My first makers market was a success! Not in the traditional way - perfect weather/1 million sales - but a success to me. I got into this market about 2.5 weeks before it happened, so it was a mad dash to get what I needed - tent, weights, tables, tablecloths, décor - and to build up my inventory. I also went in with low expectations for sales and high expectations for learning. Here are my initial takeaways:
Keep it simple. Things that seem reeeeaaallly important to you probably are not to the customer/they have no idea if something is off.
Buy the Insurance. Always get insurance on large purchases (for me this means any tech or large business items like a tent).
Roll with the punches - unless it goes against your moral values/business practices.
Take notes to be better for the next show - most importantly, comments that are being said and how customers interact with your products.
Stick to your brand. The energy you put into the world is contagious.
Keep it Simple:
This advice is hard for me. If you know me ... I can be quite extra in my planning and setup in general. But my quick advice is to just get out there! The customer has no idea what you did to prep and whether it took all week or one day. Most customers at makers marts are there to support small businesses and want to be inspired by your products.
One thing I wasn't sure about was my tent choice, but I knew the weather was going to be rainy and windy … so it was important! But when I say "I wasn't sure" I mean a spiral of thoughts - "Is this the right decision, do I like the color, should I spend less, do I borrow one without walls, etc." - to the point where I just needed to talk it out and/or write a pros and cons list to pull the trigger!
When I unpacked the tent I thought “Oh wow this is way more yellow than beige/tan ” but ya know what? I had multiple comments on how the yellow brought a warm hue to my space and honestly.. that was the vibe I was going for! This weekend was a "watered-down" version of what I am planning for the upcoming spring markets, but I knew I wanted to create an inviting, chill, atmosphere for my customers to shop in. Luckily my beige tablecloth didn't clash too much, but now, I know what I need to pull the colors together for the next show. Stay tuned, but check out the color difference under our tens!
In the spring, I will include more ways to highlight my products, plants, music, and a diffuser to bring an immersive shopping experience. I want people to see - and feel - the atmosphere I am creating for the farm. But for now, as I'm just starting out, keeping it simple and keeping costs low was the way to go!
Buy the Insurance:
Pro - the tent was a hit. Con - I will be contacting the company and trying to exchange the top... I found THREE holes after the first use! But not to worry, I bought insurance. Watching other businesses "fail" to do this, I realized the extra $50 was more for the peace of mind. A $250+ business expense is a lot when you are just starting out, but simply adding the extra $50 saved me from another large purchase, especially within the same week! I'll update this post and share the tent link once I hear back from the company. It was super disappointing to find the holes, but I am hopeful we can switch out the top rather than replace the whole thing.
Now if you are wondering what to buy insurance on, my rule of thumb is anything tech-related and anything that I deem as a high price tag/will use often in my business. This will change as my business grows, but for now, anything over $100 is a large expense :)
Roll with the Punches
I’m just out here rolling with the punches... always. The weather for my first market was low 40’s, 15+ mph wind, and rain. Thank you Western Michigan in October - But honestly, I have way bigger problems/traumas in my life than bad weather on an event day, and ya know what? People showed up! Fall on Fulton is always a large event, so the event planners decided to delay/extend the event on the original date AND add a second day free to vendors! Now some vendors couldn't attend either day due to various reasons, which I understand and respect, but for a first-timer, I was headed out rain or shine!
I’ve done professional events for 10 years, but this was my first time doing something on my own/for my business. My original helper was not able to help set up but shout out to my friend/coworker, Jess, who came to help set up my tent :) plus to my other friends who came to show support - if you can tell by my tone, I'm feeling grateful for the people and support in my corner. For day one, I packed up my little Subie in the pouring rain - lunch box and coffee in hand - and off I went! Since this ended up being a two-day show it really worked in my favor because I was able to observe and make changes for day two AND I was able to set up/tear down my tent by myself, which was an important feature to me. Full disclosure my market neighbor offered to help, and I kindly said "Yes, but I need to see if I can do it on my own so I'll holler if I need you!".
The moral of the story - just get out there and roll with it. Learn how to actively problem-solve for your business and decide what makes sense for you. For me - I want to own and operate a flower and lavender farm ... farmers go out rain or shine when things need to get done. Period.
I took a relaxed sales approach this weekend and just observed my customers as they picked up - or didn’t pick up - my items. After noticing my display had some flaws I switched it up the second day and almost doubled my sales .. not just because of better weather, but I placed my candles in more accessible spots, and waaaay more people picked them up to smell, which is a win in itself. I still displayed the candles in my upcycled dessert tray, but they were "back stock" and I had samples upfront, which mainly sold. Seems obvious, but hey, I learned and made adjustments. I had even more takeaways from the second day, but I am feeling more prepared for the next market and already updated my packing list.
One way to look at this is: if I didn’t brave the weather the first day I 1. Would have lost out on sales and 2. I wouldn’t have been able to adjust my display to make even more sales on day 2! Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do and money isn’t everything .. but when starting your dream business it’s pretty dang important to make some sales!
Stick to your Brand:
Now let’s talk antique glass .. my business model will continue to reduce, reuse, and recycle in all areas … but let me tell you how happy I was with the number of positive responses just to the glass itself. This honestly made my day! Still working on what this looks like for the future (as it’s super hard to find sets of antique glass that I like/can make into candles) but I will for sure continue to use antique or upcycled glass - I even stopped at the antique mall on my way home after the market to restock :).
As I prepped for this market, I just kept going back to the brand guidelines I put in place. This made it - somewhat :) - easier to make decisions like tent and tablecloth choices, signage, products, ATTITUDE, etc.! I am a firm believer in attracting the energy you put out into the world. I tried to keep as positive of an attitude as I could - of course, I wanted the weather to be perfect, my products to fly off the table, and my Instagram following to increase - but hey. I put myself out there and the type of brand I want to continue creating. I believe this will pay off in the future and attract the clientele that I'm seeking.
All in all, I am happy with my first market successes and lessons! Since it was raining/crazy weather, I did not put out my branding/signage so I will be working on that for my upcoming market and upping my inventory for in-person and website sales!
For upcoming shows, I will be a vendor at the Made Market in Grand Rapids, MI November 18th. I will be alongside some amazing local makers, so save the date and come support your lavender bestie :)
Want to connect? Chat about your business? Learn how you can help grow my business? Wholesale? Reach out to email@example.com
Your Lavender Bestie,