By ALEXANDROS VAROUTAS
Ethical Local Market (ELM), at 1630 Queen St. E. in the Beach, brings together local small business owners under one roof, all from diverse backgrounds.
Among the products on offer, local residents can expect to find a range of sustainable and ethical clothing, body and skincare products, jewelry, homeware, pet toys and more, each with their own unique business owner behind them.
Although selling different products, all of the vendors have a strong ethos driving their business. For some, the products are all locally made using locally sourced materials. For others, a portion of the proceeds go towards a social cause.
The purpose of ELM is to offer small businesses a shared retail space in a vibrant downtown location like the Beach. It’s a community of vendors splitting the expenses related to running a brick and mortar location, which is near impossible for small business owners to do on their own.
And having this physical presence in the community makes a significant difference, particularly when trying to sell items such as clothing.
“When I was in the market I noticed customers wanted to touch and feel and try clothing on which we couldn’t do as much as we’d like to,” said Nurjahan Begum, the founder of ELM.
Begum also owns her own clothing line, Progoti, which is available in the store.
She started her clothing brand in 2017 to support Bangladeshi garment workers and has been selling online and in city markets (such as the Leslieville Flea) until eventually opening ELM in November of last year.
“The concept of this clothing brand is we offer all our products to customers at cost, just covering our expenses,” said Begum as she held up a tag on one of the shirts.
The tag featured a detailed breakdown of where the price of the shirt ends up.
Beyond this amount, the customer has the option to contribute however much they’d like which will go towards buying individual life and pension policies for garment workers in Bangladesh.
She said that where some clothing companies claim to offset/donate a portion of their profits to support their supply chain issues, she opts to let the customer decide how much they want to contribute. The goal is to empower the customer to directly make a difference.
“Customers have the same feeling as I have. They want to help, but they don’t know how to. So I’m giving them that choice,” she said.
When it comes to the clothing itself, Begum is very involved in the process from the designs to selection of materials being used, drawing on her previous work experience for companies such Hudson’s Bay Company and Tip Top Tailors.
With such a unique business model, however, it was important to find the right location in order to gain a solid footing.
“The reason I chose this area is because of the Leslieville Flea,” she said.
What stood out to her was how supportive the neighbourhood was to all of the vendors at the Leslieville Flea, so when the time came to find a spot for the store, the choice was obvious.
The decision paid off leading into the holiday shopping season as ELM was met with overwhelming enthusiasm from the neighbourhood. “Because in this neighbourhood there isn’t a shop with a concept like this, everybody got very excited,” she said.
Down the road, the goal is to take this business model and replicate it. Since management and operating costs are split among vendors proportionately, it’s extremely viable for small businesses that are just starting out and want to offer their products in person as well as online.
If you’d like to learn more, get in touch with Nurjahan Begum at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ethical Local Market is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday to Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. They are closed on Mondays.
For more information, you can visit ELM’s social media sites at:
Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/ethical.local.market
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/ethical.local.market/
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