Empowering Vulnerable Communities

Empowering Vulnerable Communities

In honor of International Women's Day, we profiled Jane Mosbacher Morris. Jane is the Founder and CEO of TO THE MARKET, a marketplace that showcases handmade goods made exclusively by proud and passionate artisans who have overcome the perils of abuse, conflict and disease. Jane and TTM have been featured in publications ranging from The New York Times to Glamour magazine. She previously served as a Counterterrorism Advisor for the US Department of State and as Director of Humanitarian Affairs for the McCain Institute. 

1. What is TO THE MARKET? How does it help women business owners?

TO THE MARKET’s mission is to economically empower vulnerable communities. We connect a global network of artisan groups employing communities in need with businesses and consumers seeking social impact product. 

We aim to utilize the 32 billion dollar global artisan industry to create and sustain jobs while delivering beautifully produced, on-trend, and market competitive products to our clients. We are able to accomplish this via our direct-to-consumer, business-to-business, and business-to-business-to-consumer sales channels. Our vision is to provide every business procuring products an ethically-produced option!

2. What made you decide to launch TO THE MARKET?

I started my career in counterterrorism working at the U.S. Department of State. Almost immediately, I began focusing on the role of women in fighting terrorism. My mission was to help women speak out against violence and serve as leaders in conflict resolution and peace-building. I crafted and oversaw programs in places like Kabul, Afghanistan, where I witnessed the incredible disparity in power dynamics.

 Jane Mosbacher Morris,    Founder and CEO of TO THE MARKET

 Jane Mosbacher Morris, Founder and CEO of TO THE MARKET

In an effort to better understand why women had so little control of their life, I consistently came back to the fact that so few had leverage in their family or community because they had limited access to finances or jobs (earned, shared, or inherited).

I wanted to help women - especially those in vulnerable situations - achieve economic independence and began exploring industries that would allow me to have an outsized impact on the millions of women seeking more control over their lives. Simultaneously, I began observing the consumer demand shift towards products with strong storytelling elements, transparent supply chains, and unique qualities. While remaining at the State Department, I completed an MBA from Columbia University, a program that allowed me to flesh out different business models and test different assumptions, as well as pursue an independent study on effective corporate social responsibility initiatives.

I continued to explore what business model would allow me to create and sustain income generating opportunities for my target population, as well as serve a very real market demand. Ultimately - after departing the US Department of State to help the McCain Institute develop their anti-human trafficking initiative - I finalized TO THE MARKET’s business model. 

3. As someone who helps and speaks to small business owners and entrepreneurs, how would you describe the small business landscape in the US today?

I think the business landscape in the US is becoming more interesting in many respects because new and small businesses have more options than ever to fund their start-up operations or access working capital. On the flip side, I would like to see the US tax and regulatory climate become more streamlined for small businesses. It's incredibly burdensome and expensive.

4. What are some of the biggest challenges woman entrepreneurs face in the country today?

The key is simply having more wins than losses.
— Jane Mosbacher Morris

I think that women still struggle with being undervalued, as well as having their businesses undervalued. If you look at capital flows to women-founded businesses, it's a tiny percentage. Similarly, the valuations are often much lower. I think the dynamics are beginning to shift on this, with lots of concerted efforts to seek out and invest in women-owned businesses. That said, much more needs to be done, not just talked about!

5. Any words of advice to small business owners and entrepreneurs?

Anyone who starts a business, non-profit or entrepreneurial effort needs thick skin, persistence and a willingness to face consistent rejection. The key is simply having more wins than losses.

6. How can businesses partner with TO THE MARKET?

We love working with businesses on everything from corporate gifts to promotional swag to intra-office supplies! We work with businesses ranging from UBS to General Mills and would love to partner (click here for more info!).