The Little Market, an online retailer of global goods hand-crafted by women, is the brainchild of Laguna Beach former reality TV star, designer, and style guru Lauren Conrad, 30, and Irvine native Hannah Skvarla, 28. Approaching its third year, The Little Market offers hundreds of items, from backpacks made of Ghanian textiles to woven pillows from Chiapas, Mexico.
What countries have inspired your online market?
LC: We’ve traveled to Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Thailand, India, Nepal, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Bali.
How did the idea come about?
HS: Lauren wanted to learn more about the struggles of women and children around the world so she could figure out a way to help. So we reached out to nonprofits and coordinated trips to meet with them. In each village we met women who were making beautiful things. Although they were grateful for the help and support from charities, they needed access to a global marketplace where they could sell enough goods to support themselves and their families.
How does it work?
HS: We ensure they’re paid an hourly wage that covers the cost of materials, transportation, and child care. Many sell to local markets that don’t cover their costs because they’re so desperate to buy food for their families.
What’s your favorite trip so far?
LC: I really loved Bali. We had so much fun exploring the local markets.
HS: And Thailand. We took a wonderful tie-dye class that gave us a great appreciation for the work and skill
that goes into making shibori textiles.
When scouting, what do you look for?
LC: Things we’d want to buy for ourselves or as gifts.
HC: We also search out items unique to a specific town or village. It’s important to help preserve the culture and traditions through what we sell.
You offer so many items. Your favorites?
LC: I love the hand-etched glassware from Mexico ($16 to $68 per piece). It’s incredibly beautiful and durable.
HS: The candles ($24 and up). They’re hand-poured by Burmese refugee women who have relocated to the U.S.
Best-selling or most popular items?
HS: The candles. We just launched our Celebrate Collection, with special-occasion ones that say things like “Will you be my bridesmaid?” or “It’s a boy.”
How has a stable income changed these women’s lives?
HS: Some tell us that domestic violence has decreased. Also, they can send their daughters to school—often these are the first girls in their communities to go to high school. The women can also afford vegetables, and this improves their children’s health.
Any plans for growth?
HS: I would love to open a brick‑and‑mortar store, to give customers the opportunity to see
all the beautiful work in person.