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If you’ve been to a street fair, flea market, farmers market, or craft show in New York City, then you’ve probably run into Karen Seiger. She has been a tireless advocate for the crafters, bakers, farmers, and smaller business owners who call these markets home for close to a decade. Her blog Markets of New York catalogues these markets and business owners and brings attention to the artists who make NYC so unique. In 2010, she launched her first book of the same title, Markets of New York City, and to this day she continues to hit the markets, showcasing new vendors and celebrating the small businesses who have made their dreams a reality thanks to the markets.
Personally, Karen has been a great friend and a wonderful person to know. She’s always willing to offer help, a networking opportunity, or just a really good chat and cup of coffee and I’m so thrilled to feature her today.
1. What made you decide that you needed to create your brand?
I wrote the guidebook, Markets of New York City. I started writing a blog to help sell the book, and then the blog took on a life of its own. Today,www.MarketsOfNewYork.com is an online magazine! The brand Markets of New York is a way for me to continue to write, speak and share information with people who want to know about these amazing artisan, farmer, food and flea markets in the city.
2. When did you think to yourself “okay, this is definitely viable?”
I knew Markets of New York was going to be something special. It is a descriptive brand name, but it holds the promise of finding interesting things behind it. The visual brand itself, a sweet tote bag filled with colorful market objects [right], was a huge success factor as well.
I have a lot of plans for the brand going forward too! Updating the website to feature more stories, launching a podcast, and publishing a second edition of the guidebook are at the top of my list. I’m thinking that walking tours might be fun to do too.
I’d love to let you readers know that I am seeking an awesome, dynamic new publisher or agent to help me launch a new edition of the guidebook in the US and for other countries around the world! Any referrals or recommendations are greatly appreciated!
3. What’s a surprising challenge that you didn’t know you’d encounter along the way?
I haven’t found many things to be surprising, but I have had a challenge of finding the time to turn the brand into a full-time business. I do what I do with Markets of New York City because I absolutely love it, and I can’t stop writing about the people and things I encounter in the markets. Someone or something blows me away every weekend. Every single weekend.
4. How important was social media in your success? Do you think you would have been as successful without the advent of social media?
Social media is absolutely critical! When I wrote my book, I included profiles of 200 markets and vendors, all of whom had their own social networks. They shared the links online and even sold the books at their own market events. They continue to share my links today, and I share theirs. It’s a perfect example of how social media is supposed to work – a group of people sharing information, energy and enthusiasm to drive web traffic and commerce among a much wider network of people — and just to share the love!
I do not think my book would have sold 20,000 copies without the help of social media around the world. These platforms give access to incredibly influential marketing tools that previously only the wealthiest corporations could even think of leveraging. We take Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and other platforms for granted, and we really should remember how much power we have at our fingertips.
5. What is something someone outside of your industry might not realize about the work you do?
One message I am absolutely focused on sharing this year is the fact that markets are extremely powerful incubators for small businesses and for innovation.
A vendor I know in an artisan market employs 7 full-time staff members, including skilled designers and craftspeople in addition to sales staff. There are hundreds of small and micro-businesses making a go at it every weekend in the markets. Dozens of businesses have graduated from markets to open their own stores or a larger product line.
The markets are also a very sensitive gauge for the health of the economy at large. The vendors are at the front lines of commerce. When people are optimistic about the economy, the markets flourish. When the Euro is weak against the dollar, the tourists are fewer and more careful with their travel funds. Changes in the national and global economy touch our markets immediately. I would love to introduce our economic policy makers to the markets of New York City.
Most vendors today support themselves with the proceeds from selling in markets, and also from online sales if they are diligent with their market. That fact is nothing short of remarkable. The markets allow people to follow their dreams, build their businesses, and literally market test their ideas and innovations. Markets of New York exists to support their efforts and to tell everyone about the wonderful people and things they create!
Check out Karen’s blog, Markets of New York City: Your Guide to the Best Artisan, Farmer, Food & Flea Markets. Shop locally and eat seasonally for a sustainable and beautiful life!