How Farmers Markets helped this immigrant entrepreneur launch her business for free in the US.
When immigrant Javaneh Hemmat lost her corporate job in the great recession of 2008 it created an opportunity for her to take the path of countless immigrants before her and become an American entrepreneur. Javaneh launched her business “Hummus Chick” at a farmers’ market in Nashville. She sold out her first batch of hummus in an hour and a half. She’s just inked a deal with Whole Foods to have the natural food powerhouse stock her hummus.
Here’s Java’s story on how she launched her business and landed Whole Foods from a small stall at farmers’ market in Tennessee – and how any immigrant can do exactly the same…..
“Farmers markets were the fastest way for me to get in touch with customers, get connected with independent groceries and supermarkets, and get my products on their shelves.”
Immigrant Business: Why did you decide to test your product in a farmer’s market?
Hemmat: Every neighborhood has its own little farmers market community. And farmers markets were the fastest way for me to get in touch with customers, get connected with independent groceries and supermarkets, and get my products on the shelves. Since I have small scale production, my plan was to start with independent stores, so the farmers’ market seemed like a good way to get started.
Resources: Find A Farmers’ Market Near You
Immigrant Business: But you were a just a novice entrepreneur when you started making hummus, so how did you get in?
Hemmat: There’s a qualification process, which includes:
* You have to fill out a questionnaire
* The decision maker who decides whether you get in or not is the manager of the farmer’s market. She evaluates:
* The kind of product you have
* The ingredients you use
* Customer demand for your type of product
* How much space is available
* The seniority of other vendors
One very popular market actually has a board that has to make the decision every season on who comes in and who should move on. So there are some hurdles you have to jump through.
“The farmers’ market experience isn’t just about selling product. Meeting and learning from other vendors who have more experience… is just as important.”
Immigrant Business: Why should a beginning food entrepreneur consider Farmers’ Markets?
Hemmat: The farmers’ market experience isn’t just about selling product. Meeting and learning from other vendors who have more experience — or who have products in regular stores— is just as important. That’s how connections are made. Remember, somebody always knows somebody that can help you!
Resources: Find a Farmers’ Market In Your Zip Code
Immigrant Business: What did you learn from customers?
Hemmat: When I went to the farmers market, I thought I would be judged, but I was surprised to receive such a warm welcome. People were so generous, and they were eager to share their personal experiences. For example, they told me how much they loved hummus and how they had tried to make it at home and it wasn’t as smooth as mine or it was too dry.
This was a big sales lesson for me because I put myself in the customer’s shoes for the first time. I realized that what you spend your money on is a very personal experience, and that the curiosity of the customer is peaked when they discovered new products in the market. So I realized that the newness of my product was very important in order to grab my customers attention.