I have recently completed the application process in order to become a processor vendor at the Phinney's Farmers market. The application process itself was very extensive, and at times, very trying, but I believe I have finally gotten into my very first Farmers market, and my customers may purchase kimchi from me every Friday evening until the end of September there. I am absolutely excited about this new achievement.
There are certain Farmers markets that are year-round that I am very interested in, and I hope to be able to participate as a vendor when 2017 rolls around. As is best practice, market organizers will usually start you out at smaller markets, and, eventually, and hopefully, you build a good enough working relationship with them for them to allow you to vend at their bigger markets.
One of my biggest concerns regarding participation at Farmers markets is the need to source locally. I was under the false impression that sourcing locally would drive up the price on produce and the cost of goods exponentially that it would be cost-prohibitive to do business at Farmers markets. Fortunately, that is not the case. I was able to source locally Napa Cabbage, Korean radishes, and yellow onions that is much cheaper than what I was paying for at the other supermarkets that I used source my produce from. It was a very nice revelation, and it gives me hope for the future.
At this juncture of my business, I am merely striving to reach critical mass. It has proven difficult thus far and I have completely run out of working capital. There is much more I would love to do for the business to expand and grow, but the only thing I can do at this point is to remain solvent. To build on top of the challenge, seasonal markets are ending soon, and I will only be able to vend at the Fremont Sunday market until applications are accepted for the year of 2017.
I know I have a unique product offering that consumers are willing to pay for, but, right now, I am limited by the amount of markets I vend at to generate sales. I have had many friends and customers joked about going on "Shark Tank," but I created this business from the ground up, and I am not willing to give up any control of my business. I like to be the commander of this ship, and I like to make all the executive decisions without having to answer to any outside investors. It has also been suggested I try to get my kimchi into Whole Foods and the like, as well as asian supermarkets and restaurants. I have not entertained that idea until recently, because signing a contract with Whole Foods would limit the flexibility I have on pricing in regards to Farmers markets. And the margin would be lower and I would lose a lot of control over my products.
Eventually, I would like to look into wholesaling, but that would be another type of beast to tackle when the time is right. At this point, I just want to grow organically, and to be in control as much as possible. My primary objective right now is to get into Ballard year-round Sunday market, University District year-round Saturday market, West Seattle year-round Sunday market, and Capitol Hill year-round Sunday market. If I am able to vend year-round one Saturday and one Sunday out of the week, I would achieve critical mass easily. But that opportunity will not present itself until the start of the 2017 season.
As of current, I have to find a way to survive until 2017 comes around. I wholeheartedly believe that 2017 will be a year for John's Kimchi's expansion. But for now, I have to deal with an immense amount of stress and frustrations.
For the last month, I realized that I have lost my way. I created this business with much enthusiasm, but the more I conduct this business, the more defeated I felt. Within the last month, I was juggling a part-time job, my graduate capstone class that literally kicked my butt, and running my business. I felt so overwhelmed and I was not able to keep up with my school work. Luckily, I was able to reach out to my professor and explained to him how my business was requiring the bulk of my time and attention in order to pay the bills that I have let my course work fall by the wayside. I asked for extensions on my course work submissions, and he understood and allowed me to turn in my work late. I was able to turn in all of my work by the end of the session and I received an A in the course. But that class took a huge toll on me. I had to neglect my business and quit my part time job just to pass. I was completely spent by the time the class ended, which also happened to be the time when my out-of-state secretary was scheduled to visit. I took the nine days of her visit to just do nothing at all. My business fell to the side, but I knew I needed that time to recharge my mind and body and to regain my sanity.
I just found out recently that my parents found out that I had quit my full-time employment with the federal government. It was not something I wanted them to be privy of, because I knew they wouldn't understand, especially my dad. He asked me why I quit my well-paying, secure government job for the business, and I didn't know how to answer. I knew he wouldn't understand and I decided not to explain. You see, in business, everyone will think you're crazy, especially when you put all your chickens in one basket to pursue your independence. When you struggle, people are going to tell themselves, his business idea was a failure, but they only clamor when you defy expectations and become successful. I am sure close people to Bill Gates thought he was crazy to drop out of college to do what he did, but, now, in retrospect, people respect and admire his genius.
I have had many friends suggests many different strategies in regards to my business, and I listen attentively, and I consume every advice with a large helping of salt, but in the end, this is my business and I have to do what is right for it. Nobody understands my business as intimately as I do. People always have suggestions to give and a lot of times, those suggestions are really appreciated, but other times, the suggestions are counterproductive to the direction I want my business to grow into. But it is nice to speak to many different people to bounce off ideas and to pick up useful advice.
So my secretary has recently departed to go back to her home, and I have finally gotten back on the grind. This past week has been crazy busy and its hard to find time to breathe, but I am getting back into the groove of things. Running a business is very stressful and frustrating, but there is nothing in me that wants to return to a bureaucratic nine-to-five job. I am back on this grind, and I will do whatever it takes to make John's Kimchi successful. But it will require baby steps and incremental milestones. I want my business to grow organically, and I want to be in control each and every step of the way - that is the only way.
-The Kimchi Whisperer-