Jus­tine Paul, Suf­folk Mar­ket Events

Jus­tine Paul gets up ev­ery day to run Suf­folk Mar­ket Events. Over the past decade she has spent her days re­viv­ing some flag­ging farm­ers’ mar­kets and got new ones off the ground.

EADT Suffolk - - INSIDE -

Ido about 20 jobs be­fore the kids leave for school, then I com­mute out of the front door and down a path to my of­fice. I try to start by about 8.45am and work un­til around 4pm. I al­ways walk the dogs at some point – it’s my think­ing time and of­ten when ideas come. Angie works with me in the of­fice two days a week. She’s a huge ad­di­tion to Suf­folk Mar­ket Events. As a small busi­ness, there are no mar­ket­ing or IT de­part­ments, or print­ing rooms, so we do ev­ery­thing. I might be check­ing out po­ten­tial new traders, talk­ing to var­i­ous peo­ple about new venues, writ­ing an ar­ti­cle for a mag­a­zine, pay­ing in­voices, do­ing so­cial me­dia or at­tach­ing road signs to lamp­posts. No day is the same!

On a mar­ket day, I leave home by 6.30am. Mar­ket days are full on and every­one wants two min­utes of your time. It’s a mad flurry of ac­tiv­ity, and then every­one leaves and I start the long drive around get­ting all the road signs in be­fore I head home. I love the quiet­ness of work­ing in my gar­den of­fice, but I also love the noisy days of mar­kets.

It all started 10 years ago. In 2008 I moved to Laven­ham with my hus­band Alex and our children. We were re­ally look­ing for­ward to vis­it­ing the farm­ers’ mar­ket. Sadly, it was just a hand­ful of stall­hold­ers with very few cus­tomers and we learnt it was to shut down. Alex sug­gested I try to do some­thing to save it, and when I get a fire in my belly I go for it!

I put up posters to an­nounce the farm­ers’ mar­ket would re­launch the fol­low­ing Septem­ber. I asked traders to come back, I vis­ited mar­kets and sug­gested they come and try Laven­ham again. I set up a Twit­ter ac­count, even though I knew noth­ing about so­cial me­dia.

One night Alex came home and said he’d been asked, at a Suf­folk County Coun­cil meet­ing, if he knew any­one who could bring food to the Great East Swim. It was light­bulb mo­ment. We re­alised that the fan­tas­tic mar­ket I’d been nur­tur­ing in Laven­ham, could be picked up and taken to an event.

The past 10 years have been busy, un­pre­dictable, ex­cit­ing. Our first award, the Suf­folk Food and Drink Awards Best Mar­ket in 2012, was a huge mile­stone, and win­ning the Food & Drink Hero in 2015 was a mas­sive per­sonal achieve­ment. Go­ing to Down­ing Street as one of the UK’s best 100 small busi­nesses is also up there in my top mo­ments.

There are al­ways chal­lenges, like any job. When I first started some peo­ple ques­tioned whether we would suc­ceed. I wasn’t from a farm­ing back­ground, and we hadn’t been in Suf­folk long, so it was easy to as­sume I wouldn’t stick it out. But suc­cess­ful town cen­tres will al­ways have a qual­ity mar­ket, al­though it can be dif­fi­cult to re­as­sure town cen­tre stake­hold­ers of the eco­nomic ben­e­fits of in­vest­ing in mar­kets.

I think good farm­ers mar­kets have a healthy fu­ture. One of our cus­tomers re­cently told me, ‘I can’t imag­ine Bury St Ed­munds with­out the farm­ers’ mar­ket now. It’s some­thing I look for­ward to ev­ery month. Not only do I buy some of the best food to be had lo­cally with which to feed my fam­ily, I talk to the pro­duc­ers, I learn, I be­come more aware and knowl­edge­able, more con­nected with the place I live in.’ In a world of on­line shop­ping, I still be­lieve there’s a vi­tal place for well or­gan­ised, top qual­ity mar­kets be­cause we love to smell, to taste, to pick up and to hear the story be­hind the food we eat.

This year is ex­cit­ing. We’re re­launch­ing Long Melford farm­ers’ mar­ket on Fe­bru­ary 9, af­ter lots of re­quests. We have a won­der­ful se­lec­tion of traders signed up. And we’re go­ing to be ex­pand­ing in 2019 so watch this space!

ABOVE: Jus­tine Paul of Suf­folk Mar­ket Events

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