Jane Mosbacher Morris is the Founder and CEO of TO THE MARKET, a digital marketplace featuring gorgeous goods made exclusively by proud and passionate artisans who have overcome the perils of abuse, conflict, and disease. We love her authenticity and kindness and we were thrilled to get a little peak into her life with this #motherlymakers interview.
Tell us a bit about your professional life before you started TO THE MARKET?
I started my career working on counterterrorism in the US Department of State, and then went on to work in the Department's Office of Global Women's Issues.
In both jobs, I focused on the intersection of women and security. I looked at questions like how US counterterrorism programs were engaging women and how domestic violence and civil war may be linked.
While at the Department, I completed a MBA at Columbia Business School. After graduating and wrapping up my time at the Department, I went on to join the McCain Institute to serve as their Director of Humanitarian Action, focusing on human trafficking.
Was there a moment when you realized that you need to start TTM? What clicked for you?
My time at the Department and then at the Institute really opened my eyes to the need for vulnerable populations, particularly women, to have an opportunity to earn an income.
So much of the existing policy and programmatic focus from the government and non-profit world is on social service provision (such as pro-bono legal assistance, emergency services, housing), which are all very important.
However, social services are a short-term solution and people eventually want to transition into being independent (earning money, buying their own food, choosing where they live etc.).
When I was in India's red light districts with the McCain Institute, I visited two social enterprises employing survivors of human trafficking. These two social enterprises were employing the survivors to produce products (beautiful bags and blankets). I loved the idea of starting a business to serve a population, rather than just starting a traditional non-profit.
I so believed in this approach and wanted to support it, so I founded TO THE MARKET to empower organizations employing survivors of abuse, conflict, and disease from around the world.
We have three focus areas—helping these organizations sell their products through multiple distribution channels, including tothemarket.com; telling the stories of the survivor artisans; and providing advice to these organizations on everything from pricing and design to mental health resources. We still work with those two social enterprises I first visited in India!
What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
My parents taught me and my siblings to treat everyone with kindness, warmth, and respect, and to give people the benefit of the doubt.
They modeled this for us growing up, and always reminded us that the plumber and the CEO were of equal worth. I actually cannot recall a time when I heard my parents saying unkind things about others in front of us, which is pretty extraordinary.
The basic principle of treating people with kindness has probably done more to advance my career than any other characteristic I possess.
What keeps you inspired and excited every day?
The survivors with whom we work constantly inspire me. They have faced adversity that seems unfathomable, yet they continue to persevere and have hope for their future.
What are your words of wisdom for other women wanting to turn their passion into a business?
Be your own biggest advocate. If you don't believe in yourself and your business, no one will.
Can you tell us more about the women—particularly the mothers—you work with around the world? What makes these female survivors so powerful?
Helping mothers achieve economic independence can have a multi-generational impact.
When mothers are able to earn an income, they are able to make basic choices about their lives and the lives of their children. Economic independence for mothers also makes children, particularly girls, less vulnerable to exploitation because their mothers are both protecting them and setting an example for them.
What are your big dreams for TTM?
Our desire is to expand our impact by reaching new audiences with our mission, selling more survivor-made products, and ultimately helping more survivors obtain economic independence
What does “Motherly" mean to you?