The Souk was founded by Liz Gilbert.
A global shopping experience with an entrepreneurial twist has made its way to Sarasota.
It's called The Souk, which is Arabic for marketplace. The Souk comes from Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Liz Gilbert, who launched a handcrafted jewelry company, Shompole Collection, when she lived in Africa.
Years ago, Gilbert was invited to sell her items at a trunk show, and through that event, she met other people like her — business owners selling unique products made worldwide. As her network grew, she decided to organize her own events, something that would give people the opportunity to shop the world in a single day.
The Souk is the resulting trunk show, which has been evolving for 10 years after Gilbert founded it with three vendors in a friend’s living room. Now it’s held in commercial spaces, draws sponsorships and includes over a dozen vendors. She’s held events in cities such as Aspen, Colo.; Sun Valley, Idaho; and San Diego. On March 3 and 4, she's holding her first event in Sarasota, at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.
Sarasota-based real estate brokerage Michael Saunders & Co. is hosting the event. The firm’s founder and CEO, Michael Saunders, attended The Souk event in Idaho. Gilbert says most of the vendors are women running small businesses, and at the end of the Idaho show, Saunders offered words of encouragement to the entrepreneurs there. Saunders also invited The Souk to Sarasota and offered to host it.
The Souk can be a win both for vendors and hosts, Gilbert tells Coffee Talk, because it helps women in small business and brings international arts and culture to residents in each city it visits.
The Sarasota event includes 14 vendors Gilbert hand selected who sell jewelry, gifts, clothing, ceramics, decorative items and more. “It’s different than any kind of shopping experience,” she says. “It’s an insiders shopping experience. You get to see this curated collection of international products you wouldn’t find anywhere else.”
Gilbert’s goal is to reach more cities, host more vendors, rent larger venues and build a following. She would also like to start a centralized online shop for The Souk’s vendors. Plus, she wants to come back to Sarasota to host the event again. “If we can return, that’s when you’ll start to see the event becoming more beloved and more anticipated,” Gilbert says. Her dream is for people to say, “'Let’s not miss The Souk — it’s coming to town.’”