It’s been a whole family affair to get The Markets Wanniassa up and running

Lottie Twyford 13 July 2021 15
Fiona Lester and James Lester with two children at The Markets Wanniassa

Fiona and James Lester with two of their nine children at The Markets Wanniassa. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

Four-and-a-half years ago, Fiona Lester was busy on the market circuit where she sold handmade goods ranging from heat packs to baby and toddler clothes, depending on what she needed herself at the time.

She began to tire of the routines of a regular stallholder – having to constantly set up and pack down tables and drag boxes around, as well as being at the mercy of the elements.

So from this frustration, the permanent and indoors The Markets Wanniassa was born.

Fiona and her husband, James, run The Markets Wanniassa, and with nine children between them, there’s always been plenty of help on hand. The youngest of them – aged 10, 13 and 15 – are often found in the store.


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“Having grown up in a large family, all the kids are very sociable and great with customers,” says Fiona.

She says working with her partner has largely been a good experience.

“It was difficult at the start, especially when we had a big, blended family, but we have always worked well together as we complement one another,” says Fiona.

“He’s the calm, logical one and I’m the emotional ideas one.”

Exterior of The Markets Wanniassa

The Markets Wanniassa stocks a huge range of local goodies. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

The Markets Wanniassa, like many businesses of its kind, started life as a collaborative pop-up. Fiona got a group of mums together who were in very similar situations to her – all doing a bit on the markets circuit – and they split the cost of a three-week lease.

From there, The Markets Wanniassa really took off.

Around 60-70 per cent of its products are sourced locally in the Canberra region, but during Victoria’s extended COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, a few creators who could no longer do the markets in the southern state got involved with the Canberra business.


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“I wanted to only stock Australian-made and designed products from small businesses,” says Fiona.

A recent passion of the couple is working closely with Indigenous businesses and suppliers. James is a proud Worimi and Wonnarua man, and although he affectionately calls Fiona the ‘white honky’ of the family, she’s also excited about sharing Indigenous culture.

“I think it’s really beautiful and it does need to be recognised for what it is,” says Fiona.

The Markets Wanniassa stocks a range of Indigenous bush tucker foods from Indigiearth, Wild Hibiscus and Kakadu Plum Co, alongside colouring-in books and tea towels by Larry Brandy, an Aboriginal storyteller.

Part of this initiative has been a new partnership with the Canberra Indigenous Business Network, and Fiona says they’re very proud and excited to have joined the fold.

She adds that they hope to find more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses or creators who want to work with them through this partnership.


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15 Responses to It’s been a whole family affair to get The Markets Wanniassa up and running
Adrienne McRae Adrienne McRae 11:07 am 14 Jul 21

Well done Fiona and James, great store, I am lucky to have you in my neighbourhood ❤️

Karen Hayden Karen Hayden 3:50 pm 12 Jul 21

Well done

Tracey Dobson Tracey Dobson 12:38 pm 12 Jul 21

What a great, positive article to read.

Also what great inspirational role models, you both make to not just your children, but to other people too.

Thank you.

Will have to pop by sometime.

Dianne Schulz Goulding Dianne Schulz Goulding 9:01 am 12 Jul 21

Fantastic Market shop, so many lovely things to buy for gifts or yourself. Love that they have a lot of local wares

Nicole O'connor Nicole O'connor 7:01 am 12 Jul 21

I do international snack swapping. I brought a kids book from The Markets Wanniassa that was all about Canberra. Written by a Canberran. I sent it to the USA with snacks. They got the box last week and absolutely love the book.

    The Markets Wanniassa The Markets Wanniassa 9:07 am 12 Jul 21

    Nicole O'connor Samantha Tidy Author that would be your book! ❤️❤️

Melissa Fellows Melissa Fellows 7:59 pm 11 Jul 21

I’m a northsider - but I managed to make a visit last week, while on leave from work - such a lovely store with so many tempting things

Vee Churchill Vee Churchill 7:48 pm 11 Jul 21

Yay, Fi!! Much love <3

Angela Thomas Angela Thomas 7:29 pm 11 Jul 21

Definitely my go-to place for yarn these days! Well done, guys!

Fenji Stradwick Fenji Stradwick 7:17 pm 11 Jul 21

So pleased it's gone so well.

Janine Gilchrist Janine Gilchrist 6:44 pm 11 Jul 21

Love this shop

Lori Korodaj Lori Korodaj 6:01 pm 11 Jul 21

Such a wonderful treasure! Thank you for being in our local community!

Johnathan Davis MLA - Member for Brindabella Johnathan Davis MLA - Member for Brindabella 5:34 pm 11 Jul 21

The Markets Wanniassa are a Tuggeranong success story. I picked this up from The Markets Wanniassa as a gift to myself when I bought my first home 🏳️‍🌈🏡

    The Markets Wanniassa The Markets Wanniassa 5:54 pm 11 Jul 21

    Johnathan Davis MLA - Member for Brindabella we are chuffed that a teeny bit of us hangs in your home! ❤️

Karen Nicholson Karen Nicholson 5:14 pm 11 Jul 21

It's my favourite place for unique and local pressies, and the odd treat!

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