Meet The Founder of AT THE WELL
Meet The Founder of AT THE WELL
I had the opportunity to sit down with Jessica Martens, the founder and creative genius behind AT THE WELL, to do a little Q&A about her business and get to know her as a person. She is not only business-savvy but also very down to earth and passionate about her work. Get to know the heart behind the brand here!
Q: How did AT THE WELL get its name?
A: In the Bible, there is a story of Jesus meeting a woman who was getting water from a well. It was someone He wasn’t supposed to be talking to. People were shocked He was talking to her. He met her there. She was already on her way there. She did not have to go looking for him. She was in her daily routine and He just showed up. She spread the word about how she met Him and so many people learned about Him because of it. That is such a good example of us being able to make changes just by living our daily lives. Whether that is shopping, talking to a friend, or talking to a stranger at a coffee shop. Just within our daily lives, we have the ability to make a difference. Jesus did that at the well. I believe we can do the same thing with the way that we shop.
Q: How did you dream up AT THE WELL?
A: AT THE WELL has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl, but it was mostly a daydream that seemed unattainable. It wasn’t until I did the World Race (a year-long experience serving people around the world) in 2017 that I started seeing how it could become a reality. Meeting different artisans around the world and seeing all of the hard work that they put into their products and businesses, I felt like I had something to offer them. And it was in 2018, while I was at a leadership school called G42 in Spain, that I presented the idea to one of my teachers. He really believed in me and in the business and encouraged me to do it. He gave me just enough push to get started and from there, the dream began to really take form.
Q: What was it like to start a business from scratch?
A: It was so hard. It was definitely one of the toughest seasons of my life. Google was my best friend. I have a lot of marketing experience but I had never started a business before. I had no idea about taxes, licenses, LLC’s, or web design. I did everything from scratch by myself. A lot of it was self-teaching and then executing what I learned. I did a ton of research and was buried in my computer and books. I was really lucky to have a dedicated few months to work on this. It was very early mornings and late nights for about three months before I was able to launch. It’s still a challenge for sure but those first few months were pretty insane.
Q: Have you always wanted to be a business owner?
A: No, I never really dreamt of being a business owner. I dreamt of helping people. The position I’m in definitely gives me a new respect and appreciation for people, especially women and minorities, who have done this before me and paved the way.
Q: Why focus on ethical shopping?
A: I am a big advocate for people over product and fair trade. It blows my mind that there are people who work so hard doing creative, incredible, meaningful work that our society doesn’t seem to value, which translates into not valuing the person that’s making them. To me, that is not okay. Self value is something that I personally wrestle with which has made it even more important for me to face this head on in business.
Q: How important is quality to you in the products you are selling?
A: Super important! That is one of the coolest things at AT THE WELL. You can go to our website and see that we have really high-quality products. I did not want to sacrifice quality. I think sometimes people misconstrue that and think “because I’m helping someone and buying something from someone in a third world country, it’s going to be low quality,” but that does not have to be the case.
Q: Do you think being a woman of color has affected the way you run your business?
A: Being a person of color is something that I don’t want to affect the way I do business, but it does. I do feel like I have a sense of responsibility, because I am a person of color and I am a female, to encourage and empower other people of color and other female business owners. There is a spirit of competition in America that needs to be broken. There is enough success in the world for all of us to share. I grew up in a mid to lower class household and did not have a lot of opportunities growing up, but I did have several people who believed in me and gave me a chance. That is a big part of the heart behind AT THE WELL. Eventually, I want to be able to employ girls of all colors in under-privileged areas and give them a chance. It’s important for kids of color to see other people of color succeeding and having hope in that. I’m really proud that AT THE WELL is a female-founded and minority-owned business.
Q: Is there anything else that you want your consumers to know?
A: There is so much thought and prayer that goes into all of the products and partners that we work with. We are not just finding something pretty to put on the website. We take so many things into account. It is more than fair wages. Everyone we work with makes some kind of social impact in the communities that they work in - from environmental impact to fighting sex-trafficking. On the website, you can shop by country, shop by cause, or shop by product. The causes are really special to me. It’s more than just an artisan on the street or something beautiful made in another country. Collectively, with the artisans plus the customers plus us as a business, we are making a difference in the world. Each purchase is really special to the makers but it’s also really special to me. There’s purpose in every purchase.
Owning a small business can be challenging and unpredictable in today’s world. It is easy to be persuaded out of philanthropy and into the mindset of “every man for himself”. However, despite the challenges and uncertainty that arise, Jessica continues to run her business with confidence and with others in mind. This business was not started for her own profit, but to be a platform for others to succeed.
We at, AT THE WELL, want to thank each person who has contributed in some way to this business over the last two years. Thank you for standing by us, purchasing from us, and connecting us to artisans all over the world. You are making a difference, just by being at the well.
Article by Danielle Schuman