A Marketplace of Good
Season 2, EP 2 - Special Guest: Harry Cunningham; Co-Founder & Chief Brand Officer at goodMRKT
On this episode of the Impact Exchange, we were joined by Harry Cunningham, Co-Founder & Chief Brand Officer at goodMRKT to discuss the mission of goodMRKT and the community of purpose-driven brands behind it. Harry shared insights into the impact that goodMRKT is creating and the vision behind their brand partnerships.
Listen to the podcast to learn more about Harry’s perspective on the following:
- How goodMRKT is creating a purpose-driven community
- How brands can balance profit and purpose
- How brands can get started on their social impact journey
Listen to The Impact Exchange Podcast:
Creating a Community of Impact
goodMRKT launched in early 2021 and is a shop of makers and creators that dare to make a difference. Working at Vera Bradley alongside goodMRKT’s other co-founder, Mary Beth Trypus, Harry and Mary knew that the world of retail was evolving— and while physical retail was never going to go away, they needed to adapt and adjust to the new normal of where retail was headed. They then came up with the idea to create a place where they could celebrate and provide a platform for purpose-driven brands that are using their business to do good.
goodMRKT has since grown to host over 65 diverse brands within their community and have created a one-stop shop where consumers can make an impact with their purchase by supporting purpose-driven brands. goodMRKT is a marketplace that has something for everyone— whether it’s accessories, home goods, body and spa, gifts, and more, they’ve been able to find brands for all of these various product segments that align with their mission and values of doing good.
Aligning Brand Values
To ensure that their partnered brands are a good fit, goodMRKT has a vetting process that includes three core pillars that are important to goodMRKT: good people, great products, and exceptional causes. They’re also very conscious of curating an assortment of products and brands that work well together and that can relate back to each other to help create a sense of discovery for their customers.
As a company, goodMRKT is using the skills and knowledge that they have of retail to enable other brands to be seen, many for the first time, physically in-store. goodMRKT gives digitally native brands that don’t have the ability to create a store on their own or don’t have enough products to create a store on their own a place where they can showcase their products to socially-conscious consumers in a physical retail environment.
Each brand within goodMRKT’s community is purpose-driven and cause-oriented. “There are things we sell that people need to buy anyways and they’re excited to know when they buy it here, it’s doing good.” Their portfolio of brands is also diverse not only in the products they sell, but in the causes that their brand supports as well. Harry explained that they have a good balance of brands that support causes that might be more specific to a smaller group of people versus causes that are more broad and global.
At goodMRKT, you can find brands that support causes like fighting against sex trafficking, supporting the homeless community, providing meals to children in food insecure homes, promoting organic farming, advocating for ethical workplaces, and so many others.
One example of a brand that goodMRKT works with is Sackcloth & Ashes. Sackcloth & Ashes was founded after the founder, Bob Dalton’s, mother became homeless and he realized that homelessness can impact anyone. As a company, they help homeless shelters and produce blankets that are made from recycled materials and produced in a water free, dye free, and chemical free process.
For each blanket that is sold, Sackcloth & Ashes donates one blanket to a homeless shelter. To make this donation even more impactful for the customer, Sackcloth & Ashes gives their customers the ability to provide their zip code so that the donated blanket will be sent to a homeless shelter that is in their local community, in their honor.
The diversity of goodMRKT’s brand partners is creating an inclusive community that is incorporating social impact into their products and supply chain, using sustainable resources, engaging in widespread philanthropic efforts, and supporting causes that both they and their customers care about. And this community creates a welcoming and educational environment for goodMRKT’s customers.
Engaging with Customers and the Community
goodMRKT’s customers are not only coming in store to shop, but they’re also interested in learning about the brands and the causes that they support when they shop. And for employees of goodMRKT, they have fun engaging and interacting with their customers. goodMRKT has a fantastic return rate in the store, so many of the employees are able to get to know their customers and form more meaningful interactions with them, whether they’re shopping or stopping in for a coffee. For new customers that visit the store, employees look forward to spending time telling stories and discovering what causes are important to them.
When starting goodMRKT, Harry and Mary Beth both believed that the content that each of their brand partners has to share is important, and they discussed how they could share that information with their customers. To foster an environment of education in their store, they call their associates storytellers and they ask each associate to find a brand within the store that they feel is closest to their heart.
In the store, they have a sign that tells the story of each brand with their cause highlighted and when customers come into the store, the storyteller can share this information with them to teach them about the brand, the product, and the impact that they make. goodMRKT also has a blog and a podcast where they provide education and awareness of their brands each week to share their stories and highlight the good that they are creating.
