Walk into The Flourish Market in Raleigh and you know something is different. Sure, the aesthetics are beautiful. In fact, owner Em Sexton said when she was designing it, it had to be “the prettiest store in North Carolina!” But that isn’t what sets this new brick and mortar retail store apart.
Every single piece — from the array of necklaces on the table to the shirts on display — goes toward helping people around the globe. “People loved that idea of being a part of a greater story,” said Sexton.
Whether it is helping someone come out of addiction or abuse, poverty or natural disaster, all of the 40 or so brands in the store carry products that are ethically made and support vulnerable groups in a significant way. From as close by as Raleigh and Charlotte to as far as Nepal, Haiti, and Rwanda, each product shares with the customer exactly who is benefitting from your purchase.
Sexton, the North Carolina native behind The Flourish Market, always loved fashion but thought she would be a dancer when she first started attending Elon University. After an injury, she switched to a major in business and had the opportunity to study abroad a few times where she was introduced not only to new cultures but also to what poverty could look like around the world. She worked in investment banking for several years, but saw the concept for a fashion truck on Pinterest around the same time as her 30th birthday. In October of 2015, The Flourish Market made its debut in a fashion truck, driving around for events in the Raleigh area and selling products that made an impact, both in the lives of the people who made the products as well as those who bought them. As a proof of concept, it worked, and before long she started looking for a brick and mortar location.
“We are really all about people having dignified jobs and how the power of a dignified job can transform a family, a community, and the conversation around poverty.”
She has had the opportunity to travel all over the world to meet some of the artisans and businesses behind the products you can find at The Flourish Market. Her husband of four years and co-owner, Chris Sexton, also a North Carolina native, drove the truck, built several of the furnishings within the store, and has been along with her as an “adventure partner” traveling to find new groups and tell them all about their American customers. She said sharing with the artisans brings a lot of dignity to them and their work, especially when they see women wearing their items.
“Our tagline is ‘your purchase spreads dignity across the globe,’” adds Sexton.
After finding the perfect space in downtown Raleigh for the store, they wanted to do some interesting things that they couldn’t fit in a fashion truck. So when they were building out the dressing rooms, friends were asked to write out negative things they thought about their bodies and influence. Then, they invited artisan partners to re-narrate that story for customers to talk about their worth.
“The idea that a lot of people think, ‘oh I’m helping poor people’ but in reality, I’ve learned the most I’ve ever learned about running a business from people that operated a business in the developing world,” said Sexton. “So I really wanted to elevate the artisans’ worth and give them a platform to help inspire customers. We just really felt good when we walked in this space and knew that we could do a lot of good in it.”
Items from both nonprofits and social enterprises are represented between clothing for women, gifts and cards, jewelry, baby items, and even a line of products for dogs to be launched later in January. Shoes from a micro-enterprise in Guatemala working to transition gang members out of gangs, candles helping with homelessness in Los Angeles, jewelry from women coming out of addiction in Nashville, and jewelry made by first-generation college students in Arizona are just a few of the things found here.
“We buy a ton of stuff from a group out of Charlotte, North Carolina—they do work globally but they also work in Charlotte with women who have been rescued from domestic trafficking, have come from abusive relationships, overall vulnerable situations, and they employ them to make jewelry,” said Sexton. “They are some of our best sellers. People love the concept of helping their direct neighbors.”