SIKU style Founder Featured in TO THE MARKET's Stories Blog

SIKU style friends-- we are super excited to announce our founder, Charlotte Florance was featured in TO THE MARKET's (TTM) Stories Blog. Charlotte recently joined TTM as their new Editorial Director! We love TTM's passion for entrepreneurship in the developing world and economic empowerment.

The following post originally appeared in TO THE MARKET's Stories Blog

Introducing Our New Editorial Director

Posted on March 10, 2016

BIG NEWS!  TO THE MARKET is thrilled to announce the addition of a new member to our team. Charlotte Florance is joining us as our new Editorial Director of the Stories blog. She has extensive experience working in developing countries, promoting women’s entrepreneurship, and loves artisan made products! She is an avid traveller, loves to cook (she makes killer guac) and nerds out on economic policy data. Charlotte originally hails from Southern California and after spending time in London, rural Kenya and Washington, DC; she now lives in Amman, Jordan with her fiancé Ramsey (and their cat, Mozi). Charlotte has a great sense of style, loves incorporating handmade textiles into her home décor, and thinks natural light is essential for every space. Charlotte is also the founder of SIKU style, a global lifestyle blog focused on people, places and products found in emerging markets around the globe.

Here is a photo of Mozi the kitty; it’s hard to believe he used to be so tiny!

Here is a photo of Mozi the kitty; it’s hard to believe he used to be so tiny!

TO THE MARKET got a chance to catch-up with Charlotte and learn a bit about her plans for the Stories Blog, her life in the Middle East, and what she loves about TTM.

This photo was taken at the Feynan EcoLodge in Jordan—it was voted one of the top five eco-resorts in the world by National Geographic.

This photo was taken at the Feynan EcoLodge in Jordan—it was voted one of the top five eco-resorts in the world by National Geographic.

What drew you to TO THE MARKET?

I met Jane (TTM Founder & CEO) a few years ago when she was first getting TO THE MARKET off the ground and I fell in love with the concept. Before meeting Jane I had spent time working in Kenya with HIV positive women artisans, most of whom were former sex-workers, and I was always troubled by the lack of market access to help scale the women’s business into a long-term sustainable economic endeavor. So many of the women I worked with would often go back into sex-work because they needed to feed and care for their families and their income from handicraft sales was too inconsistent.

Here I am with the group of women artisans I worked with in Kenya—such remarkable and resilient women!

Here I am with the group of women artisans I worked with in Kenya—such remarkable and resilient women!

TO THE MARKET is a brilliant way to bring both the amazing handmade products from groups like the one I worked with in Kenya into western markets, as well as highlight the challenges and issues many women, like those in Kenya, face today in developing countries. Through globalization and the increase in access to technology the world is becoming a much smaller place and, as a result, people can affect change through so many different ways. We can now fill our homes or accessorize our outfits with beautiful handmade products from around the world with the click of our mouse, but more importantly it’s how we choose to buy these products from responsible and ethical producers. As consumers we have a say in what’s successful in the market, and TTM has created a marketplace to make those choices even easier. As an added bonus, TTM is led by a team of super women leaders and who want to amplify the amazing work of entrepreneurs around the globe.

How have your experiences shaped your passion for entrepreneurship and women’s empowerment?

I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs so I have always been surrounded by innovative spirits. Yet, it was working Kenya where I really I got to see how people in other countries, particularly in environments much less hospitable to entrepreneurship, create businesses and sustain them. For the past couple years I worked at a large Washington-based think tank where I focused much of my research on how improving economic policies in developing countries, such as access to capital or lowering costs to start businesses, are critical components for entrepreneurs to succeed and even more critical for women entrepreneurs, where they are often even more restricted both legally and culturally.

Here I am with West African small business owners. This picture was taken in Cabo Verde, a small archipelago off of West Africa, during a conference for entrepreneurs.

Here I am with West African small business owners. This picture was taken in Cabo Verde, a small archipelago off of West Africa, during a conference for entrepreneurs.

You’ll be managing the Stories Blog, what additions can we expect to see on TTM’s blog going forward?

I am so excited to announce some of the new additions to the Stories Blog and I cannot wait for our readers’ feedback. We’ll be featuring weekly posts, including a Friday post, called “TTM Weekend Finds,” where we will share interesting must reads from around the internet (I have a serious read-later bookmarking habit), our favorite podcasts, new music, killer recipes, and quite possibly a furry baby panda video (yes, I am sucker for baby pandas). We will also be featuring more lifestyle content, and how the stories from our products first start with the artisans but end with how we use the products in our daily lives. In addition we will be highlighting significant global events and how certain issues impact our local artisan partners. We are also planning to share more posts about travel and the inspiring people and places we meet along the way (in my mind there are just too many great TTM weekender bags and not enough weekends on the calendar). I really believe TO THE MARKET embodies a whole way of thinking and living and I want to share the different aspects of this awesome global community of the TTM network.

This is Namliyeh, an awesome jam shop in Amman, which also serves tea and coffee.  Not only is the artisan-made jam delicious, the shop was started by two young Jordanian women who wanted to bring back locally produced flavors and a home for creatives.

