During municipal election time, discussions turn to creating local jobs for Sooke residents. Many unique small businesses have successfully shown that Sooke can grow without the faceless ownership of franchise stores, however, people with great business ideas struggle to find a place to market their products without paying for expensive rental space or high commissions.
Small businesses are what has driven our local economy and if supported, could well encourage new and successful Sooke grown businesses. Often overlooked in this discussion is Sooke Country Market.
Since its inception in 1993, Sooke Country Market has been the spawning ground for many small businesses. Markets provide a low cost and accessible way to turn business ideas into viable businesses in a supportive and safe environment.
Hillary Child, creator of Huckleberry Hill Handcrafted Soap and Body Care, originally began making her own soap to provide safe and quality soap for her family and friends. Encouraged by the demand for her products, Child joined the Country Market in 2014 and quickly developed a faithful following and became an active member of the market vendor community
“I loved it, everyone was so welcoming and encouraging. I was able to meet my customers and get direct feedback every week,” Child said.
Within a year she was increasing her production, and fielding requests to supply local merchants with her products.
Today you can find a full line of Huckleberry Hill in Sea of Bloom Floral Design. Recently Child and her husband built a workshop on their property and now she enjoys a steady income while still managing a busy family.
Sarah Ireland, owner of Seaside Yarn and Button, has a similar story.
Being an overachieving knitter, her husband, Jonn, encouraged her to sell her knitting and markets seemed like the best first step. She began selling her knitted products at several markets, including Sooke Country Market, developing a strong customer base and becoming known for her creative and skillful knitting designs.
“I really liked doing markets and the shop local idea. There was such a sense of community – like we were all in it together. By doing markets I was able to gain wholesale buying power and opening a shop was the next step,” Ireland said.
After three years of almost seven day a week markets, Ireland took the plunge and opened her knitting shop in downtown Sooke in 2015. Today Seaside Yarn and Button is a thriving local business employing three staff, servicing an ever-growing population of fiber artists and contributing solidly to our local economy.
Teresa Willman, market manager and owner of Silver Cloud Farm, has been selling her produce at the country market for 12 years. “The country market is 70 per cent of my farm business and is essential to my annual family income,” she said.
These business owners credit the country market experience for giving them direct access to diverse consumer populations and an encouraging and supportive community of vendors to test, then grow, stable businesses.
The importance of our local country market to the overall health of our local economy needs to be recognized and acknowledged. Small businesses are the drivers of our local economy and a business incubator like the market deserves the support of municipal decision makers.
In this current election, voice your support of the market by considering those candidates who understand the value of country markets and are willing to establish a permanent market location in our downtown core.
Sheila Wallace is the assistant market coordinator for the Sooke Country Market.