What I Have Learned So Far
I enjoyed my time planning and setting things up, but being a vendor at an in-person market was one of the scariest things I’ve done in a long time. Being present when someone was picking up and inspecting something I had created was a vulnerable and uneasy adventure for me. I imagine that goes away with time, but it wasn’t something I had even thought about before.
The event was a lot of work and tons of preparation but it was an eye-opening experience, and that was exactly the reason I decided to sign up. I have already learned quite a bit so I thought I’d share the journey as I walk on through it.
preparation before the event
I took the time to setup my tables in our living room before the big day. It felt a little ridiculous when I first started but as I was laying all my items out I quickly realized this was super important and a necessary step to take.
I was able to immediately see that I had a missed something obvious: a tablecloth. I had had one visualized in my mind and somehow it hadn’t occurred to me that I’d need to go pick one up!
Another reason I’m glad I setup before the big day is that I can be pretty indecisive when it comes to decorating things. I need to see items in different spaces before I know which one is right. I didn’t want to be figuring this out the day of. I wouldn’t have had time anyway, since we were only allowed to setup an hour before. There’s no way I would have been able to set up a brand new tent, both tables, and display all of my products in that time.
Added bonus of setting up the tables early…you can refer back to the photos of it. Once we arrived and it was actually time to set the tables up, my nerves got the best of me and I completely forgot where everything was going to go. Thankfully I had photographed it and we could use the pictures I had in my phone to setup relatively quickly.
My husband setup the tent while I packed the car with inventory and display pieces. He, of course, found that he needed items that weren’t included in the box. Extra items you might also need:
- Zip ties, came in handy left and right
- Sand or water to weigh the tent down
- Hammer to push the stakes into the ground
- Box cutter
If you can scope the location out beforehand it would help you a bunch to figure out what sorts of things you will need. Our tent had also never been out of the box before either, so if you think you might want to practice beforehand I suggest you do. Ours took about forty minutes (having to run to the store and grab things) which put me in a frenzy getting everything else ready afterwards.
I also spoke to another small business owner who I see at markets like this beforehand. I told her where the event was going to be held and she brought up how windy open fields can get. I never noticed that before I had to display paper products so I’m glad she mentioned it. I planned for extra weights to hold the tent down and brought heavier items to hold my products. (I still need to figure out creative ways to display light weight items, without them blowing away, so suggestions are welcome.)
vendor event tips
Make sure you can do it all alone. This first event I made sure to confirm that my husband could help me. I have a 3-month old who needs to be fed and I also wasn’t too sure about physically being able to pop up a tent on my own. As I was planning and choosing items to pack and bring, I made sure to keep in mind that although I wouldn’t be alone for this market, I likely would be for future ones.
Talk to other vendors. I was able to leave my husband at my booth and go for a walk around the event to get a break. Best idea I had all day! I spoke to more seasoned business owners and got some great ideas, tips, and insights about other markets in our area. I met some nice people and networked with them a little too. Seeing other booths as a vendor now gave me some good perspective for how I would like to be set up as well.
Plan snacks and breaks. From what I’m told, some markets have volunteers who come by to relieve each booth that may need it, and some you’re on your own. There are bathrooms nearby at most places but sometimes it’s a bit of a walk away. You also wont have any food or water unless you bring it.
my thoughts for next time
One thing I did not really consider was what I was walking into as far as who would be out buying. The market was a week before Christmas and it was in Hawaii. This meant tons of holiday gift shoppers and folks looking for souvenirs to bring home. While I knew to bring a lot of my holiday products I didn’t really think about the fact that most of the people here, don’t actually live here like I do. They want their postcards and stickers to remind them of the trip! For the next event I will be sure to consider location and timing, but also the types of shoppers I will likely run into.
I love supporting other small businesses and everything about this tiny market only pumped me up to try again and again. And just in case anyone was wondering, I made about as much as I would on a good week selling online. I didn’t make a single sale (or much eye contact, if I’m being honest) the first hour of the event but after that things picked up.
Would I do it again? Absolutely.
I found myself being awkward and uncomfortable because I had to watch people’s reactions to my work. We were still setting up as the first shoppers were walking around because my tent took so long to setup. It was super windy so most of my signage wouldn't stay put and a few postcards tried to blow away. But even with all the madness, I thoroughly enjoyed the learning experiences. I was able to get a better idea of what in-person markets would involve from me and I’m excited to be able to participate in another one.