Kristin Zecher
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Kristin Zecher

Aura Central Market

Kristin ZecherI am a senior at the Barney School from Merrick, New York, graduating this May. I grew up in the restaurant and catering business with my father being a chef and owner of multiple successful venues. This inspired my interest to live in Italy, the heart of fresh and local ingredients. I studied abroad in Florence, Italy my sophomore year for 4 ½ months and fell in love with the Mercato Centrale (a Central Food Market where local producers gather daily in a grand and historical building). I returned home and experienced reverse culture shock missing the lifestyle and especially, the food. The fresh local ingredients that made everything taste better, made me feel healthy, and I appreciated knowing where they came from. Craving to shop at the Mercato Centrale, I immediately googled similar places in my area and couldn’t find anything then I searched for something in the tri-state area and still found nothing. As an Entrepreneurial Studies major, I was able to see the opportunity to fill the huge gap in the marketplace so I started writing up a business plan.

I would work on it in my free time and then began to incorporate it in all my classes. I got great feedback from professors, classmates, family, and friends. The more I worked on it the more excited I got about it the more I talked about it. The more I talked about it the bigger my network became. I realized I wanted to pursue this as a career path and couldn’t do it alone. I incorporated and had my own company for it, which I named Aura Inc. and the market is called Aura Central Market. I used my company as my entrepreneur internship for credits and was my own boss and made my own hours. During this time, I determined where I would implement Aura Central Market; Brooklyn, NY. Soon after I realized I couldn’t do this alone I needed help in areas that I knew very little about. I selectively began to establish a strategic team and an advisory board to help me get this started. My strategic team is made up of a CFO, an architect, and an IT specialist. My advisory board consists of professors and my father.

In doing market research, I found an RFP that was released by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and the Borough of Brooklyn. I put together a proposal in accordance to their RFP and was called in for a meeting about my proposal. In the weeks coming up to the meeting, I competed in the University’s Business Plan competition and was awarded 1st place. This gave me the reassurance I needed to keep going and the confidence for the meeting.

My team and I went to Manhattan and met with a panel of NYCEDC decision makers. The meeting went well with one member trying to rip us apart but we had an answer to most of his points and if we didn’t we promised to look into it further. The rush after the meeting was thrilling and right then I was addicted. I knew this is what I wanted to be doing I knew I was going to make this happen. We are currently still waiting to hear their final decision as their first priority is Sandy relief.

Armory InteriorThe property to be developed is an unused armory in Brooklyn. Click to see our proposed floor plan, designed by our team architect, Jonathan Rios.

In doing hands-on market research in Brooklyn, my architect and I noticed a vacant lot in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and took down the address. We looked it up and saw there was an RFP released for the lot and proposals due in 2 days. I quickly put together another proposal catered to the RFP released by the private real estate development corporation and submitted it just in time. Out of 12 respondents we were 1 of 3 to be called in for aEmpty Lot meeting. The meeting was even better than the first! We were a lot more confident and smooth this time around. They called out my passion and showed great interest. We confirmed that if we were granted the land that it would be a one year term and the use of the land would be free.

We walked out of that meeting thinking that land was ours. Our confidence gave us the drive to reach out to potential vendors and start getting their interest. We sent out our brochure to all the farmers that are involved in the once- a-week farmer’s markets in all of New York. Within hours of clicking send, I received 10 emails and 6 phone calls from vendors all anxious to hear more about Aura and excited to be a part of it. In talking to famers and producers, I learned so much from them, was able to build a relationship with them, a network for future ventures, and gained the confirmation that there is an immediate need for this concept. We were runner up but did not receive the lot.

We still are intensely working on all elements of Aura Central Market and meet weekly to continue the momentum. My architect and I presented the story of Aura at the University’s Research and Creativity Colloquium and had the crowd in awe. We are participating in 3 different Business Plan competitions in the next 2 weeks in hopes that it’ll lead us to the start of Aura Central Market:
1. Entrepreneurs' Organization Global Student Entrepreneur Awards 2013 Philadelphia Regional Competition
2. Pioneer International Business Plan Competition
3. State level Connecticut Business Plan Competition

We have everything to implement Aura but the location therefore we are constantly searching for the right opportunity to do so. My team and I have the vision, focus, and relentless drive needed to make Aura Central Market a reality. It is only a matter of time, but Aura is coming!

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