10. Be ready to do business. If this is your first ever market, your preparing days are over. Have lots of change. Have your receipt book ready. Have two pens. Know if you take cash, checks, credit cards. Know your prices. Keep track of what sells, so you can evaluate your product line later. If a friend can help sometimes, put them in the background to note on paper every comment — hugely beneficial — pick out the best ones for your website and promo copy.
Work up to these: Keep track of when the purchases happen: 11 am-noon, noon-1pm, 1-2 pm, 2-3 pm. Note the buyer’s gender and approximate age – this helps you craft your target market demographics later.
11. Ask fellow vendors which market dates are best and slowest, so you can plan your inventory accordingly. Outdoor markets mean occasional rain, but otherwise most markets follow a typical history (quiet in August, maybe, crazy busy in September…).
12. Show up anyway. Rain, heat, wind, boredom, headache, fear, resentment, loneliness, snow even! Show up, be ready on time, and stay til the end even if you run out of product to sell. Be a conscientious and friendly and stout-hearted community member of the market, and it will come back around to you. You never know who that last shopper will be, or how much the dedicated rain-going customer will buy, now and into the future, all because you were one of the vendors who were still there after she made the effort to come out in the rain.
13. Never let an engaged shopper leave your table without offering them a next step. As you make change, ask if they’re local. If so, let them know where they can find your products every day (website ordering, local retailers, farm stand).
If they’re from away, either welcome them to shop your website, come back on their next trip, or let them know if/where they can find your products at home. We give them a small postcard that they can bring home to their own local specialty food buyer to request that they carry our products. These customers are some of our best sales reps!
14. Don’t think it to death. Farmers’ markets are an outstanding way to test out products, because they are relatively inexpensive, have a relatively low commitment, and because market shoppers expect things to be more homemade and homegrown, and have a high tolerance — delight, even! — for new, fledgling products.
I found that on our first day, people were charmed by our paper labels, badly cut with hand scissors, taped onto the top of the tubs. Charmed enough that we sold out! People love being present for the beginning of things. So use that.
Go try it so you can see what the response is, and adjust accordingly. You can’t possibly make it perfect in private first. Get your product out there so people can tell you what direction to go with it. Set your fear aside and risk it. Better to make all your mistakes when your business is small!!
Everything will get better next time, and every time. Be patient, and humble, and willing to start very imperfectly.
Lisa Johnson, Y’Ambassador, Yummy Yammy