Today was my first day participating as a vendor at Phinney Farmers market. It was a lot of fun and I had a wonderful time. It also happened to reach about 90 degrees, and that was not something I initially signed up for. See, I moved here to Seattle because I like rain, overcast sky, cold weather, and Edward Cullen from Twilight. Luckily for me, I happened to be stationed in the most shaded area possible :).
Leading up to this whole event, I was super nervous and stressed out because there were a lot of new things I was introducing to the market. I decided it was time to increase the prices on my kimchi offerings because I felt that they were underpriced before, but that I decided to bring my kimchi to the market, initially, at a discounted price point because I was just starting out and I wanted people to try my kimchi, all-the-while being affordable for consumers to test my product. It was frustrating to see what other vendors were able to charge for their respective products, because I would always think back to how much work goes into crafting my artisan kimchi, and that I was undercutting myself. I have also started sourcing locally, and the cost of goods have increased, and I wanted to position myself in concert with a few of my kimchi competitors from Whole Foods and the like. In addition, I have found a new source for jars with smooth surfaces that enables me to label my kimchi correctly, and I was not sure how the new market audience would respond. I addressed my concerns with my executive secretary, and she tells me to not fret, and that I would do fine. Fortunately, my new offering was well received, and consumers were willing to pay for, what I finally believe is, what my kimchi should be priced at.
There were a few customer interactions I had today that really opened up my eyes:
I had a lady come up to me today and purchased a 32oz jar of kimchi from me. She tells me the kimchi is great, and I forgot what got the conversation going, but I was telling her about my plans of expanding into supermarkets such as Whole Foods, PCC and Trader Joes (more on this in a later post). I mentioned to her that I went to a Whole Foods recently to see if there was anyone I could speak to in regards to possibly getting my kimchi on their shelves. As I was there, I wanted to go see what kind of kimchi they were carrying, and they were carrying Firefly and Brit's Pickle kimchi. I am only keenly aware of them because I spoke to one of the managers from the Ballard Farmers market in regards to application in attempts to get into that market for 2017. She informs me that they already have two kimchi vendors at the Ballard market, and she wasn't sure if they could accommodate another kimchi vendor for 2017. At that point, my heart sank and I was very saddened, because I needed to get into some year-round Farmers markets to survive. But she did tell me she put in a good word for me, and that I should try, anyways. So I told the lady that just purchased kimchi from me that I am sure Firefly and Brit's make great kimchi, but I do not believe we are competing with the same product offering. I told her that I went to Brit's page and did some research on their kimchi, and that their offering uses very different ingredients, such as oranges and are gluten free and vegan. I also told her I have never heard of Firefly. Then she tells me that she's had Firefly's kimchi, and mine tasted wonderful. She also said that she wouldn't purchase Brit's kimchi or Firefly's kimchi to eat on a consistent basis, but she would be able to do so with my kimchi, because it is the traditional style kimchi. That made me smile, and I am sufficiently armed for my future strategic goals.
I also had another customer whom I believe is Korean. She sampled my kimchi and she decided to purchase some. I loved her reaction because I could tell she was very skeptical of my product coming in - most Koreans are, especially kimchi made from someone who is not Korean :). She then proceeds to tell me that she is very picky about her kimchi, and maybe that was because her mom was such a great cook. But she did buy from me, and I am glad to have the approval of some of the hardest Korean critics when it comes to kimchi.
All in all, I really did love being at the Phinney market. The venue is smaller than what I am used to, but all the vendors are lined up to create a loop, and it gives you a sense of community, like you're intimately connected to the vendors next to you. I loved how there was live music playing in the background that harkens back to the medieval ages. I was also positioned right next to the playground where parents could bring their children to have fun and enjoy the market. And, directly behind me, there was a dedicated space where people could sit down to eat and enjoy each other's company. I felt a warmth when I was there. I think it is a market that my executive secretary would really enjoy being at the next time she visits and the Farmers market is in season.
Though I signed up late for the season, and Phinney will be concluding at the end of September, I hope to do well until then, and I excited look forward to the next season.
-The Kimchi Whisperer-