SoCal small business owners can take part in a four-week course to prepare them to take part in the O.C. Market Place for Small Business Saturday.
Known for featuring hundreds of vendors offering countless lifestyle wares, the O.C. Market Place has become a weekend staple for Southern Californians. In a bid to expand their offerings and support local artisans and entrepreneurs, the O.C. Market Place has partnered with the Orange County Inland Empire Small Business Development Center Network (SBDC) for OC Made, a new program offering a four-week course for entrepreneurs who want to test their business concept or new products at the Market over the weekend of November 24th, which includes Small Business Saturday.
The idea came about when Peyton Jeter, the marketing director for the O.C. Market Place, began exploring ideas for expanding the market’s reach and bringing in new vendors. “We wanted to support small businesses, so I started doing some research and Mike [Daniel, the Regional Director of the OCIE SBDC Network] and I got in touch, and we were able to have a meeting and discuss opportunities between the SBDC and our market place. We realized we had a good opportunity to bring new products to a physical market.”
With a rich and storied 50-year history, the O.C. Market Place has helped numerous small business owners and entrepreneurs launch their businesses – brands such as Tilly’s and Rusty’s Potato Chips got their start at the Market. The Market has the capacity to host vendors offering everything from food to arts and crafts, making it a great place for new vendors to test the market for their products – which is what inspired Daniel to co-create OC Made with Jeter. Dedicated to helping small business owners realize their dreams the SBDC offers a variety of services that are “no cost, no catch” to help entrepreneurs launch and grow their businesses. The SBDC offers consulting in business planning, marketing, funding and management, along with training and workshops throughout the year in the counties of Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside.
“At the SBDC we see 5,000 clients per year, and the O.C. Market Place would be a great starting point for someone who has never started a business,” Daniel says. “So let’s say I wanted to sell chocolate bars. I can go to the Market Place and figure out what people are going to buy my bars for – it can be a test and validation of a concept before you spend the money on a brick-and-mortar storefront.”
Daniel built the OC Made program as a four-week intensive, offering small business owners and entrepreneurs a solid and focused curriculum to help prepare them for debuting their goods at the O.C. Market Place. The timing was deliberately specific. “It will take four weeks to get them prepared to go to market, teaching them everything they need to know about getting their inventory ready, learning about marketing their goods, how to take payment and understand market segmentation, learning about permits, DBAs and setting up their bank accounts,” notes Daniel. In his vision, program attendees are those who have been selling their wares at home or online and are ready to go to the next level with direct customer interaction.
One of the most valuable aspects of OC Made comes from experienced instructors who will be training new vendors through the four-week preparation. One of the SBDC consultants, Greg Bell – a 30-year food industry veteran who has worked with entities such as Bennigan’s and Koo Koo Roo – is one of the program’s instructors. With a focus on helping food-based businesses prepare to enter the Farmer’s Market, Bell offers unique insight on everything from sourcing ingredients, to preparing one’s booth, to attracting customers and handling scheduling. But perhaps most importantly, he knows how to address the fears associated with realizing one’s small business dreams.
“In my classes I open with my experience of wanting to start a restaurant – it was a cloud following me that never got pinned down and finalized because of not knowing, being unsure of directions, and making mistakes,” Bell shares. “One thing we teach in all programs is projections and forecasting numbers prior to launching a business so you can see where they point, so you know if you’re setting up for success or need to rethink your direction.”
Bell continues, “I think one of the biggest and most compelling things I like to talk to people about in these classes is that this is a very focused and specific road to the Farmer’s Market and a small start-up opportunity for people who have that cloud following them and want to see how they can do it, and what they need to do. We’ll point them in the direction and take the fear of failing out of the equation.”
For her part, Jeter feels the SBDC has put together a comprehensive workshop with tons of valuable information to help those who are just getting their businesses up and running. As she puts it, “I think it’s going to be a really good foundation for small business owners looking to start out on the right foot,” adding that she’s pleased the Market Place is coming on as a partner to offer a physical forum for these businesses to launch. And she has no doubt that the participants in OC Made will have the opportunity to share their wares with a wide and varied audience.
Says Jeter, “We have great diversity of products, from tube socks and sunglasses to bespoke paper florals and cutting boards to handknit caps – there’s something for everyone here, and the audience is looking for something unique and different. For us, last year was the first big initiative for Small Business Weekend, and it was the second highest attended day for that calendar year. The community already rallies around shopping small and local, so we’re expecting something similar this year, which is why we’re extending Small Business Saturday to Sunday, too.”
If you’re ready to take your small business to the next level and take over a booth at the O.C. Market Place over Small Business Weekend, visit: https://oc-made.eventbrite.com to register (there’s no cost for the program.) Only 25 people will be selected based on an interview process. If you’re accepted, classes begin on Saturday, October 27th.
The Orange County Market Place®, is located on the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa and operates every Saturday and Sunday of the year except during the Orange County Fair. With hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, the Orange County Market Place has grown to become the centerpiece of the Orange County outdoor shopping experience. More information can be found by visiting www.ocmarketplace.com.