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Empowering Struggling Communities Through Entrepreneurship

Launched by Jane Mosbacher Morris at the end of 2014, To The Market (TTM) is a platform for promoting and selling handmade items created by artisans and entrepreneurs who have faced abuse, conflict and disease. TTM’s primary objective is to help these survivors achieve financial independence, a key to breaking the cycle of poverty, through entrepreneurship. They also want to raise awareness of the hardships they’ve faced. TTM operates through its online marketplace, pop-up shops and retail partnerships. Survivors also have the opportunity to share their stories on TTM’s Stories page and on Huffington Post blogs.

TTM connects with retailers or local partners who already employ survivors and sell their products. Next, they make sure these local partners operate according to their guiding principles, such as prohibiting child labor, providing a safe, secure and hospitable workplace and paying fair wages. They also must permit employees to join labor unions and address valid employee concerns. Overall, these local partners must prove themselves to be good corporate citizens that engage in fair business practices that benefit their workers. TTM then extends benefits to their partners, like trend forecasting and mental health resources for employed survivors, and promotes their products on a larger scale.

TTM assists survivors of abuse, survivors of conflict and survivors of disease. This could include survivors of domestic or sexual violence, war widows, refugees, persons living in conflict or post-conflict zones, or people living with HIV/AIDS, leprosy or physical disabilities. Consumers can use the website to support victims of a specific issue, such as human trafficking or orphanhood, using the “shop by cause” option. They can also choose to support citizens of certain countries, from Nepal to Vietnam to Burundi, by using the “shop by country” option. Furthermore, consumers can find all products from TTM’s local partners on their website and shop exclusively from these partners. Examples include Mamafrica, the first Fair Trade Federation Member clothing company working with displaced women in Eastern Congo, and Starfish Project, a jewelry business that supports exploited women in Asia.

Currently, TTM sells items ranging from apparel to home goods to wedding gifts. Their twenty local partners support citizens from eighteen countries. Consumers can also submit custom requests for specific goods, providing business to those who truly need it. By giving a platform to these local partners, TTM aims to provide survivors with more business, help them expand their operations and economically empower those who are struggling.

Jane Harkness

Sources: Mamafrica, Social Justice Solutions, Starfish Project, To The Market 1, To The Market 2, To The Market 3, To The Market 4
Photo: Flickr