First Craft Market - the Debriefing

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Yesterday was my very first (ever) craft market. I was asked for a full report so here goes. First off, this isn't a big market. It's kind of out in the country (among the orchards and vineyards); there are a total of about 100 vendors, not all of whom show up every time. I would estimate that there were about 40-50 vendors this time. The market is in a community hall with a few vendors outside the building (i.e. a flower truck, a food truck, a nursery, etc.)

My husband dropped us (my 14 y.o. granddaughter and I) off and helped with unloading the Jeep then went home to do some housecleaning (definitely needed). There was a bit of confusion as to where I would be situated but not a big deal. It took us about 20 minutes to get everything set up to our satisfaction, then we waited for customers to arrive.

From speaking to other vendors, it was a slow day, which really didn't surprise me because it was, after all, Father's Day. I think most people were doing family stuff, not thinking about attending a market. The majority of customers glanced at what I had and kept walking. Those who paused, I chatted with. One of my sales was to a young woman, one of a group of 4, who said they were "regulars", shopping at the market every week. They were quite excited to see a soap vendor. Overall, the feedback was positive but sales were slow. I had a total of 5 transactions, one of which was after I got home. My upstairs neighbour came down to buy a bar.

I was told by the market organizer that there were two sizes of table - 4' and 8'; we ended up with an 8' table which my table cloth didn't completely cover. However, we worked with it. One friend from my day job showed up, as she said she would, and purchased soap; I asked her for her honest opinion on my set up and she was very positive.

One of the great things about being there was another vendor. She is an esthetician who makes her own skin care line (but not soap). She was a wealth of information, both about the market and about the legal side of things. She asked about insurance (yes, I have it) and said that it took forever (months) for her certificate to arrive. She gave me some hints about the process of registering my recipes with Health Canada, which can also take forever, apparently. She did say that if you're confident in your recipes and follow all the proper guidelines and have your insurance, you're okay to continue selling.

I was quite surprised at what kinds of things people were buying. One vendor, next to me, was selling painted rocks. Rocks! People couldn't get enough of them. I also noticed a few vendors who sold absolutely nothing all day. I noticed a couple of vendors near me who had their tablets open and were playing games... all day! One thing I was determined to do, from the outset, was to engage with people. My tablet was there for business only. It has my Square app on it and that's all it was used for. Speaking of which, all my transactions were cash. Even though I have the Square and the contactless chip reader, I didn't need them at all.

My granddaughter was amazing. I could wander away from the table (briefly) and I noticed her engaging people, talking about the soap and the market. She had a blast. When she wandered around the market, I could see her talking with other vendors, asking them questions about their products and admiring the artwork. Not once was she bored or whiny. She even said she'd like to help out again, every time.

Ok, this post is getting long enough. I only took two pictures of my set up; my husband was shocked at that but it wasn't top of mind, really. The other two pictures were taken another day but will give you an idea of the venue and the market. I will be attending again, twice in July and twice in August. After that, we'll see.
 

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amd

Thanks for getting back to us on how it went! Your granddaughter is lovely. So glad that you enjoyed the experience!
 

earlene

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Your set-up looks quite nice, Misshcief. I certainly would have stopped by and bought something. Being indoors is a definite plus, too, I would guess. I know I'd like an indoor venue for our Farmer's Markets, just to escape the heat of summer. Your granddaughter's smile, as well as your own, probably helped draw in the customers, too.

I would expect you will get more sales as time goes on, and perhaps Father's Day being a slow day was probably good for the first day to get used to the locale, etc. Now you know to bring another table cloth in case you are at a larger table next time.
 
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Your granddaughter looks really happy and smiley :D which is great. If she was mine I would certainly ask her to help again. Your table and packaging look really good, neat and well packaged. Setup is very attractive so that is not the slow sales issues. Sometimes it takes customers a few trips to market and seeing you to decide to come up to the booth, and 1 time in a market is not enough to judge it. It sounds like you are not basing your entire opinion on one time at the market, that is good. I always tell new vendors not to get discouraged, it can months for sales to pick up.

These are great affordable tablecloths, and I would get a 4' and 8'. I always have extras in case a vendor forgets theirs. This year I am replacing some of my black that have faded to much, but my tablecloths have been washed many times and some are 7 yrs old. So they do hold up well.
https://tableclothsfactory.com/coll...-table-cover-wedding-banquet-event-tablecloth
 
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Lin19687

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Agree with others on everything. Leave out Business cards for people to email/website to buy outside of the market.
Sometimes they think about it and wish they had bought !
Your GD is ADORABLE !! And even better is that she likes to engage talking with people. That is hard now a days with some kids.

@cmzaha thanks for that link, I thought I had saved it before but I didn't :)
 

dibbles

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Even though sales were slow this time, it looks like a nice venue and I hope you had fun. You sure have a cute helper! I think I have said it before, but samples can work wonders. Sacrifice a few bars of soap, slice them into a small but usable size and put in a plastic bag with your business card. It will give you a reason to kind of stop people by your table, and then you can get them smelling your soaps. People love free stuff!
 
