What is To the Market and how did it get started?
TO THE MARKET | Survivor-made Goods (TTM) combines the powers of commerce and storytelling to empower the world’s most courageous survivor populations. We’ve developed a three-pronged social enterprise model that we believe reflects the needs of organizations employing survivors of abuse, conflict, or disease to help ensure that these organizations can continue to provide steady work to the survivors.
Our goal is that the survivors in our network eventually achieve economic independence, meaning that they aren’t dependent on someone or something else.
Our model includes (1) promoting survivor-made goods via our multiple distribution channels, including pop-up shops, custom sourcing, retail partnerships, and our online marketplace; (2) offering a platform for survivors and their champions to share their stories through TTM’s Stories and Huffington Post blogs; and (3) providing tailored services, such as trend forecasting and basic mental health resources, to our partners to improve production and management.
I started TTM after a trip to Kolkata, India revealed a way to impact the most vulnerable survivor communities by offering them an opportunity to earn an income.
I saw the light in the eyes of the survivor turned artisans when they were given the chance to earn—they wanted the dignity of work. I began speaking to incredible people all over the globe (including in the U.S.) who had created social enterprises to employ different survivor populations, usually by employing them to produce handicrafts.
I heard really positive feedback about the model of employing survivors (and all of the incredible benefits to the self-esteem and trajectory of the survivor and his or her children). However, I also heard about the challenges of making this model work—TTM aims to help augment these challenges.
Who are the artisans at To the Market?
TTM identifies and teams up with existing organizations currently employing survivors of abuse, conflict, or disease. We call these organizations “local partners”. Local partners consist of non-profits and for-profit social enterprises that have already set up shop, hired, and trained survivors to produce products.
TTM focuses on certain types of survivor populations. This includes, but is not necessarily limited to; survivors of abuse, such as survivors of domestic violence, physical and sexual abuse, and human trafficking; survivors of conflict, such as war widows, refugees, or persons living in conflict/post-conflict states ; or survivors of disease, including populations living with HIV/AIDS, leprosy, or physical disabilities.
We have partners across the globe, including in the U.S., South America, Africa, and Asia.
Do you see a pattern in consumers’ behavior when it comes to shopping responsibly?
I think there is a desire to shop more responsibly, but it often comes down to what people can afford. I am really proud of the fact that our local partners make a variety of products at all different price points—on-trend bracelets for under twenty dollars to timeless cashmere scarves for several hundred dollars.
Can you share a personal story that you think best represents the mission of the online shop?
I recently spent nearly a month in Nepal and India visiting with many of our local partners. I was particularly reminded of how transformational economic independence can be to these survivors when I spent time with their children—their daughters, especially. Most of the survivors we work with are women. When the women achieve economic independence, their daughters are so much less likely to be exploited. We recently wrote about a shelter in New Delhi, India that employs HIV/AIDs infected and affected women. You can see the video about the shelter and read about it on our Stories blog here.
How did you get involved with this work?
I began my career in counterterrorism with a focus on the intersection of women and security. Much of my mission was to try to elevate the role of women in national security-related issues, but I consistently found that women with some form of economic independence had so much more leverage in their family, community, and country than those with none.
That (five year) experience got the wheels turning quickly about the importance of economic independence in empowering vulnerable populations. When I went to work for the McCain Institute on human trafficking, I really saw how vital it was for survivors of some sort of trauma (whether it be abuse, conflict, or disease) to have access to some income.
It brings me extraordinary joy to be a part of the life-changing process of gaining even the slightest bit of independence.
What are your favorite picks for this holiday season?
- For Mom: I love this 100% cashmere scarf hand spun by master spinners in the Kashmir Valley! Each scarf contains the women’s initials that made it.
- For Dad: I love this red spice and merlot trivet. It’s the perfect size for cuff links, receipts, or coins and is neutral enough to sit comfortably on a nightstand or office desk. It’s hand-woven by craftswomen in Rwanda.
- For college kids: I have to suggest the patrice signature bag, which I am currently carrying by No41. It has two major points of impact!
- First, it provides a stable job and sustainable income to a young woman transitioning into a life of independence from living in an orphanage in Rwanda.
- SECOND (and perfect for the college student), it provides 240 meals to a secondary student in Rwanda!
- For kids: I love these brightly colored elephant ornaments (in pink or blue) hand-sewn by women in the Ivory Coast. Pink and blue patterns make it easy to pick for a boy or girl.
- For the office or book/dinner club gift exchange: I selected either a Sari Coin Purse hand-sewn by human trafficking survivors in Kolkata, India or this Hope Ornament pounded out of recycled metal oil drums in Haiti. Even if you don’t have a tree, you can hang this Hope sign up to encourage you! Both come in under $10, the perfect price point for small gifts.
- I am also including a couple “splurge on yourself “ items because I feel like most moms that I know only spend on others! I’ve included the Holiday Festive skirt, because it’s the perfect pattern for this time of year and also because it’s made by stay-at-home moms in Belize who are caring for sick children. Or, this Soledad Peru bag. The Suede straps and bottom make it strong enough to carry six wine bottles (yes, please!). The bag was made by women weavers in a valley deeply scarred by the Shining Path.
How can World Moms help spread the word about shopping responsibly this holiday season and beyond?
What a great question! Helping to get the word out about social enterprises like TO THE MARKET via social media and blogging is a tremendous help, in itself. Someone doesn’t have to have a huge following, either! Just telling your family or friends that these social enterprises exist makes a difference. So much of why so many social enterprises struggle is because they don’t have the marketing budget that big box retailers have to tell their story. There is nothing more flattering (or effective) than a personal referral!
This is an original interview with To the Market founder, Jane Mosbacher Morris, for World Moms Blog. You can learn more about the good work and great products To The Market sells by visiting their website (http://www.tothemarket.com/goods)
The image in this post is used by permission from To the Market.