Silicon Valley is home to Y Combinator, the world’s first startup accelerator, and many of its success stories—DoorDash, Dropbox, Quora—are based in the Bay Area.
But the soul of Santa Clara County’s entrepreneurial spirit is far from the high-tech world. It’s in flea markets, street fairs and micro-festivals—a local community of makers and shakers. With events coming up from three different groups—SJMade, SJ.Makers and Silicon Valley Pop-Up—’tis the season to sample their locally crafted wares.
One passionate advocate of the benefits of buying locally is Lauren Gutierrez, the entrepreneur behind Silicon Valley Pop-Up. She got her start selling crystals at other markets before branding her own event.
“I started Silicon Valley Pop-Up last year, in July,” Gutierrez says.
But first she was a vendor with the group SJMade at its space on San Pedro Square in downtown San Jose. Then she had a booth at the Berryessa Flea Market. Next, she says, “I had this wonderful space in mind—why don’t I create a space for all of us?” With a business partner, she brought 20 vendors to a downtown space on Bassett Street.
“Now we host over 60 vendors per event,” Gutierrez says. “We have food, drinks, artists. On our one-year anniversary, which was in July, we had an anniversary party with … traditional Mexican dance and Native American performances.”
At present Silicon Valley Pop-Up is hosting its events at Silicon Valley Sports (2099 S. 10th St., San Jose). “The owner is great; he supports small business,” Gutierrez says. “The overall vibe is great there.”
SJMade, where Gutierrez got her start as an independent vendor, has storefronts in the parking lot across from San Pedro Square and in Japantown. Along with SJ.Makers, these events form a bigger network, driven by social media—today’s equivalent to word of mouth. “We’ve created a community ourselves separately but also together because we have a lot of the same vendors,” Gutierrez says. Participants range “from 10 years old into their 70s. … We have people of every color, every gender—we just want to be a warm, welcoming place for everybody. I take a lot of pride in it.”
A native of the valley, Gutierrez says she’s challenging members of the community to “shop 100 percent small and local this holiday season.” She’s sent the same message to San Jose’s leaders, tagging Mayor Sam Liccardo and incoming mayor Matt Mahan to “shop small.”
What can one expect to find at Gutierrez’s upcoming Dec. 11 holiday event? “We have local artists, painters, a lot of crafty items. We have a vendor who makes shadow boxes,” Gutierrez says. “A lot of one-of-a-kind items. We have live music. We have a DJ. We have local bakers, local cooks. And Navi’s Lemonade—I swear, she makes that lemonade with love. If you have not had Navi’s Lemonade, you need to have it. It’s life-changing.”
And on top of that, she is accepting donations of coats, socks and blankets “for our neighbors in need.”
For Gutierrez, the importance of shopping small is real and immediate. She mentions one vendor who had lost her job. When Silicon Valley Pop-Up began posting on social media, the vendor was able to support herself through what had once just been a side hustle. “We helped her put her kid through college,” Gutierrez says.
“Every time I host an event, it’s surreal,” she explains. “These people are coming out to support all of us. Every time we have an event, it’s nerve-racking—but it’s the good nerves.”
Hosting the events has been “very healing for me personally,” Gutierrez says. “I decided to quit my job and do this full time. … After the first couple events, I took that leap. And it’s paid off so far.”
Below are the particulars for the events mentioned here, as well as some Peninsula-based holiday fairs.
SJMade Holiday Fair
Nov. 25-26, 11am-7pm
Santa Clara Convention Center, 5001 Great America Pkwy, Santa Clara
Featuring more than 425 makers, artists and creators. Free admission and parking.
Instagram and Facebook: @SJMade
Winter Festival Marketplace
Dec. 2, 10am-4pm
1431 Waverley St, Palo Alto
Dec. 2-4, noon-6pm
1545 Parkmoor Ave, San José
Makers, food and music. Free
Instagram and Facebook: @SJ.Makers
Dec. 3, 10am-3pm
Waldorf School of the Peninsula, 11311 Mora Dr, Los Altos
Artifactory Holiday Fair
Dec. 9-11, 10am-5pm
Lou Henry Hoover House, 1120 Hopkins Ave, Palo Alto
Silicon Valley Pop-Up Holiday Market
Dec. 11, noon-7pm
Silicon Valley Sports, 2099 S. 10th St., Unit 90; San Jose
Forty-plus vendors plus raffles, food and drink, and a visit from Santa.
Instagram and Facebook: @siliconvalleypopup
Dec. 11, 1-9pm
330 E. Santa Clara St, San Jose
A spooky holiday market with makers, artists and creators.
Instagram and Facebook: @SJ.Makers