Young Vendors Bring New Energy & Fresh Ideas to the Market!
Every Saturday that I visit the farmers market, I'm blown away by the quality of products and creative talents of our newest vendors. As I witness each of these entrepreneurs talking to customers and making sales, I imagine the Hamilton lyrics of Lin-Manuel Miranda slowly pumping in the background. I'm Young, Scrappy and Hungry.... and I'm not throwing away my... shot.
Each of these vendors is young—under the age of 28. Each is scrappy—tenacious in their pursuit of accomplishing what they set their minds to. And each is hungry—dreaming of ways to take their businesses to the next level. And none of them are throwing away their shot at success.
Allow me to now introduce you to just a few of the faces we hope will inspire you to shop local this Saturday, and every Saturday, when you head down to the waterfront.
First up is 17-year-old Morgan Wilson, owner of Colonial Lavender. Morgan already has a resume that rivals people twice her age. The home-schooled student took her first SAT at the ripe old age of 12, graduated high school at age 13, and currently holds the title of Tidewater Community College's youngest alumna. In December of 2016, she received her associate's degree and graduated with a 4.0 GPA. Morgan is now working toward her Bachelor's in Communications from ODU, and hopes to complete her courses by next spring. She can't think of a better way to implement what she's learning in the classroom, than with the weekly one-on-one interactions she has with all the customers at Yorktown Market Days.
Morgan has partnered with a lavender farm in Williamsburg where she harvests the fresh herb for her line of products. She uses her bounty to create an array of purple and white soaps, candles, oils, loose-leaf teas, lotions, lip balms, and lavender simple syrup. She even sells lavender "Fairy Fetching Spray" and "Stay-Away Monster Spray" for the kids. Morgan makes each of her products by hand, so she can answer any of your questions about the ingredients, how they're made, and the best way to use them.
When I asked Morgan whether she's faced any challenges with her business, given her age, she told me she really hasn't. Without hesitation, she credits her supportive parents for that. She says that from a young age, they have always said "yes" to her unconventional ambitions.
They have taught me and supported me in defying my age and achieving whatever I thought possible, regardless of the number of candles on my cake. People are usually a little surprised to see a 17 year old with a business license and paperwork and business cards, but I hope that by putting all of my dedication into what I do, they will judge me by my accomplishments rather than my age.
What's next? Morgan says she's hoping to expand her line of products by the end of the summer to include mosquito spray, eye masks, and maybe face masks.
The Dizzy Lemon
Next, we'd like to introduce you to Colin Wilson, the youngest CEO we know. At 14 years old, Colin is more than just a business owner. He's also a high school graduate, and happens to be Morgan's brother. Though unlike his sister, he tells us he's in no hurry to rush off to college. Instead, he's taking advantage of this time to better explore his interests and to learn the best way to run his company, The Dizzy Lemon.
When I asked Colin what motivated him to open a gourmet lemonade business, he shared that he has always been interested in mixology, and this business venture is a viable way for someone his age to explore it. After visiting our market, he saw a niche that could be filled, and he jumped on the opportunity! Colin describes Yorktown Market Days as a fun and high-energy environment. He especially loves spending Saturday mornings with his family.
Well, our family has always been very team oriented and my sister and I began working together at a very young age as child actors. But in this case, Morgan and I are working alongside each other towards individual goals for our own businesses, not necessarily with each other. We definitely cheer each other on, but we like having our own goals too.
Colin did a little math for us and says he runs through roughly 600 lemons every month making his gourmet lemonades for customers. His menu features more than a dozen different flavor profiles that use fresh fruits, plus some tea options. All of his beverages are hand-shaken in a chilled cocktail shaker, which he says "perfectly blends the flavors." To Colin, it's all about the details! When asked whether he has a favorite drink, he said he personally recommends the Black and Blue which is a blend of blackberry and blueberry. (Sign me up!)
Right now, all of the profits from his market sales goes right back into his company to support it, though he admits he sets some aside so he can treat his sister to lunch and treat himself to the occasional video game.
What's next? Colin says to be on the lookout for two new flavors in the coming months—Cherry Limeade and the Arnold Palmer featuring freshly crushed lemons and limes. He also hopes to expand his business model. Oh, and he admits he's looking forward to being able to sleep in again on Saturdays.
Dylan Shannon is the 20-year-old owner of Sweet Treats and says he's had an entrepreneurial spirit since he was a kid. In fact, he says he learned the basics of business on his elementary school bus! That's where he discovered a pretty sweet way to earn money using a bag of Hershey Kisses. He turned around and sold each individual chocolate to his classmates for a nickel. Not only did he collect enough coins to offset the cost of the candy, he mastered the art of negotiation. When his stash started to get old, he came down a little on the price to get rid of his inventory, and still pocket some profits.
I realized young that I could get out of a business what I put into it.
Dylan always knew he wanted to run his own company when he got older and when he hit middle school, he knew just what type of business it would be. That's when he decided he would one day open a candy store so he could sell a variety of treats, including his favorite—fudge.
Once he graduated high school, he thought he'd come to a crossroad—either start a business or go to college. He opted to make his education a priority, hoping to beat the statistic of 50% of all businesses failing within their first year. He also hoped his decision would align with another statistic—that over time, those with degrees end up earning more money. In the end, he found a way to do both. Dylan opened his company his sophomore year of college, and he'll return this fall to keep working toward a double major, in both business administration and computer science.
