Image by Chineme Elobuike for Thrillist
Rather than spend your precious weekends scouring mall parking lots or scrolling through endless pages of identical products on Amazon, avoid the stress and supply-chain delays by shopping small and local this holiday season. And if you’re in LA, look to Prosperity Market, a virtual marketplace and pop-up farmers market founded by Carmen Dianne and Kara Still, that promotes Black farmers and vendors. Prior to launching the market, Dianne was a makeup artist and Still worked in fashion, but both women were inspired to enter a new arena at the height of the COVID pandemic and a racial reckoning in America.
As Dianne explains, “We wanted to create economic impact in our communities. We were seeing such a big push to support Black businesses, but we were troubled by conflicting statistics. You hear about how a dollar only stays in the Black community for about six hours, but then you also hear about how the Black community has over a trillion dollars in buying power. The numbers didn’t add up, and we wondered: how do we use this buying power, but actually keep it in our communities? Exploring that, we found the gap in food.”
Prosperity Market sought to solve a specifically Californian conundrum: our state is the largest agricultural producer in the United States, but most of that food is exported, and Los Angeles is home to the largest population of food-insecure residents in the country. Over the last century, Black farmers have lost over 12 million acres of farmland and their numbers have dwindled from over a million to just 45,000 out of 3.4 million farmers across the country. In California, fewer than 1% of the state’s 70,000 farms are Black-owned or managed. By launching a mobile marketplace that travels across LA County, the market not only helps farmers and vendors expand their reach, but is able to provide fresh, whole foods to food deserts where farmers markets don’t exist.
“Our market is built on two pillars: economic impact and food access,” Still explains. She says that, “Part of the economic impact is being able to provide a lucrative platform for our farmers and our vendors. We want them to be able to provide their products to Malibu just as well as to people in Inglewood. It’s beneficial to them and it’s beneficial to our community. The other piece is food access: being mobile allows us to not only go to places where our vendors or farmers will profit, but to bring it to underserved neighborhoods and help people get reconnected to each other and to food, to create a sense of community and fun in a safe place.”
Prosperity Market held their first pop-up market in February and quickly proved the success of their business model. They’ve been hosting pop-up markets just about every month since, in locations ranging from Melrose to Malibu, with fresh produce, handmade products, and fun activations including a photobooth and live music, plus hot prepared foods from spots like Bridgetown Roti and Compton Vegan. In August, Prosperity Market hosted a month-long scavenger hunt in honor of Black Business Month, which led participants to clues at various Black-owned businesses across LA, with winners earning prizes from Prosperity Market at the end of the month. The initiative was such a success that the duo plan to make it an annual event.
The virtual marketplace follows a different format: customers are invited to place orders on certain days, choose their most convenient pick-up location (including North Hollywood, West Hollywood, Mid-City, Inglewood, or Leimert Park), and then grab their goods on another specified day.
This holiday season, Prosperity Market is partnering with Shop Slauson for a Small Business Saturday event on November 27, from 12–4 pm in Historic Windsor Hills, with local businesses like Simply Wholesome, Orleans & York Deli, Jerusalem Chicken, and Hilltop Coffee participating, and live music and raffles happening throughout the day.
On Black Friday, November 26, the market is offering a free holiday shopping guide featuring their favorite farmers and vendors as well as Slauson merchants and other small, local businesses. Customers who purchase the shopping guide will receive early access to one-of-a-kind holiday boxes, ranging from produce boxes with fresh, locally produced harvest for $45; to snack boxes with popcorn, cookies, vegan cream cheese, and granola for $50; to a flavor box with seasonings, sauces, and spreads for $50; and a $55 self-care box with luxury soaps, body butters, and candles. The holiday boxes will be available to all beginning Monday, December 6.
“When you shop locally, it’s not just helping us and our farmers, it’s helping all of LA County. It’s local, but the impact is big,” Still says.
As Still and Dianne are quick to point out, their fantastic farmers, vendors, and partners are the primary reason for the market’s instant success and popularity. For those who’d like to get to know them and what makes them so great, keep reading and bookmark some spots to visit at the next market or online:
“He just recently moved from East LA to a bigger space and is single-handedly creating a food forest where he grows so many things,” says Dianne. “He does seasonal harvest boxes, he has eggs, he creates seasoning blends and teas. His offerings are so broad and vast, you can even buy plants!”
“Her name is Brian Battle and she has a beautiful family with five boys. They live in San Pedro and grow from a small plot of land in front of their apartment,” Dianne says. “She’s able to produce so much and she also has really great value-added products like tomato sauce and different flavors of lemonade.”
“Everyone loves Gloria’s Shito!” Kara declares. “It’s a hot sauce from Ghana, and she has a vegan version and a traditional version. People just go crazy over it.”
“They have seven or eight flavors of their spreadable, plant-based cheese and I’m an unofficial spokesperson because it’s so good!” Kara says, laughing. “Not only is it a spread that can be used on crackers or chips or as a dip, but it’s also a sauce. So you can mix it into things, you can put it on toast, you can dip your carrots into it. It doesn’t matter if you’re vegan or not, anyone who tries Misha’s can find a flavor they love. It’s so good!”
“It’s a family-owned business run by a couple and they make amazing whole-fruit juices. It’s really great because they have different kinds of juices and everything is fresh and organic. They do different specialty bundles so if you want to do a detox bundle or you like a certain flavor, you can do that,” Dianne says.
“I love her stuff so much, she has body care products like candles, soaps, and scrubs. I get her body butter and body scrub and it smells so good. Last time I saw her she gave me a sample of a new soap and I’ve been talking about it for three days now!” Dianne says.
“They’re two sisters who are just 12 and 14 years old and their cookies are SO good. And honestly, they are so on it and more professional than some of the adults. They’re also crowdfunding to expand their operations so support them if you can!” Dianne notes.
Support Maddy Bear Bakes crowdfund campaign online.
“They were one of our partners at our last market and we love their store. They have over 50 Black designers stocked and everything they sell is from Black artists, designers, and makers. They also do amazing work in the community with education, uplifting, and creating opportunities. They’re also a co-op so their store is member-owned,” Still says.
“They were part of our Black Business Scavenger hunt and they have a location in Culver City. They make it convenient to support Black businesses with over 80 Black-owned businesses ranging from beauty products to art, clothing, and food, all stocked in their market,” Dianne says.
“He is a grower and a supplier of tropical fruits and veggies and seeded things that you can’t always find. You can get seeded grapes, seeded watermelons, payapas, guavas, and all kinds of things,” says Still.
“They have beautiful handmade jewelry and wearable art that’s inspired by the owner’s travels around the world. They make great gifts!” recommends Still.