While the pandemic has created substantial obstacles for many businesses, such as financial burden or employee shortages, it has also created endless opportunities for those looking to turn an interest or hobby into a small business. According to the New York Times, nearly 4.3 million Americans around the country filed paperwork to start businesses in 2020.
In an effort to support local vendors who operate online or through social media without a storefront, Celebrate Fairfax, an event-arm of Fairfax County, held a series of local Holiday Markets during their Winter Village events in late 2021 at the new “The PARC” events venue. The holiday markets not only provided a space for local vendors to sell their products, but also encouraged visitors to shop locally and support small businesses during the holiday season. Celebrate Fairfax expanded upon the success of the holiday market launching, “Shop Local Saturdays” in January 2022, a bi-monthly event in which different contributors can rent free booth space to exhibit and sell their items. Shop Local Saturday, held twice a month at The PARC, allows vendors to expand their craft and provides a place for many to make their first sales in a market space.
“I’ve always made certain art pieces or jewelry for my friends and family as gifts, but this is the first time I’ve ever sold my pieces at a market,” said Asli Turkan, a full-time finance professional who makes handmade jewelry, print designs, and paintings. “One day, I’d like to be able to sell my art full-time, but for now, these markets are a great place for me to gain more experience with selling my work.”
While gaining experience is a priority for some, others have used the market to expand their outreach and gain new clientele.
Kristine and David Kimko started their company, Snugabutter, to be closer to their daughter after she was born in 2020.
“As a former flight attendant, I’ve always cared about families who were traveling with their kids. We wanted adults to be comfortable, and children should be able to do the same. We wanted to create items for children that were made of safe, sensitive, and soft materials,” said Kristine. The Kimko family has expanded their collection to include women’s items and blankets to be more accessible to adults as well as children. This was their first Shop Local Saturday market, as they primarily sell items through their website, but they are excited to return as the markets continue to take place.
For many corporate employees, the transition to remote work also left them feeling anxious about the lack of workplace interaction they were once so accustomed to. Susie Subia got a dog to help ease some of the anxiety.
“After I got my dog, I started to create festive bandanas for her. It was a hobby for me at first, and then I turned it into a side business,” said Subia, owner of Miss Boujee Paws Boutique.
“A lot of people built businesses that they wouldn’t have otherwise,” said President and CEO of Celebrate Fairfax, Ashley Morris. “People were very creative in finding their niche and being able to incubate that and help the growth is awesome for us.” Celebrate Fairfax offers free booth spaces at The PARC for vendors who want to participate in the markets, with the hope that eventually those vendors will own and operate a storefront in Fairfax County.
Shop Local Saturdays continue at The PARC with the next event taking place on February 26! The PARC is located at 8508 Leesburg Pike, Tysons, VA. For more information about how you can get involved, visit https://celebratefairfax.com/the-parc-at-tysons/