September 28, 2018 08:30 AM

It’s been five years since Lauren Conrad and Hannah Skvarla founded The Little Market, a nonprofit digital marketplace promoting the work of female artisans around the world, and now they’ve opened their first brick and mortar store.

“This has been a long time dream,” Conrad, 32, tells PEOPLE of the store, located in Caruso’s Palisades Village, in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles. “I’m so glad we did this because it’s such a great way to showcase all of the pieces. I think it’s such a powerful statement.”

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Adds Skvarla, “It’s so different when you can actually touch and feel something because each product is handmade and each has its own variations.”

Conrad and Skvarla were inspired to start The Little Market after a 2012 trip to Africa.

“We visited with non-profits that focused on women and children, and we kept hearing that they just wanted a way to support themselves and their families,” says Skvarla. “We wanted to find a way to help women in need.”

courtesy of The Little Market

The Little Market pays for goods upfront so none of the artisans (from countries including Thailand, Guatemala and Mexico) are out of pocket; sales go back to the artisans themselves to pay for more materials, thus creating more jobs.

“Every purchase makes a direct change,” says Conrad. “Our purpose is really to serve as a platform for artisans all around the world to sell their goods.”

When it came to designing The Little Market store (which is nonprofit, one of the first of its kind), Conrad and Skvarla worked with design firm Studio Lifestyle.

courtesy of The Little Market

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“We wanted to create a welcoming, warm environment, but we also needed it to be very neutral and clean,” says Conrad. “We put a lot of thought into it.”

Ultimately, Conrad hopes to expand even further. “The bigger we get, the more artisans we can reach and the more people we can help.”

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