In Mexico a mercado, or mercadito, is a place where several merchants gather to sell their products
Lolo is a Modern Mexican Mercadito that gathers different high-quality products representing the great cultural richness of our country in one place. We represent Mexico through its customs, gastronomy, arts and handcrafts with products that denote the avant-garde of contemporary Mexican culture, while at the same time preserving the artisanal and traditional identity of our country.
Lolo works to offer a comprehensive, hand-picked collection of high-quality products and a personalized shopping experience that speaks for all that is Mexico. The vendors that we work with, the same as all Mexicans, come from different backgrounds. Some of them are positioned brands, others are emerging designers, others a small group of artisans from indigenous backgrounds, and some a mix of these.
As a socially responsible business, we are aware of the history behind marginalized communities in Mexico. As part of that community in the United States, we also carry within us part of those teachings, so we also strive to continue to inform ourselves better with every opportunity. Because of it, we implement Fair Trade when necessary, to the best of our ability and learning. Right now what that means is that, when feasible, we opt to work with cooperativas (autonomous associations who set their own prices willingly and democratically). Furthermore, we pay 100% of the asking price to the artisans, it is only after this that we add shipping, exporting and other costs; we do not ask nor approve of mass production on artisanal products; we never interfere with their production process, pricing of products, and community needs without being asked; and, lastly, we establish a personal relationship of trust and communication with the artisans to know if there is any other way in which we can help (as we would a family member or a close friend).
Our market model can be broken down into 8 steps:
- Handpicking Culturally Responsible Products
We make sure all products chosen at Lolo are culturally responsible. What does that mean? Every time we hand-pick a product and a partner-artisan to work with we make sure the product
1) properly reflects and respects the culture it comes from;
2) does not negatively impact any marginalized community in Mexico;
3) does not appropriate from any other community; and
4) It is socially and responsibly made in Mexico.
How? By making sure the artisan making it comes from the community and informing ourselves from the culture from them and from other available sources.
- Price Agreement
Once a product and vendor has been hand-picked, we start a conversation with the artisan to learn more about the product and make sure the price is fair.
After the price is established by the artisan(s), we make sure they are all aware of the market-price set for their product. We also inform ourselves/learn about the skills required to make the product, the time and materials needed, etc, ensuring our better understanding of the price and possible fluctuations over time.
Sometimes, we work with cooperatives, who democratically set their own prices, sometimes with small workshop owners, sometimes with individual artisans, and sometimes with established brands. We take this into consideration to ensure a fair price is paid overall, considering the possible limits or disadvantages some vendors can have over the other.
- Payment Upfront
When we establish an order of a product with a partner artisan, we pay at least 50% of the cost of the product up front to cover the cost of raw material for the artisans we work with. Without this practice, artisans must turn to loans with interests to cover the price of the material, which translates into a debt for the artisans as long as their product does not sell (which, unfortunately, happens often). With this practice we eliminate this exploitative and unnecessary debt to outside loans.
- Crafting of Product
In this stage, the artisan(s) begin working their magic. Although fully available and willing to help, we do not interfere in this process unless asked to. This way, we ensure artisans respect their traditions while crafting products and that they do so in the required timeline, without rush, ensuring all pieces are made lovingly and patiently.
Moreover, we do not work with maquilas or factories who make products in bulk and who damage the artisanal, cultural, and traditional nature of each product. We do, however, ensure the working conditions are safe and fair for all in the step above.
- Shipping, Export Costs and Fees are on Us
Once the product is finalized and ready to ship, we begin by finalizing the full payment of the product. That is, the artisan receives payment for their work before it is even sent to us.
Afterwards, we take care of the cost of bringing the product from Mexico to the US. We do not, in any way, expect artisans to cover for the cost of shipping, handling, or tariffs and we take responsibility for the risk of lost or damaged product.
- Product Sale
Lolo mercadito is a marketplace where artisans can find a reliable point of sale. Having a dependable point of sale for the artisans translates into a safe income, which allows for them to depend on a safe and steady income. As each product is sold across the US, artisans in Mexico promote and sell their own work without having to be responsible for the logistics of importing, exporting, or of running a business, allowing them to fully work on their talent as artists.
- Culturally Sensitive Marketing and Promotion
While promoting every product, we make sure to transparently indicate the name of the artisan, cooperative, or workshop that created it. We also make sure to include the cultural and historical implication of each product along with the skill required to make it.
In other words, we raise awareness of one of Lolo’s main goals: to promote “lo bien hecho en Mexico.” This is how we put a stop to the systematic and historical discrimination that exists in and towards Mexicans, especially those of indigenous descent.
- Artisans and Communities Thrive
The end result is to have all indigenous communities who have been previously, currently, and continuously marginalized together with non-indigenous creators and/or designers from Mexico thrive and with them their families and communities.
The stability that results from this market model allows for artisans in Mexico to have a secure income; in safe working conditions; while promoting their authorship, talent, and work. All of these efforts translate into them being able to overcome their economic and social disadvantages.
As a small, family owned business, we are still learning by trial and error but always with our humanity on the front lines. If you have any questions or would like to continue this conversation, feel free to Contact us.