As many of you know (because I wouldn’t shut up about it) I had my first market this Saturday. It marked not only my first farmer’s market but also my first outdoor venue! It was a great success and great fun.
I thought I’d share some general notes, ideas, and experiences for others who may also be market virgins or have never done an outdoor show. I’m a bit of an over-preparer and spent a lot of time going over every aspect I could think of. Perhaps you may find it useful
I kept my display as simple as possible for ease of set-up and take down but kept it colorful. My bunting made my booth easy to spot from a distance (that part didn’t occur to me, i just thought it was cute!) and may just become my booth signature.
My first piece of advice is practice! Firstly, it’ll make you more efficient but secondly, you must work out the bumps of being outside! So very different than an indoor set up.
My first instinct is to protect my items from the elements. This means never leaving them outside where dirt, dust, mud, pollen, water, sticky fingers and spills can occur. The week prior to the show was drizzly and breezy, perfect practice weather. I dressed warmly (it’s cold that early in the morning!) and set up my canopy and display outside,
- I discovered some leaks. Good thing to know. Marked them until I can re-seal the seams
- If you think the weather may change during the day, hang your walls then bungee them up out of the way. That way you won’t have to scramble to put them up later.
- Get used to your babies being outside! I had to really desensitize myself. This way I didn’t spend opening day fretting over the earlier mentioned elements.
- Don't underestimate a light breeze. Make sure everything is attached or your signage, business cards, or gawd forbid, your product, will be floating down the street.
- Be flexible with your set up. Have several booth configurations. For sunny weather I will to the “outy” configuration. If it’s rainy I’ll do the “inny” (keep your product and your customers dry). Also, be aware that you may have 1 to 4 sides open. Be prepared!
- I tend to get a little nervous the morning of a show and everything I practiced goes out of my head. Make a list, including the order of set up if you need to, or take pictures. Referring to a picture really helps me. Especially since I frequently change my display(I forgot my pics this weekend and spent 5 minutes trying to remember what tablecloth went with what products).
- Be prepared for uneven ground. this was something I didn’t even think about until I was shown my space on a slanting surface. I have a floor cover as well. If something drops to the ground it will be on the rug, not on the dirt, pavement, grass etc.
- Be ready for custom order requests. Since your customers will be back weekly this makes custom orders much more simple to deal with.
Something else I have always found helpful is keeping a show journal. This is especially useful when you do the same show annually or weekly. I note the date, weather, location of my booth and who my neighbors are, items I forgot and any other special events that are also happening in town that day, etc. Make notes all day long – I already have ideas for 5 new products, all recommended by regular market goers.
As for my own experience, I had great fun. I saw friends and neighbors and folks I hadn’t seen in ages. Market goers are a friendly bunch and all the feedback I got was positive. My neighbors, the cupcake folks you can see in the pic above, not only gave me samples all day but drew a large crowd down to our end of the market. They even packaged their goods beautifully so I don’t have to worry once about sticky fingers making their way into my booth. We would happily be neighbors again.
Now I am eager to replenish my inventory and get to work on some of these new ideas!