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Youngster learns how to run a business while working Farmers Market

By Staff | Nov 1, 2017

Milena Weigel waits for the machine to juice the fresh lemons for lemonade at the Sanibel Island Farmers Market. MEGHAN MCCOY

At 5:30 in the morning Milena Weigel’s alarm wakes her every Sunday, prompting her to get dressed for her weekly commitment to the Sanibel Island Farmer’s Market.

This routine began in the middle of last season as she followed in her older sibling’s footsteps, of helping her father Jeff, the owner of the Sanibel Deli & Coffee Factory, run the booth from October through May.

“It’s like running a lemonade stand off the street, but I have a fancy machine and more people,” the 12-year-old said.

Seven years ago Jeff became one of the vendors – the only on-island business – at the Sanibel Island Farmers Market, two years after he opened the doors to his deli located off Palm Ridge Road. This December the deli is celebrating nine years of operation.

“I work seven days a week. This made up for me being able to spend time with the kids,” he said of having them at the market.

Sanibel Deli & Coffee Factory Owner Jeff Weigel and his daughter Milena. MEGHAN MCCOY

In addition, becoming a vendor at the market helped Jeff gain exposure for his restaurant. On average he hands out 30 to 40 menus, which attracts new customers that otherwise would not have stopped by for a meal at the deli.

Jeff said becoming a vendor at the market helped in “yanking us through the curve a lot faster” as a new business starting up on the island.

Rather than Milena simply providing a helping hand during the market, she has a business agreement with her father, which includes paying him monthly rent for the space at the market.

“Kids need to learn how to work at a young age because that’s what they are going to do for the rest of their life,” Jeff said. “It’s something they are not going to learn anywhere else . . . being able to work with people.”

Now going into her second season, Milena said one of the main learning experiences she has taken away from working alongside her dad was patience.

“When someone gives you a hard time, or you get really busy, it can be overwhelming,” she said.

Now, she takes it in stride – not waiting on too many people at once.

Milena is tasked with the responsibility of making sure she has all the supplies she needs after each Sunday market for her lemonade. For instance she has to figure out how many cups, lids and lemons she needs, which her father then orders. Milena also has to make the sugar water for the lemonade before each market.

“I’m learning how to run a business,” she said.

Jeff said after every market he sits down with his daughter to discuss what she sold, the supplies she used and what kind of profit she made. He said she has learned how to put money aside for such expenses as monthly rent, as well as unexpected expenses such as a cooler breaking.

Jeff feels it is important for his kids to earn money and form an appreciation for money, so they know how to both spend and save the funds they have.

Her older sister, Madi, 20, now a junior at the University of Florida worked the market while she was visiting from college. Jeff said Madi became Milena’s helper, which resulted in Milena paying her for her work.

In addition to learning finances and how much she has left to purchase supplies after paying rent, Milena also takes into consideration what kind of weather is predicted for the Sunday market, as well as the month of the market. She said when it gets colder not as many people want a glass of lemonade, but as the season progresses more people will be visiting the market.

For instance, the opening day of the Sanibel Island Farmers Market, Oct. 1, she made three gallons of syrup for the lemonade, compared to five gallons on the fourth week of the market.

Milena said she enjoys working at the Farmers Market because of the interaction with people. A perk is seeing all of the cute dogs stroll the market with their owners.

A downfall of working the market, Milena said was setting up in the dark, sometimes getting bit by bugs, and taking it all down at the end.

The profit that she makes at the market she is “stocking away in a bank account” to buy either a Volkswagen Jetta, or her dream car, a Tesla.

Both Madi, and Noah, his 18 year old son who is a freshman at Florida Gulf Coast University also worked the market for a handful of years.

“The kids have always helped me,” Jeff said.

In addition to lemonade, Sanibel Deli also offers homemade soup and donuts at the Sunday market, which is held from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at City Hall.