Alesya Vasilevskiy | Shop Cleveland Market
I had the pleasure of talking to Alesya the week leading up to her second annual Shop Cleveland Market, a trendy marketplace held once a year and designed for hip vendors to sell their handmade items on Cleveland’s far west side. Alesya is a force to be reckoned with—an influential woman, entrepreneur, and stay-at-home mother with an eye for creation.
This is Alesya’s story.
Alesya Vasilevskiy was born in Krymsk, Russia and immigrated to the United States when she was just 6 years old. Her family settled in Berea, Ohio, where they were surrounded by family and a closely-knit community of people from her home country. In fact, once she moved to America, she was reunited with a friend, Alex, from her early years; Alex would later become her husband.
After graduating from Berea High School, Alesya enrolled in college courses to further explore her love for numbers and a possible career in accounting.
“I had a professor who told us on the first day of accounting class that if you love numbers you will hate accounting. And guess what? I hated accounting! I went to a tutor but I still had the hardest time with the class; I tried so hard to understand it but I knew that a career path in accounting was not for me.”
After marrying her soulmate, Alesya landed a job with an insurance company and was on track to become an insurance agent. The agent she was working for at the time wanted to help her grow within the company, so he sent her to classes, and once again Alesya found herself in a classroom setting that did not fulfill her.
“Sitting in those insurance classes, I knew right away that this is not a career I wanted to have for the rest of my life. I ended up finishing the courses because they were paid for and I was excited to learn, so it was not a complete waste of my time. But I just knew that it was not something I wanted to pursue any further.”
Soon, Alesya quit her job be a stay at home wife, eventually picking up a part time job to stay busy and get out of the house. After spending the first few years of marriage traveling and exploring, Alesya and Alex began to build a family of their own.
“I was a stay at home mom for quite a few years, but at a point I felt like I was losing a lot of my professional work skills. I used to love to write and I was even beginning to have a hard time writing; I was starting to feel like I had lost a lot of my creativity in general. I had always wanted to be a stay at home mom—growing up, I knew that was my calling—but when I began to lose my skills, I knew I needed to do something about it.”
Alesya began the search for hobbies to focus her attention on, but she could not find one that she was passionate about. That was, until her sister began the process of starting her own business out of state.
“While my sister was in the early stages of launching her business, I was constantly helping her over the phone with a lot of random things like giving her social media advice, assisting in email marketing, what have you. I felt like I learned a lot from her at this stage but we were actually learning a lot together. You know, she had no business knowledge when she started her own business; she didn’t have a business degree and she was a stay at home mom, too. She just went for it.”
As her sister’s business got bigger and more successful, Alesya’s assistance became less essential; their relationship began to revert back to that of siblings and their conversations were no longer about business all the time. However, Alesya not only missed the business talk—she yearned for it.
“I really needed an evening out, so when I came across the ad for the VIP Preview Party for Market Square, which was the new venue at Crocker Park [a mixed-use venue in Westlake, Ohio, featuring retail stores, offices, restaurants, and luxury apartments], I knew I had to be there. So, I reached out to Crocker and literally invited myself. It’s funny looking back because the space was full of event planners and business owners in attendance, seemingly important people, and me, a stay at home mom!”
When Alesya returned home at the end of her evening out, all she could think about were ways to utilize Market Square herself. She came up plenty of ideas but no ah-ha moments until the following morning when she woke-up with a plan: she would hold a market.
“I don’t want to call it a genius idea, but in my mind it was. There are not a lot of markets like this in the far west side suburbs. I wanted to create a trendy event that attracted people from the city to our side of town.”
Alesya immediately called her sister for validation and began making phone calls and designing her event right after their conversation; She was on a mission to get her foot in the door in order to make her dream a reality. Soon, Alesya was in touch with Dan Crandall (a.k.a. Crocker Dan), Director of Marketing at Crocker Park, who was helpful in teaching her how to have the entrepreneurial mentality in order to achieve her goal.
“Dan gave me amazing advice right off the bat. He said, ‘I keep up with all my emails and all of my correspondences because if I don’t, I get overwhelmed.’ That stuck with me as I was planning for the first market and I really adopted his advice as my own approach.”
With her event date booked nearly six months in advance, Alesya began to compile a list of eligible vendors. Since this was her first event, she knew that she was starting from scratch and recognized that because nobody knew of her or her idea, she had to be able to make vendors want to be a part of her dream. Alesya told herself that after the first market, if it didn’t go the way she wanted or if the vendors weren’t happy, she would not hold a market the following year. She never wanted to have to scrape for vendors or gain the reputation that the market was not worth people’s time.
“By the time October rolled around, I had a waiting list of 100 people that wanted to get into the market. To this day, I am like how the heck? Why did they believe in me? But, I think a lot of them wanted something new. They wanted to branch out themselves and this was the perfect opportunity. After the show, that was confirmed. So many vendors came up to me verifying their success and thanking me for hosting the event. At that point, I was pinching myself. Like are you kidding me? I was honestly just in shock!”
After receiving such a great response from her vendors, Alesya immediately booked a date for 2018 and began to plan her second annual market with one focus in mind: her vendors.
“I am a one man show. I don’t have employees, so I have to do all of the planning myself. Between all of the media, and paperwork, and planning, it really filled my year. My goal in planning the second event was to make it a time-worthy experience for the vendors. Once my application deadline passed, I truly spent a significant amount of time curating my vendor list so that they will have a successful show. This year, there will be a lot of repeat vendors and many new ones, as well! And, there continues to be a waitlist, which continues to blow my mind!”
With the ability to use a lot of the same plans moving forward, Alesya spent a majority of her year expanding her marketing techniques and increasing her social media presence. After recognizing a few prominent Cleveland bloggers at her first market and introducing herself to them, she made it a point to include the local blogger scene this time around. This year, Alesya has invited local bloggers & influencers to feature the market and write about their experience at the event. As well, you can find Shop Cleveland Market featured in the Plain Dealer and on Fox 8 News’ New Day Cleveland.
“I heard that it takes one person to hear the same thing six times before they remember it. So, I took that as a challenge to get the market featured in the media as much as possible. I want people to see it, look into it, and want to come to it; I want to stick out and catch people’s eyes differently than other markets. But, I don’t see other markets as my competitors or see myself working against them. I want to work with as many people in this niche as I can so that we can build each other up and promote one another. I see all of this as an opportunity to build a beautiful community in Cleveland.”
As for the future of the market?
“My dream for it is to grow slowly! I want to continue to have the market be hard to get into for vendors and I want the demand to be high so that everyone is successful. I watched my sister grow her business from nothing into a booming beauty shop with multiple employees. I saw her build this empire for herself, so I know that I can do it for myself, as well.”
The second annual Shop Cleveland Market takes place this Saturday, October 27, 2018 from 10am-5pm at Market Square at Crocker Park in Westlake, Ohio.
Follow Alesya @shopclevelandmarket
Story picture photographed by: @tiffanyjoyphoto