Hannah Skvarla co-founded The Little Market to empower women and support brighter futures for the artisans around the world. We talked with this #AerieREAL Role Model about her non-profit, the positive impact she’s making on the world and what it means to be #AerieREAL. Read all about it below!
You are Co-Founder of The Little Market. What inspired you to start a non-profit?
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. When we travel, we love to visit local marketplaces and support local artisans. We realized that if we could bring these handmade products to a wider audience, then the artisans would be able to support themselves and their families while making their beautiful goods.
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. Through The Little Market, we can empower women around the world, without a limit by geography.
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.
Being a nonprofit was a clear decision for us because we started it to help others, not to personally gain. As a nonprofit, all profits are dedicated to expanding operations and reaching more artisan groups.
The Little Market is fair trade. Why was this business decision so important to you?
Every purchase of fair trade goods creates sustainable jobs and a positive, long-lasting impact for artisans and their communities. Fair trade ensures that marginalized producers earn a fair, sustainable wage, work in safe and supportive environments, implement environmentally conscious and sustainable practices, and preserve their cultural identity. Through fair trade and equitable trading partnerships, artisans and other small-scale producers have a platform to sell their goods for a sustainable price. It is very important for us to ensure our products are made while following fair trade principles.
We love hearing concrete examples of the positive impact fair trade has on the artisan groups we work with. Earning a fair income means that artisans do not have to keep their children home from school to work to supplement the family income — this allows the children to go to school, often becoming the first in their family to attend middle or high school. Many artisans can purchase more nutritious and healthier food, which leads to fewer medical problems like worms.
Personally, when thinking about the importance of shopping with purpose, I love the quote by Anna Lappé that says, “Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.” With each purchase, a vote is casted. When purchasing items that are fair trade and ethically made, you are valuing the well-being and story of the individual behind a product. As conscious shoppers, we can make a positive impact through fair trade, ethically sourced goods and show respect for human rights.
What makes you an #AerieREAL Role Model?
I believe in the power behind empowering women, using our voices to lift each other up, and speaking up against injustices. I love the message and mission behind #AerieREAL — it is incredibly important for women to support each other. Women are one of the most underserved populations. For instance, with the current pay gap, women earn 80 cents for every dollar earned by men in the United States; this is greater for women of color. Women face a greater risk of experiencing domestic violence. And we are underrepresented in government. Knowing the disparities and inequalities women face around the world, we founded The Little Market to empower women in marginalized communities. When we have opportunities to earn a sustainable income, we can work toward a brighter future for themselves and their families. I am honored to be an #AerieREAL Role Model and to support authentic beauty and women empowerment.
#AerieREAL is about standing together and feeling confident and comfortable in your own skin. How do you personally identify with that message?
Encouraging women to stand together and to feel confident and comfortable is very important to me. Growing up, I remember feeling like I would never look like the women I would see in magazines or on TV. The images and messaging that I was exposed to through media made me feel like women were valued based on their looks. As a mother to a little girl, it is more important to me than ever to tell girls and women that they are beautiful just as they are. Each of us is different and that’s what makes each of us uniquely beautiful.
Who is your role model and why?
I have always been fascinated by Jane Goodall. Jane has always done things that prior to her work people believed were impossible. She worked jobs that no woman had ever worked before. Before her years of research, scientists did not believe that animals had emotions. She discovered the complex social behaviors and personalities of chimpanzees during her 50 years of observing them. For instance, her research uncovered that chimps can not only use tools, but they can make them as well. Observations like these led to rethinking our connections with humans and animals. She has been dedicated to activism from animal rights to environmental causes.
As an animal rights activist, she speaks up for those without a voice. I have always believed that it is our responsibility to use our voice to speak for those who don’t have one. Many women around the world are treated as if their voices do not matter. We have learned that when a woman has her own income, this can change. Several of the inspiring artisans we work with have shared with us that now that they have a way to make money, domestic violence has decreased and men treat them more equally.
Jane Goodall has not only made breakthrough discoveries through her research, but she has also taught us the power of using our voices to make a difference. She found causes she was passionate about at a young age, bravely set out to pursue her research, and reshaped our understanding of the connection between humans and animals. We can all learn the power of following our passions, using our voices, and showing compassion for others from Jane Goodall.
What makes you an #AerieREAL Role Model? Join the movement and share your story!