As freshman roommates, Alyssa Rose and Kiera Maloney talked a lot about big topics: sustainability, ethical consumerism, the right way to do international development. They had ideals and wanted to act on them.
It wasn’t long before they were doing just that. The following summer, during a service trip to the Dominican Republic, Rose spoke with some local artisans who planted an idea: “They said, ‘You should take some of our stuff and go try to sell it to your friends. You should take more of this back to America with you,’” Rose said.
Thus was born Radiate Market, their web-based business that sells the artisans’ jewelry, art, and personal accessories to customers across the United States, providing the artisans with more consistent customers and sustainable incomes.
Running a business while carrying a full course load is hard work, but they love what they’re doing. “It has been an incredible learning experience and life experience so far,” said Maloney, who along with Rose is a Fordham College at Rose Hill senior.
They launched Radiate Market by using Indiegogo, the crowdfunding site, to raise funds for their initial wholesale orders of jewelry and other items. Rose and Maloney are majoring in anthropology and economics, respectively, but they picked up entrepreneurial skills with the help of the Fordham Foundry, a business incubator run by Fordham’s Gabelli School of Business in collaboration with the New York City Department of Small Business Services.
They worked with nongovernmental organizations to find out which artisans would be most receptive to working with them. They’ve both taken part in Fordham’s worldwide Global Outreach service program, and their approach was informed by its emphasis on cross-cultural understanding and solidarity.
They’ve found a ready market for the distinctive handcrafted items, which evoke the stories of artisans who invest time in making them and benefit greatly from the sale. All four of the wholesale orders they’ve placed within the past year have sold out.
The business reflects their belief in changing current consumption patterns to benefit the developing world—in this case, by helping the artisans find a wider market for their culturally distinct creations. Their Dominican partners include a fair trade cooperative that produces seed bead jewelry and splits the work and profits equally among the artists; a Haitian immigrant who produces metal art; and a mother of three who makes rugs out of rice sacks and recycled fabrics.
“If we’re able to give someone the feeling that they can be creative and work hard at something that they actually get satisfaction out of, and provide for their family, that’s the most satisfying thing,” Maloney said.
Shown below are some of Radiate Market’s goods: bracelets, a necklace, and a platter: