Once upon a time, you probably knew Lauren Conrad for her top-notch headband game and gut-wrenching one-liners (“I want to forgive you — and I want to forget you.”) on The Hills. Honestly, was there anyone more relatable or likable than LC?
Today, Conrad has come a long way from her reality TV roots. She’s a designer, mom to baby Liam (with husband William Tell), and the owner of a positively swoonworthy Instagram feed that makes us wish we could wash our whole lives in a soothing shade of blush pink. Conrad’s nonprofit fair trade shop The Little Market is also a major part of her post-Hills life. Launched in October 2013, the online marketplace was inspired by a trip LC took in 2012 with her travel buddy and now-business-partner Hannah Skvarla to Tanzania and Uganda, during which she met with nonprofits focused on empowering women and children.
“I was at the point in my life where I felt the need to do something,” Conrad tells us of that 2012 trip — and do something she did! The following year, she and Skvarla launched The Little Market, offering products made by eight artisan groups in five countries. Five years later, the marketplace represents 60 artisan groups and 28 countries, and all their products are made according to fair trade principles and preserve cultural techniques. All purchases from The Little Market support a sustainable income for the artisans and their families.
“There is an incredibly special story behind each product that we carry — a story of the artisan group that we worked with to create the product and a story of the cultural technique being preserved,” Conrad says. “We work closely with each artisan group to create more opportunities to share these amazing stories and products.”
Building a platform for sharing said stories and products was a passion project for Conrad and Skvarla, who decided early on that The Little Market would be a nonprofit endeavor. Since launching the marketplace, they’ve partnered with other nonprofits and social enterprises in order to support the expansion of resources like job training, education, and family healthcare.
Conrad has several pieces of advice for women who want to follow her lead in the establishment of side hustles, organizations, and nonprofits that benefit others and make the world a better place. Keep scrolling for all the details (and prepare to hang on every word).
1. Build a network. “I have learned a lot from female mentors and peers who share similar passions and/or are working in other fields,” Conrad says. “Sharing thoughts and ideas with other female entrepreneurs has been really motivating.”
2. Seek inspiration. Stay engaged with the news and your community in a way that allows you to keep tabs on the topics that really make you feel something. Chances are, you’ll be inspired with an idea for a specific group of people you can support or a specific thing you can do to make a difference.
3. Explore your interests and figure out how to best apply your talents to help others. This is the part where you get to use something you’re good at for the benefit of the world at large! “When we started The Little Market, [Skvarla] and I reflected on two of our main goals — empowering women around the world and sharing their beautiful handmade goods with a wider audience,” Conrad tells us. “After hearing stories from female artisans on our trip to Africa, speaking to international development and humans rights experts, and combining our background in design, fashion, human rights, and social justice, we launched The Little Market.”
Even with these tips in mind, launching a business that gives back is no easy feat — but it’s also nothing short of wildly rewarding. Conrad treasures the experience of launching new products in the marketplace and learning how that launch will support the female artisan communities that made them in concrete ways. The women who work with The Little Market have been able to purchase healthier food, access safer drinking water, send their children to school, and more as a result of their involvement with the shop.
“Everyone can make a difference!” Conrad says. “Whether you’re starting your own nonprofit based on a cause you’re really passionate about or looking for general ways to make a difference in others’ lives, there’s nothing too small.”
Do you have dreams of starting your own nonprofit? Tell us more! Tweet us @BritandCo!
(Photos via The Little Market/Lauren Conrad)