Preparing fresh lobster rolls at the Brooklyn Flea market

They sell empanadas, rice balls and rhubarb pies, roof-grown produce and spicy jams.  They represent the latest trend of food entrepreneurs peddling homemade delights at local food markets, as profiled in yesterday’s New York Times article, “Their Future, Made by Hand.”

Inspired by the artisan food movement and seeking new opportunities in rough economic times, many young culinary enthusiasts have begun selling food at local markets. Some are just supplementing their income, while others have their eyes set on a brick and mortar store or even a national distribution deal.

Selling at a local market can be a financially and emotionally rewarding experience. It is also a challenging one that requires a heavy time commitment, a love of competition and plenty of business savvy. The vendors profiled in the article, for instance, were recently ordered to obtain food permits, a development which could compromise their profit margin. They’ve also discovered the importance of having a niche: as one vendor commented, “I’ve already seen that you do much better if you’re ‘that girl’ who sells ‘that thing.’

It may be a complicated and difficult endeavor, but those interested in starting a business at a local market have a new guide to help them along the way: “How to Start Your Business at a Local Market: A Vendor Handbook.” Available for instant download in the PPS bookstore in English and Spanish, the handbook provides clear and concise guidance on how to determine what to sell, how to pick a market, set up a stall, tips for customer service and attracting repeat customers, and more.

This handbook is just one way that PPS is reaching out to local entrepreneurs through markets. In Des Moines, Iowa, we helped vendors grow their businesses and diversify their product mix. We are also starting a project in Birmingham, Alabama to develop a new market system which will engage local residents to become entrepreneurs and use the market as a starting point for their local business.