Ah, the humble market. It comes in many guises – from farmers’ markets selling unpasteurised cheeses and artisan chutney, to cheap and cheerful stalls selling bowls of mangos and bananas for a quid a pop, to hyper-trendy East End jaunts that sell vintage clothing and kimchi burgers to a banging soundtrack. Yes, the market is fast becoming a feature of almost every city and town in the UK. And as far as we’re concerned, the more small businesses you can fit in one place at the same time the better, which is why we think that the ‘Love Your Local Market’ campaign – a fantastic event championing markets from today until 29th of May – is great.
“Born out of the Mary Portas review into the future of the high street, it represents a great opportunity for new entrepreneurs,” explains Graham Wilson, Chief Executive of NABMA (National Association of British Market Authorities).
“Last year over 2,000 people tried their hand at market trading for the first time and this year we are hoping that the figure will rise to 3,000. Markets are an important part of local communities, and throughout Love Your Local Market fortnight there will be over 3,500 different market events enabling local people to enjoy the special atmosphere that markets provide.”
We decided to speak to a few people in the market industry to learn more about what running a stall entails.
Getting out of London – Jane Munro, coordinator of Macclesfield’s Treacle Market
Markets aren’t limited to big cities like London. We were lucky enough to speak to Jane Munro and ask her a few questions about her work at Macclesfield’s Treacle Market. The market was named in the Independent’s ‘Top 10 Farmers Markets’ this year and was shortlisted in the 2012 BBC Food and Farming Awards.
What do you do as co-ordinator?
I’m responsible for coordinating Macclesfield’s Treacle Market. Treacle is a bustling mixed market selling artisan bread, street food, local produce, micro brews and even local wine alongside unique crafts, vintage treasures and unusual finds. It caters to people of all ages, whether locals or visitors from far-flung locations. More senior residents tell us Treacle has just the lively atmosphere of the town’s market in the 1950s, so we know we must be doing something right!
How did the market start up?
We asked the council if we could give it a go. I couldn’t bear to see our handsome cobbled Market Place so under-used, and we wanted to create the sort of market we like to go to ourselves.
How long have you been going?
Four years this July.
What’s your biggest challenge managing market stalls?
Ensuring the market is interesting and surprising each month, while still making it easy for people to find their regular favourite stalls. We take huge pride in the quality of our stalls and also in the special atmosphere that we have at the market – the result is great loyalty from stall holders and visitors alike.
The Great British Toastie – talking to Flic Luxmoore, founder, The Jabberwocky
Markets are full of small businesses supporting and looking out for other small businesses – a lovely friendly web of reciprocity. Many food stalls source their ingredients from local suppliers – such as The Jabberwocky, a stall that sells toasties made from locally sourced fresh ingredients. Based in the Midlands town of Leamington Spa, it boasts ‘The Great British Toastie’. A look at the delectable fillings on offer is definitely enough to get anybody salivating. Flic Luxmoore, the founder, tells us a little more about what the business involves.
What made you decide to set up your business?
Our dream was to set up a restaurant, but without the capital we looked round for alternatives and came across a big green van on eBay. It was as close to an impulse buy as you can get with a food van, and we’ve never looked back.
What do you do?
We bring toasties to farmers’ markets, retail markets and specialty markets all round Warwickshire and Birmingham as well as music festivals, food festivals and street food collectives. We’ve been trading for two years and are just making the transition to full time – it’s so exciting!
What’s your biggest obstacle?
Rain. As soon as it rains we stop selling. We even tried a toastie delivery service to get round it, but no one wants to eat outside when it rains!
Juggling a Market Stall and a Job – Emma Lewis Griffiths from Bets and Bobs on running her business in her spare time
As with any small business, starting up without capital can be very difficult – but some vendors are finding ways around this. Emma Lewis Griffiths from Bets and Bobs balances her job in PR with creating beautiful bespoke accessories and cards.
What products do you sell?
Cards, jewellery, feather head-dresses and accessories, and bespoke pictures from old sheet music. A bit of everything really! I sell them online, at markets, vintage fairs, pop-up shops… you name it.
How did you start up?
I have always been creative but when I came back from travelling in 2009 it took me a little time to settle back into employment, so I started making gifts for friends. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to launch myself into trying to make a profit from it by sharing a stall with a friend at a vintage market in November 2011.
What are your main challenges?
It’s always nerve-wracking not knowing whether anyone will turn up, and you have to decide what stock to bring, as different places like different styles. However, you get used to this – Brighton tends to be more about quirky things while suburban Sussex customers tend to play it safer.
Where do you see yourself going from here?
In January 2013 I decided to make a real go of it by going down to four days a week in my PR role. I also do event styling, so I’ve been using my contacts through friends and my experience working in events in the past to grow this area of the business – it’s handy to apply what I’ve learnt from my day job to my own venture!
Great British Gastronomic Innovators – Tom Hutchinson from Greedy Goat tells us about his business
Last but not least, and perhaps most importantly – markets are fun! It’s so easy nowadays to rush into shops, buy what you need and get out; but compare this with meandering around a market on a Sunday morning, perhaps sampling cheese, treating yourself to a venison burger or a cupcake, maybe buying a gift for family and friends. The variety of products can be mind-boggling…it seems there is no limit to the imaginations of UK small business owners! Take our next stall-holder, Tom Hutchinson from Greedy Goat, as an example…
Goats’ milk ice cream?! Tell us more!
It’s a new take on a British institution! The big difference with goats’ milk is that it is about 20 per cent lower in fat and calories than regular ice cream and, in our view, tastes better as well. It’s also suitable for those who are lactose intolerant, so they can finally enjoy the pleasure that ice cream brings to millions of others. We’ve developed 20 current flavours – from the classics such as Chocolate and Vanilla (or Billy Vanilli, as we call it) to some more contemporary delicacies, such as Strawberry & Balsamic, Raspberry & Chilli and Lemon, Lime & Basil.
What led you to start up the stall?
Myself and my three business partners have always had a keen and active interest in food. The allure of Borough Market was always very strong, too. When we came across goats’ milk ice cream, we knew we were on to a really different culinary proposition and instantly wanted to bring it to London. Knowing the diversity that Borough Market offers, it seemed a natural fit. It’s gone from strength to strength, and we’re now into our third year of trading there.
Where and when is the stall?
We’re at Borough Market every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and also at various pop up events. Last year we were at Jamie Oliver’s Big Feastival, and we’re looking into supplying delis and pubs this summer.
What’s the biggest challenge you face?
The biggest challenge is probably twofold – it’s obviously a seasonal product, so naturally things are tougher in winter. But ice cream also melts, so in summer we’ve got to be nimble! However, Borough Market is always buzzing, so we don’t have time to dwell. We just let the flavours do the talking!
Find out more about NABMA and Love Your Local Market 2013 at http://loveyourlocalmarket.org.uk/