Minding Your Business
The Flourish Market
Spreading Dignity Across The Globe
Flourish (‘fler ish) v. To grow or develop in a healthy or vigorous way, especially as a result of favorable circumstances.
Market (‘mark et) n. An open space or covered building where vendors convene to sell their goods.
By Carla Turchetti
Photos by Joe Reale
The Flourish Market in downtown Raleigh is a special kind of retail space that is not only flourishing itself, it is helping artisans around the world in vulnerable communities flourish as well. Founder Emily Sexton says her carefully curated inventory is helping to spread dignity across the globe.
“I want to help equip women artisans to help other women in their community to flourish while they challenge me to do the same in my community,” Sexton says. “Market is really a nod to the international piece that is our store. When you travel to third world countries the market is the central pace of a town, and that is where you can go and see things made out of unique fabrics and things locally.”
Sexton co-owns The Flourish Market with her husband, Chris. Together they partner with 40 brands that work around the world providing dignified jobs and fair wages for artisans. When you buy clothing or jewelry or gifts, you learn where the artisan lives. It could be somewhere in North Carolina, or somewhere in India or Nepal or beyond. By selecting a fashion-forward item from this boutique, you are using your purchasing power for good. And Sexton wants to be clear: The items in her store are contemporary looks, styles and designs that are manufactured with real women in mind and do not carry designer price tags.
“We can make it affordable, and I can also highly curate items from all different brands and make it so when you walk in my boutique it looks like any other boutique you’d walk in for women. But when you start reading the tags on the items you start to see that everything is super purposeful,” Sexton says.
Sexton’s extensive travels that shaped her global view began when she was a student at Elon University. After college she had a successful career as the vice president of communications at an investment banking firm while immersing herself in volunteer work with non-profits during her vacations. The pull to do more was strong, and after she spied a fashion truck while browsing Pinterest, the idea for The Flourish Market was born. Sexton announced to her friends on her thirtieth birthday she was going to open a mobile market, and in 2015 the Flourish sales van hit the streets of Raleigh. The concept transitioned into a brick-and-mortar location on Tucker Street in downtown Raleigh where Sexton’s friends, Alison Briggs and Bea DePaz, brought the feel of the truck inside with a space that that is elegant, energetic and eclectic at the same time.
Before Flourish moved in, Sexton had her friends come in and write on the dressing room walls many of the lies women tell themselves about their bodies and their lives. For the finished shop she flipped the narrative and had artisan partners send words of encouragement to the customers and those thoughts now hang on the dressing room walls. That includes a message from Rojina, a team lead in Nepal for a clothing brand. She was rescued from sex trafficking in Nepal after being captured as a young girl. Her family disowned her. But after a year-long counseling program, she found dignified work in apparel that includes being a support system for other women rescued from sex trafficking.
“When new girls who have been rescued come in, she actually works with them to overcome the emotional obstacles. To see her flourish is huge, and that’s why I do what I do,” Sexton says.
The sky is the limit for the vivacious Sexton, who is leading customers on a trip to Rwanda in January and is launching her own subscription box service that allows customers to wear the items they receive and then purchase them or send them back.
“We think this is a great way for so many more people to have access to wear the stories of our artisans and get compliments,” Sexton says. “They will tell people about The Flourish Market and what we’re doing. It also allows us to place huge orders with our artisan partners.”
Several times a week The Flourish Market hosts private parties where groups come to shop together, and the store donates 10 percent of sales back to the charity of the hostess’ choice. But the bottom line of every sale is really making a difference in the lives of women in vulnerable situations, no matter where they live.
“We have clothing made by sex trafficking survivors in Nepal. We have jewelry made by deaf artisans in Kenya. We have beautiful leather products from Ethiopia. Our best-selling gift line is made by first-generation college students in the US. We don’t just believe in just having a global impact, we believe in having a local impact as well.”