The Night Market was developed by Benito Lubazibwa, who has spent the majority of his career helping minority startups through his company ReMix Ideas.
Benito came to Arkansas from Tanzania in 1996 to go to UCA with a degree in business and started his first business shortly after. He saw the need then for supporting local startups in the black community.
“I really wanted to make an impact in my life. In everything I do I want to benefit humanity,” Lubazibwa says. “We always say, ‘if you think you are too small to make a difference, you have never spent a night with a mosquito’. We are a small event, but we have the opportunity to make a huge difference in the city.”
The event focuses on bringing small craft and food vendors together to showcase their goods to the community. Some of the goods you will find include jewelry, clothing, and home goods producers as well as food trucks and vendors covering all sorts of cuisine including African, Venezuelan, Mexican, American, Vegan, Columbian, and more.
For many of the vendors, working the night market is their first time to set up and sell their products. As a result, there is a huge educational component that Benito and his team bring to coaching the vendors on how to set up, run their business, and promote their products within the community. Benito also works with them to provide booth space at the lowest cost possible to help kick-start their business.
The other big side of Night Market is working with the local community experiencing homelessness and providing opportunities around the market for them to participate. The market employees many of the homeless that stay around Bernice Garden during the day to help man the market.
“We give them night market shirts for the event, train them, feed them, and pay them a good wage at $15 per hour to help us out at the event,” Lubazibwa explains. “It is amazing the impact it has had on their life. They show up for the market early to help set up, stay late, and are immediately excited about the next market once it is over with.”
This Night Market will be the last of the year, but Benito hopes to begin setting up again monthly next spring. The Night Market, however, is just the starting point for many of his ideas.
“I want to build a larger ecosystem,” Lubazibwa shares. “We want to find more ways to employ our homeless community around town. We also want to build a larger support system for entrepreneurs to learn how to manage and grow their business effectively.”
The Night Market runs from 5-9 this Friday (November 2nd) at Bernice Garden.