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Lauren Conrad Is Empowering Women Around The World

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    Has anyone parlayed a stretch on reality television into a multidimensional career quite like Lauren Conrad? No matter how you feel about the star, there's no denying she knows the true definition of endurance and hard work. While you may know her best from The Hills, Paper Crown, or even Pinterest, she has one venture that's quietly thriving — and it’s all about charity.

    For those unfamiliar, Little Market is Conrad and friend Hannah Skvarla’s passion project. The online marketplace sells unique, handmade home goods, gifts, and jewelry from 23 artisan groups in 16 third-world countries, and they’re steadily growing.

    But, the real standout of Little Market isn’t the beautiful quilts and ceramics that rival those of Anthropologie's; it’s the concept. In a time when attention on the third world revolves primarily around calamities like natural disasters, Conrad and Skvarla’s motto is "slow and steady." The duo is more concerned with creating a consistent and sustainable working relationship with their artisan groups than filling large orders quickly, which means well-planned, lasting growth for the women in these countries. 

    In fact, the groups have been hand-selected and do more than just craft goods — each group has a story. For example, some focus on employing disenfranchised individuals (due to physical limitations), and others, victims of sex-trafficking. 

    We talked with Conrad and Skvarla about the evolution of Little Market and asked them to play favorites with the site’s spring offerings.

    Can you explain why Little Market is so important to you?
    Lauren Conrad: This really is a passion project, and a few years in the making now. It’s rewarding in multiple ways. We get to travel to amazing places and get to experience all these different cultures, which is beautiful in its own way. But, meeting the artisans and seeing the skills that have been passed down through generations is really special. We just feel lucky to be able to do it.

    How do you find the artisans?
    Hannah Skvarla: There are three main ways we find the products; when we first launched, we met with people in international development, and we had many artisans suggested to us through them. We have also had artisans reach out to us and found a few groups online.

    LC: There are also a few groups that we’ve found on our trips. They were suggested to us through people we met. Each one is kind of different.

    When it comes to something rooted in charity, how do you measure the success? 
    HS: We measure the success based on the number of artisans that we are able to work with, so we have really grown a lot. We started with eight groups. Now, we sell products from 23 artisan groups across 16 countries, and we’re in product development with about 15 more.

    LC: And, some of the groups have been able to hire on more artisans, so they themselves have been able to grow, which is really great.

    Lauren, you’re a great example in that you’re never too busy to give back. How do you find balance?
    LC:  Honestly, I think that’s it’s just scheduling. I know that’s not a very exciting answer! I think that it’s also really important to acknowledge what you’re good at and what you’re not. For this I am more focused on the products, design, and our social media platforms.

    Have you had any moments with the artisans that moved you in a big way?
    LC: A couple of years ago we went to India to meet a group called Destiny Reflection; they do a sweet little apron for us that I love. All of the artisans are, basically, rebuilding their lives because the group is made up of victims of sex trafficking. That was definitely a crazy day for us when we met them and realized they’re all very young women, which was really hard to see...but it was also very inspiring. The woman who runs the organization is kind of a rock star. She has actually gone with the police to rescue these women.

    HS: They’re well known in the artisan community because a huge piece of what they do is community development. When Lauren and I started this we wanted to find amazing artisan groups, but we also wanted to find artisan groups that give back to the community. This group has artisan training, but first they go on rescue missions for these girls to provide therapy and shelter, then give them artisan skills so they don’t end up back in the sex-trafficking trade.

    Do you have any advice for those who want to give back but don’t know where to start?
    LC:  It’s about looking around your community and seeing where you want to make a difference. And, I really think there is nothing too small. Make it a habit and look at your interests and find something that will be fun for you, too. So many local children’s hospitals let you go in and do a craft day with the kids.

    HS: The key is to plan! Putting it on the calendar makes it happen; if you don’t plan ahead you might not get to it. If you make it a priority and get your friends involved you’re more likely to do it.

    Click through our slideshow for Conrad and Skvarla's spring Little Market picks!

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