The Little Market, and in your own words, what does The Little Market mean to you?
Hannah: Lauren and I love to travel together; we always visit local markets to discover unique handmade pieces and meet the artisans who created them. We met women around the world struggling to earn a living wage, and we wanted to find a way to help them break this cycle of poverty. They inspired us to start The Little Market to give artisan women a platform to sell their handmade goods at prices that allow them to provide for themselves and their families.
Lauren: The Little Market means so much to Hannah and me. Through our work, we are able to make a positive impact on individuals all over the world. Over the past year, we were able to double the number of dignified work hours we created through the purchase of ethically sourced products. I hope to continue to grow The Little Market and grow our impact as an organization.
How does The Little Market benefit women?
Lauren: I think the biggest difference between The Little Market and many other nonprofits is that we aren’t donating dollars or food, our work provides women with opportunity. We purchase beautiful handmade goods from around the world at prices that are fair and determined by the artisans. Many of these items have been made with traditional techniques that have been passed down from mother to daughter for generations. These purchases not only help future generations of women to be able to preserve these techniques, but the income gained from their employment allows them to better support themselves and their families. Without access to a global market, this may not be possible.
I think the biggest difference between The Little Market and many other nonprofits is that we aren’t donating dollars or food, our work provides women with opportunity.
Why is investment in women artisans meaningful to you?
Hannah: We need gender equality to end extreme poverty around the world, period. A study by the United Nations found that when women work, they invest 90 percent of their income back into their families, as opposed to 30 to 40 percent for men. Investing in women artisans means investing in their children and communities and can help break the cycle of poverty for not only these women, but future generations.
What role does The Little Market play in empowering women worldwide?
Lauren: Our model creates meaningful income opportunities for the artisan women we work with. People don’t typically think of income as a means of empowerment, but we have seen directly how outcomes for women improve when they have their own income. The artisans we work with are able to provide for themselves and their families and send their children to school. We have also heard directly from artisans that domestic violence decreases when women work.
Hannah: We are also very proud of the educational programming that we have created over the past year — from our Coffee and Conversation speaker series near our storefront in the Pacific Palisades to our Shop by Cause feature on our website. I am proud that we are able to empower individuals in our community with knowledge about fair trade, social justice issues and eco-conscious practices.
What does it mean to be a ‘conscious consumer’?
Hannah: Conscious consumerism is a movement that we are seeing more and more and we are proud to be a leader in this movement. There are so many facets to conscious consumerism, not just knowing what a product was made out of and where it was made. Shoppers are looking for sustainable and natural materials and items that were created with a minimal impact on our planet.
A huge part of conscious consumerism is doing the research. One of the reasons that I love The Little Market is that shoppers can be confident in each item that they purchase. Our team does the work to find out how each item is made and every item gives back to individuals in need. When you choose a candle that was hand-poured by a resettled refugee or a bar of soap made by a woman who has transitioned out of homelessness, you are making a positive impact in the life of an individual, and that feels amazing.
Share one of your personally most impactful artisan relationships and why:
Lauren: I am personally very proud of our exclusive line of spa products created by Bright Endeavors in Chicago. Hannah and I had the opportunity to visit the team there, all of the women who make the products are young mothers or expecting moms. Becoming a mother has really shaped how I view the impact of The Little Market. Mothers all around the world want the same thing: what’s best for our kids. It was so humbling to see first-hand how our purchases can have a direct impact on another mother.
What does Fair Trade mean to The Little Market?
Hannah: We believe that fair trade is the future. We are a verified member of the Fair Trade Federation, and our Executive Director serves on the Board of Directors. Fair trade is a method of production that promotes inclusive practices, safe working conditions, fair pay and the preservation of traditional techniques. We work very hard to ensure that all of the products are made to meet or exceed these standards. Our hope is that some day, fair trade practices will be the rule rather than the exception.
What does responsibility mean to The Little Market?
Hannah: Conscious consumerism is really a social justice movement, and we are proud to be part of it. At The Little Market, we take that responsibility very seriously. Each decision we make is impacted by our responsibility to the earth, the artisans and producers, and also our community of customers. We don’t take that responsibility lightly.
Each decision we make is impacted by our responsibility to the earth, the artisans and producers, and also our community of customers. We don’t take that responsibility lightly.
Specifically, how will Saje’s donation to The Little Market be used?
Lauren: Every donation to The Little Market supports our organization's growth. When our team grows, we have the capacity to work with more artisan partners in vulnerable communities. Whether we are sourcing from indigenous weaving communities in Guatemala or supporting job opportunities for recently resettled refugee women in the United States, Saje’s donation will make a life-changing impact for women around the world.
At Saje, our mission is global wellness. We believe that wellness should be available and accessible to all people, no matter their background. As a female-driven company, we are committed to helping women everywhere have access to education and products that contribute to their overall health and well-being. This International Women’s Day, we will be donating 20% of sales to The Little Market to benefit their mission of economic self-sufficiency for women worldwide. Because global wellness starts with women’s wellness.