AS CARS SPED by in an attempt to beat the Friday-afternoon rush-hour traffic, Joy Heinz stood outside 840 N. Meridian St. holding a sign reading “market” in bold letters. Behind her, tents and folding tables lined the parking lot. In one tent, colorful crystal jewelry covered a table, while the aroma of spices roasting in a Crock-Pot drifted over from another. Heinz’s space, left unattended as she tried to drum up customers, stood out from the rest due to its rainbow decor. From the multicolor tip jar down to the rainbow sprinkles topping the many cookies on display, the RayneBow Baked Goods booth lived up to its name. Heinz, the bakery’s owner, named her business after her daughter, Rayne. The only exception to the rainbow decor was a black sign placed on the table front and center with “Support Women” handwritten in white paint.
Despite its deviation from Heinz’s carefully curated color scheme, the sign was far from out of place because this cluster of tents makes up the Faire-Share Market, a new Indianapolis farmers market featuring exclusively local, women-owned businesses. Faire-Share, which runs from 3–6 p.m. every Friday, aims to provide a place for budding female entrepreneurs to thrive by making farmers markets more accessible. Well-established markets often give preference to returning vendors, leaving a limited number of spots open to new businesses. Often, those major markets also have rules prohibiting too many similar vendors or requiring attendance throughout the entire season, making it difficult for emerging small businesses to earn a position.
Heinz got denied from every farmers market except Faire-Share. RayneBow Baked Goods is a young company, formed out of necessity when the cafe Heinz worked at closed in March.
“I had to go to my last resort, which was starting a business to try to succeed in this economy,” she says.
Heinz hoped to launch her business by selling baked goods at farmers markets, but soon discovered the vast majority of vendor slots at nearby markets were already filled by returning vendors. She was informed the newness of her business would make it difficult for her to secure a spot.
“I’m really super thankful for Faire-Share,” Heinz says. “Faire-Share seems to be doing a lot more than any other market I’ve seen as far as trying to be accessible to everybody. Most markets are oversaturated with people who have done seven seasons or whatever.”
Faire-Share cofounders Jenna Tull and Cindy Helmling know this struggle first hand. Tull and Helmling felt compelled to support women-owned businesses after their own small businesses struggled during the pandemic.
Helmling bought Cornerstone Bread Co. 13 years ago and grew the company by selling bread at farmers markets. Eventually, she developed Cornerstone into a wholesale bakery and partnered with distributors to supply restaurants, hospitals, and grocery stores with bread.
“Just like our vendors, she is a local business owner who started in farmers markets,” Tull says. “The reason she’s successful is because she busted her butt at farmers markets. Well, that’s not the only reason. We also make good stuff.”
That success wavered when the pandemic hit and restaurants—including most of Cornerstone’s major clients—shut down. Despite the closure of restaurants, Cornerstone only halted production for a single day. Helmling worked 15-hour days alone, unwilling to risk spreading COVID-19 by calling in employees but equally unwilling to leave the company’s hospital clients without bread.
“I had some dark, really challenging times like everyone else did, but we never shut down fully because we sell to hospitals,” Helmling says. “We were essential.”
However, hospitals and grocery delivery services—the only businesses still buying bread—account for just a small portion of Cornerstone’s clientele. Helmling recalled her past success at farmers markets and began selling bread to consumers out of Cornerstone’s parking lot. Now, the bakery is back to full production. But the pandemic reminded Helmling of the tireless work it took to create her company.
“It’s been a long, hard crawl,” she says.
Helmling made it through, and now she’s on a mission to guide other women through the journey of owning a small business. Her first step was to create Faire-Share—a farmers market that doesn’t play by the rules. There is no set number of Friday markets vendors must attend throughout the season, nor are there limitations on the types of goods sold. Vendors range from vegan food companies to skin care brands to handmade jewelry shops.
“It’s a little different, it’s a little quirky, and it’s all women who are really into their unique products,” Helmling says.
She and Tull take pride in the distinct model of their market, which has a clever slogan: “This isn’t your grandma’s farmers market. But we’d love to have her join us anyway.”
The lack of rigid structure means increased accessibility, but also makes it feel as if Helmling and Tull are still trying to pinpoint a clear vision of what they want Faire-Share to be. The booth offering beer and wine suggests a happy hour, while the weekly themes such as game day create a more family-centered environment. Plans to invite the Girl Scouts, Girls Inc., and Planned Parenthood steer the market’s atmosphere more toward women’s empowerment. Helmling and Tull admit they are still figuring things out.
“We just went for it,” Helmling says. “We got into the game very late. We started in March when we should have started in November. Getting the word out to people has been challenging, but it has grown every week, and I’ve learned.”
Despite some trial and error with marketing tactics, Helmling speaks with striking conviction about the market’s goal: to celebrate Indianapolis’s underappreciated and underrepresented women in business.
“Part of what the market is about on a deeper level is there are people and businesses in the world that get a lot of attention because maybe they have a cool factor, they’re trendy,” Helmling says. “Bread isn’t trendy. But with the help of my employees, I’ve quietly and consistently worked on producing a product every day for years. I feel like people who do that—and this is a strong word to use about myself—are unsung heroes.”
Carole Bishop and Bryan Morrison, cofounders of Pure Eating Way, say the sense of acceptance and community fostered at Faire-Share keeps them coming back week after week. Although just half women-owned, Pure Eating Way is a minority business in a number of ways because Bishop is a female veteran and Morrison is Black. The business offers whole-food, plant-based items, and has won awards such as Indy Veg Fest’s 2022 Best Whole-Food Plant-Based Dining.
“It’s vegetables, it’s fruits, but we just add a little bit of fun and flair and smiles and love,” Morrison says. “So come out to the market and enjoy people. Come out and enjoy life. Come out and support women.”