With love: Online marketplace aims to help women in need

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Katie Borland's mission trip to Ethiopia in 2008 inspired her to create an online marketplace to benefit a charity that helps empower women. Photo courtesy Katie Borland.
Katie Borland’s mission trip to Ethiopia in 2008 inspired her to create an online marketplace to benefit a charity that helps empower women. Photo courtesy Katie Borland.

The Greeks have several words for love–eros to indicate intimacy, philia, for friendship, storge to connote family.

And then there’s agape, which is used to express a general sense of kindness towards others, as well as God’s love for all mankind.

It’s a fitting namesake for Katie Borland’s recently opened online marketplace. Because it was that sense of Christian brotherhood that first inspired the Wilmington resident to create it.

The Agape Market, which sells handmade wares and donates profits to charity, is staging a launch party from 5 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 1, at Dockside Restaurant, 1308 Airlie Road. The L Shape Lot Duo is set to perform and there will be appetizers and giveaways.

The market went live back in January, but the concept has been years in the making for Borland. It was first born in 2008, when Borland made a mission trip to Ethiopia, where she helped teach women and girls how to take everyday or found items, repurpose and sell them.

“That’s where the seed was planted. Little did I know,” Borland recalled. “When I saw the conditions they live in compared to our conditions–even the worst of the worst conditions here–it was really eye-opening. I enjoyed teaching them something that would be able to help them get out of where they were.”

She wasn’t sure how, but she felt a strong desire to continue that purpose of empowerment.

But it wasn’t until a few years later, while traveling through New Zealand and Southeast Asia, that the marketplace idea materialized.

The Agape Market features handmade wares and gourmet snacks and seasonings. Photo courtesy The Agape Market.
The Agape Market features handmade wares and gourmet snacks and seasonings. Photo courtesy The Agape Market.

“I sold my car and bought a ticket to see some friends who were living in New Zealand. I met a bunch of really cool people there, and a lot of them told me to go to Thailand…And so I did. I went to Singapore and Thailand and Cambodia and Burma. And I ended up loving it and loving the markets. I was really interested in who was making the products that were being sold in these markets,” Borland said.

She went on a quest, by motor bike, to meet those makers. And in the process of visiting manufacturing facilities, she came across orphanages and non-governmental organizations.

Borland thought she could buy up a bunch of those market finds, bring them back to the U.S., re-sell them and send the money back to non-profits in need.

As it turned out, the plan wouldn’t quite work, logistically. Then, she ended up taking a job as a recruiter and The Agape Market was set on the back burner.

But last winter, she was suddenly laid off. Being without a job is a difficult experience, but Borland thought maybe it was just part of God’s plan.

“It’s been so easy, just talking to the artisans and getting everything together” she said. “When it finally happened, it happened very smoothly and easily.”

The Agape Market features a variety of handcrafted goods, from Amanda Jacobs’ Sea Love Sea Salt and gourmet popcorn to whimsical ties and custom jewelry.

A substantial portion of sales goes to Wilmington’s Bridge program (formerly Christian Women’s Job Corps). Borland found a new job and said she has never been interested in making Agape a lucrative business for herself.

Instead, money goes toward the Bridge, which helps women who are homeless or in dire situations find the means to improve their lives. Borland said the non-profit has an 83 percent success rate at getting participants out of poverty.

Agape also aims to be a supportive forum for creators, a place for artists to come together and talk about their craft. Borland would eventually like to open a brick and mortar retail and work space.

“It has always bothered me that people are not empowered, that they can’t be self-sufficient,” Borland noted. “When you think about it, this whole thing is kind of all about empowered women.”

Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at hilary.s@portcitydaily.com.