Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

ABQ can make farmers markets dynamic pipelines for small business

With spring unfolding, farmers markets are reopening in Albuquerque, and it’s cause for celebration. They offer spectacular food and other local products, and they provide an extraordinary vehicle for promoting new business growth. That latter role is often overlooked when it should be more highly prized by local policymakers.

I know both roles well, as I am a vendor at two farmers markets: the Downtown Growers Market Albuquerque in Robinson Park, and the Farmers Market at The Rail Yards in Barelas. It’s easy to focus on the wonderful products for sale, and I strongly encourage it. But farmers markets offer much more. They are a dynamic pipeline for small business growth with three key components.

• First, farmers markets offer a flexible retail setting that a new business can use at its own pace. A vendor can take as much or as little space as needed for as many days each week as desired.

• Second, farmers markets give a vital promotional boost to participating businesses. They bring high-volume foot traffic and much-needed visibility.

• Third, farmers markets provide vendors with an opportunity to better understand how to market and price each product. I started a company that sells salsa made from a recipe that my mother brought with her decades ago from her native Mexico. Its ingredients reflect our family’s heritage in Mexico, our many years in Alaska where I grew up and our more recent years in New Mexico. The farmers markets let me experience firsthand the response of customers to samples of our various products, and I can test out pricing and packaging combinations.

I often talk with other vendors at farmers markets and gain valuable insights. One insight is that many of those vendors are not thinking about growing their businesses further. They have gone through the process of being certified for the farmers market – incorporating the business, getting a business license, getting a tax identification number and meeting health requirements, among others. Having reached that level, they are focused on succeeding in that context. A second insight is every time you want to take a business further, there are more hurdles to overcome, and those hurdles seem daunting – even forbidding.

Those two insights alone could shape public policy to make it easier for small businesses to grow. Those insights also caused me to become an advocate in Albuquerque for a national nonprofit organization called Right to Start, which champions entrepreneurship as a community priority. It advances ways in which government at all levels can reduce barriers to small business growth.

• City officials in Albuquerque, for instance, should create an initiative to help small businesses grow by making the required government steps less daunting. It’s hard at present just to know where to get the needed government information.

• City officials should also postpone licensing fees. Why does the city require businesses to pay for licenses before the business has revenue? Waiting until the business is up and running would even benefit the city, which would have more businesses.

• The city should also seek out small businesses to encourage them to advance and grow. Here again farmers markets make outreach easy.

The distinctive products of Albuquerque’s farmers markets are now available. By enjoying them, you can support a pipeline that offers enormous promise for small business growth in the area.

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