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Meet Julianna Tan & Shawnda Blacklock, Co-Owners of The Little Market Box

2021 Ones to Watch Award Recipient

Shawnda Blacklock and Julianna Tan were neighbouring vendors at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market who wanted to tackle the question: How do we support the individuals and the families who are relying on the farmers’ market as their livelihood? The day after the In comes The Little Market Box: an online platform for purchasing market goods that fosters the success of local producers who are doing what they love to do, like feeding their animals, planting and harvesting their crops, or getting up at the crack of dawn to bake fresh bread. Simultaneously, The Little Market Box offers customers accessible fresh food without the time constraints or parking complaints of a traditional farmers’ market and without compromising the dedication to locally produced goods.

My first job ever was…

For Julianna: as a dishwasher at my parents’ restaurant. I was in grade 3 and I had to stand on a milk crate to reach the sink!

For Shawnda: working for my Grandparents in their small town grocery store and then working for my mom in her own clothing store.

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… 

For Julianna: I was just taking a “break” from my academics and it turned out to be a much longer break than I imagined!

For Shawnda: I enjoy the freedom of following my own path (plus I’m not really employable!).

My proudest accomplishment is…

For Julianna: building both of my current companies (Those Girls at the Market & The Little Market Box) with no formal business education or funding. It’s fun to have an idea, launch it with limited resources (we started our chocolate company with $300), and grow it into something that gives back to you and back to itself. 

For Shawnda: the sincere relationship I have with all of our customers and producers. 

My boldest move to date was…

For Julianna: signing up to have a chocolate booth at our local farmers’ market before I had any experience or knowledge in making chocolate. My sister’s life motto is “Jump! Then build your parachute on the way down.” It forces you to learn quickly and adapt- there is no room for excuses when you’re in action. It worked!

For Shawnda: opening The Little Market Box the day after the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market closed.

I surprise people when I tell them…

For Julianna: I was adopted! My sister and I are biological sisters, but we were adopted together when I was 3 months old and she was 2 years old. We reconnected with our biological parents when we were young and lived between the two families as we grew up. 

For Shawnda: that I’m a Certified Laughter Therapist.

I knew it was time to launch my business when…

For Julianna: we needed a solution that no one else was offering (and I had a very enthusiastic friend and soon-to-be business partner aka Shawnda). 

For Shawnda: we could see the possibilities of our own vision becoming REAL.

My best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is…

For Julianna: reframe the paths you wish to explore as “experiments.” Three-month experiments, one-year experiments, five-year experiments. With this reframing, you cannot fail- you only succeed or learn something. Remember, you can revisit the paths you strayed from after your experiment. Take the shot.

For Shawnda: baby steps, learn, develop as you go and don’t be afraid of change.

My best advice from a mentor was…

For Julianna: life is not a singular road you travel down. It is a vast journey through many mountains that will constantly change your perspective and consequently change your path as you explore yourself and the world around you.

For Shawnda: Learn SOMETHING from EVERYONE. 

When the going gets tough, I tell myself…

For Julianna: we’re all here just spinning on a big rock that’s floating in the universe. You might as well have fun.

For Shawnda: DON’T GET in my OWN WAY.

If I had an extra hour in the day, I would…

For Julianna: take a Spanish class!

For Shawnda: spend more time outdoors with my cats and the people I LOVE. 

I stay inspired by…

For Julianna: constantly listening to podcasts on a wide range of topics, reading books (I’m addicted to self-help), and using my Passion Planner (I highly recommend checking out this day planner).

For Shawnda: watching and helping others choose and follow their dreams. (When the pictures on the vision boards become real ~ I get goosebumps)

The future excites me because…

For Julianna: we’re building it now. I’ve realized it’s easy to overestimate what we can accomplish in a short period of time (in one week or a couple of months), but it’s easy to underestimate what we can accomplish over longer periods of time (one to five years). We’re planting seeds everyday that have the potential to grow into something bigger than we ever imagined they would be. How exciting!

For Shawnda: I believe in the products and the PEOPLE we support. 

My next step is…

For Julianna: Redefining our dream store and making the moves that support that dream.

For Shawnda: More space, expansion to support our dream store.