How To Stand Out and Be Memorable at Markets

About 10 years ago, when my husband and I were deciding to start family, I had a plan to return to my teaching job after maternity leave. But when two tiny twin babies arrived (and a third teeny bundle a few years later) that plan went out the window and my entrepreneurial journey began. Instead of choosing to pay more in daycare fees than I would have made as a teacher, I decided to stay home and homeschool all three. During this time, I rediscovered my love of baking and about 8 years ago I started the Teeny Tiny Bakery, focusing on custom decorated sugar cookies.

As a small business, attending farmer's markets or fairs have always been an important source of sales, inspiration, relationships and fun. Here are a few things I’ve learned that will help you get the most out of selling at markets. 

1. How to choose the right type of market
If you are just getting started, don’t worry about trying to pick the perfect market the first few times. Try small, local markets and experiment. This strategy will help you to discover who your customers truly are. They may be different than you expected! As with any good experiment you will need to keep track of your data, including input costs, sales, best sellers, seasonality and so on. Be prepared for really good days and really bad days, but in the end you will be armed with the data you need to seek out larger markets that your customers will attend.  Some of the markets I started with were Church Holiday markets, Etsy team markets as well as Farmer’s markets.  These were small and thus had a lower table cost, yet allowed me to start growing my reach and discovering what people valued in the work that I do.
2. How to prepare
Once you have identified a few markets that interest you, don't be shy about seeking advice from the vendors in attendance. Makers have an incredible spirit of camaraderie and are usually willing to help in any way they can. In fact, we owe much of our early success to advice we received from our friends at Artech Glassblowing Studios.

In general, I would advise new makers to keep things simple when preparing for a market. The first reason being that the entire process is complicated enough without adding extra headaches. The second reason is that before you have established a recognizable brand, customers may not know whether you are selling earrings or the rustic driftwood that the earrings are displayed on - and many of them won’t stop to find out. This brings me to my final point:
3. How to make an impact.
If you’ve ever been to a market yourself, you’ve probably been somewhat overwhelmed by variety and you will know that any particular booth only has a few seconds to capture your attention. This is why it is so important for makers to establish a strong, memorable brand and to present their product in a way that is immediately recognizable. Once customers are engaged, let them see your character and hear your story. Many times the real value of a market is not the sales you make but the relationships you build.  I try to keep my display simple and uncluttered, well lit, and ensure that pricing is easy to see.  The customer is apprehensive the first time they encounter you, so it’s important to provide as much information to their eye, to answer those unspoken questions, so that they will have confidence to approach, take a closer look and engage with you.

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