What's it like to sell your artisanal goodies at Smorgasburg, the open-air food market in Brooklyn's trendy Williamsburg neighborhood?
The Story Exchange recently headed across the river on a steamy Saturday morning to chat with vendors who sell a tantalizing array of foodie options, from sweet confections to spicy noodles. Given that we cover female entrepreneurs, we interviewed Keavy Blueher and Allison Kave of Butter & Scotch, Lane Li of Noodle Lane and Taryn Garcia of Vendome Macaron.
From a business perspective, all four say Smorgasburg has been the opportunity of a lifetime. It's allowed them to start food businesses with little overhead, while developing a following among the thousands who visit the market each weekend. All are planning to open brick-and-mortar locations (Vendome Macaron has even attracted an investor as a result of its three-year presence at Smorgasburg.)
"Being attached to Smorgasburg really gives you street 'cred'... so people know that you're a legit business," Blueher says. "It's always nice being able to name-drop Smorgasburg."
Beyond the exposure, the congenial atmosphere of Smorgaburg -- as well as other markets, like nearby Greenmarket in Manhattan's Union Square -- make it a particularly supportive environment for female entrepreneurs to thrive. "The greenmarket is a real community, and you really get to know the people - not just the customers, but you really get to know all of the people that you are working with," says Beth Linskey of Beth"s Farm Kitchen, who sells jams and chutneys in Union Square. "We really consider ourselves neighbors."
The mood and spirit seems a far cry from the cut-throat kitchens of the restaurant industry, which have developed a reputation for being hostile to female chefs. (We recently took a look at sexism in the restaurant industry in this two-part series: Why We Care About Female Chefs.)
Instead, the sights, sounds and smells of Smorgasburg combine in a welcoming marketplace, for vendors and hungry tourists alike. For more, read our article, A Feast of Opportunity, and listen to short interviews with the female entrepreneurs who are successfully growing businesses there.