Big moves for Little Big Markets

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Rachelle and Chris Duffy are finding growing interest from outside the region in events such as their Little Big Markets. Photo / Katie O'Connell / Quinn & Katie Photography
Rachelle and Chris Duffy are finding growing interest from outside the region in events such as their Little Big Markets. Photo / Katie O'Connell / Quinn & Katie Photography

Tauranga's Little Big Markets is expanding beyond the Bay, says Rachelle Duffy, who co-owns the business with her husband Chris.

The business recently completed a six-month contract to bring fresh life to Auckland's iconic weekly Victoria Market, which they ran over the summer from November-March.

"Our goal was to reinvigorate the space," she said. But although the organisers wanted Little Big Markets to continue running Victoria Market through the winter, the Duffys decided against it.

Little Big Markets.
Little Big Markets.

"We had different projects of our own on," she said.

However, although the Auckland City Council does not control the Victoria Market, the council met with them and now wants them to do some other work in Auckland.

"The Victoria Market proved that we have the capability to go outside Tauranga," said Ms Duffy, adding that they had fielded queries from Wellington, Rotorua and Whakatane, as well as Auckland.

"I think other regions have seen what we have done here and so they are contacting us to see if we can do that for their markets. We get asked all the time. Our brand is getting known outside the Bay and you'll definitely see us going to other regions as well as continuing in Tauranga."

Little Big Markets began eight years ago when the Duffys owned a retail fashion shop in Devonport. Faced with the impact of the global financial crisis, they decided instead to open the first Little Big Market.

The business has since grown organically into the Little Big Events group.

Activities include the market on the first Saturday in Mount Maunganui and the third Saturday in Papamoa, as well as some 70-80 events throughout the summer.

The business employs three fulltime staff: Rachelle who handles event management and co-ordination; her husband Chris, a graphic designer and website developer, who looks after art direction; and an operations manager. In summer they take on another seven contractors.

Ms Duffy said the key to having a successful market was branding and marketing, and ensuring the stalls were high quality rather than "car boot sale" operations.

"People now want to buy off the artisan who has made the product. They want to hear the story and connect with the person who made it. We put in a lot of hours with our stallholders, giving them tips on how they can merchandise their stall, and market themselves."

Steven Farrant, who leads the committee for the Tauranga Chamber of Commerce's new Small Business Tauranga initiative, said he believed the Little Big Events story was one of the most amazing to come out of the city.

"I feel that their passion and commitment has completed changed the landscape of a community, not to mention the numerous start-ups they have introduced, nurtured and help to grow into equally successful businesses in their own right.

"Little Big Events are now a regional institution that is also gaining national exposure and credit."

Fact Box:

* Little Big Events' calendar includes Tauranga's Christmas in the Park, which over the past four years has attracted 40,000-plus visitors and raised in excess of $50,000 for local charities.

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