She was a counselor. He worked with the Democratic National Convention. Now their family business is one of Denver’s top seasonal markets.
The Yetmans: Amy, 40, and Doug, 46
Horseshoe Market, a quarterly outdoor fair in Denver where more than 120 vendors sell handmade crafts, art, clothing and vintage finds. (The Yetmans also recently started a smaller neighborhood market, the Jefferson Park Farm & Flea, which runs select Saturdays in May through October.)
Yes. Additionally, the couple now hires three part-time staff members to help with social media, accounting and other aspects of advance work for the market. They also hire approximately three people to work the day of each market.
BEFORE BEING OWNERS, THEY:
Amy earned a master’s degree in psychology and therapy, worked as a counselor and taught psychology at a community college. She’s also had jobs at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and at a bagel shop and sold vintage clothing on Etsy.
Doug studied journalism in college, worked in communications for a chapter of the Red Cross and directed volunteers and interns at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver. He also owned a restaurant in Kansas and was a substitute teacher and football coach in Arizona.
HOW IT ALL STARTED
In the wake of the national economic collapse, Doug was between jobs and Amy was feeling “stuck and not creative” in her counseling job. At a friend’s urging, Amy signed up for an online course on the Superhero Life blog, and had begun to explore new career dreams. Around the same time, she learned one of the only flea markets in Denver was about to close.
“Someone should really start something new,” she told Doug.
His answer: “How about you?”
They went to a Mexican restaurant and began sketching out a business plan. “This was my idea, and my dream, but it became our dream,” Amy said.
HOW THEY DID — AND DIDN’T — SPEND THEIR MONEY
The first thing Amy and Doug needed was a space for the market, so they started scouring the city for parking lots that could hold 100 booths. They found one they liked – at a local funeral home – and, to Amy’s surprise, the owners agreed. Insurance for the event cost $127.
Rather than paying for logo design, Amy and Doug engaged a graphic designer who also made jewelry. She agreed to trade her design work for a booth at the market. And instead of paying for advertising, Doug used his journalism background to pitch the story to local media. The online craft marketplace, Etsy, was a new sensation at the time, and reporters loved the idea of, as Doug put it, “Denver’s live Etsy.”
Amy did something else she didn’t think she’d ever to do advertise the market – she knocked on doors in the neighborhood to invite residents to come. “I think about that time and I was just kind of like fearless,” she said. “A lot had gone on with Doug being unemployed. Everything was kind of depressing. I felt like, ‘Screw it. What do I have to lose? Nothing.’”
MOMENT THEY FELT IT WAS REAL
Amy remembers setting a date for the first market and putting it on flyers and online. “You have the parking lot. You have the logo. You have the date,” she remembers thinking. “This is happening. You can’t back out now!”
As hard as the Yetmans work to make each market a success, they’re not in charge of the biggest variable – the weather. “In general,” Doug said, “The weather for the markets has been clear — great for customers and vendors at an outdoor market. However, weather extremes of hot and cold can sometimes diminish numbers. Rain is the worst.”
“It’s frustrating,” he added “because we’re always working hard and always hustling, but there are some things we can’t control.”
SOMETHING THEY’VE STRUGGLED WITH
The blessing and curse of social media. The Horseshoe Market is full of ‘shareworthy’ photos, from appetizing homemade food, to eye-catching artwork to sweet families enjoying it all. But staying relevant on social media, especially in the time between markets, “can feel endless,” Doug said.
“You always have to be doing something.” (An example – On Father’s Day, which was not a Horseshoe Market day, they posted a photo collage of fathers and their children at the market.)
And each time a new social media platform becomes popular, Doug and Amy must evaluate whether they should dedicate time to building and maintaining an account. Horseshoe Market is currently on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.
“We’re not on Snapchat,” Amy said, “But should we be? I don’t know.”
BIGGEST DIFFERENCE BETWEEN OWNING AND WORKING FOR SOMEONE ELSE
“We’re able to mobilize quickly and make decisions,” Doug says. He points to some of the big organizations he’s worked for that could be “bureaucratic” and slow to make changes.
Both Doug and Amy are children of entrepreneurs and have seen how all consuming the work can be, so sometimes the decisions they make must weigh the benefits to business and life-outside-business.
For example, a few years ago, they had the opportunity to expand their markets to small towns across Colorado, but Amy was pregnant, and they quickly realized they wouldn’t comfortably be able to keep up with the travel. They decided not to renew the deal after the first season.
“At the end of the day, it feels good to know we can change,” Doug said.
BEST ADVICE TO BUSINESS OWNERS JUST STARTING OUT
“My dad told me, ‘You don’t have to have it all figured out, you just have to start,’” Amy said.
She added that over the years she has changed, and so has the business, and that change isn’t something to resist or be scared of. The market started as a dream she shared and built with her husband, but it’s now a product of the many people who are part of it. Or as Doug put it, “The business has a heartbeat you can feel beyond you.”
RELATED: Wondering if you have what it takes to be a market vendor? Doug and Amy share a few of the things they see the most successful sellers do.