Women-founded and philanthropic, The Little Market was launched by Hannah Skvarla and Lauren Conrad as a nonprofit fair trade shop featuring ethically sourced, artisan-made products. They seek to empower artisans around the world by extending their products’ distribution and supporting sustainable income opportunities. Read our interview with The Little Market Co-founder, Hannah below!
1. Tell us about The Little Market, what inspired you to start the nonprofit?
I spent a lot of time, early on in my life, supporting an amazing human rights organization called Human Rights Watch. I traveled around the world with them, learning about human rights violations that people face. I always knew I wanted to do something, whatever I could, to make a positive, sustainable difference.
When Lauren Conrad and I met, we bonded over our shared love of travel and our desire to want to give back and help women globally. We planned a trip to Tanzania and Uganda to meet with nonprofit groups working to empower women. Many of the women we met with were artisans and shared that they just wanted the opportunity to have a sustainable income so they could break the cycle of poverty for themselves and their families.
We really wanted to find a sustainable and impactful way to give back to women around the world. The Little Market was something we could do that would leverage our expertise in design and marketing to support and empower women.
2. Where did the name The Little Market come from?
We spent a long time thinking about names! Lauren and I love traveling and visiting local market places around the world. The name comes from the idea that it is a small world and through this online marketplace, we can all be connected.
3. What’s your ultimate goal and mission?
From the beginning, our goal was to support women from underserved communities and educate our customers about the issues we care about. The bigger The Little Market becomes, the more artisans and makers we can support. Growth is important to us because it means that we can help more people in more places.
The Little Market is constantly expanding and refining its toolkit to achieve our goals. To create work for survivors of sex trafficking here in Los Angeles, we recently started producing our sugar scrubs in-house. We are looking to produce more products in-house, and we plan to work with other underserved communities such as survivors of domestic violence.
4. Describe your first major victories at The Little Market.
At The Little Market, our product development takes a great deal of time because many of the artisans we work with face so many obstacles every day. Putting our very first products into the hands and homes of customers was truly a victory. Opening our brick-and-mortar store was an incredible feat — it was something I had always wanted to do because I wanted customers to be able to touch and feel the beautiful handmade products.
The accomplishment that means the most to me was reaching our goal of providing 1 million hours of dignified work to artisans — we did this in less than seven years. For us, dignified work means that artisans are paid a livable wage and they can work in a safe and healthy space. Reaching that goal during the pandemic in which the artisan and producer groups we work with have been disproportionately impacted was especially meaningful.
5. What are some of your biggest challenges in building this business?
The biggest challenge with building The Little Market is that we are looking to provide a marketplace for people who may not otherwise have one. This means that oftentimes when we work with artisans, we are developing products based on their skill set and that can mean rounds of samples that take years until they are ready. In addition, many of the artisans we work with have never shipped products before, so our team helps them fill out the customs paperwork and figure out the most cost-effective way to ship and pack their products. Because all of our products are handmade and often made across the globe, when we sell out of something, it can be months before we are able to restock!
6. What is your advice to anyone starting on their own entrepreneurial journey?
I think it’s really important to get as much paid experience as possible before you start your own thing. There is something you can learn from every job opportunity, so learn as much as you can before you begin. Once you get started, it’s really easy to focus on what’s next rather than pausing to celebrate your accomplishments, so I encourage you to make time to celebrate!
7. What are some of your favorite brands to follow along with?
8. What’s next for The Little Market?
I am looking forward to reaching 10 million hours of dignified work. Our team is working incredibly hard to reach that goal and I am hoping to do that in the next 10 years.