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When clients and friends visited Andrea Whitaker's home office, they often asked just as many questions about her office accoutrements as about the stationery she sold.
"Who did this?" they'd ask, looking at her handmade bulletin board. Or, "Do you know anybody who does this?"
Whitaker found herself continually fishing business cards of seamstresses, designers and artists from her "referral jar." Then one day three years ago, she had an epiphany: Why not bring all these unique businesses out of the jar and into collaboration?
Thus was born the Ivy Market, a twice-yearly showcase of home-based and woman-owned businesses in Central Virginia and beyond, organized by Whitaker and co-founder Becky Anthony. It's based on this simple principle: Girlfriends covet each other's cute finds. As Whitaker puts it, "If you like what I have, you're gonna love what she has."
Past years' markets each drew about 400 people with only word-of-mouth advertising. This year, Whitaker is expecting more for the April 18 Ivy Market at its new home, the University of Richmond's Jepson Alumni Center.
Whitaker says more than 30 merchants, all carefully selected by her and her collaborators, will appear. They include Virginia favorites Sunny's Goodtime Paints, the jewelry company Fandangle and Chameleon Clogs, a company that adorns custom-made clogs with cummerbunds of handmade fabric or playful silks from Peter Blair.
The Ivy Market doesn't charge admission or take a percentage of sales, Whitaker says. "This is something I created to promote women."
She'll be there too, displaying the stationery and decoupage frames she sells through her home-based company, Periwinkle South. As unexpected as it may seem, running a business helps her balance her life, she says. "It just makes me complete: I'm a better mom, I'm a better wife, I'm a better friend."
The market is Wednesday, April 18, from 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. A cash bar will be operating during the evening hours.