From the local farmer’s markets to gourmet food halls like NYC’s DeKalb Market Hall, market vendors are more than just a foodie trend -- they're an economic asset. In fact, market vendors are some of the most efficient small business owners in the world. Like many small business entrepreneurs in various industries, these entrepreneurs understand the cost of operation, funding, and customer relationships that keeps an enterprise running.

Historically, public markets have been a way for small businesses to thrive, especially in gateway cities. What’s the secret to running a successful business at a lively market, and how does this apply to small business owners in other industries? Small business owners can learn four essential business strategies from market vendors' unique roles:

1. Differentiate your Product with Good Branding

Advice from Small Business Trends reports that market vendors should differentiate their business to stand out within their markets. One way vendors highlight their offerings it to offer unique branding. Whether they’re selling fresh, organic tomatoes or a contemporary taste of a classic, foreign recipe, market vendors are emphasizing the experiential factor behind their products. For example, the soon-to-be-opened Hudson Yards Market in New York City will feature a Spanish culinary and cultural experience from high-end, local chefs, Chefs Andrés and Adriàs. The indoor and outdoor market will take a look at the best culinary traditions of Spain, and this unique concept will draw people from all over the world to experience in a setting that is intimate but also bridges the gap between New American and European traditions.

Sustainable business owners know how to create an experience and must-see attraction surrounding their products. Small business owners in other realms can utilize the tools market vendors use to brand why they make a desirable addition to the market.

2. Invest in Local Community Relationships

Becoming involved with the local community doesn’t just help build relationships with consumers, it helps vendors become an invested part of the local community. In fact, a research study from the Journal of Small Business & Entrepreneurship found a positive, significant relationship between social capital and firm performance. Small market vendors often source, hire, and support local organizations and businesses by creating competition and commerce in the market. Small businesses are similar in the same way. To direct more customers and traffic to their products, small businesses in other industries can think about supporting the local community by partnering with organizations for fundraisers or hosting events like a community block party. In addition, small businesses may want to integrate their local investment by offering services to charities or foundations.

3. Create a Flow of Operations

Naturally in markets, space is limited. Many small businesses face the same problem; limited warehouse and production space due to pricing or limited resources. Likewise, space may be limited in smaller stores. For market vendors, they need to strategically set up booths to allow some people to shop while others can purchase products at the same time. Strategies like clear signage, pricing, and strategic display set up can help operational and customer flow to easily restock items and maximize your ROI during the day. John Sauscovich of Farm Marketing Solutions advises that vendors should create an operations manual which covers each step of the process including packaging and transporting purchased items so that it creates a consistent customer experience and helps employees communicate better.

In addition, market vendors know how to display products in seasonal and unique formations so that it draws customers to creative, on-of-a-kind experiences. To add a human face to the business, vendors often display pictures of their farm, trade, or background which easily helps customers learn more about the business and how it operates in a local community. Small businesses can use the techniques to create a flow in everyday planning and strategy.

4. Create a Flexible Business Plan

In an interview with DNAinfo, five out of six business owners reported they did not start with a business plan. However, the Small Business Administration recommends it as a part of essential business success. Yet, some food vendors can create a business with flexible strategies so that when unexpected breaks come they aren’t tied down by preplanned overhead costs or commitments. Eric Henshaw of Khao Man Gai NY, said that he didn’t have a business plan which allowed him to mold opportunities more easily for his business.

Although, small business owners should absolutely invest in a well-conceived plan, the key takeaway is to remain flexible with your business strategy. Many market vendors and stands across the country are seasonal or temporary, but this helps them maximize profits during lucrative seasons to produce the most revenue during opportune times. With market changes, emerging trends, and competitive changes, small businesses can learn how to be flexible and innovative while they grow their businesses.

Hyper local markets can help small business focuses on the immediate market and people that they come into contact with everyday. Once small businesses build a sense of their surroundings, they can build a business strategy that helps them to blend into the everyday fabric of their local community and allows them to leverage and embrace one of their biggest strengths; the human experience.

About the Author(s)

 Sonny  Kalsi

Sonny Kalsi is a Founder and Partner of GreenOak, based in New York. Sonny has oversight responsibility for GreenOak’s US business and is a member of the firm’s investment committees globally. Sonny Kalsi was previously the Global Co-Head of Morgan Stanley’s Real Estate Investing (MSREI) business and President of the Morgan Stanley Real Estate (MSRE) funds until his...

Founder and Partner, GreenOak Real Estate
4 Lessons Small Business Entrepreneurs Can Learn from Market Vendors