- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
Lauren Conrad and Hannah Skvarla’s The Little Market — a nonprofit fair trade shop committed to empowering women while featuring ethically sourced, artisan-made products — is mounting a Conversations With Changemakers virtual program on International Women’s Day on March 8 that will feature a slew of Hollywood stars talking about some of today’s most pressing issues.
Dubbed “panels with a purpose,” the free program features the co-founders in conversation with Jessica Alba talking about empowering mothers; Charlize Theron is featured as part of a community leadership dialogue; Kelly Ripa and Sofia Vergara will chat about economic independence; and Amy Schumer, Chelsea Handler and Jameela Jamil will share perspectives on social activism.
Other participants include Jane Fonda, Eva Longoria, Melissa McCarthy, Dolores Huerta, Lucinda Evans, Eva Chen, Meena Harris, Cara Santana and Glennon Doyle, among others. “We asked people to talk about things that they were really passionate about and things that they wanted to bring light to,” explains Conrad. “And that really comes through in the conversations.”
The virtual series is presented in partnership with ATTN: and T-Mobile in celebration of International Women’s Day. All of the conversations will be available across ATTN:’s social channels. Said ATTN:’s COO Taryn Crouthers: “From motherhood to social activism to business and community engagement, these trailblazers are going to spark the kinds of important conversations ATTN: is committed to elevating through our platforms.”
Conrad and Skvarla’s The Little Market previously hosted an in-person event but the move to virtual allows for women across the globe to access the program. “In the past, obviously we were limited as to how many people can come to our event and hear the speakers,” notes Skvarla. “So, I just love that we’re able to share this with everybody.”
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with the pair to talk about how the program took shape, what they’ve learned about themselves during the pandemic and what’s next for The Little Market.
Why did you decide to mount this virtual program?
Hannah Skvarla: We’ve done an in-person event for International Women’s Day for the last few years, and we really wanted to do something special this year. We know that lots of people have been invited to virtual events and we wanted to make this different than those already out there. Lauren and I started The Little Market because there are so many issues that impact women globally that we care so deeply about. We saw this as an opportunity to bring experts and celebrities who care about those issues together so that they can have really meaningful conversations that can help raise awareness in a more approachable way for people all over the world.
From the many issues facing women today, how did you narrow down the program and zero in on specific conversation topics?
Skvarla: It’s been really challenging to narrow it down and we actually truly haven’t. I think we’re on par to maybe have as many as 21 conversations because there’s so much to talk about. We really don’t want to leave an issue out. But if anything’s left out, it’s really just because we weren’t able to confirm participants in time.
Lauren Conrad: One of the things that’s nice about this event is that we ask people to talk about issues they are really passionate about and topics that they want to bring to light. We’ve been able to sit and listen to some [conversations] as they’re being recorded. Every conversation is really different — from subject matter to the tone. Hannah and I listened to one today that was so impactful and so serious. The other day we listened to one and I was laughing the entire time, even though the subject matter was serious, the conversation was between individuals who are comedians so their take on the subject was just funnier. That’s what is nice about this event because there’s really something for everyone.
Any personal highlights thus far from any of the conversations?
Skvarla: It’s impossible to choose a favorite. It’s kind of funny — whatever conversation we recorded most recently is my favorite because they are all so incredible. There are some really timely conversations about Asian American representation, Black Mamas matter, empowering the Indigenous community, climate justice, social activism. All of the panels are really so inspiring.
How do you manage to keep up with the constant flurry of headlines and issues facing women today to make sure the program feels current?
Skvarla: We are really, really lucky to have an incredible team at The Little Market. I’m going to shout out one of our newer team members named Liesl [Gerntholtz], who is a women’s rights expert and [executive director of Women’s Rights Division at Human Rights Watch]. She helped guide us through navigating the panels to ensure that we’re thinking about all of the questions that need to be asked in terms of having these conversations. She’s really helping us make sure that nothing’s left out. We have another partner named Amy Belan, who has been really fantastic, too, making sure we set up these really hard conversations in a way that’s digestible. We want people to feel inspired and not overwhelmed.
One of the panels that caught my eye too is Activism + Allyship, topics that have risen again to the public’s consciousness in the wake of the widespread protests of 2020 following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Why was it so important for you to include that panel?
