Sunday around the kitchen table

Another Sunday, another chance to visit around the kitchen table. Hope your weekend was amazing, foodie friends!  

Yesterday I spent a very cold and windy morning outside trying to stay warm AND sell my baked goods at a local farmers market. There were five of us (and not one of us was a farmer) with various food products.  Pork, scones, jams, baked goods and GELATO (yes, in the snow) were up for sale yesterday at the Town of Haymarket’s first farmers market of the season.

The five of us bonded over the course of the morning because well, what else is there to do when you are standing in a parking lot on a freezing cold morning in April with other foodies and not one customer?

I had an awesome time meeting other small business owners, learning from their experiences at past farmers markets, getting all the local town scoop, and sharing my story of small business entrepreneurship with them.   

I had a million questions about the market, as did the other newbies. Two experienced vendors were more than willing to spill the beans on the history of the market, the concern over vendors not being there on opening day (was it the weather? The cost? The location?)  and how the market would work on future Saturdays.  I learned the cost to register to be a vendor had more than doubled from the previous year, and that concerned veteran vendors.   There are thirty-nine Saturdays plus special events we can sell at, and they filled us in on what events are good (Haymarket Day) and not so good (Health and Fitness Day) for vendors like us.  

We talked about where we lived (one vendor, a gentleman with an organic pork business) drove 90 minutes to get there.  Another vendor lives about 30 mins away, but like me, has his food business running out of the commercial kitchen right there in Haymarket.  

I shared that I live in Manassas and they were surprised I wasn’t selling at the Manassas Market.  I explained that I bake out of Frontier Kitchen, my business is registered in Haymarket and it made sense to get involved right down the street from where I work.

Then a million questions were coming at me.  What’s Frontier Kitchen?  They teach business classes?  How much to join? Can you go whenever you want?   You can bake there,  and store all your supplies and products there?   I was eager to answer all their questions.  I had the chance to encourage as well as educate other foodies about kitchen incubators and the importance of starting your business of on the right foot.

 Once we got past the cost (rental costs vary depending on if you are a full time or part-time member) and the benefits of the networking opportunities available through the kitchen incubator, we got down to navigating the important regulatory requirements and licensure needed to get going as a small food business owner.  

I explained how their twelve week “Foundations” program back in the fall helped me TREMENDOUSLY with all things business related… the taxes, budgets, projections, product costing, and marketing. We hit every important (and to this girl, boring) but necessary aspect of running a food business. I learned how to properly label my items, and what I’ll have to do once I hit 10,000 units with those labels.  We covered selling products wholesale.  I met and networked with folks who have had years of experience in the food and restaurant industry.  I met established food vendors, bakers, caterers, and new food business operators, some only a year or two ahead of me on the same path, and a few graduates of the same program.  

My new-found farmer’s market friends inquired if this program was offered in Haymarket.  I shared it’s at their Lorton location, and that now it’s called a “boot camp” and participants attend an intensive training in one weekend.  At that their eyes glazed over. Oh no, that’s too long!  A sixteen-hour seminar over one weekend, and drive 45 minutes to get there? I could see I was losing them. 

I told them I used to think the same thing. Ugg, it’s too much time. I can’t drive that far. I have other things to do, I’ll stick with baking out of my house. But slowly I realized, I was not going to get very far staying put. I needed to grow, and learn, and see if this dream could become a reality.  

I did. I took that course, drove twice a week for twelve weeks during a very busy fall season in my house.  Today I am up and running out of a commercial kitchen. Because of that, I learned the ropes and worked at my first farmer’s market back in November (thank you Frontier Kitchen) and I’m a licensed business owner in Haymarket, VA (thanks again Frontier Kitchen). 

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By the end of the day they knew my story, and even got the perspective of another kitchen member who stopped by to check out the market.  Networking, he added is key. They help you with so much at that Frontier Kitchen he said.  We both agreed it’s hard, but well worth the effort to do the food business the right way to ensure future success.  

The conversation then turned to packaging and labels for her jams.  I asked her if she wanted to see her jams on store shelves in Haymarket town shops or sold online. She nodded her head yes. I laughed and  said you’d better call Frontier Kitchen then!  Our little group shared a few more of her delicious jam samples, and then decided to call it a day.  

Not many sales were made yesterday but we did have lots of fun, food, and lively discussions. Can’t wait to do it all again next Saturday!

If you are local, join me and the other foodie entrepreneurs Saturday, April 14 (and every Saturday) during farmer’s market season out in Haymarket.  Support your local farmers and small businesses. Shop local. Eat local.

Thanks for visiting the kitchen table and letting me share my story.

Blessings into the new week!  Make whatever you do amazing!

Now log off, hang up and hang out, around your kitchen table.

 

Gina

Gina Michak