There’s nothing better than a Saturday morning spent browsing the stalls, chatting with the vendors and eating delicious, local food at your farmers market.
For the vendors themselves, a farmers market can be the launching point for their businesses. In fact, it’s said that farmers markets are small business incubators.
While we didn’t begin at the farmers market, we love the fact that these businesses started with an idea, a drive to succeed and a whole lot of heart (just like us). Besides, who doesn’t love a good rags-to-riches (or farm-to-riches) story?
Here are 5 inspirational businesses that went from small one or two person operations to national, several-employee success stories:
Gerardo “Jerry” Jimenez grew up as a young Mexican man in the 1960s when jobs were hard to come by. He worked as a farm-hand for years, before deciding to sell his unprocessed peppers at a local farmers market. A few years, and a number of suggestions from his customers, later he created a series of salsas and jams from his peppers. Now he has 25 varieties of salsas, jams, jellies, spices and rubs that are available in local retail stores, multiple midwest farmer’s markets and online. In a few short years, Jimenez grew his business by 300 percent.
Justin’s sells organic candy, nut-butters and salty snacks (even a recipe book), but at the beginning Justin’s wasn’t a business at all. Justin Gold, the founder of the company, started making nut-butters for himself using his food processor, which he then jarred and stuck in his fridge with the label “Justin’s” so his roommates wouldn’t eat his hard work. As the months went by, his family encouraged him to sell his delicious nut butters at the farmers market. He did, finding that his jars of nut butters were a huge hit with customers. The local success encouraged and allowed him to pitch his product to retailers like Whole Foods, who eventually stocked their shelves with his nutritious snacks.
O’Dang Hummus is a hummus company that refuses to do the ordinary, boasting flavors like Bomb-A-Licious Buffalo and Spicy Black Bean. O’Dang Hummus started as founder Jesse Wolfe’s solution to getting his wisdom teeth pulled, which led to him selling his unique hummus at farmers markets across his home state of Florida. He landed a spot on the ABC show Shark Tank in 2015, and afterwards his product showed up on the shelves in Publix Supermarkets and WholeFoods.
Check out his Shark Tank pitch here.
Before Basiltops started selling their delicious pestos and olive-oils in stores nationwide, the company was a one-woman operation. Cynthia C. Bronte sold her hydroponically-grown basil at her local farmers market. After listening to suggestions from her loyal and passionate customers, she created the “Pesto Perfectto” sauce, before launching a line of other pestos and infused olive oils that eventually landed her in stores, including select Whole Foods and California grocery, Frazier Farms.
But food vendors aren’t the only businesses that can make it big after starting small.
Now in Target, REI and Walmart, this plant-based bath-and-body company started when Jodi Scott and her family sold her “green goo,” a natural healing and moisturizing balm at local farmers markets in Colorado. After experiencing local success and learning what her customers wanted, Scott quit her day-job to focus on her balms, and the business took off.
Next time you’re browsing what your local farmers market has to offer, be looking out for the next big success story.
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