Skvarla: We created the Little Market as a platform because we felt that with privilege comes responsibility. Last year opened people’s eyes — I don’t think white privilege was a household topic in the U.S. before 2020 and I think people still don’t totally understand what it means. We really wanted to host an honest conversation about what privilege is, how you can be an ally and how you can have hard conversations with people closest to you. One of the things that came up in that conversation is that you’re more likely to impact a friend than a stranger, so activism can even be having a conversation at a dinner table or calling a friend who might not share your same values or beliefs and having that hard conversation.
Conrad: The [activism conversation] in particular is fantastic. I’m really excited for everyone to be able to experience it. We were really thoughtful about how we approached it and we wanted them to be conversations. A lot of these segments can be very intimidating to people and there’s so much information but learning about something like this starts with a conversation. Our hope is that if there’s a subject that feels important and is something you might want to learn more about, these conversations could serve as introductions to that education. Looking at the program and the list of conversations can be a lot, so even if someone says, “I’d love to learn more about that,” and they listen to just one, that’s a win for us.
How many people work with you at the Little Market?
Skvarla: We’re about 35 people. About half of that is full-time, half is part-time. I will note that just the last couple of months we launched a new pilot program that includes five new team members, five individuals who were trafficked here to L.A. For the first time ever, we’re making products in-house, rather than just partnering with artists and groups that already exist. We actually have created our own program to support job opportunities for individuals who were trafficked.
Wow. Can you say what they’re going to be working on?
Skvarla: They are working on a sugar scrub. It’s actually a product that we had already developed with another group who was making our sugar scrubs and our soaking salts. Once COVID hit, they had limited production capabilities so they asked if they could only just focus on the soaking salts. We said, “Of course,” but because our shoppers love the sugar scrubs so much, we really wanted to find somebody else to make those. Lauren and I had always wanted to be able to find more opportunities for the local community here. So it all came together with an incredible amount of work from our team, but we’re so happy to have that program in place.
What have you learned about the impact The Little Market has had since you started this, and how has it shaped what you want to do moving forward?
Conrad: When we launched The Little Market, our goal was always just to provide a platform to those who didn’t have one. Our whole business model is: the more we grow, the bigger we get, the more people we can reach. We wanted to reach as many people as possible because what we learned is when women are able to support themselves, it completely alters their lives. As opposed to doing one-offs or just making donations, we really wanted to create something that was sustainable and could continue to grow. In addition to doing that, we could also bring light to women’s issues that affect everybody.
Skvarla: Most women who have Lauren’s platform would have just aligned themselves with a charity that already existed or supported a cause or specific campaign, but Lauren was really clear that she wanted to have a long-term commitment. One of the things that she had pointed out that was so exciting about the potential that The Little Market was that the bigger we grew, the more shoppers we reached; it actually just meant the more women we could help. By creating this online platform where we sell items made from all over the world, there was no limit geographically to the number of women we could support.
One of the things that happened this last year is we have now created a million hours of dignified work for people in vulnerable communities globally. When Lauren and I set to create The Little Market, that wasn’t even on our radar. It was just, “How do we help the most people possible?” Hitting this milestone was really exciting for us because both Lauren and I are ambitious and overachievers. We just looked at that number and say, “How can we do more and to continue to grow this so we can create more work for more people?”
To wrap up, I’m curious what have you learned about yourselves during the pandemic?
Skvarla: One of the things COVID has really shined a light on is the expectations for women. There’s an estimate that COVID has possibly set women back as much as 20 years, both in the workforce, and as far as equity and equality because of how many roles and responsibilities, just kind of by default, fall on women in our society. I’ll speak for myself, but both Lauren and I have really supportive partners so we’re able to divide and conquer. We feel very fortunate about that, but I think COVID makes everybody realize how much we all need a support system and a community to help us with everything: from raising and educating our children, to all of the things that fall on our to-do list as mothers and co-founders and everything else.
Conrad: If there are any takeaways this year for me, it’s just I have a new appreciation for my loved ones, both family and friends. Not being able to see and hug family this year has been so difficult, but I’ve also come to really appreciate the support system I have around me. Just the daily check-ins from friends and family: “How are you doing?” “You’re doing great.” That is so needed.
It’s been such a difficult year for so many people, for so many reasons. I was talking to my husband the other day about having friends and family that I disagree with on a lot of things but what we’re going to most remember when this year is over is how our relationships made us feel. Did you feel supported and loved even though things were difficult? Or did they make life more challenging? I really just have a new appreciation for the good relationships in my life.
More information about The Little Market event can be found here.
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day