Real Women Doing Real Things: Hannah Skvarla, Co-Founder of The Little Market

Everyone loves to buy something that they know will be helping others and supporting women, and that’s exactly what The Little Market is all about. If you’re not already in-the-know about The Little Market, I hope today’s blog post changes that!  I was super excited to chat with my friend and the company’s co-founder, Hannah Skvarla (who founded the company along with friend Lauren Conrad), about how she created a nonprofit, fair trade company with truly lust-worthy products!  Here’s what Hannah has to say about growing their business and her best advice for other female entrepreneurs…

Tell us a little about The Little Market and how and why the company got started.

Lauren and I have always felt a responsibility to help others. We love traveling and have had the opportunity to meet incredible women who are surviving and thriving because of the help of nonprofits. We wanted to find a sustainable way to empower as many women as possible around the world, without a limit by geography.

In 2013, we founded The Little Market, a nonprofit, fair trade shop with a collection of artisan-made goods from around the world. We ethically source products from 60 artisan groups in 28 countries. By bringing these beautiful artisan-made goods to customers, women can support themselves and their families while preserving cultural techniques that have been passed down for generations.

We work with artisan groups from marginalized, rural communities to share their beautiful products with a wider audience. We seek out partnerships with artisan groups that follow fair trade practices and empower women. Many of the artisan co-ops and social enterprises provide much-needed resources such as job and skills training, access to education, and family healthcare. Every purchase of fair trade goods creates sustainable jobs and a positive, long-lasting impact. By shopping fair trade, our collective efforts generate meaningful opportunities and help to combat poverty, empower artisans, and create social justice.

Tell us about your biggest learning to-date with running and growing a nonprofit.

Organization is everything! Most people work better with an organized desk and office. Our team works better when our documents, spreadsheets, to-do lists, and photos are organized. It doesn’t take long to get an organizational system in place, and once you have a good system, maintaining it is easy.

What’s one thing you wish you knew when you first started that you now know?

Sometimes you have to say “no.” Every week, I have my regular to-do list, new projects, meetings, and invitations to events. It would be impossible for me to say “yes” to everything that comes my way. I have learned that I have to save my time and energy for the things that are most important and the things I really want to do.

This is a good lesson for both your personal and professional life. As your workload and responsibilities increase, your time and energy becomes more limited. I think a lot of women put a lot of pressure on themselves to do everything. I have learned that I do my best work when I am not overcommitted and overworked.

What’s been your biggest accomplishment to-date?

Every time we launch a new product or announce a new partnership with an artisan group at The Little Market, it feels incredibly rewarding. We launch new products almost every week, and behind each product, there is a story. We search for products that are made by people in-need; often the artisans live in remote areas in which communication and shipping can be challenging.

Product development can take us anywhere from months to years, so we are incredibly proud of every product we carry. Each product sold on creates hope and change for the artisans who made it. When we hear concrete examples of positive change, from children having the opportunity to receive a higher quality of education to artisans purchasing healthier food, it is fulfilling to know that we are making an impact.

What advice do you have for other female entrepreneurs?

Connect with other female entrepreneurs! Having a supportive network is truly inspiring and motivating. Look for female mentors and peers who can help you when you have questions or concerns.  No matter how different your fields are, there is so much you can learn from one another.

What’s next for The Little Market?

This summer, our first retail store will be open in the Pacific Palisades! We are excited to provide our customers with an opportunity to shop our handmade collection in person.