10 to Watch Winner 2022 – Victoria Market Collective – Douglas Magazine
Sector: Retail, Food and Drink, Arts
Year Launched: October 2020
Founders: (left to right) Katrina Dwulit, Vanessa Gaudet and Cory Judge
Unique Selling Proposition: Connecting the handmade community with the local community that cares about handmade.
Strategy: Instilling the trust in people that when they’re shopping local, they’re not compromising.
Alarmed by the prospect that local artisans would have nowhere to sell their unique, handcrafted goods, as the pandemic threatened to kill off the Christmas markets, three women came together to literally save the livelihoods of hundreds of vendors.
Esquimalt Farmer’s Market founder Katrina Dwulit, glass-blower Vanessa Gaudet of Lady Dragon Glassworks and jewelry designer Cory Judge of Shi Studio, bound by a certain synergy, opened the Victoria Market Collective in late 2020.
They recall their initial meeting as “amazing.”
“We were meant to be together,” says Dwulit.
And meant to not only save the maker community during that early pandemic famine, but to continue growing for the next 18 months. Originally planned as a seasonal pop-up shop in the Bay Centre, the Market Collective more than doubled its vendors from 65 to 140, expanding to a second location at Mattick’s Farm.
“At the beginning, we thought, with the [farmer’s] markets coming back; Is there still going to be a need for a store like ours?” says Gaudet. “That was a big question, and the answer is yes — because we still have people approaching us for a place to sell their wares.”
Some vendors have actually stopped doing markets because they’re selling more, via consignment, at the Collective. And, as the business reaches into online sales this year, it’s expected more artisans will want to join them.
“This was a necessity we threw together,” says Dwulit. “There was really no other option. It was super risky. Many of our vendors typically make 80 per cent of their income during the holiday market season.”
“Everyone thought we were crazy,” adds Gaudet.
Dwulit laughs: “We thought we were crazy.”