Numerous Seattle-area small businesses have been hit hard in wake of the novel coronavirus, but a new Seattle startup is taking a stand to support women-owned businesses across the Emerald City.
Co-founded by two Seattle women, Kate Isler and Susan Gates, TheWMarketplace officially offers a new website to make shopping online from local woman just a bit easier during unprecedented times
Isler and Gates coincided at another startup 20 years ago. After many years and careers in technology, marketing, sales, non-profits and startups, and a desire to work together again, they joined forces to form TheWMarketplace in the summer of 2020. They have been joined by a small, but passionate team striving for gender parity.
TheWMarketplace was born out of the non-profit organization, Be Bold Now, originally founded to celebrate International Women’s Day in the United States. Co-founder Isler was planning an in-person recognition event for the 100th anniversary of the signing of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote in the U.S., when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down all live events.
Part of the celebration was the opportunity to shop women-owned businesses and connect with non-profits supporting women and girls. Feeling that economic independence and security are key aspects of closing the gender gap, Isler and Gates pivoted to an e-commerce model, thus TheWMarketplace was born.
“Women make more than 85% of consumer purchasing decisions. But their online shopping experience can be unsatisfying because the easiest way to shop—buying through Amazon and other corporate sites—often doesn’t allow them to support women-owned business or other companies that share their values,” TheWMarketplace released in a statement. “They gain convenience, but give up conviction.”
TheWMarketplace not only allows visitors to shop from women-owned businesses, but also connect with women-owned professional services like attorneys, accountants, coaches and fitness instructors. Vendors and service providers remain a mix of small businesses and larger companies, paired with a diverse group of businesses supporting numerous ethnic and racial backgrounds.
Today, the site boasts more than 110 merchants and service providers, offering more than 600 products and services.
“Unfortunately, the way we shop can often support soulless corporations that put earnings before equality and profits before people. We think there’s a better way,” said Kate Isler, TheWMarketplace CEO. “Our goal is be an economic engine for women. We want to harness their massive purchasing power, make it easy to support women-owned businesses and put more money in women’s pockets.”
Isler and Gates have backgrounds in two familiar Puget Sound industries: tech and coffee. Isler spent nearly 20 years at Microsoft, where she managed subsidiary offices and marketing organizations in developing economies across the globe, and led international marketing and campaigns teams. After leaving Microsoft, she started digital health startup, Daysaver, and co-founded Be Bold Now, Inc., a non-profit dedicated to accelerating gender parity.
Before co-founding TheWMarketplace, Gates was a sales director at the Specialty Coffee Association, managed international sales for DaVinci Gourmet, and operated as an International Trade Specialist of the U.S. Government, where she advised on trade policy issues and created private and public partnerships.
After years in the industry, Isler and Gates are focused on direct selling for vendors within TheWMarketplace, stretching into the opportunity for women to develop their own businesses rather than simply provide a listing for the marketplace.
“Direct selling is very important to our vendors, especially those that are smaller businesses,” said Gates, CMO of TheWMarketplace. “We provide the structure and the tools for them to be more efficient and more profitable. We make it easier for them to sell, so they can concentrate on running and growing their business.”
From hiring an accountant to buying your next book for all manner of cozy autumn reads, TheWMarketplace is dishing out a significant stride toward gender parity under a new method for ecommerce – one purchase at a time.
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