How It Started

Nurjahan Begum
Nurjahan Begum, Founder - Ethical Local Market
Ethical Local Market is a different kind of shop featuring small businesses that are local, eco-friendly and ethical. We strongly believe in rooting for each other!
The purpose of building ELM is to create a community of ethical, local businesses to come together and offer a curated collection of goods which will fulfill various needs of the neighbourhood. It is a tent of creative entrepreneurs with similar values. I believe this kind of retail will foster the right kind of prosperity in the local community as well as around the world.
In 2017 I founded a social enterprise clothing brand Progoti with an aim to improve the lives of garment workers in Bangladesh. I soon realized that only selling online will not help me make the changes I am aiming to make with my brand and found that it is very important for customers to feel, touch and try the products before buying. Since launching, 90% of my sales came from the vendor markets in GTA where I was able to build direct connections with the customers.
I always wanted to have a small, combined work and retail space with my team to develop designs before I go to Bangladesh for production. Not having a physical space created challenges in building a good product line.
In 2019 I met Kennedy at the Buy Good Feel Good show, a Seneca college fashion design student. She wanted to do an internship with my company. One day I was saying to her, while coming from a vendor market, that it would be nice if we had a retail space. It can have a small workshop, where you showcase and sell your designs, and I can have brick and mortar for my brand to share the space.  Her values mirrored mine and she had also dreamed of creating a shop that brings together industry-changing brands. Before we knew it, the ELM shop became our second home! 
During my journey with Progoti I came across a couple of retail stores offering rental space for small businesses to sell products. I also met other cool brands that are either locally made or ethically sourced from other countries. I thought it would be better instead of renting space if we all share the expenses of a high traffic downtown space and build our respective brand together. It will be economical as well as we will be able to enjoy the synergy effect.
The pandemic took a big hit on my brand and I did not know how to cover expenses to maintain the brand and its impact on garment workers. In 2021, we got this space opportunity through a family member which was perfect timing. 
As a small business the major concerns are to be able to pay the bills of a brick and mortar space, and to fill the store with enough of the right products so that the turnover can cover the expenses. But when we, a community of small businesses, come together, the burden lessens. For me, what we have created thus far is a dream come true. Once we are successful with one location we can replicate it in other communities.
Nurjahan Begum, Founder- Ethical Local Market