Moomah the Magazine
The Little Market: Hannah Skvarla

The Little Market: Hannah Skvarla

Our 2013 holiday gift guide was filled with products that support organizations striving to make a difference. We chose items we love from online stores that donate to their favorite charities, create products using sustainable materials, or that work closely with organizations to make a difference in our world. One shop that we came across as we scoured for do-gooders was The Little Market: an online marketplace created by Lauren Conrad and Hannah Skvarla.

As we buried our heads in the world of human rights for our Make Nice Mission, we reached out to one half of the duo behind the online marketplace, Hannah Skvarla, to learn more about her work, passions, and dedication to issues of human rights. 

Hannah Skvarla graduated from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) with a degree in Merchandise Marketing and received her bachelor’s degree from Chapman University’s Film & Public Relations Program. She writes a post titled “Get Involved” for HelloGiggles, which highlights global causes.

As a member of Human Rights Watch‘s (HRW) California Committee South’s Executive Committee, Women’s Rights Committee, and the co-chair of the Los Angeles Network Steering Committee she is involved in raising community awareness. At HRW she has participated in event planning for the annual Voices for Justice Dinner, Cries from the Heart, and Art with a Heart. She has had the opportunity to see HRW’s work firsthand through trips to, Burma, Colombia, Thailand and Turkey.

Hannah has traveled extensively in the developing world. She has visited projects sponsored by Landmine Survivors Network in Vietnam and Cambodia and American Jewish World Services (AJWS) in El Salvador. In Africa she has traveled with Tostan in Senegal, CARE in Uganda, CamFed in Tanzania, Adoption Advocates International in Ethiopia, and a documentary film team in Cameroon. For The Little Market she has traveled to Bolivia, India, Mexico, Morocco, Nepal, and Peru.

What inspired you AND LAUREN to CREATE The Little Market?

Social justice has always been a very important part of my life.  My family has always emphasized the importance of giving back through volunteering with organizations, learning about rights issues, and directly serving those in need.  After college, I interned at Human Rights Watch's New York office. I fell in love with the commitment of HRW's 400 journalists, researchers, and attorneys to providing a voice for those facing a host of issues - women's rights, children's rights, refugee rights, LGBT rights, disability rights, health rights, etc. - right here at home and all around the world.

After meeting at FIDM, Lauren and I began traveling together; we visited Bali, El Salvador, Tanzania, and Uganda. On each trip we would shop at local markets and meet hardworking women artisans who were struggling to support themselves.  We wanted to figure out a sustainable way to give these women access to a bigger market. We created The Little Market to give artisans the opportunity to reach a broader audience and to give supporters the opportunity to connect with the artisan communities around the world through an online marketplace.

Above: Hannah poses for a photo with the artisans of Creation Tameslouht, a cooperative in Morocco. 

How does The Little Market give back to communities around the world?

Groups of women artisans are preserving traditional crafts and creating beautiful objects in communities throughout developing countries. The need is for access to customers, whether for artisans in remote villages or for women's groups handcrafting on a small scale or for cooperatives seeking technical and design support.  The Little Market connects artisans with customers all over the U.S. and beyond through our online store and social media.  The purchases translate directly into the creation of jobs in the communities and steady income for the artisans and their families.  This income allows women to feed their families, pay school fees for their children, and afford medical visits.  The Little Market partners with cooperative groups that are committed to safe workplaces, living wages and the well being of community families through children's education, adult literacy, healthcare access, and job training. Every purchase at The Little Market gives back to each of the artisan communities.   

Why sell items handmade by artisans in developing countries?

In an interview with the Huffington Post, "Women Hold up Half the Sky," Nick Kristof spoke about the power of educating girls and providing employment opportunities for women in working toward social justice: "If one wants to address environmental issues; if one wants to chip away at global poverty; if one wants to reduce the threat of civil conflict and terrorism; then there are no quick fixes to any of these problems.  But in general educating girls around the world, and bringing those educated women into the labor force, tends to work better than just about anything else."  The artisans' crafts are exquisite, and there are customers who are seeking out purchases that are not only beautiful, but that also support the artisans in becoming self-sustaining. The Little Market brings them together.


Left to Right: A man handmakes glassware at Rose Ann Hall Design’s workshop in Mexico. A female artisan works with a loom at Creation Tameslouht, Morocco. 

What are three of your favorite items IN the little market right now and who do they support?

On our last trip we visited seven artisan groups in Guatemala, specializing in weaving textiles on looms and braiding beaded bracelets by hand. Our new overnight bags from Guatemala come in 10 vivid colors, hand woven by the 180 weavers of Maya Traditions, a social enterprise serving 500 family members with access to education and health services. 

Also discovered on our Guatemala trip, are the delicate beaded bracelets that you can mix and match.  The bracelets are handmade by the 550 artisans of Wakami, who work from their homes and come together for business training and home improvement support. 

For summer entertaining I love the hand blown Mexican glassware of Rose Ann Hall Designs.  With seven glass styles in three colors, they work with every table setting and make every occasion from the rustic to the elegant a celebration.  At Rose Ann Hall Design, where a significant number of the employees have disabilities, artisans preserve an extraordinary tradition of hand etching on a grinding wheel.


Left to Right: Woven Overnight bag from artisans in Guatemala, Beaded Bracelet from artisans in Guatemala, Hand Blown Glassware from artisans in Mexico.


Human rights and social justice needs exist in every neighborhood, every community, every country.  We can help by giving our time: serving dinner to the hungry, visiting the sick, collecting clothing for those in need.  We can help by sharing our gifts: tutoring English, tending a community garden, donating books for a children's classroom. We can help by learning more: the blogs at highlight human rights issues in the news all over the world and include opportunities to take action locally, from signing petitions to attending arts events.  For example, on the website you will find a brief interview with Smarita Sengupta of Destiny Reflection, a group based in Calcutta, India that rescues young women from trafficking and trains them to create handmade blockprinted textiles.  Locally, we can volunteer at a shelter for mothers fleeing domestic violence. On a national and international scale, we can work for laws that address trafficking, such as the International Violence Against Women Act. And at Destiny Reflection we can support their work so that more young women can become part of the program.

What do you think is most important to teach our children about human rights?

You wrote in the December issue of Moomah: "It's important to teach children about giving back through donations, but it is also necessary to make sure they understand exactly what they are donating to and why they are doing it.  Talk to your kids about the different product they are donating and what they will be used for.  Allow them to understand that through giving, they are allowing children who may not get gifts otherwise, to have a happy holiday season.  This makes the process more meaningful for your kids."

For children, concepts that they can relate to are the interdependency of people around the world and our responsibility to help others.  Children can especially connect to issues that are impacting other kids their age. For example, the right to education, especially girls, is such an important human rights issue, and Malala Yousafzai has become an incredible champion who is an inspiration to children and adults. Human Rights Watch has also done a lot of work to protect children in conflict and end the military use of schools in war zones. At the end of the day, education is the foundation for a generation that will be dedicated to equality and human rights.



(Photo credit: The Little Market)

Posted in: Discover & Learn   Make A Difference   

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