Many people say they believe that the real spirit of the holidays comes from kindness, sharing and looking out for their fellow man. If you’ve had a chance to visit Philadelphia’s Christmas Village or the Made in Philadelphia Market you may have experienced it a little bit for yourself.
Market veteran and Cynful Bliss owner Cymande Hagans says she was more than pleasantly taken aback after setting up her alcohol-infused dessert shop last year in the Made in Philadelphia Market.
“I was surprised how much I enjoyed meeting the other vendors, getting to talk to them, and just watching people enjoy the spectacle of the market,” Hagans says.
Hagans says she has become close with quite a few vendors and there’s a sense of belonging that goes beyond the holiday season.
“There’s a sense of community with the other vendors, where you see them every year you go back, you might see them at another event. It’s not just this time of the year. It’s great to share information, we share ‘Oh hey, did you hear about this event?’. We’re all in this together. My philosophy is simple. I believe that there are opportunities out there for everyone,” Hagans says.
This is Iliyaas Muhammad’s, owner of Really Reel Ginger, first year in Philadelphia’s Christmas Village but he said he immediately felt the sense of community.
“Everyone was very warm and friendly. The other vendors walked me through how things may have worked in the past in terms of setting up our booth, how to get in and out and connections with electricity,” Muhammad says.
Muhammad had been trying to get his business into Christmas Village for a few years but spaces quickly filled up before the young entrepreneur could snag one. This year he revamped his products and plans. He not only got a spot in Christmas Village but a pretty prime location as well. You can find his booth near the corner of 15th Street and JFK Boulevard.
“At the time that we first became aware of the village, I was a new merchant at the Reading Terminal. With so many people coming through Christmas Village and we’re right here in the middle of everything, that’s the best part about it,” Muhammad says.
Hagans says the vendors not only form a community but both Christmas Village and the Made in Philadelphia Market serve as a mini-network for entrepreneurs.
“You know, some of this is about trial and error and I’ve gone through it already. Why would I not help someone else get to that next level?” Hagans says.
Hagans offers some advice for upcoming entrepreneurs.
“When I tell you, this is one of the best vending experiences that I’ve had. If there are other entrepreneurs out there considering it — do it,” she says. “You get to work in a well-established market with a bunch of great people.”