Heart to Market
Two Moms on a mission to give back by shopping small
Much like us, Amy Mei & Katie Tai, the mamas behind our Small Business Saturday feature today, were brought together by motherhood! Originally connecting over social media and bonding over similar passions, they realized they both had a desire to connect mamas with Houston’s best brands and resources.
They shared a vision for a highly-curated market that focused on families, supported women-run, local businesses, and gave back to a great cause. After a few meetings over coffee (for Katie) and bubble tea (for Amy), Heart To Market was born!
Heart To Market is a kid-friendly, pop-up market with a curated mix of makers, products, and brands dedicated to mamas and their littles. Committed to giving back and supporting our community, proceeds from all market sales go to local charitable organizations. For the upcoming market, a percentage of proceeds will got to Lunches of Love, a non-profit organization committed to helping to end childhood hunger in Fort Bend County.
The name “Heart To Market” also holds meaning. Many of the vendors HTM features are run by moms who are working during nap times, weekends, and after they put the kids to bed. It takes a lot of heart and passion to build a business from your kitchen table, and they seek to provide a platform for these women to showcase their products and connect with a new audience. As a market-goer you know your purchases are giving back to a great cause all while supporting a small, oftentimes, woman-run business. Shopping small to give big – that’s what they’re all about.
They held their first market in December 2018 in The Heights and next weekend will launch their first market pop up in Sugar Land Town Square!
We’ve always admired what these women are doing for the community and charities they support and after attending their events, we can’t wait to see what they do next! (spoiler: we’re cooking up some plans to get this market to Katy, so will keep y’all posted!)
For now, we get to enjoy the market in Sugar Land and there are still VIP tickets available for 50% off if you use our code! (more info at the end of the interview)
We got to chat with these amazing, hardworking, inspiring mamas more about their mission, how they balance it all with motherhood, and their vision and dreams for Heart to Market for the future!
Where are you two from originally and how long have you lived in the Houston area?
Amy was born in Houston — spent her childhood living in Hong Kong and eventually moved back stateside and graduated Kempner High School in Sugar Land. She majored in Graphic Design at TCU and moved back to Houston in 2006 and now lives in the Memorial area.
Katie is a born and raised Houstonian! She grew up in Spring, TX and went to Klein Collins High School. She then moved to Baton Rouge, LA to attend LSU (Geaux Tigers!) and majored in Opera Performance – a far cry from the mompreneur life she now lives! Katie and her family now live in Garden Oaks just outside of the Heights.
Are you guys are mamas, too! How many kiddos do you have and how old are they?
Amy has two kiddos, Ian (6) and Nora (3) and Katie has one daughter, Elliott (2). They keep us on our toes constantly and drive us crazy at times, but at the end of the day, this is ALL because of them. Motherhood changed us (for the better!) and we want our kids to see that women can be loving caregivers, fierce business-owners, loyal friends and devoted partners.
Like us, you two were brought together by motherhood, how did you meet?
Believe it or not, it all started on Instagram! We connected over our passion for motherhood and a desire to connect mamas with Houston’s best brands and resources. We met for breakfast to talk about business ideas and we instantly clicked. We are yin and yang and balance each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Amy tackles the esthetic side of our brand by making everything she touches beautiful, keeps up with our growing vendor roster, and organizes the logistics behind the market. Katie owns the social media and marketing piece of Heart To Market, keeps the website up and running, and works to secure new pop-up venues. Our motto is “divide and conquer” and together we’ve been able to do just that in less than a year.
When did the idea for Heart to Market spark and what was the passion and inspiration behind it?
We both shared a vision of a highly-curated market that focused on families, supported women-run, local businesses, and gave back to a great cause. After a few cups of coffee (for Katie) and bubble teas (for Amy), Heart To Market was born!
Being moms ourselves has greatly impacted how we desire to build our brand. Heart To Market was created specifically for parents and their children – from our stroller-wide aisles to the many children’s activities throughout the day, we strive to deliver a market experience the whole family can enjoy.
What did each of you do before deciding to launch Heart to Market?
Amy was a full-time graphic designer and Katie was a marketing/social media consultant. Our former careers have definitely played a HUGE role in building our brand. We also each have our own businesses – Amy is the founder of MAMAMEIDIT, a mom-centered crafting workshop and Katie is the founder of Studio Mom Houston, a support and networking community that caters to new moms. Needless to say, we keep ourselves BUSY, but being surrounded my inspiring mamas and business owners fuels our passion and keeps us motivated!
