- By glens
- In Danielle's Mission Check
- Posted August 14, 2017
We Grow Small Businesses Along With Our Own
Glen’s Garden Market is an intensively values-driven operation. Our values are derived from our Mission – to make incremental climate change progress by selling Good Food from Close By – and they help define the experience in our space, whether between ourselves, ourselves and our Neighbors, or ourselves and our vendors. They include: we are flexible and innovative, we act with honesty and integrity, we go out of our way to exceed expectations, and we prepare each other to succeed. Each value is integral to our culture at Glen’s. They were created to define the feeling we want folks to have when they step into our space.
There is one value in particular that most excites me: we grow small businesses along with our own. In four years of operating, Glen’s Garden Market has launched just over 70 local small food businesses. That means we’ve given nearly six dozen budding food entrepreneurs their very first chance to sell their products on our shelves. These are people who share our values, and our commitment to sustainability. They are folks who may have left a good-paying, steady job to chase an ambitious dream, and when they walked into Glen’s to share their creation with us, it was the first time in business they ever heard the word “yes.”
Glen’s is a particularly hospitable place for emerging food entrepreneurs because we are true and dedicated stewards of the brands we incubate here. Unlike a regular grocery store, where many of them would be relegated to sub-prime shelf space, and assigned highest-in-category pricing to signal premium quality, we do the opposite. We give our little guys the best slotting in the store. We take a hit on our margins to ensure they get a fair shake as folks are considering what to place in their baskets, rather than passing them over because they are unfamiliar and inaccessibly priced. We support them through social media and we host them in the stores, so they can meet the people who have yet to fall in love with their food. And, when they’re open to it, we provide mentorship on everything from packaging to distribution to flavor profiles to wholesale pricing theory. In some cases, we invest directly in their growth and in others we trade equipment for inventory, so they are able to produce more efficiently.
There are several reasons why growing small businesses along with our own is so important to us: first, allowing members of our own community a stage on which to explore their dreams of starting a food business is really fun. We get to meet tons of creative people making delicious, sustainably produced food, who walk it right through our front doors, often the day it was made. We know their names and we tell their stories. That’s very atypical for a grocery store, but it’s not at all uncommon here. Second, providing newest-to-market local, small-batch foods ensures that our product mix remains differentiated and exciting to our Neighbors. We achieve a mutual symbiosis: the producers have a great place to sell, we get to fill our shelves with the best stuff around, and our Neighbors can always find new, wonderful options here that they can’t find anywhere else (yet!).
Finally, when we partner with mindful food producers who share our values, and we position their products to sell well, we help them achieve economies of scale, which brings down their costs (and our prices), and better positions them to thrive at larger markets. We help prepare them for prime time, and when that happens, and they elbow onto the shelves of larger stores, they are, in the process, displacing demand for industrially produced food. In effect, they are kicking the crap off the shelves. To be sure, those shelves were not empty before, they were likely just jammed with less sustainable, less mindfully made options. And in so doing, we are growing market share for the food we believe in, and extending the reach of our movement beyond the four walls of our stores.
Of the 70 producers who got their start at Glen’s, most are thriving – some have even carved out a national presence – and some are no more, but each was integral to the development of our identity, and each one symbolizes our deep and authentic commitment to building community through food, while making progress, one bite at a time.