This is Namliyeh, an awesome jam shop in Amman, which also serves tea and coffee.  Not only is the artisan-made jam delicious, the shop was started by two young Jordanian women who wanted to bring back locally produced flavors and a home for creatives.

Tell us a bit more about your personal blog, SIKU style.

SIKU style (See-Koo means “day” in Swahili; and Day will also be my married name!) is the culmination of all the cool stuff I get to see and do in the Middle East, plus the beautiful products and food I find along the way. I am super active with SIKU on Instagram  (@SIKUstyle) and I just finished up with a graphic designer for the website, so I will be launching the site in mid-Spring. What I love about SIKU is how I get to paint a different picture of the people and places in a country like Jordan that is often viewed very differently in western media. I also think it is so important to highlight the artisan products made in regions like the Middle East, because as countries develop, more and more people move to the urban centers and leave their artisan craft behind. I hope by exposing the products and the people behind them, more value will be given to such beautiful items and ensure greater demand to keep such ancient practices alive. I really think SIKU style compliments TO THE MARKET because TTM is expanding market access for the artisans and entrepreneurs SIKU highlights.

Here I am interviewing the general manger of Sufra, my all-time favorite restaurant in Amman. Sufra is in a beautiful old Armenian villa on one of the most famous streets in Amman.

Here I am interviewing the general manger of Sufra, my all-time favorite restaurant in Amman. Sufra is in a beautiful old Armenian villa on one of the most famous streets in Amman.

This is the interior of one of the best rug shops in Madaba, a small town about 30 minutes from Amman.  The owner is the sweetest old man, who really cares about the quality of his products, as well as paying fair prices to the Bedouin weavers who make the rugs.

This is the interior of one of the best rug shops in Madaba, a small town about 30 minutes from Amman.  The owner is the sweetest old man, who really cares about the quality of his products, as well as paying fair prices to the Bedouin weavers who make the rugs.

What do you love most about Jordan? What do you miss most about the United States?

Wow, that’s a tough one—so many things! First, I would have to say the food; you’ll quickly learn I experience new destinations through my stomach. I love zata’ar spice; it’s a mix of Palestinian thyme, oregano, marjoram, olive oil, toasted sesame seeds, sumac, and salt. Zata’ar tastes amazing on just about everything—Jordanians often put it on a pizza-like dish called manakeesh, greek-style yogurt or hummus. I would also have to say the people, I have never been to a country more hospitable than Jordan—seriously the number of times I hear “you are welcome” or “merhaba” in a single day as a foreigner here is truly incredible.

This is manakeesh, Arab-style pizza with zata’ar and feta cheese. Yum! P.S. I made these manakeesh.

This is manakeesh, Arab-style pizza with zata’ar and feta cheese. Yum! P.S. I made these manakeesh.

Here are some of the amazing spices you can find in the market in downtown Amman.  I love exploring the little spice shops and asking the vendors about their specialty spice blends.

Here are some of the amazing spices you can find in the market in downtown Amman.  I love exploring the little spice shops and asking the vendors about their specialty spice blends.

I miss my family the most in the United States, but I would have to say a close second is Trader Joe’s—as a Californian TJ is a staple in our daily lives. It’s so bad that when I go back to the United States I usually check a second bag filled with TJ products. I love their marcona almonds with rosemary and sea salt and all of their oatmeal packs!

How would you describe your personal style?

Classic with a global twist—my go-to style inspiration is Katharine Hepburn; I loved how she pioneered feminine menswear. My daily uniform usually consists of boyfriend jeans, Theory blazer, crisp white tee or vintage cream blouse with embroidery (I have been known to raid both mother’s and grandmother’s old clothes), ballet flats and a funky cuff or bracelet. I usually wear a lot of monochrome colors, but love to accessorize with bold colored clutches with funky textures, and statement jewelry I have picked up on my travels (lucky for me TO THE MARKET makes it even easier to collect global statement accessories).

Here I am in my favorite hat riding around in the back of a truck in Wadi Rum, Jordan.  Fun Fact: The Martian with Matt Damon was filmed in Wadi Rum.

Here I am in my favorite hat riding around in the back of a truck in Wadi Rum, Jordan.  Fun Fact: The Martian with Matt Damon was filmed in Wadi Rum.

If you could visit any place in the world tomorrow, where would you go?

Another tough one… I have so many places on my travel bucket list! I feel like my heart really never left Africa, so I’d love to return to East Africa. I have never been to Uganda and I would love to do a gorilla trek, but also explore all of the artisan products made from recycled cow horn. I’d also love to visit Mali and learn about indigo textile dying techniques—given the security challenges in the country the dying techniques could quickly become a lost art form.

Want to learn more about Charlotte and see what she is up to? Follow her on Twitter: @CMFlorance or Instagram: @CharFlorance. For more on SIKU style check out the SIKU website www.sikustyle.com, or follow SIKU on Twitter: @Sikustyle or Instagram: @SIKUstyle.