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Small Business Center

Forming and Curating Markets: Lessons from Wandering Wyld Co-Founder Rachel Macintyre

April 1, 2022

When Rachel Macintyre lived in Portland, Oregon, one of her favorite spots was downtown’s Portland Saturday Market, where Oregon craftsmen and artists sold their work to tourists and locals, giving a piece of the city’s sometimes gritty downtown a strong cultural identity. One corporate job and one city later, she’s making the same thing happen across the West, as the co-founder of Wandering Wyld, a market membership organization that stages pop-up retail spaces and markets that are tailored culturally and artistically to each location.

Macintyre and co-founder Jessie Phillips aim to incubate businesses, create community gathering points and provide platforms for local arts and culture, all to the benefit of the cities and towns that host their events. The company has staged about 75 markets since 2018. “Arts and culture have a lot to do with where people decide to move,” Macintyre said, “and I really, deeply believed in supporting small business and wanted to create a marketplace for creatives and makers and artists.”

Wandering Wyld’s Reno Holiday Market in December, also pictured at top. Photo credit: Wandering Wyld

Now in its fourth year, Wandering Wyld has 350 members, artists and entrepreneurs who sell locally made merchandise at carefully curated markets in Reno, Las Vegas; Truckee, California; and San Diego. Wandering Wyld collects membership fees and charges members when they participate in their markets. Handmade skincare products, ceramics and vintage clothing vendors are among the most popular categories, said Macintyre.

“People don’t want to shop at a tchotchke craft fair,” she said. “They want to shop for something that’s well made, and they want to feel like they’re part of something that’s bigger than themselves. The more they feel like they’re supporting that kind of variety, the more they’ll keep coming back.”

How It Came to Be

After moving to Reno, Macintyre continued working as a project manager for Apple until, in 2018, the tech giant stopped allowing people to work remotely. “How ironic,” said Macintyre. Pushed from the nest, she approached Phillips to see if her marketing agency would help launch Wandering Wyld. Eight months later, Phillips signed on as a co-founder instead. Their combined experience gives the company a reach beyond its marketplaces; it also generates consulting revenue from event and venue management, social media and content strategies, and branding work.

Before starting her agency, Phillips had worked with the Lake Tahoe chapter of Slow Food, a global, grassroots organization that promotes local food and traditional cooking. She saw an opportunity to widen the locals-first concept with Wandering Wyld, which she describes as a bridge between entrepreneurial landlords and small businesses.

The emergence of a market platform like Wandering Wyld reflects widespread changes in customer expectations, as consumers now consider their shopping experience as important as their actual purchases or perhaps even more so. As consumer behavior adjusts again as the pandemic wanes, customer experience remains top of mind among business leaders, from multinational corporations to entrepreneurs like Macintyre and Phillips.

Wandering Wyld also is getting a fixed location in the Reno Public Market. Doug Wiele, president of Reno Public Market developer Foothill Partners, said in 2021: “Local festivals and pop-ups have been some of the only viable income sources for local artists, and now this consistent space will allow hundreds of artists to sell their creations at any time of the year.” Macintyre said Wandering Wyld’s incremental growth is creating a lasting impact. “When you see people coming back, you see the value of building a place that’s important to a community.”

Macintyre and Phillips also are branching out with another placemaking business, Whyteboard, to work with developers, landlords, architects and governments to revitalize underutilized and vacant spaces along the lines of Wandering Wyld’s markets. A project is planned for Berkeley, California, Macintyre said.

Macintyre’s Tips for Curating Markets

Macintyre offers these tips and takeaways, gleaned from her experience, for market curators:

  • Create a clear vision for your member merchants. If your theme is local small business, the merchandise can’t be made in China.
  • Show developers and landlords the value proposition in turning an outdoor space or shopping center into a place with a unique identity that makes for a singular customer experience. “With Doug, we had a fantastic mentor and good partner to work with,” she said, referring to the Reno Public Market. “He does what he says he’s going to do when it comes to arts and culture.”
  • Remember that every event is different and unique. Get a clear sense of what the landlord or developer wants. Be flexible enough to create a 150-vendor street fair in an outdoor space or fill 800 square feet with a few dozen vendors that can enhance the customer experience value.
  • Look for opportunities to help your members through your network. One Wandering Wyld ceramicist turned his mug-making hobby into a full-blown business making promotional merchandise after Phillips and Macintyre pointed out potential demand for his products within their community.
  • Know that the customer experience business comes down to forming relationships, and help members realize it, as well. “When you’re in front of your customer, they’re getting to know more about you and not just your products.”

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