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Small Business Spotlight on SoCo Market, with Founder Mercedes Hernandez 

Headshot of Mercedes Hernandez with text "Small Business Spotlight on SoCo Market" with a picture of the market in the backgroundSonoma County has long-attracted creatives and entrepreneurs, eager to inspire and share their work with the community. This became even more evident during the COVID-19 pandemic when ample free time spawned a huge number of unique small businesses.

Seeing this trend, vintage curator and entrepreneur Mercedes Hernandez wanted to create an environment to bring the community together again while supporting small businesses. 

So, she launched SoCo Market, a curated market experience that highlights the best local small businesses in Sonoma County. 

We sat down with Mercedes to learn more about her story and what SoCo Market is all about.

SOMO Village: How did SoCo Market come to life? 

Mercedes Hernandez: I started SoCo Market towards the end of the pandemic, in September 2020. I owned a women’s clothing shop, Bow N Arrow Clothing, in downtown Cotati and, during that time, I noticed a lot of people started businesses of their own. 

Everyone had downtime to explore the things on their mind and start something new. I wanted to offer a platform to connect with the community again in person, as many of these businesses were on Instagram or selling online and didn’t have brick-and-mortar stores. 

So, I invited about 11 small businesses to participate in an outdoor market in Cotati, where they could set up a 10X10 booth and sell their products and services. 

From there it just continued to grow. It was a great time to start an event like this because the community was hungry for community again and wanted to be together. So, the next year Santa Rosa invited us to come out and we started hosting events in the downtown area. We were able to host over 80 businesses, maxing out the space. 

We host our markets seasonally, from April through August on the first Friday of every month in downtown Santa Rosa right now. We also do some specialty markets like the Forkin’ Good Food Festival or the SoHo Holiday Market.  

I’ve since sold Bow N Arrow to focus on the SoCo Market and my other shop, Holee Vintage. Bow N Arrow brought me to where I am today, and I felt like I did everything I wanted to do with that business and grew it to where I wanted it to grow. So it was time to close that chapter and focus on these new business ventures.

What does the planning process look like for you? How can vendors be part of the SoCo Market? 

Two women standing in front of a sign with balloons that says "SoCo" We typically start planning a month before each event, although if it’s a larger one like the Forkin’ Good Food Festival, we’d need a longer time frame, like five or so months in advance. I think I finally have my system in place though to get the regular markets ready in a month with having vendors booked and promoting it. 

When it comes to selecting vendors to participate in this event, I curate millennial-owned businesses that help me create the type of experience we want at the events. 

This isn’t a typical farmers market, but instead, we have sneaker resellers, vintage clothing vendors, jewelry, and local makers—everything is pretty hip and fun. 

For the application process, we only accept so many for each category such as candles, jewelry, food, etc. We get about 200 applications per event, but we’re only allowed about 85. It’s challenging to select vendors. We want to give new vendors an opportunity and ensure they’re passionate about their work and it’s not just a side thing for them. 

Are there any other events coming up? 

Our highly anticipated The Fork’n Good Food Festival is returning to SOMO Village on Sunday, May 5th, 2024! There will be 40+ food vendors, marketplace, live music, and MUCH MORE!

You can find further details on becoming a vendor at this event on the Fork’n Good Vendor Application.

Next year, we’ll be working with the city of Sebastopol in the Barlow, which is an outdoor shopping center. We’re starting an antique vintage fair every month, in addition to bringing fun food and music events to the city. That will all be happening next year on top of our seasonal SoCo Market events.

We’re launching our SoCo Market events for 2024 in January, so follow along on Instagram or our website to stay up to date!

Learn more about SOMO Village

If you’re looking for a community that embraces public art and puts people and sustainability at the heart of everything, download our project brief to see if SOMO Village is the right place for you.

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