It was back in 2007, whilst Ben O Brien was working in the music industry that he became frustrated with the lack of good food on offer at festivals. At the same time, he was living nearby Borough Market and was constantly impressed by the variety and quality of food on offer. Ben decided to do something about it. Gathering together some of the best small independent food producers, he hit the road, touring events such as the Innocent Village Fete, Secret Garden Party and even the Olympics.
From these events, Ben quickly realised there was a big demand for quality, locally sourced produce – and not just at festivals. He began a search for a permanent site, with the mission to bring the concept of a farmers’ market to the convenience sector. In 2009, Sourced Market in St Pancras opened its doors. It now serves over 12,000 customers, commuters and tourists a week and last year made £2.8M in revenue.
However, Ben didn’t want to stop there. Looking to expand his business, Ben started searching for new sites. With a few potential locations to explore, Ben decided to launch a 3-month pop-up shop in another transport hub: Old Street Station. As well as seeing if there was a demand for Sourced Market in Old Street, Ben wanted the pop-up to be a dry run of a new store launch. He wanted to learn fast, so when they had to do it on a bigger scale they’d avoid any major mistakes.
The pop-up launched in January 2015. Ben also used it to test new ideas, such as a trailing a new Juice Bar in-store – this was such a success that it’s now been made a permanent addition in Sourced Market St Pancras. The pop-up was also useful for building Sourced Market’s online profile. The Old Street Station store led to a big uplift on social media – part of this was from simply handing out flyers in the station! The launch of the pop-up also generated over 40 press articles, which helped to build Sourced Market’s profile.
Looking back on the pop-up, Ben commented: "our pop-up in Old Street underground was a great opportunity for Sourced Market and has helped us take the business to the next level, with two permanent sites now secured and opening in 2016. We tried out some new ideas, got the brand in front of a new audience and the team had the very valuable experience of a site opening, which will put us in a much stronger position when opening our next permanent site.”
Following the success of the Old Street pop-up, Ben felt he had a big enough following and the right formula for a new store launch, to start a crowdfunding campaign for 2 new Sourced Market locations. Partnering with Crowdcube, Ben wanted to offer his existing customers and the wider foodie community, the opportunity to become a part of Sourced Market’s journey. The campaign launched on 9th November and in just 3 weeks it attracted £600k of investment.
Commenting on success of its launch, Ben said: “we are thrilled to have got off to such a great start on Crowdcube; the support that has come in from our existing network and new investors has blown us away and we now feel confident of meeting our target, but we still need to raise £250k, which is no small feat. In the current low-interest rate environment, this is a fantastic opportunity for our growing and loyal customer base, and members of the public, to participate in our growth story and in turn, the growth of the small suppliers we stock. Having secured truly prime locations in Marylebone and Victoria, the proceeds of this investment will bring high quality, locally sourced artisanal produce to a much wider audience.”
Building on their Old Street pop-up and the support from their crowdfunding campaign, Sourced Market hopes to see 2016 off to a great start with 2 new locations in Marylebone and Victoria. Both of which are located close to transport hubs (Bond Street and Victoria Stations) keeping in line with Sourced Market’s original mission – to bring the farmers market to the convenience sector. If you’re excited to hear Sourced Market are expanding and want to support them in the last stages of their crowdfunding campaign, please visit: www.crowdcube.com/sourcedmarket