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goodMRKT’s Retail-for-Good Model Celebrates Stories of Local Entrepreneurs and Do-Gooders


Mason Geiger Posted by: Mason Geiger 1 year ago

DreamOn Studios is passionate about stories that move people. So, when we met Harry Cunningham, co-founder of goodMRKT in Fort Wayne, Indiana, we quickly recognized he shared a similar heartbeat.

Founded in 2021 during a season when people were looking for something different in their retail experiences, goodMRKT responded to a need—a desire people had to do good in their communities through the dollars they spend.

And there’s something different about goodMRKT. It’s not your typical retail experience!

What makes goodMRKT unique is its retail-for-good model and focus on showcasing local, purpose-driven brands with amazing people and stories behind them.

“What’s so cool is their intention to build relationships with good people who create great products centered on exceptional causes,” says Jeri Purdy, Chief Strategy Officer of DreamOn Studios.

“It’s more than a local store. What I love is how it feels like an invitation to be part of a story through the products you buy—products that make an impact in people’s lives.”

Our partnership with goodMRKT felt so natural. It wasn’t long before we started supporting Harry’s efforts to bring this retail-for-good model to Fort Wayne by telling everyone we knew about it.

And this month, we’re excited to be part of launching Season 2 of the goodMRKT Live Podcast featuring the incredible stories behind the purpose-driven brands people can support when they shop. 

We’re excited to share the goodMRKT story with you! Discover how goodMRKT came to be, how it’s impacting the community in a way that allows people to multiply good while they shop, and how you can be a part of it.

It started with a retail-for-good lab space experiment.

Harry Cunningham had been in the retail industry for more than 30 years, having experienced the ins and outs of retail in leadership roles for brands including Dillards, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Vera Bradley.

It was during Harry’s time at Vera Bradley when the concept for goodMRKT started taking shape.

“A lot of things were happening in retail at the time because of Covid-19 and the cultural climate,” says Harry.

“We talked a lot about how the retail experience might change after the pandemic and how we knew there would be some kind of resurgence in retail. We just didn’t know what that would look like yet.”

With a wise inclination for potential change in retail down the road, Harry and the team at Vera Bradley thought about what it might look like to create a lab space and experiment with a retail-for-good concept that would include multiple brands.

In their lab space, they decided to bring the Vera Bradley and Pura Vida brands together under one roof and include a flex space to introduce new brands to their customers. 

Under Harry’s leadership, they continued to research and develop this new concept. “We wanted to bring all these like-minded parties together,” Harry explains.

“Both Vera Bradley and Pura Vida already have strong foundations in doing good, so it made sense that we would bring more brands together that were doing good. We didn’t know if there were a lot of them or not. We thought we already have two brands that are doing good. How can we find more?”

Harry bets his career on the retail-for-good model.

The retail-for-good idea progressed, and in January 2021, the CEO of Vera Bradley asked Harry a big question. “He asked me if I would bet my career on this idea,” says Harry. “I said absolutely. I believe this idea of bringing brands together who are doing good has legs. It’s legitimate. It really means something.”

At this point in their development, the idea was shaping into something greater than they imagined.

“Originally, I thought we’d have about 10-12 brands, but I was still finding more brands to feature, and their stories were amazing,” says Harry.

“Not only that, the space we found in Fort Wayne lent itself to having a cafe in the middle, which would allow us to create a storytelling space.” 

In April 2021, goodMRKT opened its doors in Fort Wayne. “The community quickly embraced it.

I think it was because there was so much bad happening in the world, and people just wanted to be a part of something good. They saw how every cause we support was something they could rally behind, and they were ready for that.”

Harry Cunningham, Co-Founder of goodMRKT

goodMRKT spins off as its own entity.

What started as a lab store quickly became its own brand and business. With great early success, the board at Vera Bradley wanted to know how much farther they could take this concept.

“As we were talking about where we should go with the market and what it should be, we decided that the best opportunity for goodMRKT was to spin it off and let it grow and thrive as a startup should.”

The idea of spinning off goodMRKT into its own company put Harry in an interesting position of potentially letting go of something he built and loved.

Fortunately, he was presented with a unique opportunity.

