Holiday shoppers can support local women-owned businesses this Wednesday at the Women's Center’s third-annual Holiday Market. The third annual market will take place at the center from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and feature beauty products, clothing and opportunities to engage with the Women Center’s programming.
The Women’s Center promotes gender equality on Grounds and provides a variety of free services, such as counseling and digital resources, for all students. Students interns at the Women’s Center, including Mary Margaret Lea, Women’s Center intern and fourth-year College student, first created the event to create connections between students and local vendors.
“We really wanted to do something that could bring the larger Charlottesville community to Grounds,” Lea said. “One thing that we emphasize on the vendor side of the market is it's an opportunity to meet other small women owned businesses that you haven't met in the market circuit, make relationships, build contacts and learn from each other.”
As the Women's Center Holiday Market enters its third year, organizers continues to make strides in expanding its presence and impact. Lea said event organizers intentionally held the market on a day with no classes to heighten student attendance. Courses end Dec. 5, with no finals being held the following day.
The center reaches out to vendors in mid-November. After Thanksgiving break, the focus shifts to promotion through flyers and promotions in newsletters and publications.
Lea said the market initially started with 15 vendors and has grown to feature over 20 vendors this year. The most notable evolution has been in the market's networking approach, transitioning from cold-calls and emails to establishing a network of vendors for smoother coordination.
“We originally just looked up every single business we could think of in Charlottesville — looked up their owner and then gave them a call,” Lea said. “As vendors have come back to this market, they have shared it with their friends. This year we even got put in a couple of Facebook groups.”
Fati Shakeri, owner of Amor Fati Intuitive Arts, previously participated in the Charlottesville City Market and said the U.Va. Women's Center Holiday Market helped her feel even more recognized. Shakeri has been selling her crystal jewelry at the Holiday Market since its first year.
“It’s been really cool to see the other types of businesses that the Women's Center has gathered,” Shakeri said. “Everyone's really respectful when they come in and they're just so excited and they have the energy. It's honestly one of my favorite markets.”
According to Lea, this reliance on a network is a testament to the market's success in fostering a community of women entrepreneurs who actively support one another. It has become an opportunity for businesses to build relationships, share experiences and learn from each other.
Polina Andreeva, Third-year College student and founder of Crystal Box Toys, a handmade crochet toy, and accessories business, is participating in the market for the first time this year. Andreeva said she looks forward to engaging with peers and receiving feedback.
“It's great to know that there's support and appreciation out there for what women do,” Andreeva said.
This year, the market strives to connect students more closely with Women's Center programs by featuring student representatives from opportunities such as IRIS, the Women's Center student website publication, and Speaking in Hues, the center’s podcast.
“The Holiday Market also serves to show people at the University that we're here to support and engage them,” Lea said.