an interview with Livia Fiorio, founder of The Kind Market
What is the origin story of The Kind Market?
The idea for TKM came from my time in the Peace Corps. I worked with so many talented women who were looking for empowerment opportunities. In my time with them, I realized many of these women had unique gifts and talents that many people in the US would love to become involved with. I also noticed that when young girls see their mothers and older sisters becoming involved in their future, they have more of a desire themselves to become educated and invest in their own life. When we came back to the States, my sister and I decided to start The Kind Market to raise awareness for women artisans all over the world and help them to microfinance their small business and educate young girls.
Can you list all the developing countries you are currently operating in?
Currently we are operating and have women partnerships in Guatemala, Nepal, India, Uganda, and Peru.
Where do you get your materials for product from?
The materials come from the communities the women work in. We choose materials that are prevalent, are easy for the women to access safely, or that the women can make themselves. This varies from fabric, to looms, to beading and recycled materials.
Did you have a business background when you launched TKM?
A little. I am a freelance artist and photographer, so I have a creative mind, and definitely know how to follow the beat of my own drum. Mixing my skills with my sister’s, who studied Business Management in college, we have been a dynamic duo. Her business mind, and my creativity has really opened up doors for us. Combining our different skill sets with our same passions has really been the key to our success and keeping us going!
Can you tell us a little bit about the social impact you've achieved and what your goals are for next year?
Our social impact is that of hope and empowerment. We aim to empower women all over the wold to start and sustain their small businesses. This not only affects them, but the young girls who witness them achieving their goals. The goal is in turn to transform the national economies of these developing countries. Though it is a large goal, many times women make up almost half of the population and only a small percentage of those women are involved in the economy of the country. If we can assist these women to participate and become involved in the financial growth of their developing nations it has the potential to create a very dramatic ripple of change.
Our goals for this year is to continue to grow and raise awareness. Reach out to more countries, sponsor more young girls' education and finance more small business projects. The more people here in the US know and learn about women artisans and the developing world the more they are willing to participate in the change. We have had a very positive response with high school students, in which the schools will fundraise for us by selling our signature KIND bracelets in order to sponsor a girls education.
How do you break down the impact – what percentage of the money goes back to the artisans or the organizations working with them?
This differs. I would say on average about 50%, but, we typically pick a project to help fund depending on the specific organizations we are working with. Oftentimes, organizations tell us what specifically they need help with and we choose to help them with that project. We prefer to not simply write a check, but to be more involved if possible
For example, one of our closest partners has many students that need to be sponsored. We typically aim to give back in the form of sponsoring a student for them specifically (which is about $30/month). We recently worked with high schools in the surrounding area to sell our KIND bracelets. In return, the students were able to sponsor a child.
Any inspiring stories from the women you work with that keep you going?
My sister and I are very hands-on with the charities we work with. Our first charity we found, we flew out to meet them directly. This was incredibly inspiring because we were able to meet the women who we would be working with face-to-face. We saw where they lived, how they bathed, where they ate, where they slept. It was truly amazing to see the harsh living circumstances and to receive the heartfelt welcome that we did. These women were so grateful for us to even be there, to be interested in them – they were truly so kind and humble. One woman in particular let us into her home and gave us bracelets that her and her daughter took hours to bead, just as a thank you for coming by. We continue this process with all of our charity partners.
If anyone is interested in doing fundraising with your products, where would they go to learn more? What does that look like?
They can email us directly at email@example.com. From there, we would discuss how many they would like, what their goal is, how we can help them achieve this, etc.
Any words of wisdom to our bonJOY followers?
Please don’t ever think that your involvement is not enough. Any bit that you can contribute is adding to the greater good. Be humble, be aware, and most of all, be kind.