The canning program I had taken the reins of for Market Central has morphed into what I’m now calling the “Small Business Program”. To recap, I spent the end of last summer and all of last fall teaching a regular weekly canning class with the idea of recruiting and attracting individuals who were interested in learning to can as well as those who might be interested in starting their own canning business. I knew going into it the latter goal was a lofty one, as I know first hand what hard, hot work canning is. It requires a certain passion that’s hard to instill. In addition this passion, one needs cooking skills, knowledge about food (and gardening to some extent, at least the knowledge of the effects of weather can be on a particular crop) as well as the ability to navigate the seemingly confusing food rules and relations, line up suppliers, market to buyers AND be able to keep up with the money flowing in and out. There is quite a bit involved in starting a canning business and I wanted this program to address as much of it as I could. It’s one thing to learn to can, quite another to start your own business based on it.
It had been in the plan since the beginning to offer at least some guidance through the state regulations as well as address some of the necessary business skills, so I had a basic idea of where I wanted this program to go. As I talked to various vendors at market, many of them expressed an interest in the business portion of the program. Since we had at best a small group that was interested following through with their own canning business, I had the idea to invite current market vendors to these events, thus satisfying the goal of the grant, which was to benefit the market as well as ensure that there would be an audience for these seminars. Win-win.
This past Tuesday, Glenn Lock of TachLockGroup and College Company Design gave a talk on Marketing and Branding. Actually, he gave two – one at lunch and one in the early evening. While each talk was the same boiler plate, he was able to tailor his talk to his audience – he’s good that Glenn. And highly entertaining, because I sat through both his talks and not only was not bored but not once did I wish I’d brought my knitting.
One of the reasons why I initially reached out to Glenn was a quick peek at his website showed one of his clients being Shenandoah Growers – an area business that specializes in growing the fresh herbs found in area grocery stores. I immediately suspected he would be a good fit for the vendors and he did not let me down. Sadly, most of the photos I took were of his slides as way of note taking (I’ve long used my camera in that method), so I have no good shots of Glenn in action. He’s engaging, dynamic, able to think on his feet and cater to his audience – he’s a born marketer.
I’m not doing a good job of parlaying the talk here, but I got quite a bit out of it. I’ve gotten great feedback from attendees who also got a good bit out of it, so I call it a success! Up next is a bookkeeping seminar that is attracting strong interest and I’m hot at work at lining up someone to come talk DIY web design as well as many someone who can talk about navigating social media (Always taking recommendations!), maybe even a photography seminar because that seems to go hand-in-hand with DIY websites and social media.
I was told by a few of you over the holidays I should update this project in this space more – I didn’t earlier because frankly, how exciting is it to read about what we canned week in and week out? True, the canning portion did push me to try new things, but sometimes I would just repeat a lesson (like pickling, where I tried nothing new in classes, I stuck with what I knew worked) and there is absolutely nothing exciting to write about pressure canning except that I got Leni to come help me entertain while we watched a pot boil. And Leni is the sort you have to experience in person to really understand how big her personality is. I can’t convey that in a blog post. No, I mentioned this project here and there in posts, but it didn’t stand out because I’m not a full on food or canning blog. And I didn’t think it was that interesting until this portion – the small business skills. Honestly, this is the portion that I’m most proud of. Not just because I feel like I’m putting together a good program, but because of the feedback I’m getting from the vendors who are taking advantage of it. At heart, I love farmer’s markets. I grew up going to them, I worked at one in high school. I’m well versed in the community that is part of them and I’m delighted to help elevate the one I spend so much time and money at. A good portion of the food we eat comes from that market – it indulges my whole obsession with knowing exactly where our food comes from and lets me feel I’m not so crazy about being obsessed with knowing exactly where our food comes from.
The original grant was meant to elevate an idea to the next level, while also helping some of the existing vendors to find other markets. I might not be doing just that, but I certainly am helping to elevate vendors to a new level, which is sure to help the market. And at the end of the day, that’s about the same as the original intent, isn’t it?