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The ‘Etsy of New England’: Boston Women’s Market returns to Somerville for in-person event

The Boston Women's Market will return this month for its first in-person event since 2020.Handout

The Boston Women’s Market is returning to Warehouse XI in Somerville for its first in-person event since March 2020. From custom-made jewelry to hand-sewn kimonos, the event will feature more than 40 women-owned vendors for a two-day shopping experience Saturday, June 19, and Sunday, June 20.

Owned and operated by two Boston-based entrepreneurs, the Boston Women’s Market launched in 2017 to bring together New England’s women artists and businesses. Today, there are more than a thousand members in their community.

For co-founders Africa Rubio Pastor and Cara Loffredo, who grew up watching their mothers run at-home businesses selling gift baskets and handmade clothing, providing a space for women to uplift and support one another through entrepreneurship was an intuitive business idea.

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“My mother would go to markets like ours and set up, take down — I just remember her working so hard, staying up late, figuring out shipments, getting fabrics, and knitting on her own,” said Rubio Pastor.

“From an early age, I knew that I loved small businesses. I knew I loved being in a small, tight-knit environment,” said Loffredo.

This family-centered business model is one they carry into their work at the Boston Women’s Market. It is common for children and family members to join vendors at the market, perhaps a unique experience in a business environment designed by and for women.

“We develop so many friendships with our vendors. They’re not just vendors or business partners to us. We really care about the connection and the human being behind the business. We love having that relationship with the people in our community,” said Rubio Pastor.

LAYO, a handmade botanical body care company founded by entrepreneur Funmi-Layo, is one of many women-owned businesses that have taken part in previous Boston Women's Market events.Boston Women's Market

Fiona Kikoyo, the founder and owner of Last Lust, a clothing line of handmade robes and kimonos, started her business when she was a single mother. She would bring her young son to the Boston Women’s Market, where he was just as welcome as a guest and vendor.

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“They will unload for me, take care of everything because they know I have a kid with me. They will help you set up. They’ll be there to help you take it down. I don’t think I’ve received the same amount of support from any other place,” Kikoyo said.

What started as a passion project to occupy late nights after a desk job in 2017 is now a full-fledged business for Kikoyo, whose products range from beach cover-ups to bridal robe sets. She has been a vendor with the Boston Women’s Market for more than five years and will be selling at the in-person event on June 19.

Alex Mancini of Crafty Queer Studio will also be at the in-person market selling LGBTQ+ jewelry and accessories. She is dedicated to creating queer merchandise that reflects every part of the LGBTQ+ community. The Boston Women’s Market has been a space for Mancini to join a group of like-minded individuals.

“I feel really comfortable in that space,” said Mancini. “As a queer vendor, I’m included in a community where we all bring life experiences and understandings to the table. It feels good to know that other people who are [part of the Market] have gone through a lot of what I’ve experienced.”

To empower women entrepreneurs and to support their business ventures is a part of the mission at the Boston Women’s Market. Its founders strive to place the power and knowledge of business making into the vendors’ hands. At the beginning of this year, they launched a one-on-one online coaching initiative to provide its members with opportunities to learn about email marketing, Facebook ad campaigns, and website creation.

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“I think the Boston Women’s Market is a great experience, particularly for new vendors that are just starting out in the entrepreneurial field. We value supporting one another so much and we try to make first-timers feel at ease. That will always be something that’s really valuable to me,” said Loffredo.

For more information about the Boston Women’s Market and the upcoming event, visit bostonwomensmarket.com.