WE BELIEVE IN THE POWER OF PEOPLE
Our mission is to provide opportunities that help entrepreneurs, designers and artists grow, increase success and become sustainable (happy, fulfilled and profitable), while helping the public discover and support local small business/art/design. Our very first market, Unique LA, started in December of 2008 and instantly became the largest 'buy local' shopping event in the country. Every year close to 50k attendees come to discover independent designers/artists and buy local at our markets (an estimated $1 million is spent at each two-day show). We hold three shopping events in LA per year and hold smaller one-off events, and have produced our markets in SF and NYC.
UNIQUE was created by community leader, creative director and former TV design personality Sonja Rasula as a way to bring local-made design and art to the masses while helping to grow and support the US economy and small businesses.The idea of a giant trade show-sized shopping event came to her as she sat in traffic, frustrated with having to drive across the city to numerous shops to buy gifts for a friend. "It dawned on me that there needed to be a large-scale community shopping event where you could buy loads of cool, curated items in one place." Hailed the fresh face of a growing conscious consumerism movement, Sonja’s mission is simple: “I want to bring modern, independent design to the masses. My goals are to help designers and small businesses grow, to inject money into the local economy, and to teach shoppers the value of conscious consumerism..."
MEDIA MENTIONS & BUZZ FOR UNIQUE
Sonja Rasula, Founder & CEO
Driven by the idea that creativity can change the world and by the Martin Luther King Jr. quote, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is What are you doing for others?," Sonja has dedicated herself to creating businesses that foster entrepreneurship, spread creative thinking, and grow community. Risking her entire 401k savings she started Unique Markets, the largest modern pop-up market in the country, in 2008 and never looked back. She was named '1 of 30 Women Entrepreneurs Changing the World' by fashion mogul Eileen Fisher, and Los Angeles Magazine honored her as one of LA's Most Inspiring Women. Fueled by her passion for helping people grow, Sonja then launched CAMP, a creative business conference. Sonja then decided to create a permanent place for entrepreneurs and creative thinkers... And so The Unique Space was born - an 18,000 sq ft building in downtown LA's Arts District that houses 18 private offices and an event space.
As a motivational speaker and consultant, Sonja has worked with a variety of organizations including Redbull, Nike, Square, Soho House, Disney Imagineers group, Adobe, and West Elm. Her candid and energetic storytelling have made her a sought-after speaker at conferences such as SXSW, Girlboss Rally, Create & Cultivate, HOW Design Live, and Martha Stewart's American Made. Sonja also sits on the Board of non-profit 826LA. Her diverse media background before becoming an entrepreneur includes being an interior designer on HGTV, an online content director, writer and editor for print publications, and a TV personality (ABC, CBS, HGTV, MuchMusic).
Kara Scharwath, COO
A storyteller and community-builder at heart, Kara has created compelling narratives and curated unique experiences for some of the world’s most successful brands and startups including The Walt Disney Company, Roxy, and NationBuilder. With more than 15 years of in-house and agency experience developing communication strategies, building high-performing teams, and producing large-scale events, Kara knows how to capture the hearts and minds of employees and consumers.
Kara has served as COO of Unique Markets, The Unique Space and CAMP since 2016, heading up operations across all three businesses. With an MBA in Sustainable Business & Social Entrepreneurship from Presidio Graduate School, Kara is passionate about helping entrepreneurs improve their operations, tell their stories, and grow their reach.
Prior to coming to Unique, Kara was Vice President of Marketing at NationBuilder, a software platform for building communities used by Airbnb, Amnesty International, and the campaigns of California Governor Jerry Brown and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. While at NationBuilder, she managed a team of 17 creatives on original content development, product launches, and conferences. At The Walt Disney Company, Kara helped communicate the impact of the beloved entertainment institution’s philanthropic and environmental efforts as part of the Corporate Responsibility team.