Rana Sabeh has lived a green lifestyle for close to 10 years. But it wasn’t until the Huntington Beach resident was laid off from her job that she decided to make her lifestyle, her life’s work.
The 34-year-old launched Healthy Bargains, a discount natural products website, in 2010 with the goal of selling notoriously pricey green merchandise to people on a budget. However, when funding dwindled, she came up with an idea that could help promote and increase revenue to her business and others like it. Sabeh created the Orange County Green Market.
The OC Market works much like a farmers market, the only difference being that vendors are exclusively green business owners. The market is held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. the second Saturday of every month on the Irvine Valley College campus. Vendors promote and sell products and services that range from natural body care products and green fire logs to therapeutic services. The market also hosts nonprofit organizations.
After a false start in August 2011, Sabeh had a grand re-opening of the market on Nov. 12 with a better understanding of the organizational needs of the monthly event.
NBC Los Angeles recently chatted with the OC Green Market’s founder and organizer about the reason for her latest business venture, what people can expect to see at the market, and how she intends to win over the reluctant greenie.
Q. Why open a green market?
A. Part of my intention was to have a way to sell products I offer on my website. Also, there are so many local businesses out there that are starting on their own like me. They can’t access larger consumer markets in Orange County. I just thought that this would be a really good venue for products today. Also, I just absolutely love products. I love everything we can use in our daily lives. What is really becoming important to me is socially driven companies. We have power in a capitalist society in where we spend our money and what kind of products we buy.
Q. What makes the OC Green Market different from farmers' markets that have opened up in great measure in the last few years?
A. When I started trying to get in those to sell my own products, they were kind of limited in what they could sell [produce, prepared food]. There aren’t too many in Orange County that are open to other kinds of products. And there are certainly not any in Orange County that are dedicated to green products and services, holistic/alternative therapy treatments and nonprofits. What I wanted to create is basically a marketplace for all three and more. I’m trying to make it well-rounded.
Q. What products and services can people expect to see when they walk into the market? Tell me a little about your vendors.
A. One of the coolest companies I’ve had is Earthlog. They make fire logs, but they make theirs out of used candle wax and coconut fibers. And it lasts so much longer than the dura logs. I have a 100-percent soy candle vendor. Green Life Gallery is so cool; she finds artists that are making functional eco-friendly art. There is one person that makes purses out of chopsticks. Another artist she has makes bowls and art out of nuts and bolts. One vendor I have is called Intrinsic. His passion is designing and creating laptop bags in villages in Kenya. I have an organic food delivery service called In Every Way Gourmet. They work with you to develop a menu. Zoey and Bailey's vegan cupcakes makes the best cupcakes I have ever had! She has a chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting I can’t stop talking about. Simply Straws, I love this product. They make reusable glass straws so you don’t have to use plastic straws, which are not recyclable. There’s so much stuff, it really is amazing. The innovation is so inspiring.
Q. There are classes offered too?
A. It’s just another component. As an added plus [merchandise], they can stop by and listen in on a lecture. The topics I have in mind are really diverse. It’s focused mainly on healthy living and green living. I just want people to know best practices and things they can do to improve their lives.
Q. And the nonprofits? What's their role in this?
A. Every nonprofits reason for being there is going to be the same. Mainly the two things are getting the word out [on their cause] and recruiting volunteers. Sometimes they will have petitions that they are trying to get signed, but usually it’s informational.
Q. Green products have a reputation for being pricey. Should people be concerned about pricing when they come to the market?
A. There is a really diverse range of pricing at the market. My vendors sell anything from 5 bucks up to the hundreds.
Q. How will you get the not-so green people interested in your market?
A. My bigger mission with this market is to introduce people who don’t really know about the green lifestyle to other options to the way they are living now – let them know that the market is here. The biggest thing is that there is no pressure or a sense that green is better. The whole key is just to do what you can do every day. Just don’t beat yourself up over it. That’s what I want to convey at the market.