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Friday, June 14, 2024

When Virginia Lynn-Brinson lost her medical transcription business in 2012, she felt helpless.

She thought she didn’t know how to do anything else until a mentor told her to find a need in the community and fill it. Then, she had a moment of clarity.

She started Virginia Lynn Enterprises, an event company that seeks to connect small businesses to the community. Her latest venture is a small business marketplace.

The Good Life Market Place, located at 14874 Main St. in Alachua, offers local business owners and artists a place to showcase their products.

The marketplace is open Monday through Thursday from noon to 7 p.m., Friday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 7 p.m. Lynn-Brinson and co-founder Sondra Thirston came up with the idea when they realized that local artists and business owners needed a permanent space to showcase their products.

The name borrows from “The Good Life Community,” a nickname given to Alachua. They thought it was only fitting that their shop be named after the city where it was born.

“We thought that would be perfect for the store because this is the good life community, and we are a marketplace for small business; we just put those two together,” Lynn-Brinson said.

Friday at the marketplace features a special event called Sip, Shop and Socialize. Lynn-Brinson said it’s a time of light refreshments for people to check out the store and network.

Because she has children, all of the events that Lynn-Brinson puts on are family friendly. At the last Friday event, she said a three-year-old boy stepped behind a vendor’s table and attempted to sell some of her merchandise.

“He had a good time in here, and he was going to make a really big sale if the person fell for it,” she said.

To keep the lights on and run the marketplace, Lynn-Brinson and Thirston charge the vendors a monthly fee for their booth and collect a 30-percent commission. In exchange, the vendors receive free advertising through the owners’ radio show and Facebook Live events and gain exposure through in-store events.

When a potential customer comes to the market, they might not get to meet the particular vendor whose items they’d like to buy. Instead, Lynn-Brinson or Thirston assist in sales when a vendor is out of the store.

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The items in the marketplace include organic skincare products, artwork, clothes, plant holders and some direct sales items like Scentsy. Most of the 12 vendors hail from across North Central Florida, coming from Gainesville, Bronson and Alachua. Lynn-Brinson said the store is still accepting vendors.

“This marketplace is like a co-op,” she said. “Each one of us are contributing to helping to get our names out, but also helping us to be able to take a vacation or put our kids in dance class. All of us have a ‘why.’”

One small business owner from Gainesville who’s participating in the marketplace is Simone Eddinger. Eddinger, 22, has been running her small business, Simone’s Natural Notions, for about a year. She makes handmade soaps, candles and bath bombs.

Eddinger discovered making soap, perfecting do-it-yourself recipes and about how the science behind the suds was equally important through reading books. She uses different online sources to learn more about the chemistry that makes her product perfect.

“It was a little confusing, at first, starting out with the soap, but there’s a lot of research going into it and a lot of helpful resources,” she said.

When she went into the soap business, she wanted to stand apart from the local people who came before her. To do this, she crafted her own recipes, making everything from scratch and perfecting how her products look. Decorating the soap is one area she still needs to improve on she says, but she thinks her booth’s originality is one way she stands apart.

“I kind of make my whole setup look like a tea party,” she said.

Before getting an associate’s degree in art studio from Santa Fe College, Eddinger wanted to be a veterinarian. Today, she’s finishing up a degree in business entrepreneurship. Her goals have changed, but her love of animals still shines through. Currently, she’s working on a handmade soap for dogs.

Eddinger wants to offer affordable, specialty items. She prefers face-to-face sales for the small moments when she can talk to people and explain her in-depth process. One of her favorite soaps is called “Milk ‘n’ Coffee” on her Etsy shop. She uses goat’s milk and coffee grounds, among other ingredients.  

Putting in long hours is what’s needed to get a business off the ground. With the marketplace, small business owners can rely on each other to help run their businesses even when they’re not around.

Lynn-Brinson said that she thinks it takes a village to run a business much like it takes a village to raise a child. The marketplace is her new infant, needing constant attention, and she puts in long hours despite being a mother of six.  

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