The financials of the project don’t directly relate to leadership or increasing my leadership skills. They were, however, imperative in ensuring the market would be capable of running in an on campus location as well as protecting the people involved in the operation.
When Meghan and I initially started the process of pursuing the production of the farmers market we thought our small RSO could financially support it and even use the opportunity as a way to fundraise for our organization. We assumed we would be able to rent a location on campus through orgsync for free based on our usual space rental procedures.
Apparently a farmers market is a bit bigger of an operation than the usual RSO fundraising set-up and thus requires more regulations. Including the regulation of space rental prices and insurance costs. Needless to say, our small RSO did not have the funds to cover the costs of renting a portion of University property for multiple days at a time, let alone the money to pay for insurance. Without a space for vendors to set up their trucks and the insurance to cover their food consumption on campus there would be no farmers market. The original zero dollar bill Meghan and I expected to face for space rental quickly blew up into a bill of hundreds of dollars.
This is when challenging the process really came into play. We considered grand, large-scale fundraising endeavors. We researched grants for non-profit businesses and grants for students or student organizations. We looked into grant opportunities for individuals working with farmers markets. The concept of free money through grants was quite alluring to us and as students made sense, but the hunt for such easy funds was unsuccessful. We ran the numbers over and over attempting to configure a price we could charge people so that all expenses were covered by earnings, essentially creating a self sustainable system, but it wasn’t realistic based on our expected number of vendors and customers.
In the end we changed our approach entirely, again. Research and collaboration led us to the conclusion that Non-Profit businesses such as Damian’s Real Food Grows have much better policies for insurance and capabilities for money making. Our entire project was in a way turned over to Damian’s business that day, due to the fact that Campus Grow couldn’t afford it. We agreed to remain a team through the changes and continue to split the hosting responsibilities of the market. Once the insurance aspect of the market was less of a burden we were better able to focus on the pricing of vending spaces and the thought of percentages of profit split between vendors, Campus Grow and Real Food Grows.
This process of constructing budgets and computing profits or deficits based on potential attendance outcomes showed me the sticky side to fun projects. It also gave me a glimpse into what kind of financials real business leaders deal with on a daily basis. It felt empowering to crunch such large numbers and know that they held actual significance in the success of a major production. It made me feel more rehearsed in grander leadership experiences, more business-like leadership experiences.