“I was excited for the future of the brand but also really nervous,” says Harry. “I thought, what if we spin it off? What is going to happen? It was my baby. Letting it go didn’t feel like something I should do. Fortunately, my wife and I were able to work with the Vera Bradley board to acquire goodMRKT, and in July 2022, goodMRKT became our own entity!”

goodMRKT = good people, great products, exceptional causes.

Today, goodMRKT features 80 purpose-driven brands customers can shop from and be confident about, with more brands being added.

“Everything we do is held up by three pillars: good people, great products, and exceptional causes,” says Harry.

“When we look for brand partners, we always put them through the filter of those three pillars. I want to get to know the founder and their story and understand why they created something. In our store, every single brand has a real purpose—they are all driven to do good.”

goodMRKT creates opportunities to shop differently. 

Harry admits he’s had a shift in his mindset about the opportunity for good retail. “When I look back on my retail career, I know it was a pivotal time, and it was an honor to do it, but it’s the opposite of what I’m doing now,”

“When you’re selling a $10k gown, it’s arguably not something that anyone needs, but when I sell a $125 blanket from goodMRKT, in addition to you getting a great blanket, someone in a homeless shelter is also getting a blanket. It changes the whole dynamic of how you spend money. Having spent my entire career around people buying things they arguably don’t necessarily need, it’s been interesting to observe this shift. It’s a different mindset.”

One of the unique qualities of goodMRKT is the opportunity they have to educate and show people how to shop with their dollars differently.

“Inherently, I think people want to do good, but I don’t think people always know how to do good,” says Harry.

“Our big push is to ‘gift good’ and ‘double the good you give.’ So, every time I give someone a gift from goodMRKT, I help two people in different ways. And there’s something for everyone! One of our founding principles is for everybody to be a part of doing good here.

From a pricepoint point of view, if you can only spend a dollar, you can spend a dollar and still do good here. If you want to spend $1,000, you can spend $1,000 and do good here. It brings people together to support their local and broader community.”

goodMRKT celebrates local entrepreneurs and do-gooders.

Through goodMRKT, local entrepreneurs and do-gooders are celebrated for the way they are helping others.

“The midwest is full of entrepreneurs, and it’s our fortune to tell their stories, bring them to the forefront, and celebrate what they are doing. One thing that’s inspiring to me personally is getting to work with a lot of young people focused on making change. 

Harry Cunningham, Co-Founder of goodMRKT

The Buddy Bench

As an example, Harry shares this story: We recently had a young girl selling her handmade clay earrings, then taking a portion of the sales and giving them to a friend of hers who has a program called the Buddy Bench.

Mind you, these girls are 12 or 13 years old! These Buddy Benches are put in schools all over this area (and beyond) and are designed for kids who don’t have anyone to play with. They can sit on the Buddy Bench, and other kids will know they need someone to play with.

That is a whole different kind of impact. Since we’ve gotten connected, we’ve been able to connect Sammie from Buddy Bench to the mall here, and now they’re putting a Buddy Bench on site in this mall.

That’s what it’s about – it’s amplifying those stories, which is ultimately helping the community too.

At goodMRKT, you can find products that range from giving trafficking survivors new job skills to promoting mental wellness, providing blankets to homeless shelters, giving access to clean water, taking pesticides out of the environment, and so much more.

We are honored to partner together to share the amazing stories behind the people and brands that are doing good in our community.

goodMRKT invites you to be part of the story.

There’s not enough space to share all the amazing stories behind goodMRKT’s brands, so we encourage you to visit their store in person or online and check out their podcast, goodMRKT Live to learn all about the good you can be a part of when you shop.

“I’m excited to partner with DreamOn Studios to launch the next season of the podcast in January 2023, which will be 100% focused on storytelling with a community component, which I think will make it more dynamic,” says Harry

“DreamOn Studios have been great partners early on. They appreciate the passion behind what we’re doing. They are as invested in the storytelling of what we’re doing as I am.

And if you’re going to have a partner, that’s the best kind of partner to have—somebody that believes in it and is doing it for the same reason you’re doing it. That’s what’s been so inspiring to me.

They feel the passion, the need, and the desire to do good just like I do. They are some of the most interesting and best storytellers I’ve ever met. We have great content, and they have a great ability to showcase that content!”

Looking for ways to showcase your organization’s story? We’d love to meet you!

Connect with our team to explore how we can support your podcast, live-stream event, videography, or storytelling needs.