Community supported Commerce AKA Cleveland Flea is a style of supporting a small (in our case creative) economy with a good amount of the same people.
So, you could also call it Socially Supported.
In essence, it’s the SAME people that come over and over and over again buying from mostly the SAME business owners again and again and again.
It’s people buying from people. And to make it work, here’s what it needs:
Consistency | From both sides. Customers need to believe businesses will show up as they said they would. It’s why we NEVER cancel (unless it’s a safety thing) even if it’s raining. I want every customer to have faith that we’ll do what we say we’ll do. And from a Small Biz perspective, they need to believe you will actually show up to support them. Every time. Because they spend a lot of money and time preparing for X amount of people and they have small margins so they / we can’t afford to lose BIG lots of times. We will sometimes, because that’s small business but we need to count on the attendance and support of our community.
Quality | Customers are exchanging hard-earned money for well-made stuff. They’re typically going to pay more than they would at a big box store that is able to keep pricing low so they want high quality (product + experience). It makes perfect sense. And if you deliver low-quality, your customers will talk about that and you won’t continue to be supported.
Energy | Both sides need energy and excitement so that they can be at their best selves. In order for customers to consistently come back and shop, there needs to be energy in the form of actual excitement on the end of small business owners, new products, and money! Money is energy that customers give to small business owners so they can continue to make their community more creative. In our case, we have to charge $4 to get support from you all because vendor fees alone don’t cover what it requires to deliver what we KNOW we need to deliver to keep this economy going and growing- all year long. That’s the thing, we live and study and breathe creative small business all year long. And your community support OF US makes that possible. xoxo
Acceptance | We need to accept each other as we are. Sure, both customers and business owners can improve but the relationship we’re in requires we love each other for where we’re at now. Customers might not quite understand (yet) why something costs what it does or why a small business runs out of something but also small business owners need to understand that and help customers understand more, not make them feel bad for asking. It IS going to be harder and more expensive for small business owners to deliver high-quality because they don’t have access to tools, money and resources that make scaling efficient and cost-effective. However, that’s FINE because small-batch is what you want anyway, right? You’re not looking for mass-produced.
Kindness | Approaching each other with kindness keeps us all coming back and feeling good about our exchange of energy (money, goods, kind words). If we wanted zero connection with the people who make and sell our things we’d just shop online or at big box stores all the time. But we’re trying to have community here.
Curiosity | I love this. Because it’s natural for people who have very diverse experiences to not fully understand each other. You might not know why a price is what it is. Ask but be curious rather than make some kind of moral judgement on a person. Small business owners are typically charging you LESS than they should for a sustainable life, so even if the price is more expensive than you’re used to, they’re probably running a business at a loss or very low margin just to bring it to market. On the other side of this is confidence in your product and pricing for what you NEED to thrive, not just survive. If we all collectively decided to price for what we need as business owners to thrive then we’d form a more united front and you wouldn’t have people selling something similar for dramatically different prices. That would work to stabilize the market. And be curious about your customers, Small Biz Owners. They WANT to support you but they often don’t know what it’s like to be you. And making better products usually starts with getting to know your dreamiest shoppers- so get curios about them and ask questions during markets- who knows, your customers could help you solve a problem that you just can’t seem to solve!
We, at Cleveland Flea, provide a much-needed support system to the creative startup economy here in Cleveland. We’re proud of this.
In this way, we’re very different than other markets and events.
We study the economy. We study business. We study creativity and community.
We work hard to help business owners bring their best selves to market and we work hard to bring customers best selves to market.
Every year it’s harder and harder to combat competition and apathy and fast fashion and a fundamental misunderstanding of why our business is necessary. But we LOVE Cleveland and we’re committed to continuing our work to Keep Cleveland Creative.