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The Case for Supporting Women-Owned Businesses

Kate Isler, the CEO and co-founder of The WMarketplace, is harnessing the power of technology and entrepreneurship to not only provide a unique shopping experience, but also to contribute to closing the daunting economic gender gap.

August 24, 2023

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When it came to work, the pandemic devastated women. Overrepresented in industries severely affected by lockdowns, many women faced job losses and reduced hours while also taking on the brunt of increased caregiving responsibilities due to school closures.

But while many saw doom and gloom, Kate Isner spotted an opportunity.

“It was one of those moments where I did the only reasonable thing: have a big breakdown and drink wine,” Kate joked. “But then I got myself together and thought about the problem. Everyone was online shopping and one company—one man—was making all the money. I realized I had the resources and people and enough experience in tech info to be dangerous.”

As online shopping surged and tech giants reaped the rewards, Kate envisioned a different kind of marketplace—one where women could shine. Enter WMarketplace, a platform that not only supports women-owned businesses, but also gives consumers an easy option to vote with their wallets and help close the gender gap with their purchases.

From supporting to empowering

A tech-savvy visionary and a fervent advocate for gender equity, Kate’s own story started in a small town in Mississippi, where traditional gender norms define her family. Kate moved to Seattle to find new opportunities and landed a job at Microsoft, where she got a global education on the state of women around the world with an assignment in Dubai.

After 20 years at the company, Kate was no stranger to the challenges of being a woman in a male-dominated world.

In 2015, she founded a nonprofit events organization celebrating International Women's Day. What started as a modest gathering of 80 in Seattle quickly morphed into an annual event, hosting 500 attendees by 2020.

But Kate wanted to do more than just celebrate and recognize women—she wanted to empower women to carve their own professional paths.

“I would hear people say all the time, ‘I would love to buy from women-owned businesses, but I can’t find them,’” Kate said.

So, instead of just navigating the obstacles, Kate decided to shift the narrative. In June 2020, WMarketplace was launched as a n online marketplace showcasing women-led vendors and businesses with products that range from home goods to specialty foods to luxury shoes.

A Woman-Owned Marketplace

Now boasting over 550 women-owned brands and a vast array of products and services, WMarketplace is more than a marketplace— it's a thriving ecosystem. It champions women entrepreneurs, offering them a space to flourish and a global audience to showcase their creations. It also has an accelerator program to equip business owners with more ecomm skills.

At its core, WMarketplace stands as a beacon of hope and a practical solution in the quest to bridge the economic gender gap. Women entrepreneurs, who account for over 40% of U.S. businesses, are key players in this mission.

Kate believes that as women gain economic power, the levers to effect change become more accessible. The conventional work structure falls short for many women, lacking flexibility, affordable childcare, and even adequate healthcare. Women entrepreneurs are rewriting these rules, remaking the concept of work on their terms.

Through WMarketplace, Kate aims to chip away at these inequalities by supporting the fastest growing segment of new businesses—those owned by women—one business at a time.

"We need to set the stage for women-owned businesses," Kate insisted. “We’ve seen progress made in big social cultural issues with climate change, like taking grocery bags to the store or separating trash. So, if we can start to chip away at the habits people have, we can gain more gender equality and economic equity.”

In a world where consumers often prioritize products over the producers, Kate's goal is to bridge that gap. She wants people to not just love the product, but also to feel a connection with the women behind it.

At Culinary Artistas—a fully woman run and operated businesses in San Francisco—we’re all for it.

If you want to support Culinary Artistas on WMaketplace, we’ll be launching our Club Artistas cooking subscription kit for kids soon. Stay tuned!