When was the first ever Heart to Market and was it easier or harder to plan and organize than you thought?
Our first market was December 2018 – less than a year ago! Going in we had no idea what to expect. Amy had been a vendor in a few markets before as a graphic designer and we relied heavily on her first-hand experience to tailor our market in a way that catered to the needs and enjoyment of our vendors. There’s a lot of trial and error and each subsequent market has come with new challenges as we continue to develop our perfect formula.
If you were to meet someone from out of town and you had to explain Heart to Market, how would you describe it?
Heart To Market is a family-friendly, pop-up market with a curated mix of makers, products, and brands dedicated to mamas and their littles. Committed to giving back and supporting our community, proceeds from all market sales go to local charitable organizations. With everything from apparel & accessories for mom/baby/child to home decor, paper goods, skincare, art, sweets & treats, Heart To Market is your one-stop-shop for everything on your list!
Not only is your mission to build up and empower local businesses, but you also give back to charities. Tell us about the proceeds you give and what charities you support.
Our first two markets were located inside A 2nd Cup, which is a non-profit coffee shop in the Heights. They work to end human trafficking in the Houston area and provide aftercare programs for survivors. We love their mission and knew we wanted to support their work with our market and it sparked the idea to include giving back 10% of all market sales to a designated charity as a part of our formula.
Our next pop-up market in Sugar Land benefits Lunches of Love – non-profit organization committed to helping end childhood hunger in Fort Bend County by providing a free nutritious sack lunch during extended school holidays and weekends. They have an impressive operation and pack over 4,300 lunches A DAY and deliver to 16 distribution sites. With it only costing $0.75 to feed a child, we hope the funds raised from Heart To Market will help to impact their work in the community.
Why was giving back important to you both?
As Houston natives, we have enjoyed seeing our hometown flourish over the past 30 years and were inspired to give back to the community that has given us so much. With numerous deserving organizations to support, we wanted a way to spread the love and taking our pop-up market around town was a way to connect with different charities all over the greater Houston area. As parents, we hope to encourage our children’s giving spirit and including a charity component in our business model was a given.
Can you tell us the meaning behind the name Heart to Market?
The name “Heart To Market” holds many meanings. Many of the vendors we feature are run by moms who are working during nap times, weekends, and after they put the kids to bed. It takes a lot of heart and passion to build a business from your kitchen table, and we seek to provide a platform for these women to showcase their products and connect with a new audience. As a market-goer you know your purchases are giving back to a great cause all while supporting a small, oftentimes, women-run business. At the end of the day, shopping small to give big – that’s what we’re all about.
Your last market was in The Heights and now you’re coming to Sugar Land! When is the pop up in SL and what can we expect?
Our next market is inside the SLTX Studio space in Sugar Land Town Square. We kick off the weekend with a VIP Sip & Shop on Friday, 8/2 from 6-9PM. Attendees will enjoy light bites, drinks, a HTM tote bag filled with swag, and early access to our 20+ vendors!
Saturday, 8/3 and Sunday, 8/4 the market is free and open to the public from 10AM-4PM. We have a daily lineup of activities for kiddos that includes music, story times, crafting, and face painting! There’s something for everyone, so bring the whole family (and friends and neighbors too!) out to shop for a great cause!
Favorite part about what you do?
We love getting to meet the makers, learn the stories behind the products they create and discover all the amazing talent Houston has to offer. We are constantly inspired by the dedication and drive our vendors have and connecting them with customers that appreciate their work fuels our passion!
Do you have a favorite memory of a business you know you really helped to launch or get more traction by having them a part of Heart to Market?
Our first market back in December 2018 was so special – it was our first time organizing a market and we had many rookie vendors who set up booths for the first time. It’s been an honor to watch these small shops flourish and grow and we like to think we had a tiny impact on that. For us, the real joy is watching vendors light up when a customer stops at their booth, seeing them gush over their products, and then sending customers home with a piece of their heart – that’s what we live for.
Would you say most (if not all) of the businesses you support are women and/or mama owned? Was this important for you to really represent these businesses?
