Zaeemah Robinson: Behind the Scenes of a Holistic and Wellness Market

by Tatenda Mark

You step into the The Conscious Living Fayre on the first Sunday of every month in Cape Town and you find a number of heart-centred traders, selling natural, organic products made with love and care. Among these traders are practitioners who offer wellness therapies in the form of body alignment, Thai massage, Indian head massages and more.

It’s 11 am and Zaeemah is there, moving about busily, ensuring that the traders are well set up, whilst engaging with the gradually growing crowd. She even has time to take me for a tour around the fair, introducing me to the traders. Stories are being shared, there’s good food all around and people are taking home various crafts and products. Finally, the clock strikes 5 pm and the fair is about to close, but a stream of visitors come in just before. Zaeemah lets them in for a quick look around. Thirty minutes later, the doors are officially closed, giving Zaeemah and I a chance to chat as the traders pack away their equipment and products.

TM: Let’s start from the beginning.

Well, I started The Conscious Living Fayre in January 2013 due to popular demand from old fair traders, after the previous fair which ran for 17 years relocated. So I actually started the fair mainly because it concerned me that there was a loss in earnings in an economy that was slowing down, and opening this fair was an opportunity for traders to continue making a living.

I had to be very resilient as there were numerous challenges I faced right from day one in building an identity separate from the previous fair. Even with a new name, it was a challenge to create something new following a successful market that ran for 17 years and had seen most of its traders move on. It was fortunate in that in my previous life experience I loved managing facilities, planning new spaces and offices, managing buildings and implementing new and sustainable processes, which were skills I transferred to running this fair.

TM: Running a market seems like a lot of work, from renting a venue, getting traders, organising support staff, to marketing the fair.

​Yes, the biggest challenge initially was trying to get money to build this market – so I had to use my own funds, small sponsored items and promos to get more feet into the fair. Rental costs were high and support staff costs and the like meant I was investing more and more each month as the number of attendees started to dwindle. About 18 months ago, I started to explore a new venue where rent is considerably less, but staff costs were going to be higher.  At the end of 2016, I joined the Forward Fund Trust and now run the fair as a project in this NPO enabling me the opportunity to get more sponsorship. Also, having relocated to a new venue, and running a very successful first market, new opportunities are presenting themselves where funding will be needed to make this a continued ​success.

My suggestion to anyone who starts a market and fair is to be prepared to put in many hours, overcome many challenges, and you may not make money for a while. Also, to get a good support team – the 4 people who help each month ensuring the fair runs efficiently are Isabella, Majit, Abdullah and Olive, all of which have been there since the fair started four years ago. 

“If I did anything for money, I would have stayed in corporate business where I earned good salary and all the perks and consumerism that goes with it.”

There are a number of quality participants and traders who have also been here from the start. Each month we get new traders, some whom stay for long periods, while others only stay one month. It being an alternative and holistic fair, it does not necessarily cater to every trader’s needs. 

My 15 plus years in corporate facilities and building management will be in good use in a community centre where we can continue to host the fair each month and other events which relates to conscious living.

TM: That’s a lot of experience, but I am sure you stumbled a few times along the way and have learned a lot from running this market. Care to share your experiences and nuggets of knowledge?

Yes, from the beginning I learned not to start the same type of business in the same place where there has been a successful one before, as people do not differentiate you from the old one and often carry the same expectations. ​With running markets, you really need to build emotional muscles! My experience from running the fair is that you are dealing with a number of people who are trying to generate an income and you are offering them a platform to do so, but cannot ensure sales.

When you decide to run a market, you really need to:

  • Be specific about the kind of products or services you allow to trade;
  • Stick to a theme, for example: holistic and wellness;
  • Get a strong support team – you can’t do everything yourself;
  • Do work that you love​;
  • Be kind and open-hearted- this really works for me;
  • No drama and playing the boss 🙂

TM: Well, the crowd attendance has really picked up over the years, but I am pretty sure you aren’t settling your sights on just having a popular market.

My vision is to have a conscious living centre re-using a building no longer in use, offering alternative wellness practices, natural and organic products, practical and fun products made with recycled items, sustainable living solutions and an opportunity for small businesses to sell their products in an affordable space.

The Conscious Living Fayre is on every first Sunday of the month from 11 am to 5 pm at the Claremont Civic Centre, Cnr Bath and Wilderness Rd, Claremont, Cape Town.

Be sure to get in contact with Zaeemah for more information: Tel: +27 83 861 5600; email: consciouslivingfayre@gmail.comFacebook: The Conscious Living Fayre

Tatenda Mark is the Founder of alumnivalley.com, an online platform that supports, features and promotes entrepreneurs, ranging from small business owners, activists to artists. alumnivalley.com aims to empower, support and inspire people who follow their true passion, and believes that these are truly the minds that will change the world. For more stories and information, visit alumnivalley.com and be sure to like us on Facebook, www.facebook.com/alumnivalley. Any questions? Please feel free to email us on alumni@alumnivalley.com.

 

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