By Naa Dedei Coleman
BU News Service
Lucy Figueroa started making bracelets and necklaces five years ago to pay her mother back for tickets to a concert. Now, her table showcasing her jewelry and brightly colored bags was set up for her first marketplace at the Boston Women’s Market in Jamaica Plain on Sunday morning.
Figueroa, a sophomore at Babson College, joined the women-led event to grow her business, Beads by Lucy, and to learn how to navigate markets.
“If Boston Women’s Market didn’t exist, I don’t know where I would be selling because I have no idea how to do any of this,” she said.
Boston Women’s Market is a network of vendors who provide different goods and services, including clothing, jewelry, beauty products, pottery and even catering services.
The market was founded to promote women-owned businesses in the New England area. When the organization started, they had to reach out to different businesses on social media and through networking, but now vendors reach out to them, said cofounder Africa Rubio.
“I wanted to be able to just give the space to people in a reasonable price and make it a community feel instead of a kind of competition,” Rubio said.
She was drawn to the idea of such an organization because her mother was a small business owner who was paying more money than she made to vend at spaces.
“We want [vendors] to feel like they’re not alone in their endeavors and their missions and business and they have a support system around them,” said cofounder Cara Coffredo. Rubio and Coffredo emphasized that the most fulfilling thing about the market was watching vendors collaborate with each other and build some camaraderie.
Joining the market is a straightforward process where applicants have to complete a form on the organization’s website. Successful applicants get put on a vendor list and are informed when events such as the markets are coming up. Announcements are sent out before an event for vendors to sign up, and tables are reserved in order of who signs up first.
The network has held marketplaces in different places this year, including Boston Landing and Arlington. “ [Jamaica Plain] is just the ideal customer base because they’re really supportive of the arts,” Coffredo said. The markets tend to do better in community environments where people come out to support each other, she added.
Mariane Ola, a vendor at the marketplace, is the owner of beauty brand Layo Store. She said she was inspired to start the business after her first daughter was born with skin irritation. She started experimenting with oils and butters from her childhood, including shea butter from Ghana, cocoa and mango butter from Togo and Nigeria and essential oils from Europe.
Since her first market last year, Ola says her business has thrived because of the high turnout at the marketplaces. Although she has her products in stores, she still does the Boston Women’s Market events because “it’s very diverse, they’re very nice, the organizers are very detailed and very helpful.”
Christina Ciampa, founder of All She Wrote, brought her business to the Jamaica Plain market as well. Launched in April, the pop up bookstore “features specifically female, queer and non binary authors of all genres,” and does pop ups all over Boston. The store is currently working on a crowdfunding campaign to open a brick a mortar store in Somerville, where it is primarily located.
“I started All She Wrote because as someone who has a cognitive learning disability and was always told, ‘No, you can’t do that, honey,’ or ‘no, you can’t do this, what I wanted to do was raised voices that don’t necessarily get the shelf space that they deserve,” Ciampa said.
Before Boston Women’s Market, All She Wrote had only been present at small pop up locations. Ciampa joined the network in June because “I wanted to be a part of that, I felt like what we do and what we focus on fits well with the mission and vision that they have.”
One of the clothing stalls at the marketplace was manned by Queen Allotey-Pappoe, founder and designer at Queen Adeline Collection, who described her line as a brand that focuses on “sustainability in our closets.”
Allotey-Pappoe said she wanted to solve the problem of waste in the fashion industry by making timeless pieces and classics that are not following any trends. The pieces in her line are handmade, functional and supposed to leave the wearer feeling good.
“I bring the pizzazz from my African heritage. It has color, print and patterns,” she said.
Although she has had the business for five years, she joined the network earlier this year. One of the benefits of joining is the tips and knowledge vendors get from the market. Not only do the founders provide information about marketing and building an online brand, she said, but they also have dealt with many of the problems the vendors face, and can help come up with solutions.
Abby Neale, a customer at the marketplace, was drawn there after she found out about the Boston Women’s Market on social media. She had started following the network’s page after she says she stumbled on one of their events sometime back. “I’m an artist and I vend at things like this, so I just like to pay it forward and support people,” Neale said.