They say to not “despise the days of humble beginnings” and, as a founder of any product, that’s exactly what you get when you run a market stall. As you pitch your marquee and assemble your tables in anticipation for eager punters ready to fill their totes, a stall serves as the perfect opportunity to get immediate feedback and to refine your brand’s offering.
But, in a retail climate where e-commerce models are booming, it’s hard to imagine the growth-effect a market stall can have in a trendy part of town, as you sell to a niche demographic. But, in truth, many burgeoning and established global businesses alike started in the early morning hustle of a school car park. Here, we look at five Australian businesses that went from market stall to mega brand:
Set to bring home AU$27 million this financial year, the eye-wear duo, Nick Perry and Peter Winkle pitched their first tent at the Bondi Markets in 2012. Telling Collective Hub, “It just seemed like an industry where we were having an awful customer experience and, when we looked at the market structure, we realised you could sell a product for 30 per cent of the price.” The idea led to the entrepreneurs setting up shop next to candle makers and jumper knitters, and five years on, with over 23 stores in Australia alone, and store plants in the UK, it looks like global domination is on the cards.
Finding fans in their resin jewellery designs, home wear and accoutrements brand Dinosaur Designs launched its wares at the Paddington Markets in 1985. Just four years, later the brand launched an official store in Sydney’s reputable boutique hub, The Strand Arcade, and another store a year later in Paddington. Now with shops spanning the UK and US, the brand’s unique designs and bold aesthetic have separated them in a saturated market, often touted for minimalism. In an interview with The Design Files co-founder, Louise Olsen reflects on some of her most proud moments, “We’ve been really fortunate to work with some great people over the last 28 years, including collaborations with Louis Vuitton and Paul Smith, and to have been invited to exhibit at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. More recently, we were commissioned to create six huge platters for an exhibition at Brisbane’s GOMA which was a great honour.”
Sass and Bide
Adorned by stylish folk like Beyoncé, Nicole Richie, Kate Moss and, notably, Sarah Jessica-Parker on the show Sex And The City, the initial success of Brisbane natives Heidi Middleton and Sarah-Jane Clarke came from their market stall set-up in 1999 at the Portobello Road Market in London. Within two years, their local success meant that the girls returned to home soil to create their first ready-to-wear collection. While Heidi and Sarah are no longer with the company, the label is available locally in over 45 locations and ships globally.
Founding their namesake label in 1991, sisters Nicky and Simone would construct their feminine clothing and swimwear label during the week to sell at the Paddington Markets over the weekend. Nicky has said that she used the markets as a way to refine the brand’s aesthetic. Soon, word of mouth and calls from fashion publications meant the brand expanded into a national gem and now makes regular appearances on international red carpets, also showing at New York Fashion Week this year.
Shoes of Prey
In their initial phase of launching the business, cash strapped founders Jodie Fox, Michael Fox and Mike Knapp forwent the usual method of pricey focus groups for feedback, and instead went to Bondi Markets to test their business model of whether customers even wanted to design their own pair of shoes online. And although they didn’t sell much product, Jodie maintains that was a key part of their development strategy, also saying “we only did it for a limited amount of time, and really we should have continued to do it, so we could test out campaign ideas and what we thought might be great new material or style and things like that.”