The pandemic brought a sense of isolation that we couldn’t have prepared for, and both goodMRKT employees and customers are excited to be able to have face-to-face and person-to-person interactions, especially around social impact, which has historically lived in a digital world.
Enabling Larger Impact
In just their first year, goodMRKT has already had a large impact on the retail and consumer space. Coming from Vera Bradley, a philanthropic-focused organization, goodMRKT was able to bring that philanthropic mission to the forefront of their company. And when a company the size of goodMRKT, who is just starting out, can be a leader in the social impact space, it sets an example for other companies to jump on board and follow suit. Harry explained that he’s looking forward to the day where the table stakes for social impact have shifted and the price of entry is no longer a barrier for brands to get involved.
goodMRKT’s platform serves as a vessel for brands who are already doing good to elevate their efforts and create a larger impact. In working with their partnered brands, goodMRKT has been able to create an incredible amount of impact for charitable organizations. So far they have provided things like over 1,000 weeks of clean water and over 900 blankets to homeless shelters as a result of purchases made from their store.
While the brands that goodMRKT partners with already do good, Harry found that customers who were coming into the store to shop would ask “How can I do more? What else can I do? How can I give differently?”. Even though their customers were already doing good just by making a purchase, goodMRKT saw a need for helping people to do more, easily.
goodMRKT launched their 1% giveback program using ShoppingGives' Round-Up Donations during the Retail Innovation Conference & Expo (RICE) earlier this month. The activation benefitted PAVE GLOBAL, an organization that enables young talent to build successful careers in all aspects of the retail industry. As part of this initiative, ShoppingGives matched all goodMRKT and customer donations that were generated during the event.
In partnering with ShoppingGives, Harry shared that their team loved hearing about their customers’ excitement around being able to round-up their purchase to make an even bigger impact. “It's been really fun, exciting, and fulfilling to have it [ShoppingGives] in-store as well and being able to watch people get excited about rounding up or getting to choose how else they can do good without it costing them anything extra with the purchase they’re already making”.
As goodMRKT continues to grow, Harry shared that they’re going to continue focusing on creating an inclusive community of brands that support charitable causes. “Our tagline is ‘You belong here’ and we want everyone to feel that they do belong here”. They’re continuing to add new brands to their portfolio and are always conscious of ensuring that these brands are meeting their three core pillars.
“Everything here is doing good, even the coffee you can drink at our cafe has a good purpose behind it. And we will stay exclusively focused on that”. Harry explained that while there’s a number of social causes that are highly important, goodMRKT is always cautious of causes that may be exclusive or controversial in one way or another, and that continues to be something that goodMRKT is keeping themselves aware of.
Looking ahead, goodMRKT is going to continue to expand their website presence and are starting to look at next locations and where they can go. They recently had a six-month pop-up shop in New York City that Harry shared was a very exciting and fun time for their team to learn a lot and get the goodMRKT name out into the community.
They’re continuing to look for more opportunities to expand goodMRKT into and really want to find a number of places that they can call home— places where they know people want to do good.
Getting Started on Your Social Impact Journey
Many retailers and brands struggle with knowing where to get started with social impact, specifically in the balance around profit and purpose. For brands who want to get involved, Harry shares that it’s not so much of a question on where to start, but more so the notion that you can’t be scared to start. When founding goodMRKT, Harry and Mary Beth knew that they wanted to create a place to celebrate brands who are going good, but they didn’t know how or where to start.
As with anything, the approach to social impact can be taken one step at a time. As long as it’s something you believe in and are passionate about, you can learn how to do it in a way that’s best for the brand. Harry explained that having the first conversation about your social impact vision is key. There are plenty of people who will share your same values, support the same causes, and want to hear what you have to say. It’s also important to listen to what your customers are saying and understand what’s important to them.
You may have an idea of what your social impact initiatives will look like and as you begin diving in, realize there’s a better way to do it “It's very likely that you might go down one path and realize there's a different way you need to go and you have to shift direction. Fail forward, fail fast, learn how to do it, do it better next time, and keep going”.
Many brands may feel they need to wait until they have a solid customer base before implementing a social impact strategy because in today’s world of commerce, corporate social responsibility is seen as a requirement. But there’s no need to wait. Socially conscious consumers today want to support the brands whose values align with their own, and establishing your brand values and supported causes from the beginning can help to build and grow a community of loyal customers. There’s no perfect time to get started in social impact— the best time to get started is now.
We hope you enjoy this episode of The Impact Exchange, until next time...stay healthy, stay mindful, and create impact.