A local entrepreneur has been making a big impact on the community by setting up unique events all across Bossier.
Chris Graham is founder of the Bossier City Night Market, Bossier City Farmers Market and owner of Man Made Soap.
“All of these markets are free and open to the public. We do not receive any funding from grants, the city, parish, or government entity for these markets,” Graham said. “Every penny that goes into it is generated by vendor fees or through a few small sponsors. We are very unique in that respect, and it allows us the freedom to keep these markets going, and to keep them free.”
How Graham got into the market creating business came after he started a side business — Man Made Soap — that took off. He sold his soaps at other local markets and noticed right away there were very few well attended events in the Shreveport-Bossier area where he could set up his booth on a regular basis. So, he and a business partner decided they would create their own.
“There was definitely a void in the market in Bossier City. That is where everything started,” he noted.
The Bossier City Farmers Market debuted in August 2014 with more than 100 vendors and crowds in the tens of thousands. After a few months Graham realized this was what he wanted to do full-time and took over as sole owner of the Bossier City Farmers Market.
After a successful start, he noticed they had several shoppers who didn’t want to wake up for a traditional Saturday morning farmers market. Trying to accommodate his customers, Graham then thought back to his travels across the world and came up with the idea of the Bossier Night Market.
“I was fortunate enough to have visited Thailand and saw how their street markets operate and we based our night market model on that,” said Graham.
In December 2016, the Bossier night market debuted with close to 200 vendors and a crowd of around 20,000 people. He pointed out it became the largest one-day vendor event in the South, and has only continued to evolve and grow from there.
Approximately one year later, Graham decided to step out of his comfort zone and started the Bossier City Makers Fair at the Louisiana Boardwalk Outlets.
“This was a new location and a new type of market that only allows handmade items to be sold. In October 2017, the first Bossier City Makers Fair kicked off and was a huge hit,” said Graham.
A fan of the East Bank District, he wanted to add his expertise on how to attract more people, so he then started the East Bank Market.
“We began with a huge Small Business Saturday market the Saturday after Thanksgiving in 2018. After that, we began to do the East Bank market weekly beginning spring 2019,” Graham said.
Graham says since starting the markets, thousands of people from all over have visited Bossier to attend the markets. Which in return, sees the new visitors spend their money in Bossier, expanding its economy.
“Literally every business I have now involves community participation and vendors. While building this business, we have also built a vendor network of close to 2,000 small businesses. Not to mention the hundreds of thousands of customers and other businesses affected by these markets. We bring in thousands of new people to the area with these markets and those people spend a ton of money as well as stay in local hotels and visit other businesses in the area. These markets are essential to the vitality of our area and they help keep our tax dollars lower by attracting visitors to our area,” said Graham.
One thing above all else that makes Graham happy is watching the success of his fellow vendors, including himself.
“Everyone out there in the markets has seen growth,” Graham said.