After debuting the long-awaited business-to-business online marketplace Juniper last week, International Market Centers announced yesterday the acquisition of Dough, an e-commerce platform supporting women-owned companies. The purchase marks the first major step in a series of initiatives designed to grow IMC’s community of brands, and a new strategy of expanding with values-based commerce in mind. It’s a goal that Dough co-founder and CEO Vanessa Bruce will help facilitate as she steps into the newly created role of vice president of social impact for IMC, where she will report to Eric Dean, president of Juniper.
Bruce’s time with Dough might serve as an indicator of the direction IMC is hoping to take. In 2018, she and co-founder Anna Palmer established the platform to bypass the barriers women face on the path to entrepreneurship, specifically when it comes to building capital. At the time, they found that only 2.5 percent of venture capital funds went to women-owned businesses and that, on average, women were faced with faster payback periods and higher interest rates on small business loans.
When the pair did some digging, they saw an opportunity to address the problem: They founded Dough as a discovery platform to empower consumers to discover women-owned brands, and to encourage retailers and wholesalers to stock their shelves the same way. (The move was bolstered by a series of 2018 studies that found that 80 percent of women control consumer spending, while 90 percent would go out of their way to shop for women-owned businesses.) After starting a weekly newsletter to spread the word about the team’s favorite businesses, they received such an influx of new seller applications that they could be strategic about curating Dough’s diverse array of brands. It soon became part of the standards that more than half of the platforms’s sellers would be women of color; in addition, 70 percent of its products are made in the U.S., 75 percent are not sold on Amazon, 60 percent are handmade and 65 percent 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, skin care, and food and beverage. Fan-favorite goods include Modern Theory candles, Zuahaza home decor and Becalia Botanicals skin care—all of which Bruce will focus on ushering into the B2B arena through JuniperMarket.com and in IMC’s physical presence in Atlanta, High Point and Las Vegas.
A recent launch itself, the Juniper marketplace debuted on January 6 with more than 1,500 brands and 3 million SKUs of home, gift and lifestyle items available exclusively to sales agencies. An extension of the company’s JuniperCommerce suite of tools for sales automation, the platform was created to mirror the omnichannel approach implemented in IMC’s physical markets—a move that’s bringing the organization along with an industry that’s becoming rapidly digital. The purchase of Dough marks the first of several strategic acquisitions to be rolled out in the coming year, all of which are designed to bring IMC up to speed as a more socially focused shopping resource.
Bruce says her focus will remain on advocating for women-owned and values-based businesses, primarily by ensuring that Jupiter’s sellers have access to buyer relationships and that the platform continues to partner with emerging brands and builds out the technology to support them. “At the end of the day, it’s about really making more of an impact,” she says. “We were talking about that to IMC and the Juniper team, and [realized that with the acquisition], we can make a profit while making an impact for communities that typically don’t have access to the capital, the connections and the relationships that other businesses do.”
Homepage image: IMC’s World Market Center in Las Vegas | Courtesy of IMC