After debuting the long-awaited Juniper online marketplace last week, the International Market Centers yesterday announced the acquisition of Dough, an e-commerce platform that supports women-owned businesses. The acquisition marks the first major step in a series of corporate initiatives designed to grow its brand community and a new strategy to expand with value-based trading in mind. It’s a goal as Dough’s founder and CEO Vanessa Bruce will take part in facilitating as she steps into the newly created role of Vice President of Social Impact of the IMC, where she will report to Erica Dean, chairman of the organization’s business-to-business e-commerce market, Juniper.
Bruce’s time with Dough can serve as an indicator of the direction IMC hopes to take. 2018, she and co-founder Anna Palmer established the platform to circumvent the obstacles that women face on the road to entrepreneurship, especially when it comes to building capital. At the time, they found that only 2.5 per cent of venture capital funds went to women-owned companies and that women were usually faced with faster repayment periods and higher interest rates on small business loans on average. When the couple dug a little, they found an opportunity to address the problem: They founded Dough as a discovery platform to enable consumers to discover women-owned brands and to encourage retailers and wholesalers to store their shelves in the same way. (The move was supported by a series of studies from 2018 that found that 80 percent of women control consumption, while 90 percent would go out of their way to shop for women-owned companies.) After starting a weekly newsletter to spread the word about the team’s favorite companies, such an influx of new sales applications that the brand could be strategic in curating its diverse range of brands. It soon became part of Dough’s standards that more than half of the site’s sellers would be women of color; in addition, 70 percent of its products are manufactured in the United States, 75 percent are not sold on Amazon, 60 percent are handmade and 65 percent are environmentally friendly.
Among the more than 1,000 women-owned companies on the website, the categories span home furnishings, health and wellness products, clothing, accessories, skin care and food and drink. Fan favorite items include Modern Theory candles, Zuhaza home decor and Becalia Botanicals skin care – all of which Bruce will focus on opening the B2B arena through JuniperMarket.com and in IMC’s physical presence in Atlanta, High Point, North Carolina and Las Vegas.
Juniper Marketplace was recently launched on January 6 with more than 1,500 brands and 3 million SKUs of home, gift and lifestyle items available exclusively to sales agencies. An extension of the company’s JuniperCommerce suite of sales automation tools, the e-commerce platform was created to reflect the omnichannel strategy implemented in IMC’s physical markets – a move that brings the organization together with an industry that is rapidly becoming digital. The acquisition of Dough is the first of several strategic acquisitions that will be rolled out in the coming year, all of which are designed to accelerate IMC as a more socially focused shopping resource.
Bruce’s focus after the acquisition of Juniper, she says, will remain to advocate for women-owned and value-based businesses on the platform, primarily by ensuring that salespeople have access to buyer relationships and that the platform continues to partner with emerging brands and builders. out the technology to support them. “Ultimately, it’s about really influencing more,” Bruce says. “We talked about it with the IMC and the Juniper team, and [realized that with the acquisition] we can make a profit while influencing societies that usually do not have access to capital, the contacts and the relationships that other companies make. ”
Website image: IMC’s World Market Center in Las Vegas | With permission from IMC