We believe local artisans and business owners are the heartbeat of our communities. So far, every vendor we’ve worked with has been a woman or mama-run business! While we didn’t set out to exclusively work with women-run businesses, it has been an honor to do so. It’s inspiring to learn the stories behind why they started their businesses and what motivates them when life gets busy. Many of the vendors we work with sell their products exclusively online and providing these brands with a platform to connect with customers in person gives their business a new dimension.
How often would you like to have these markets and what are your future hopes and dreams for your business?
Honestly, we never planned on doing more than just the one market, but it was so fun we decided to try a second in the spring and we’ve been growing steadily since then. Our goal for 2020 would be to host a pop-up market once a season and do at least 4 a year in different locations around Houston. We would also like to continue to serve more charity organizations and hosting private pop-ups as a way for charities to fundraise is also something we’re considering. We like to have a loose plan but still give the business room to develop organically – you never know what’s around the corner and being open to new and different opportunities is key!
What are some things you do for the vendors outside of booth space at the market to help them grow?
We spend a lot of time and energy with our social media and marketing. Spreading the word about the remarkable small shops and brands on our vendor roster is top priority! Sharing their stories, and behind the scenes peeks at what products will debut at market gives customers a chance to connect with brands before they step through our doors and gives vendors the recognition and awareness they need to be successful.
Best advice for anyone wanting to branch out of the norm and start something they’re passionate about?
We’ll quote Nike on this one – JUST DO IT! There’s never going to be a perfect time to start a new business and there will always be obstacles and challenges. Half the time we have no idea what we’re doing and a lot of our job consists of problem solving. Planning and organization definitely help us stay on top of things, but in the days leading up to a big event, we are constantly putting out fires. Through all of the hurdles, we never lose sight of the big picture and we’re so grateful to get to do something we love while raising our families. The benefits outweigh the stressors and as long as that’s true, we’ll continue to hustle.
What’s been the hardest thing about starting this and planning each market?
With Heart To Market being a new concept, we are always a little worried about how things will be received – Will any vendors apply? Will the public come shop? Will market-goers like the activities we planned? It sometimes feels like a total toss up and we never know exactly what to expect, but Houston continues to amaze us with their persistent support. We’re honored to have an overwhelming amount of interest from vendors all over Texas and are completely humbled by the outpouring of support from the community. It’s been a whirlwind of a ride, but we’re growing and learning as we go and have big dreams for the future!
How do you balance being a business owner and your busy family life? When things get hard, what’s one thing you tell yourself to keep going?
The truth is… WE DON’T balance things well at all! We have never worked so hard or been so tired in our lives! Motherhood on its own is a full-time job and when we add the demands of running a business, we’re amazed that we survive each and every day. However, having a business partner does allow us to share the load and we have developed a system of handing over the baton when one party is feeling worn out or overwhelmed. Doing this together gives us a built-in support system that makes the late nights and long days manageable.
We also have incredibly supportive spouses that go the extra mile to ensure us mamas have uninterrupted work time. Plus, it helps that our kiddos are around the same ages and sometimes throwing them in the playroom while we crank out some work is the only way we make deadlines!
Do you experience working mama guilt? If so, how do you deal?
All. The. Time. We work from home which means we rarely get anything done until nap time or after the kiddos go to bed. When we’re working we feel like we should be momming, and when we’re momming we feel like we should be working – our heads and hearts are always in opposite places. We balance each other out and if one of us needs a break, the other picks up the slack, but at the end of the day, we just do the best we can.
Any special, sales, or deals our Katy Moms can look out for?
We all need a MOM’S NIGHT OUT! So, we’re giving Katy Moms an exclusive discount code for our VIP Sip & Shop event on Friday, 8/2 from 6-9PM. Use code: VIPKATY for 50% off your ticket. Call a sitter, grab your mom friends, and come sip & shop with us next week! Get Your Ticket
Anymore pop ups we can look out for? (hint hint, come to Katy!!)
We would LOVE to come to Katy – it’s at the TOP of our short list! We’ll be back at A 2nd Cup for Holiday on December, 7th & 8th and we’re in talks with a few new venues for 2020 – stay tuned! Keep your eyes on our Instagram for the latest and hopefully we’ll be popping up all around Houston!
For more information on Heart to Market and the mamas behind the mission, be sure to visit their website and follow along on social media. It’s also not too late to grab your tickets for the VIP night! If you use code VIPKATY for 50% off!