So. You’ve decided to start a business. You’ve brainstormed about ways to get your amazing product into the hands of your ideal customer and have concluded that a local market (farmer, artisan, craft, organic, foodie etc) is a path you want to pursue.
When I started Pinch, my dumpling-business-come-social-enterprise, I took a phased approach. It took a long time (many years, in fact) to get from the ‘I think I have a really great idea’ phase, to actually deciding to register as a dumpling business in Amsterdam. Naturally, my first step was to test the idea of fusion dumplings on the market scene in Amsterdam. There are several benefits to standing on a market:
- Wide reach – technically every person at the market could be your next customer
- One-on-one customer contact – immediate reactions to your product, your prices, your brand and an opportunity to build customer relationships
- Often take place on weekends, so great for those who are still employed elsewhere
- Opportunity to connect with other entrepreneurs
To gamble, or not to gamble
Like it or not, every single market is a gamble. Unless the organisers give you a cash guarantee for certain amount of income or guarantee a certain amount of customers (which has happened to me exactly zero times), there is no certainty on if you will win, lose, or breakeven. There are factors that will impact the market overall:
- Competing events
- Holiday season
- Promotion of market
- Market demographics
- High competition
Unfortunately, there is little you can do about these factors, other than choose your dates and locations wisely. In my experience, it’s really a matter of trial and error. Additionally, each business will have their own stand aesthetics and performance to account for (which will get its own post at a later date).
How to win, even at a pitiful market
There will be days when your stand will be bursting with colour, look totally boss and will be 100% on point but…the people just won’t be there or won’t be into your product. It’s tempting to put your sulk-face on and just stare at your phone until it’s home-time but I promise, some good can still come of this!
Put that phone to good use
- Get your phone, snap a happy pic, post on social media with a message to come see you at the market.
- Remember how your stand was “bursting with colour, looked totally boss and was 100% on point”? Make that most of that and take some amazing pictures of the stand, your products, yourself. Use this immediately on social media and/or edit and use the photos at a later date.
- If a market isn’t busy, use that time to connect with the handful of customers that make their way to you. You’ll get valuable insight into what the customer values and how you can give them a better product and/or experience.
- Get to know the vendors around you. This can be tricky because, let’s face it, technically they are your competition but the potential for partnerships is always there! The reality is that in the world of small business, it is beneficial to be each other’s cheerleaders.
One of the best-worst-markets we did was a Saturday AND Sunday Neighbourfood Market where the weather was horrendous. All. Weekend. Long. Misery loves company, so we became buddies with Sandra and Amanda from Taco Gallery. It was a hell of a long weekend, but was made substantially
better with a constant swap of flavour-poppin’ dumplings and bangin’ tacos.
Check out other stands
- Look through your consumer eyes and see what draws you in and what repels you from a stand.
- Entrepreneurs are a creative bunch. Taking hints from successful stands on what to do, and what NOT to do.
Before our first market we surveyed a number of food markets. One place had a huge food truck but I had no clue what was on offer? From that moment,
we decided to clearly display exactly what someone would receive if they ordered.
Hold em’ or fold em’
Making the most of an imperfect situation is a necessary skill for entrepreneurs. Use the tips above to help in the throes of a less-than-desirable market but be weary of basking in the glow of a single successful market performance for too long. Constantly evaluate the goals for each market and if these are being met. As they say, “know when to hold em’, know when to fold em’.”