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More than just selling – being an entrepreneur at a market

By Isabelle Coetzee

It only takes a couple of seconds for Sheryl Ozinsky, co-founder of the Oranjezicht City Farm (OZCF) Market, to tell whether an entrepreneur will succeed as a local trader.

By looking at their body language, she immediately gets a sense of whether they’re going to engage well with their clients and handle the demands of trading at a market.

“It’s very different from selling products anywhere else,” says Ozinsky, who’s currently managing a staff of over 300 local entrepreneurs, farmers, and volunteers.

Woman selling fresh produce at local market

“At a market you have to be able to engage with customers, telling them stories and offering them information about your product, where it’s sourced from, and about yourself,” she explains.

Many other vendors sell similar products, so they must offer a unique variation of their product, display it in an interesting way, and ensure clients are enticed by what they offer.  

Raymond Chen, founder and owner of the Jasmine Tea Mill in Somerset West, understands the importance of presentation. His stall is decorated with animated characters from popular TV shows, such as Dragon Ball Z, and he believes this will entice his target market to approach his stall.

Trader answering customers questions at local marketTrader answering customers questions at local market

Before 1993, Chen was an electrical engineer in China. When he moved to South Africa, he could no longer practice engineering because his qualification wasn’t accepted across borders. So, he decided to pursue his passion for teas instead.

Trader packing product away for customer at local market

“I’m a tea drinker and a tea lover. I want people to know about real tea. I’m completely against people using teabags, and I believe in using a different process to make tea. That is why I package my teas differently – I want people to see the real products,” says Chen.

He imports most of his teas from China, Japan, and Taiwan, and others are locally produced or bought from Europe. He explains that it doesn’t contain any artificial flavour, and that he only sources natural products.

Trader speaking with customer at local market

Ozinsky is also a strong supporter of local, organic products. The OZCF is currently contributing over R40 million to the local economy, which combats unemployment and raises gross domestic product (GDP).

But on a larger scale, she believes that selling wholesome, fresh foods can reduce the need for healthcare and encourage proper development in children and young adults.

“Markets are putting the human face back into shopping,” says Ozinsky. 

Customers selecting tomatoes at local market

She encourages entrepreneurs to attend the markets before they apply for a stall. They must understand the clientele at the market and investigate whether their products will be suitable for that environment.

Claudine Ukwishaka offers marketgoers the one thing they will need on their Saturday outings: a durable, lightweight bag.

Originally from Rwanda, she moved to South Africa in 2003 with her husband and three children. She has since managed to achieve her master’s in theology, and in July last year she was promoted at Shofar Christian Church in Delft from aftercare teacher to the role of pastor.

Woman weaving bag at local market

“I don’t like sitting around,” says Ukwishaka, who’s been selling her bags at the OZCF for the last month. When she’s not working at her church, she makes her bags and she teaches others how to make them too.  

“Everyone has a talent, and you must not wait for other people to tell you what to do. I work very well with my hands and I enjoy learning new things. I think everyone should learn from other people in order to improve themselves,” says Ukwishaka.

Hands of woman weaving bag at local market

She has been weaving bags for two years. They are made of durable, plastic straps which are bound together into large carrier bags. These are ideal for shopping, and many customers immediately use them while they explore the rest of the market.

“When I bless people with my work, they bless me with their money,” says Ukwishaka.

A stall at the OZCF Market used to cost R300 per day for each trader. However, they revised their fee structure and the cost of a stall today differs for each trader.

As per the agreement they signed at the start of their journey with OZCG, they must provide a record of their turnover every two months. They are then charged a minimum fee of 10% based on their historical performance, which is reconciled over time.

For example, if a trader has a historical performance of R1,000 per market day, then they will be charged R100 for their stall space each time. If they start earning double the amount (R2,000), then this will be increased to R200.

Trader attending to her bags at marketTrader attending to her bags at market

According to Ozinsky, their relationship with the traders are a partnership and they want to see them grow. If they realise that a trader’s business is not growing at the same pace as the market as a whole, they get involved and help solve any problems.

It’s challenging to be a trader, and Ozinsky says that it’s physically demanding to spend hours on your feet during all weather conditions. But she believes it’s all very rewarding because customers are happy when they come to the market, and they get their energy from engaging with them.

The OZCF market is open every Saturday and Sunday from 09:00 to 14:00 at the Granger Bay site at the V&A Waterfront. Have a look at the links below to find out more about how you can become a trader at this or any other markets:

Man selling fresh produce at local marketMan selling fresh produce at local market

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