Thank You for 10 Years: Can't spell Unique without U
Ten years ago I created Unique LA as my love letter to the City of Angels, but I had no idea that it would grow into the massive movement and community it’s become. I placed a bet on my hometown, spending my entire retirement savings to hold the first market, and I never looked back.
Rewind to the summer of 2008 when MySpace still ruled and cell phones were used for talking on the phone. I was sitting on the 10 freeway, stuck in gridlocked traffic trying to get to a store in Venice before it closed, when I had an idea. Create a cool pop-up mall of sorts, where people could get all their shopping done in one place. At the time, Los Angeles was best known for being home to brands like Juicy Couture and Ed Hardy, the beach, and Paris Hilton. Yikes.
The city I knew and loved was filled with a burgeoning world-class art scene, small designers with big ideas, and amazing artisans. A place with a diverse community of risk-takers and doers – people I believed would help rewrite the story of LA as a city of innovation and creativity, not just in the film industry. And so I set out to create a pop-up marketplace that would bring people together, celebrate independent designers and artists, and help the local economy. A brand-new retail experience filled with interactivity, inspiration and good vibes.
From Day One it’s been about the people and the community. You’ve become my family - from the shoppers to the sellers (over 7500 at this point), to the sponsors and all the amazing staff who have worked with me. I’ve watched as sellers became parents. One family’s daughter grew from being a kid to a college student. I’ve been there to see brands like Sub_Urban Riot and Hedley & Bennett start at our markets and grow into popular, national brands. I’ve witnessed JJ Abrams shop at Unique LA every single year (uh yeah, blows my mind). And I’ve received emails from people who tell me they shopped at Unique LA as teenagers, and it inspired them to become entrepreneurs and artists!
Thanks to you, we’ve held markets in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, and Minneapolis. I’ve travelled across the country as a keynote speaker at conferences like SXSW, Create & Cultivate, and HOW Design Live. Companies like Redbull, Nike and Madewell have hired me. And as a mixed-race woman who is only 5’ 4”, one of my proudest moments was when I was featured on the cover of a magazine. The cover! Do you have unique memories? Please share them with me!
Dedicating the last decade to cultivating community, growing entrepreneurship and introducing people to the idea of conscious consumerism has been an honor. I’m so grateful that I not only get to do what I love every day, but that I get to empower, support and help thousands of small business owners too. THANK YOU so much for your support, enthusiasm and passion throughout the past 10 years. None of this would be possible without you.
SONJA RASULA, CEO & Founder of Unique Markets
Follow my adventures @sonjarasula