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When Lightning Strikes: First Day at the Market

Post-thunderstorm.

Remember how two days ago I was waxing sentimental about how “success” on our first market day was assured, since I had decided to define success as simply having introduced our ice pops to the world? Well let’s just say I was NOT thinking along those lines when we pulled in, late (despite the 5am wakeup), to Fulton Farmers’ Market on Saturday morning, under an enormous thundercloud that would soon sweep up our brand new market tent and relocate it, breaking several of its very affordable parts along the way. Nor was I pondering that very endearing definition of success when 2 hours later, we were still fighting wind and rain, but then our outlet lost electricity and a bunch of our lovingly crafted, and carefully packed, pops became bags of “juice.” No, right then I was trying to come up with a NON-FROZEN item to make and sell to the world.

 

Life is good.

 

And yet. Yesterday was an absolutely incredible day. It was exhausting, exhilarating, instructive. The sun, eventually, came out, and with it came heat and hungry farmers’ market customers with adorable kids who would soon have blueberry mustaches courtesy of 10,000 Licks. Seriously, there were so many adorable little people at the market yesterday, and the joy we got from seeing them hold those pops in their little fists, licking them adoringly while their parents stole bites– there simply is no word.

 

There’s no word either for how ridiculously cool it was to hang out with these stylish folks for a couple of hours (albeit after some car trouble on our way across town), watching so many vintage-loving ladies’ eyebrows go up at the thought of Watermelon and Spearmint cleverly combined.

 

But more than anything, yesterday was about the learning, and we came away from it with no fewer than 8 good lessons for “next time”:

 

1. Bring not just two, but all four legs of your display table.

 

2. Sandbags aren’t just for looks.

 

3. If Foxy Falafel will continue to accept ice pops in exchange for awesome Beet and Curry Falafel, then you must continue making ice pops forever.

 

Notice the conspicuous lack of tent, and Sarah wearing our sign as a necklace so it won't blow away.

4. Ditto on Mango Sticky Rice from Gai Gai Thai.

 

5. Crank up the basil in the Strawberry Basil pops.

 

6. Pack pops in freezer many hours before unplugging freezer to travel across town. Otherwise, the Heat Gods will laugh wickedly and descend.

 

7. Bring more napkins. Ice pop eaters love the napkins.

 

8. Give pops cute names like Bluegrass (Blueberry-Lemongrass). Folks are lovin’ the names.

 

And probably plenty more that I’ve yet to process.

The Non-Bossy Guide to Networking

If you’ve ever been looking for a job– and let’s face it, we’ve all been at one point or another looking for a job–inevitably you’ve gotten the advice, “It’s all about who you know!” Or perhaps you received a slightly different version: “Relationships, relationships, relationships!” Finally there’s “You just gotta network, baby!” All are equally irritating, of course, when you’re feeling a little bit lost and uncertain and probably less than confident in the strength of your all-important network. I, for one, remember feeling discouraged by that advice straight out of college, since as far as I could tell, I had no network to speak of whatsoever.

 

My understanding of what “networking” really is has changed quite a bit since then. The mystique is gone, and now it simply refers to the inevitable friendships and alliances that result simply from doing favors for–and asking favors from–the other humans we meet along our merry ways. And while journalism and the other types of work I’ve done certainly have helped me form some great relationships, I am struck by the ways in which starting a business is an especially collaborative act.

 

With a menu like that, what's not to like?

Consider this: When we first decided we wanted to sell ice pops at farmers’ markets, I of course had to contact my friend Aaron Reser at Mill City Farmers’ Market, which was already full for the year. But after giving me some great suggestions for farmers to buy produce from, she decided I might benefit from a chat with Erica Strait of Foxy Falafel, who is also selling at farmers’ markets–both her delicious falafel and her bike-blended smoothies (you gotta see it to believe it).
Erica shared a very useful brain dump about starting a business, and also happened to put us in touch with Meghan McAndrews of the excellent blog High Plains Thrifter, and vintage store Mighty Swell Vintage–we’ll be catering Mighty Swell Vintage’s July sale– and writing a guest blog post for High Plains Thrifter next week. And thanks to Meghan, a well-networked gal herself, we’ll be meeting later this week with Annie D’Souza of Yelp Twin Cities about possibly doing an event with that fine organization this summer.

 

Meanwhile, we met Lori Karis of Sweet Cheeks baby food a couple of weeks ago– through her posting about a freezer for sale. Though the freezer wasn’t quite what we had in mind, we bought two heat sealers from her, as well as a couple food scales, bowls, measuring cups and–why not– an industrial size roll of aluminum foil. Lori, like so many other owners of small food businesses, was overflowing with great tips, and happy to help. Looking for a commercial kitchen? she asked. Try Thuro Bread in St.Paul. You already know how that story ends.

 

And so maybe there really is no punch line this winding tale, other than this: whether or not 10,000 Licks succeeds, I’m learning a ton about the way things work in this world, and the term “networking” has never felt less jargony, and more simply and wholesomely true. Networking, I’m beginning to think, is just another word for how when one person is still splashing in the water, struggling to get on the boat, everyone else, or most everyone else, seems instinctively willing to reach out a hand.

 

I like a world like that.