When Emily Sexton was a student at Elon College, she took her first trip abroad, journeying to Honduras.
Like many other young travelers, her “eyes were opened” to the different working standards and living conditions that existed a plane ride away. She volunteered at a hospital and orphanage, where she witnessed the devastating effects of poverty.
But unlike many people, she decided to do something about it.
Sexton and her husband, Chris, recently founded The Flourish Market, a fashion truck based in Raleigh that partners with 32 brands from all over the world. Each brand works with “vulnerable communities to spread dignity across the globe,” she said. That includes refugees, survivors of sex trafficking and women who escaped poverty.
“I’ve learned that it takes a village,” said Sexton, who turns 31 this month. “I want to help women use their purchasing power for good.”
Items for sale include jewelry, T-shirts, shoes and greeting cards from Asia, Mexico, India, the United States and more.
Proceeds from sales of a sleeveless black tunic help a safe house in Nepal and orphanages in India. A pair of pink-and-yellow loafers was created by Mayan women in Guatemala.
The most popular item is the lightweight leather earrings crafted by artisans living in the foothills of the Himalaya Mountains. Sexton said she wears them every day.
“The heart and the vision that Em has for valuable women in vulnerable communities is so apparent in the way she does business, both behind the scenes and with her customers,” Anna Davis, a N.C. State University student and one of two interns at The Flourish Market, said in an email. “The Flourish Market gives other women the chance to support these valuable artisans and makers to bring meaning to their lives and other people’s.”
The Flourish Market attends public events – it set up in downtown Raleigh for the annual Fourth of July celebration. On July 23, the truck will be at the Dorothea Dix Summer Festival at Dix Park in Raleigh.
The business also hosts private parties for women at their homes.
About a year ago, Sexton started raising money on Tilt, an online fundraising site similar to Kickstarter, to start The Flourish Market. The campaign raised more than $4,000, easily surpassing its $1,000 goal.
The Flourish Market has been up and running for five months, and Sexton, who previously worked in communications at an investment bank, said she has already surpassed her first sales goal.
Sexton said companies from around the world have reached out to her about selling their items. She travels eight times year – she recently returned from Rwanda – and has seen firsthand the work of many of the brands she buys from.
Sexton also owns a photography and video studio in Raleigh, which initially helped her form relationships with many of the companies she now buys from. She learned about other companies from friends within the industry.
“I’m interested in finding out about the people behind the products,” Sexton said. “The ‘why’ behind everything I do is to elevate the work of individuals. I look for people pursuing opportunities to make a difference in their communities.”
Sexton is eager to meet new customers through The Flourish Market, but she’s never behind the wheel. Her husband is the driver.
“The one time I helped him maneuver the truck I accidentally motioned for him to back up too far into a steep hostess’ driveway and we had to call someone to tow us out,” Sexton said. “That was the last time I had anything to do with the truck and directions.”
Madison Iszler: 919-836-4952; @madisoniszler
Go online to www.theflourishmarket.com.