FREDERICTON – Turning a craft into a viable business is no easy task and taking a backyard garden to market or selling handmade goods while fostering the skills needed to grow can be simply out of reach.
That’s why a team of people passionate about helping local micro-businesses have developed the Impact Market, an initiative run out of sustainability powerhouse The Ville Cooperative to foster growth for backyard farmers and craftspeople alike and increase access to locally-grown foods and handmade goods in Fredericton.
Agricultural coordinator Hartley Prosser says their location in Marysville is perfect to build a greater access to local food while fostering business growth.
“We’re starting this initiative in Marysville because it has the population that can benefit the most from local food access,” he says.
“We also just opened a restaurant, King Pakal, that’s a new local business and they use vegetables from our gardens and we take their scraps and compost it in our systems. We’re creating this closed loop sort of system right here on-site as a demonstration.”
Prosser says the Impact Market model works by bringing the produce and goods of growers and creators together to form a viable space in which to sell.
“If you’re a backyard farmer and you grow ten pounds of zucchini, that’s maybe too much for yourself but it’s not enough for you to go to market with,” he says. “But if there are five backyard growers all growing ten pounds of zucchini, now you’ve got 50 lbs of zucchini. That’s enough to go to market with.”
Vendors share the responsibility of being at the Impact Market’s home turf at The Ville Mondays and Wednesdays from 3 pm – 7 pm, as well as at secondary locations like the Garrison Night Market on Thursdays.
The Impact Market is mobile, travelling between locations in a food truck-style vehicle, the former home of The Farmers’ Truck.
Combining forces not only means Impact Market vendors take on less cost and risk when selling, it also means they can spend less time manning booths and more time learning and honing their skill or craft.
Prosser says this system gives vendors the ability to test their products and continue their entrepreneurial journey. It’s ultimately meant to be a launch pad to start a small business.
“We’re going from micro-business, which is the scale the Impact Market is at, and getting people competent and confident and getting them to solidify their business model before they get a storefront or go to the next level,” he says.
“It’s sort of like an incubator for small growers and for people who are artisans and artists.”
Now in its third year of operation, the Impact Market is expanding from selling local produce to including artisanal and handcrafted goods such as wooden cutlery and furniture to stone carvings and jewelry.
Marketing manager Jessica Newman says the ability to move the market around, since they’re now on wheels, is new as of this year as well. She adds that the development of skills aspect of the Impact Market is crucial to its overall success. As part of this development, vendors have the option to participate in workshops at The Ville Cooperative.
“In addition to that sharing economy of time, people participate in workshops, so we have a focus on product pricing, marketing, those kinds of things that help people be entrepreneurs,” she says.
Workshops and educational programming cover a range of additional topics, including “boothmanship” basics; customer service and sales; food handling; product packaging; marketing and branding; and pricing and financial literacy. Vendors also have access to advice from The Ville’s team of expert farmers.
“We’re doing some market research now about what type of workshops people would like to have,” Newman says. “Whoever buys into this membership-based system would have access to all of [the market] times to be able to sell their goods and then they would also have the programming and there’s some really solid mentors part of that as well.”
Newman and Prosser expect that as the market grows and more vendors get on board, there may be the need to expand their space to offer an equal spread to all vendors.
Interested vendors can apply online to be approved for a monthly membership
“The end goal is for it to extend beyond the summer and have a year-round market,” Newman says. “For us, a measure of success is building entrepreneurs, particularly those who hadn’t thought to explore that as a career option.”
Cara Smith is a freelance writer in Fredericton.