from market patron to incubator vendor to full-time vendor
Updated: Aug 22, 2020
Since I moved to Troy in 2016, my favorite routine has been going to the Troy Waterfront Farmers Market every Saturday morning. The ritual of buying a coffee, selecting a pastry for breakfast, and talking with the different vendors and friends that I meet at the market is the highlight of my week.
One weekend at the market I mentioned my love of baking - especially my Scandinavian cookies - to the market manager, Steve. He told me that the market had an incubator program for people who were just starting out, and encouraged me to apply. The timing was perfect, as applications happen once a year and would close within the week. Without a business plan or a clear vision of what being a vendor at the Farmers Market might look like, I applied. The online application process was simple enough, and I crossed my fingers that the story and unique crafted quality of my cookies would gain me entrance to the notoriously selective market in the Capital District of NY.
My mind was full of ideas about what products I could sell, what materials I would use to make them, how they might be packaged, and what the overall feel of the final product would be. Two days before my interview, I learned that samples are encouraged. I selected three cookies and a bread to present. My partner david and I discussed the vision for the packaging. We wanted something reusable, of good quality and natural origin, to reflect the wholesome and hand-crafted quality of the pastries. Recyclable paper bags felt like the right fit. david prototyped the packaging, brush painting a large ⍴ (rho) on the bag and writing ‘parchment baking company’ underneath with an old typewriter. I chose ⍴ as the graphic to represent my brand because it is the Greek symbol used in science to denote density. Trained as a chemist, I use the scientific process when I bake. The elegance and simplicity of the symbol pays homage to both the storytelling side of parchment and the scientific nature of baking.
[Proof of concept bag by david; images of the products sampled during the interview]
At the interview, I was disheartened to learn that two of the four panelists were gluten-intolerant! I had not brought a single item that they could taste. This challenge is what prompted me to change some of my recipes, and to make sure I always had a few flourless cookies available. The panelists appeared to quite enjoy the pastries. They posed questions to help me work through some of the details I had not thought of yet, like “how do you deal with the summer yellow jackets, and big dogs and younger children who are eager to help themselves to treats off your display?”
I was stunned and elated when I got the call offering me a place in the coveted Troy Farmers Market. With the easy part over, I now had to face the scariest step: how to actually start a business. What did I need to know? Who did I need to talk to? How was I going to make it happen? And how would I get that all done while also moving into a new apartment?
Thankfully, through the Power Breakfast Club Community, I knew Oliver who had recently started his own food business at the same Farmers Market. Oliver told me about using a home processor's license rather than a certified kitchen to start. I had a brainstorming session with Mel eMedia to develop the “big picture” of my brand. Following the steps from there was easy: opening a bank account, applying for the home processor certificate, and finalizing the menu. I utilized my network to determine costs and pricing. In just four months, everything was ready. Parchment debuted at the Troy Waterfront Farmers Market June 16th 2019!
[Carving the linoleum block print of our logo - every bag is hand printed; prototyping the jar concept for holidays and special orders]
If I've only learned one thing through this process, it’s that if you are passionate and genuine, and put yourself out there to welcome opportunities, that you can make your dream a reality.