After launching the highly anticipated Juniper online marketplace last week, International Market Centers yesterday announced the acquisition of Dough, an e-commerce platform supporting women-owned businesses. The purchase marks the first major step in a series of initiatives by the company designed to grow its brand community, and a new expansion strategy with values-based commerce in mind. It’s a goal that the co-founder and CEO of Dough vanessa bruce will participate in facilitation as she steps into the newly created role of Vice President of Social Impact for IMC, where she will report to Erica Deanpresident of the organization’s B2B e-commerce marketplace, Juniper.
Bruce’s time with Dough could serve as an indicator of where IMC hopes to go. In 2018, she and co-founder Anna Palm Tree established the platform to circumvent the barriers that women face on the path to entrepreneurship, especially when it comes to building capital. At the time, they found that only 2.5% of venture capital funds went to women-owned businesses and that women generally faced faster repayment periods and higher interest rates. high on average small business loans. When the couple dug in, they found an opportunity to solve the problem: they founded Dough as a discovery platform to enable consumers to discover women-owned brands and to encourage retailers and wholesalers to source their shelves in the same way. (That decision was reinforced by a series of 2018 studies that found that 80% of women control consumer spending, while 90% would go out of their way to buy women-owned businesses.) After launching a weekly newsletter to spread the word about the team’s favorite companies, they received such an influx of new seller applications that the brand could be strategic in organizing its diverse range of brands. It quickly became part of Dough’s standards that more than half of the site’s vendors were women of color; Additionally, 70% of its products are made in the USA, 75% are not sold on Amazon, 60% are handmade, and 65% are eco-friendly.
Among the more than 1,000 women-owned businesses on the site, categories span home decor, health and wellness products, apparel, accessories, skincare, and food and beverage. Fan-favorite products include Modern Theory candles, Zuhaza home decor, and Becalia Botanicals skincare, which Bruce will focus on bringing into the B2B arena via JuniperMarket.com and physical presence. IMC in Atlanta, High Point, North Carolina and Las Vegas. .
A recent launch in itself, Juniper Marketplace debuted on January 6 with over 1,500 brands and 3 million SKUs of home, gift and lifestyle items available exclusively to retail agencies. An extension of the company’s JuniperCommerce suite of tools for sales automation, the e-commerce platform was created to reflect the omnichannel approach implemented in IMC’s physical marketplaces, a move that brings the organization of a sector which is rapidly becoming digital. The purchase of Dough marks the first of several strategic acquisitions to roll out over the coming year, all of which are designed to evolve IMC as a more social shopping resource.
Bruce’s focus after the Juniper acquisition, she says, will remain on championing women-owned, values-based businesses on the platform, primarily ensuring sellers have access to relationships with shoppers and that the platform continues to partner with emerging brands and builds the technology to support them. “At the end of the day, it’s really about having more impact,” says Bruce. “We were talking to IMC and the Juniper team about it, and [realized that with the acquisition] we can make a profit while impacting communities that typically don’t have access to the capital, connections, and relationships that other businesses have.
Home Page Image: IMC World Market Center in Las Vegas | Courtesy of IMC