Dylan has been cooking candy for years, but really refined his recipes and techniques in the past 12 months. Every Saturday, he sets out samples of his products so market customers know exactly what they're buying. Many of his candies generate nostalgia for some customers—options like potato candy, rock candy, and peanut brittle. He also sells several different flavors of fudge and chocolate treats. You may be wondering how he keeps everything from melting in our sweltering Virginia heat. He says the chocolate is the most heat sensitive so he only brings a couple of those items to the market, and he stores them in his cooler behind the table, making sure to maintain a temperature around 70 degrees.
What's next? Currently, Dylan is putting all of his profits toward paying for college. He will be leaving the market soon to head back to campus. Once he graduates, he says he'll reinvest into his business so that he can grow it and eventually do it full time.
Some Thin Gourmet Potato Chips
Some of you may recognize Tyler Clark who was recently featured in the Daily Press. The 23 year old is the founder of Some Thins Gourmet Potato Chips, which are currently sold exclusively at Yorktown Market Days. Tyler makes his chips from scratch, including the spice blends used to flavor them: salted; sour cream and onion; a house blend; and even a crab flavor.
On average, he goes through roughly 60-80 pounds of potatoes each week. Each of those potatoes is par boiled to seal in the crunch and give what he identifies as a "real potato taste."
When asked how he came up with the idea for his business, Tyler is always quick to admit that for him, it was a higher calling.
I was sitting in a Bible study about finding your passion, and I heard God tell me Some Thins, that it should be the name of a Chip Company. He told me how to make the chips, how to flavor them, and everything that goes into them.
Before he started selling to the public, Dylan tested his recipe on church members, co-workers, friends, and family. They became his very own focus group. As a result, he thinks he's perfected his technique. In fact, he's so confident in the quality of his product that he encourages everyone who stops by to try a sample before making a purchase. He brings 120 to 150 bags of chips to Yorktown each Saturday, and there have been several markets where he's sold out early so our advice is to get there when they open so you don't miss out.
What's next? Tyler's short-term goals are to get printed bags for his chips and to create a sweet potato version of his chip for his customers by the end of summer. His long-term goal is to one day open several factories across the country, and get his chips into stores, restaurants, markets, and food trucks.
Virginia Bread Company
Virginia Bread Company is the joint venture of young entrepreneurs Ainslie Martin and Colin O'Rourke, both graduates of the Culinary Institute of Virginia. The dynamic duo made their Yorktown debut at the first market of the season—immediately impressing customers with their beautiful display and variety of baked goods.
The following Saturday during the Sister Cities French Market, they sold out just a couple of hours into the event. It's easy to see why. Their booth always includes a mouthwatering spread of artisan breads including croissants; danishes; boules; baguettes; yeasted whole grain breads; and pumpernickel breads.
Even with an ever-evolving menu each week, Ainslee says they clearly have a specialty.
Visitors should stop by to check out our booth to learn more about the health benefits of sourdough breads. While they are not only homemade with few ingredients, they also contain gut-healthy enzymes!
These two earned Associates of Applied Science in Baking and Pastry Arts (AAS), and immediately headed to Colonial Williamsburg to put their degrees to use. Colin accepted a job as a pastry chef at the Williamsburg Lodge and Ainslie as a pastry chef at the Williamsburg Inn. Together, they have a combined decade's worth of experience in the baking industry.
What's next? They are always looking for new ideas and testing new recipes. One weekend you may stop by to discover a decadent chocolate croissant. The next weekend, it may be a vibrant strawberry cheese danish that catches your eye.
King of Clubs Coffee
Another popular vendor, especially for those of you hitting the market as soon as it opens, is veteran-owned King of Clubs Coffee. The local roasting and brewing business sells cold brew nitro on tap; bottles and growlers of regular cold brew; 12-oz bags of Colombian and Guatemalan beans; and biodegradable k-cups. At age 28, James Kroll is the face of the business at the market. The CEO shared with me that their company opened just a little more than a year ago, and even he can't believe how quickly things have come together. Last fall, they started doing coffee. By winter, they were producing k-cups. And in the spring, they had started wholesale—making their way into several restaurants in Williamsburg.
When you stop by James' booth, you quickly recognize his passion, and learn that there's actually a lot of science to making the perfect cup of coffee. First, they fresh roast all of their beans. Then, when they're at the peak of freshness, they cold brew under refrigeration for an extended period of time.
The process gives it 70% less acidity than standard coffee. We see a lot of people who normally drink theirs with cream and sugar, but enjoy ours black.
So what exactly is Nitro coffee? Nitro coffee = Nitrogen Infused Coffee. It's a really cool process to witness. The coffee goes through a high-pressure nitrogenization process, smoothing out the texture and flavor, giving it an almost creamy taste. It also brings out the sweetness in the coffee, and creates a mesmerizing cascading effect in the process. Check out the Instagram video we posted a few weeks ago that illustrates how it looks as it's served.
What's next? James is currently trying to bring King of Clubs Coffee into York County businesses and restaurants. Great Wolf Lodge will be stocking it soon! He's also in the process of transitioning the name of the company from Mandela so you may still see bags with the old branding for a couple more months in stores across Williamsburg, as they make the big switch.
Yorktown Market Days takes place every Saturday, through October 27 (excluding Oct. 6), from 8 a.m. until noon at Riverwalk Landing. In the fall, look for special themed markets with special extended hours.
All of these vendors are active on social media, promoting behind-the-scenes looks at their businesses and sharing sneak peeks at what you can expect from week to week. Click on any of the links below to follow, and make sure you're also a fan of Visit Yorktown so you don't miss all of our posts about upcoming special events.