Farmers Markets & New Business Incubation

by Amanda McInerney on 03/01/2013

Some trading associations would view with a degree of alarm the loss of two of their most successful business in the one week, but not so at the Adelaide Showground Farmers Market.  Last Sunday’s market saw the final day of market trading for two popular stalls – The Honey Lady and Enzo’s.  Rather than causing concern, the occasional loss of stallholders from the familiar ranks of traders at Adelaide’s Farmers Market is seen as a mark of the success of the model.  Farmers markets contribute in many ways to the life of a community.  These include offering access to fresh, local seasonal produce, providing an essential second source of income for producers, offering a personal point of contact between consumers and growers within a local setting, thus enriching that community, but they also play a valuable, slightly less obvious role – that of incubating small businesses.

Anyone who has ever tried to operate a small business can attest to the labyrinth of issues which need to be addressed well before they even begin to think about ways to get the public to buy their product.  A farmers market offers anyone with a local food product a nurturing and educational environment for dipping the entrepreneurial toes and a less confusing way to embark on a retail career – and one which has premises and a market ready and waiting for product.  Many traders are happy to limit their retail experiences to this sphere, but for those who are keen to grow a business the experience, exposure and skills learned at a farmers market are invaluable.

This week I had a chat with Silvia Hart, The Honey Lady, late of the Adelaide Showgrounds Farmers Market and now a happy member of the thriving retail community in Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills.  Silvia’s experience is a classic example of the gains to be made from operating a stall at the farmers market.  A few years back, after the demise of a relationship with a beekeeper, Silvia found herself with slightly more honey than she and her family could consume on their own – three 44 gallon drums of it to be exact.  She decided to take a stand (initially) at the Willunga Farmers Market to dispose of her golden windfall nectar, augmenting it with some spices and chai tea.  A friend spoke to her soon after, telling her of a dream she had experienced where she saw a hugely successful Silvia holding a jar of cinnamon honey, thus setting the wheels in motion for the glorious and popular range of spiced honeys now produced by the Honey Lady.

Silvia is in no doubt at all of the value of farmers market and the role her involvement with both the Willunga Farmers Market and the Adelaide Showgrounds Farmers Market has played in placing her in her own business premises in Hahndorf.  Her engagement with consumers in what she calls the “big tasting table”that is a farmers market enabled her to experiment with and develop every aspect of her product including taste, content, labeling and jar size.  As she tweaked her product she was able to obtain instant feedback from her customers, with whom she also developed a personal relationship – not an experience available in any supermarket.

For Silvia, her weekly trips to her stall at the markets were so much more than a retail opportunity as she began to connect with her customers and their families.  She gradually forged links with chefs who came through on their shopping trips, customers who came from food industry backgrounds and other like-minded folk – developing both personal and professional relationships with them and now likens her experiences in the market to “stepping into the village”.

As her product range has expanded, so has her customer base.  She has developed a mail order list of interstate customers who first experienced her honey’s while here as tourists and sells to various stores whose own customers asked them to stock her product.  One day, while delivering honey to Hahndorf, she saw a charming shop with a “For Lease” sign on it and before she knew it, her next step on the career path was taken.

Her historical stone store in the main street of Hahndorf stocks her stunning selection of honeys and a large range of organic, Fair-Trade spices.  She has very cleverly taken what was a shabby back yard and turned it into a delightful outdoor cafe area where she serves vegetarian, gluten and dairy free meals and coffee and cake,  using the cooking skills which she was able to enhance and hone at – you guessed it – the farmers markets.

As far as Silvia Hart is concerned – if food is the new religion, then the farmers market is her church.

The Honey Lady
79 Main Rd
Hahndorf
Monday – Sunday 10-4
 

 

 

 

 

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Maureen | Orgasmic Chef January 4, 2013 at 10:03 am

What a perfect name for her honey because everyone’s going to call her the honey lady anyway. I think I could be best friends with Silvia – I love her views on food and farmers markets.

Hotly Spiced January 5, 2013 at 8:22 am

It’s so good to see a triumph coming from a setback. It’s great that all that leftover honey launched a new and successful business. I’d like to try these spiced honeys xx

Amanda McInerney January 5, 2013 at 8:31 am

Charlie – my favourite is the ginger honey. I adore it in tea.

InTolerant Chef January 5, 2013 at 8:50 am

What a lovely success story indeed! I hope she does well, and just wish I lived close enough to drop by for a gluten free meal :)

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella January 6, 2013 at 11:03 am

Those spiced honeys sound divine-perfect for cold nights and warm milk!

Celia January 8, 2013 at 9:33 pm

This is a really great story, Amanda! I love that the markets see their own role as not simply making money, but as a stepping stone for those who want to go onto bigger and better things!

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