APOLLO BEACH – Last March Jennifer McCafferty sat listening to fellow entreprenuers at a Sun City Center Area Chamber networking event. Many were lamenting the fact they had no affordable venue for marketing their goods and services.
McCafferty left with the idea of starting a small market near what was then her office in Apollo Beach – maybe six or eight vendors to kick things off, she thought.
Before she even had the chance to work the logistics, word got out and nearly 40 small business owners wanted in. Jen’s MarketPlace was born.
McCafferty tested the waters by hosting Christmas in July in Sun City Center with 38 vendors squeezed into the banquet room at the chamber.
“I actually had to turn some vendors away, because we had to hold the market inside due to the heat and rain at the time,” she said. “Despite the weather, more than 500 people showed up in the three hours we were open.”
With that kind of interest and a turnout to match, her marketplace concept was a go.
McCafferty took the next few months to solicit more vendors and found an eclectic mix she felt would appeal to area residents.
In September she hosted Jen’s MarketPlace – Apollo Beach on Franderson Circle near her old office. Once again the crowds came.
“There was a need in this area for a place where people could buy products from locally owned, small businesses and enjoy the event as a community gathering,” she said. “That’s why I always have music and a variety of foods for sale at each market.”
Now there are two markets – one in Sun City Center from 1 to 5 p.m. on the fourth Saturday of the month and the other in Apollo Beach from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the second Sunday. The latter has been moved to the C-1 Bank parking lot on U.S. 41.
Fifty vendors participated at the last market on Sept. 8. Among the offerings were fresh, local produce; fudge and honey; fresh-caught, wild salmon and other seafood; jewelry; handcrafted yard art; exotic plants; all-natural, organic skin care products; teas and more. People milled around with their pets, sampling foods and enjoying the music. The atmosphere was communal and laid back.
Terrie Lawson, co-owner of Hydro Harvest Farms in Ruskin, believes McCafferty is on the right track.
“I think Jen has done a great job. There’s a nice variety of vendors,” she said. “We’re hoping the crowds continue to build and show their support for a market like this. I talked with several other vendors and they all were happy.”
That’s important to McCafferty, who is looking into additional market sites at Waterset and in Riverview. The owner of Jen’s Market Inc., an events and marketing solutions company, has a simple business philosophy.
“I help small businesses market themselves and at the same time give something back to the community,” she said.
Toward that end, she gives a free space and donates a portion of her proceeds to a different charity at each market. So far, Mary and Martha House, Critter Mama Rescue and My Warrior’s Place have been recipients.
“The markets are here to stay as long as the communities support them,” she said. “It’s not something I ever thought I’d do myself, but now that I’m doing it I’m having a ball.
The next Jen’s MarketPlace – Sun City Center will be Saturday Nov. 30 on Small Business Saturday, when shoppers nationwide are encouraged to do their holiday shopping at small businesses in their community.
For more information, call (813) 846-1316, email [email protected] or visit www.jens-market.com.