Photograph by Bryce Meyer
Back in 2002, Ian Ferguson wanted to travel to France on spring break, but the 12-year-old didn’t have the money for the trip. He wasn’t about to give up, though, and decided to fund his trip with the money he made selling candy kebobs at community craft fairs. Ferguson wasn’t exactly a natural. “He sat there at an eight-foot-by-four-foot craft table and didn’t know how to make change or how to talk to customers,” says his mother, Heather Ferguson, who supervised and supported the venture. “It was so funny to see his eyes as big as saucers, realizing that he can make money.”
They drove by the Calgary Farmers’ Market when it was under construction at the Currie Barracks in 2004, and by the next weekend, The Candy Kid was a vendor on the market’s opening day. Eventually, Heather took Ian to the World’s Candy Fair in Chicago to meet international suppliers, and they expanded the type of products offered to their customers to include a range of chocolate, fudge, licorice and old-fashioned candy that couldn’t be found anywhere else in the city.
Ian made enough money to support his lifestyle as a teenager and hire three employees to help him run his booth at the Calgary Farmers’ Market. He even funded his university education and graduated from the University of Calgary with a bachelor of science in zoology with honours.
Heather Ferguson says the Calgary Farmers’ Market can serve as a business incubator for new entrepreneurs like Ian. “You can learn everything to run a business, but on a small scale,” she says. “That makes it manageable for the little guy.” It’s been so manageable – and profitable – that The Candy Kid moved to a storefront in the Kensington neighbourhood last December after the Currie Barracks facility was closed. Heather has taken over the business from the now 22-year-old Ian, who is using the market vendor profits to travel in Japan and South America before starting medical school at the University of British Columbia this fall.
Heather bought and renovated the building in Kensington so she could run her environmental consultant business on the second floor while the main floor houses The Candy Kid and The Red Bush Tea and Coffee Company, another farmers’ market initiative that Heather and her two teenage daughters started two years ago. The 1,675-square-foot storefront allows The Candy Kid to expand its product line and offer more variety compared to a 150-square-foot booth at a farmers’ market. “I’m not in it to make a lot of money,” she says. “[But] profits are going to be higher in a storefront.”