A flourishing business
After seven and a half years working at a global investment bank, it took just one night on Pinterest to convince Emily Aker Sexton ’07 to pursue a dream she didn’t even know she had: launch a boutique on wheels.
By Xernay Aniwar ’17
After seven and a half years working as vice president of change management and communications at a global investment bank, it took just one night on Pinterest to convince Emily Aker Sexton ’07 to change her path and pursue a dream she didn’t even know she had.
Sexton was looking up images of tiny houses when she first stumbled upon a picture of a fashion truck. “My first thought was, ‘how have I never heard of this concept?’” she says. “The thought occurred to me, what if I filled a fashion truck with beautiful things that each are tied back to a bigger mission and a dignified job?” That night, she ran the idea past her husband, Chris. The next morning, they began searching for a truck. “It was a surreal season of life,” she says of the formation of the business. “Every night, we were out in our backyard with our friends who had pitched in to help, building out the inside of our truck, sorting inventory, painting displays, you name it.”
Three months and three days later, Sexton launched The Flourish Market, a boutique on wheels that partners with 32 brands that work all over the world, providing jobs and fair wages to artisans and makers in vulnerable communities. The Flourish Market products include one-of-a-kind necklaces from Haiti, earrings made by deaf women in Kenya, clothing made by sex trafficking survivors in Nepal and shoes made by Mayan women in the highlands of Guatemala, to name a few.
The main concept behind the business is to encourage consumers to use their purchasing power for good, and use their dollars to vote for dignity and worth. Sexton says her first spark of inspiration came during her time at Elon. She studied abroad in the Philippines and Australia, but it was her time in Honduras as a Periclean Scholar that she regards as the “pivot” to her life story. “I saw poverty first hand, but instead of being crippled by what we saw, we learned our worth in the story, that we were all well-positioned to link arms with local leaders all around the world to spread opportunity and dignity to the world’s most vulnerable,” she says of the experience. She adds the most important thing she’s learned along the way is the value of “leveraging your village” and asking for help from friends and family. “The truth is, everyone wants to be a part of a bigger story, and it’s such an honor to have the privilege to link arms with women in my community and across the United States to write this incredible story together.”
After reaching its year-end stretch sales goal—Oct. 16 marked the business’ one-year anniversary—The Flourish Market has created enough revenue to open its first brick and mortar store in downtown Raleigh, N.C., and to expand the offerings in the online boutique. Sexton compares the experience of creating The Flourish Market to the village mentality she’s witnessed in the developing countries that the business partners with, and her Elon connections have played a major role.
“To this day, my best friends and biggest cheerleaders are the friends that I made at Elon,” she says. “When I look at the village that stood beside me at my wedding, that helped launch our business, that fill my phone and inbox with encouraging messages, that help connect me to people who care about our mission and those who endlessly pour out their time and resources to better the world, it’s my Elon family and the alumni that I have met since becoming a Phoenix.”