Lauren Conrad & Hannah Skvarla Are Empowering Women Worldwide Through The Little Market

Everything was picture perfect — from the artisanal Sweet Laurel cakes and beautiful floral arrangements to the stunning table settings and Auragami photo booth — at Lauren Conrad and Hannah Skvarla‘s International Women’s Day lunch at Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica on Wednesday. But the mission of the day wasn’t just to put on appearances for 100 celebrities and influencers; Conrad and Skvarla, co-founders of The Little Market, wanted to celebrate what women can do when given opportunities and access to support networks. After all, that’s what The Little Market does best.

Conrad and Skvarla’s founded The Little Market, a non-profit organization that helps 68 Artisan groups (and counting) in more than 28 countries earn money by creating beautiful, hand-crafted goods that reflect their cultures, communities, and interests. The company has been around for five years and has generated nearly 150,000 hours of dignified work for women across the globe, providing them with a sustainable source of income they can use to support their families and send their children to school.

“The main reason we wanted to [found The Little Market] is we were both looking for a project that we could donate time and effort towards that would affect women’s lives,” Conrad told SheKnows.

“We were both looking for a way to give back, and so we ended up combining our skill sets with Lauren’s background in fashion and design and mine in human rights so we could figure out a way to help women,” added Skvarla.

Though both Conrad and Skvarla are hardworking entrepreneurs, they are the first to admit that they couldn’t help these incredible artists on their own. As Skvarla said, their International Women’s Day event, held on a rainy Los Angeles day, was intended to “celebrate those who fought before us… [and] carry forward the work of the amazing trailblazers before us.”

The event, which drew celebs like Haylie Duff, Sarah Olsen Wright, Tori Praver, and JoAnna Garcia Swisher, featured women-led businesses (women provided the dessert, the flowers, and the wine) and highlighted women’s talents (artists MILCK, Kina Grannis, and Leah James performed original musical pieces).

While they focused their attention outwards, Conrad and Skvarla have a lot to celebrate about the work they’re doing with The Little Market too.

“Our candles are made by refugees that have been resettled here in the U.S.,” Skvarla told SheKnows. “Due to our candle orders, they’ve been able to hire more women, and some of those women have recently become citizens… Our glassware is all hand-etched in Mexico in a community where many people with disabilities can’t get jobs because of discrimination. So, many of the artists who are doing the hand-etching have disabilities.

The Little Market only works with groups that abide by fair trade standards, and it’s critical to both Conrad and Skvarla that their artisans can balance their home and work lives.

“If [the artists] need to be home with their children, [the groups we source from] allow them to work from home,” Conrad said. “Our products are all handmade, and a lot of them are done in their spare time. If you’re a mom, and you do have time, you’re able to use that time to create another income for your family. I think it’s amazing.”

The Little Market sells a variety of products online and in its brick-and-mortar shop in the Pacific Palisades, including glassware, woven baskets, stuffed animals, jewelry, kitchenware, stationery, and bath products, giving artists many creative avenues to express themselves. One of Conrad’s favorite products is the peppermint soaking salt.

“I love a bath,” she told SheKnows. “I take a daily bath, and I do the oils and the salts. We have a peppermint bath salt that’s amazing, especially for winter when your skin’s really dull. I’m a big fan of just taking 20 minutes a day for yourself. Shut off your cell phone, leave it in the other room and just decompress.”

Finding time to relax can be hard for both Conrad and Skarvla, who are moms to young kids; and while they cherish their alone time, they make it a point to read with their little ones regularly. Right now, Conrad says her son, Liam, is loving all things Dr. Seuss, Mr. Brown Can Moo, and The Little Engine That Could, while Skvarla’s daughter enjoys the Fancy Nancy series. It’s only a matter of time before her nine-month-old son starts picking out bedtime stories too.

Society often expects moms to “do it all,” yet, so often, people seem surprised that women can juggle having careers and children. Perhaps unsurprisingly, people don’t appear as interested when they learn that men have jobs and kids. Conrad and Skvarla hope the pressures and expectations that women face will balance out as society becomes more inclusive.

“I think women tend to be better multi-taskers, and so it’s expected for women to balance more,” Skvarla said. “But I do think one of the things Lauren and I talk about is we’re so lucky to have men in our lives who are equal partners.”

“I think [those expectations are] changing,” Conrad added. “A lot of my friends, they’re a man and a woman couple, and the men stay home while the women work, and [it’s important] to remember that looks different for every family. I think that’s really changing, and I think that’s exciting.”

For now, The Little Market co-founders pledge to keep doing their part to make the world a safer, more sustainable place for people of all incomes, backgrounds, and experiences through their shop.

“Our goal is, really, the more customers we can reach, the more products we can sell, which means the more jobs we can create to support women all over,” Skvarla said. “Growth is so important.”

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