It's summertime and that means outdoor markets! Many an entrepreneur in QuickBooks Community got their start in a market stall, which makes sense because farmers' markets, bazaars and craft shows are a relatively low-cost, low-stress way to take your product out for a public test drive. These six small business owners got their starts at a local market, and now they run successful companies, sell in large retail chains and have devoted followings. If they can do it, so can you!
Heidi Withers & Nikki Dougherty, co-founders of Heidi’s Salsa (Luko Foods LLC): “We were really getting into sharpening our culinary skills and that evolved into hosting 12-course suppers for friends where we’d present our creations. The joy we felt from sharing our food with others was really magical. In summer 2011, Nikki approached me with an idea to join a local farmers market and sell our two favorite creations, my family-recipe salsa and Nikki’s fruit spreads named “Maj,” which is everything you know about jam but backwards! Though we didn’t know it at the time, we were embarking on something that was bigger than either of us had ever experienced.”
Gina D’Orazio, founder of Gina Cucina: “A friend of mine told me that I really should pack up a couple jars of the soups I was making, take them down to the local farmers’ market and see what happened. We sold out of all 100 jars in an hour. It was a feeding frenzy! I was completely overwhelmed. We didn’t even know what we were going to charge. After that, we regrouped and I bought a ton of produce from the other farmers at the market. I was ready for the next week’s farmer’s market with 160 jars and we sold out in an hour again. We quickly became a fixture at the market. We started selling jars at the local co-op and at other little grocery stores in town, and things just took off from there.”
Jenna Valoe, textile artist, Rain and the River quiltmaking: “I read an article in the American Craft Council’s magazine that featured a woman in Texas who sold handmade, dyed quilts and it was a real aha! moment for me. I opened my shop on Etsy in the fall of 2012 with only four quilts. That year I also participated in the Hover Craft Christmas craft fair in Milwaukee, which really got things going. After that, I got involved with a few small locally owned shops in the city and also started selling to shops in Chicago and Portland.”
Joel & Karen Sheley, co-founders of Gateway Brewing: “We started small, converting our two-car garage into a two-barrel brewery. We really started from the ground up. We were taking part in a local farmers’ market, selling growlers of our beer, and there we made an effort to get the message out about our brewery. This past summer, we partnered with a local, like-minded bike shop that’s into developing our neighborhood and fostering community. We converted an unused area of the store into a patio and created a makeshift bar. Our pop-ups on Saturdays bring people into the bike shop and the temporary beer garden.”
Steve Lawrence, owner, The Chocolate Maker’s Studio: “I first started the company when we were living in Baton Rouge and I sold my chocolates at their lovely local farmers’ market. When we moved to Austin, my first really big account was with Antonelli's Cheese Shop which has a section of curated, mostly local, fine foods. Austin is a foodie town, so other specialty stores were paying attention to what Antonelli's carried, and that really helped things take off. Next, I started shipping chocolates to Portland's own Cacao, a specialty chocolate shop, which brought attention to my brand in the Northwest.”
Tracy Fillion, owner We Are Stories clothing company: “Fortunately, I live in a very supportive and creative town, so that gave me the confidence to start making my own products. I was getting good responses to my products at the farmers’ markets, so I decided to open a permanent shop where I could build up a customer base. I happened to find this beautifully restored 1964 Airstream trailer and that’s where I eventually set up shop with a friend. I remember feeling so surprised at how much work I sold out of there the first month. That reassured me that I’d made the right decision to start my business.”
QB Community members, how did you get started selling your products? Have you found support for your business from the locals in your community?
Did you know that our very own QB Community member (and new Certified QuickBooks Proadvisor), @jessbru99568 and her family used local markets to get their start? Four years later, Organic Bread of Heaven, has grown into a multi-channel business that produces high quality organic products which are delivered across the United States.
@ParkwayInc How did I miss @jessbru99568! Of course, her family's awesome business is highlighted in this piece: Jessica Bruno’s Organic Bread of Heaven Takes “Family Business” to a Whole New Level, such a great story.
Jessica, how did you make the leap from local markets to a wider audience?
@ParkwayInc Thank you!
@SarahGonzales it was actually a very slow process at first. We had some contacts from previous years and were able to start into our first (and still faithful) stores. Then within the first year, we were able to get into our first large chain store, then another. With the Lord's help, we have grown alot since then. Believe it or not, we are actually turning down markets and events that are begging for us. We believe that in order to keep our quality and service, we can only take on what we can handle.
@jessbru99568 Thanks for sharing! That is so impressive that your company is now in a position to turn away potential vendors. Congrats on your success! Was making the decision to "only take on what you can handle" a difficult one vs. trying to grow even more? I know a lot of entrepreneurs in this community get to the point of -- do I stay smaller and ensure the quality of my product, or do I scale up and maybe lose some of that quality control in exchange for more revenue?
@SarahGonzales, I guess I should explain, its not that we are turning away everything, but only the ones that we cannot fully participate in or would be able to properly service. We are definitely still growing and adding new customers almost everyday.