A walk down to Borough Market in London on a Saturday before Christmas confirmed two things to me. The first, great quality artisan food businesses are alive and well, and the second, people are interested in buying their goods, and ‘food culture’ is alive and well, safe to say- it was heaving.
I have always seen places like Borough Market as wonderful barometers of the businesses world, but also great ecosystems of entrepreneurship with small vendors plying their trade with great quality produce and selling hard to customers. It is a place full of passionate people, knowledgeable buyers and a buzz rarely seen anywhere these days in places to do with food- you certainly won’t get this in a supermarket!
A morning spent at Borough Market for me as about as enjoyable as it gets- and it’s also time well spent in terms of business. I’m passionate about places like this. I was bought up on a farm for many years of my life, grew up in Devon and am always keen to live off the land as much as I can, so have a real appreciation of where the stuff we put in our mouth comes from. But more importantly, I believe that businesses like the ones in the market make the world go round and we can learn a lot from them. One little stall can represent everything good about business. As I was walking around the market I made mental notes about things they were doing well which translate into success for any business. Here’s 3 things they do well- but any businesses needs to master for success:
1) Passion. Above all these people really believe in what they are doing. They are passionate about their product and can really talk about what they are selling. They can tell you where it came from, how they made it and even why it is priced like it is. You almost buy their products from them as you are as passionate about it as they are by the end of a conversation.
2) Selling. You almost HAVE to buy their product. You try before you buy, they tell the story of the product, you taste how good it is and you become an advocate there and then! That is all after they have seduced you with aromas .They will then go on to tell you were they are, what the website is- and to make sure you tell your friends
3) Visual Identity. These people look like theyare there to sell food. The stalls are often incredible temples to their product, and the brands are usually strong. Half the battle of getting you to buy is done. They are literally ‘Setting out their Stall’.
There are obvious lessons here, but you can see that the three are linked and combine to make a very powerful proposition to the customer. These businesses have to as well, as they are often up against the big boys- The Supermarkets. Some points seem really obvious, for example Visual Identity. However, most people want to buy fish from, well, someone who looks like a fishmonger. If your business does not have an identity that someone expects from the sector- it’s going to be an uphill battle, obvious, but often lost.
There are two lessons here really. The first is for any fledgling entrepreneur is spend time in a busy market. They are fantastic places to see business being done at a fast pace and there is lots you can learn. Just grab a slice of homemade cake, and watch the masters at work.
The second, is in order for these places to survive, they need customers. So support your local market and the micro businesses within. Large business dominate the food sector and to a certain extent control what you eat, we can’t have that can we? Markets like this offer choice, care about the product and put money in the communities from where they came.- that has got to be a good thing?
So next time you want to do a shop in the local big supermarket- think about the alternatives, there are plenty of people making a whole range of great products, supporting their local communities and economies that deserve our custom.