Although the holiday season has come to a close, that doesn’t mean that the giving should stop. Giving back is always at the top of our New Year’s resolution lists, yet there is no one-way to go about it. This resolution can take on many forms, and a new way to contribute to achieving it is by shopping at the online marketplace, The Little Market. Yes, shopping can help you help others. The Little Market engages in fair trade by connecting artisans from developing countries with consumers like you in an effort to empower women to overcome poverty and support their families. Hannah Skvarla, co-founder of The Little Market, details the founding of the online marketplace, along with her path to achieving a career in promoting global awareness and social justice. Read below to experience Hannah’s passion for the project, and be inspired to find your own passion to pursue!
An online marketplace is such a good idea, how did you and Lauren come up with the idea of The Little Market?
Traveling has allowed us to meet inspiring women who have hope despite living with hardships from extreme poverty to unimaginable trauma. Our first trip together was to Bali where we explored the local markets. On our trip to El Salvador we began brainstorming about a way to give artisans an online platform for their handmade goods. While visiting NGO’s in Tanzania and Uganda we met with hardworking women who were struggling to support themselves. We were moved to create The Little Market to give these women a place to sell their products so they could earn an income.
When did you begin the initial steps to starting The Little Market and what has that process been like?
When we returned from our trip to Africa in 2012, we asked experts in International Development about the most sustainable way to set up an online store to support artisans from around the world. We strategized and partnered with US-based fair trade nonprofit Global Goods Partners. We have spent the last year working on product development with the ten initial artisan groups representing Bolivia, India, Mexico, Nepal, and Peru.
What has it been like working with the artisans from these countries?
It has been an incredible experience working with artisans around the world. It is inspiring to work with women who put so much time and care into everything they make. In our society we want everything to immediately. Working with the artisans has taught me that for quality you have to slow down. Handmade items take time.
Have the artisans inspired you?
When we meet women who continue on with hope despite living with hardships from extreme poverty to unimaginable trauma, it moves us to work as hard as we can on their behalf. We are humbled by the women we work with and grateful for the opportunity to make a difference in their future.
The Little Market is a new business, but what are your future goals and aspirations?
We would love for The Little Market to grow so that we can include the handmade crafts from new artisan groups around the world. We would love to open a shop in LA at some point.
How did you get your start in the fashion industry?
I graduated from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) with a degree in Merchandise Marketing and received her bachelor’s degree from Chapman University’s Film & Public Relations Program.
Have you always been passionate about global causes?
When I was growing up social justice was a very important part of my life. I have always wanted to find a way to give back to women and children in need. I have a passion for design, travel, and empowering women. These elements all come together at The Little Market so that each supporter is changing lives.
What inspired you to go into this line of work?
While traveling Lauren and I met women artisans who were trying to support themselves and their families. Without access to a global marketplace they were not receiving living wages for their handmade goods despite their extraordinary skills. We created The Little Market to give these women a place to sell their exquisite products at prices that allow them to support their families with food, shelter, education and healthcare.
What advice do you have for college girls looking to pursue a career in your field?
I highly recommend volunteering or interning at non-profits that do work you are passionate about. When I graduated from Chapman I interned at Human Rights Watch in Los Angeles. You won’t even realize how much you learn until you apply the knowledge to starting your business. Change is possible, it is ok to be idealistic.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I am very grateful to have the opportunity to visit magical places, to visit with the artisans, and to develop products with them for The Little Market, knowing that their families and communities will be sustained by their work.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Making decisions about what to major in, what internships to pursue, & what work to plan for is really challenging. When you pursue what really speaks to you, when you do what you love, and strive toward goals that really matter to you, you are certain to find meaning and purpose in your work.