An Interview with Founder and CEO of TO THE MARKET
How often do you Travel and what are your common travel places you go to?
I love to travel and have been doing a lot of it since my days at State Department. TO THE MARKET works in over 30 different countries so it’s hard to see everyone each year in person, but we are in contact with them often. If we can’t visit, we can Skype and talk to other partners in the area that know about the work being done locally to keep our thumb on the pulse of the community in which they work. We also have great relationships with our partners’ operations staff in the US. Our team talks to them weekly to discuss pending orders, promotions, and the social programs they are providing. This past year, I was fortunate enough to visit many of our partners in Haiti. I also was able to travel to the Dominican Republic, Cambodia, Nicaragua and Vietnam to visit new communities via my Advisory Board position at the VF Corporation and meet with TTM partners. We also have a teammate who has been based in Jordan who visits local artisan groups we are working with in Africa and the Middle East. Other teammates have visited South and Central America in the last few months for sourcing projects!
You have been part of many organizations and changes in the world with your career journey. How do you juggle this passion with the others? Do they work hand in hand?
TO THE MARKET is my full-time focus, without question. Changing the way that businesses (and ultimately consumers) source products is a deep passion of mine, and one that I believe our team is uniquely positioned to address. Any work I continue to do, in addition to TO THE MARKET, is in support of it. This includes my current role on the Advisory Council for Responsible Sourcing for VF Corporation (owner of Vans, Northface, Timberland, Wrangler, and more…).
As I read about your company, do you work with local partners who are employing artisans to make product and then take their product and sell it online at TO THE MARKET?
Our direct-to-consumer model is to identify ethical producers, many of which are traditional artisan groups, and provide them a platform to showcase their products. We also collaborate with retailers, like Macy’s and The Home Depot.
Can you explain how your shop is laid out online. We noticed you can shop by causes or country. How does the give back process work with the cause you have partnered with?
We love that folks can shop by category, country or issue. Say a customer is really interested in products from India, our site will show you products from a particular country or if you feel passionate about ending human trafficking a customer can sort by that particular issue. Our “give back” process is focused on making sure that our partners are paid fairly in ethical working conditions for the production of the goods. I am a big believer in making change via market forces, i.e. focusing on the dignity of work rather than donations.
When did TO THE MARKET start brewing as a dream and when did you start implementing it?
While I was working at the US Department of State, I began to feel passionately about changing the economic trajectory of many of the communities in which we were engaged. I believed a market-driven solution was the way to do so at scale, so I did an Executive MBA at Columbia to test different business models. After I had left State, I worked with Mrs. Cindy McCain at the McCain Institute and subsequently discovered the opportunity to meaningfully engage the artisan industry in the employment of vulnerable communities.
Can you explain your journey of starting To The Market in a few words?
Nothing short of extraordinary!
TO THE MARKET is not only a shop but has many other attributes to it. What is the goal behind this purpose?
Our goal is to fundamentally change the way businesses source (and consumers buy) products in order to create economic opportunity for the most vulnerable.
What can people find when they come to your website?
A variety of price-accessible gifts, from home goods to jewelry to bags, that will make the buyer and recipient feel equally good on the inside and out!.
Has TO THE MARKET always been a shop? How did you start?
Yes, TO THE MARKET was defiantly born online. We've since expanded into retail and corporate partnerships.
We are excited to partner with you on this blog post. What is something you want to leave your readers with about what TO THE MARKET provides and what you believe in?
We are honored to be included in your amazing work! My parting thought would be to consider the micro-changes you can make in your spending habits that could have a macro-impact on the lives of others!