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Even though sales were slow this time, it looks like a nice venue and I hope you had fun. You sure have a cute helper! I think I have said it before, but samples can work wonders. Sacrifice a few bars of soap, slice them into a small but usable size and put in a plastic bag with your business card. It will give you a reason to kind of stop people by your table, and then you can get them smelling your soaps. People love free stuff!

It really is a great venue and a close knit community, from what I could tell. Vendors were visiting back and forth with each other all day and the organizer, too, is enthusiastic about what they're trying to create; truly, it was a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to the next one (July 8 for me).

Great advice about the freebies. I will definitely keep that in mind for next time. And yes, my helper (Trinity) is a cutie and a real sweetheart. She wants to come with me EVERY time (accent on the every is straight from her). Her mother has said many times that she is me reincarnated except that I'm not dead yet. ;) Truly though, we enjoy so many of the same things it's almost eerie.
 
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Unlike Dibbles I never found giving out samples worthwhile and cards are expensive. I used to give samples and found less than one percent would come back and purchase, but they will send their friends and kids to get another sample. I do always have samples in a container if someone is adamant about trying a soap because of issues such as their having problems with handmade soap. If you give them a small piece to just try most of the time they do not try it and the sample and card go in the trash. If you give them a larger piece they have a soap to last a week or so and do not return, because they may happen upon another soap maker before your next market, and thinking all soap is created equal, will purchase from them. When I was giving sample soaps I would also recognize the same people coming back for a sample the next week for a new sample, but never purchasing a bar. That stopped that, no more samples. My samples were little .5-.7 oz flowers. Another problem I found with samples, if you use the little zip lock plastic bags the scent can morph badly, so I shrink wrapped my little flowers and labeled each one. Pesky Pesky..

But after all is said and done you have to figure out what works for you and the venue you attend. Even though I live in a high population area our markets usually have the same people attend each week.
 

shunt2011

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I no longer give out samples either. I have testers out for my sugars scrubs, lotion and lip balms with little test sticks. Never found them to really add any business to things. I do keep business cards out, I consider that a worthwhile expense. Even if it just gets my name out there. Vistaprint runs good specials.
 
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I no longer give out samples either. I have testers out for my sugars scrubs, lotion and lip balms with little test sticks. Never found them to really add any business to things. I do keep business cards out, I consider that a worthwhile expense. Even if it just gets my name out there. Vistaprint runs good specials.

I have business cards and brochures with some soapy information. A few people took a brochure but no one picked up a business card. I also have a postcard bag insert that every customer gets. Disclaimer: I work in a print shop and my boss won't allow me to pay for anything I need.
 
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amd

I give out samples - simply because I have so.much.soap in my personal stash already I can't justify keeping all the end slices from my loaves. I tried selling sample slices, but it never took off, so I thought it would be better to use them as advertising. I did luck out that one of my neighbors had a home business selling pet crab supplies, so when she went out of business she had 4 very large boxes of two sizes of baggies that she gave me. (I mean LARGE boxes. I've been using them for three years and I'm not even through the first box yet.) The large size fits a full end slice or a half slice and a business card, the small size fits only a half slice. I used to do the half slice and a business card for my sample handouts, and my business cards had a punch style box for buy 4 get 1 free. I never see those back, even among my regular customers, so I decided to save my cards for people who specifically ask for one. My samples are now bagged with a sticker label that says what the soap is and my company name and website. I use address labels and print them myself. It gives me something to do with my hands while I'm watching TV, otherwise I probably wouldn't do it at all.

I think the effectiveness of samples varies depending on where you live. For me, because I don't live in a huge saturation market, samples are effective for me. Now, when/if I ever get through my baggies, or get tired of bagging and labeling samples during TV time, I'll evaluate if I will continue doing it or not. That's something that every soaper has to do - evaluate what is worth your time and effort. If I come off as sounding judgey towards Shunt and Cmz, I don't mean to, and I'm not. They made their decisions based on their locations, business, and efforts, and I applaud them for realizing what they don't need to do. :) I just don't agree that their sampling results are true for everyone.

...And there I go... being all rambly again.
 

dibbles

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I used to sell MP soaps with a friend. She was very good at standing out where people were passing through at markets and offering a sample, then engaging them and actually putting soaps in their hands to smell. Since it was MP, all soaps were wrapped, but we had poured little .5 ounce jars for each fragrance so people could smell them. Our samples had a label printed with company/contact information, and the fragrance. It was effective for us. Small-ish markets. Often the only one or two soap makers.
 
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:) I just don't agree that their sampling results are true for everyone.

...And there I go... being all rambly again.

...and I did mention you have to find what works in your market. My end cuts are my smell samples unless they get to old and faded to smell then I will open an end on a full bar
I do use punch cards and my customers always keep them bringing them when they buy soap. Mine are buy 7 get one free and my customers love the punch cards. I recently ran out and need to get more printed. Now customers are asking for their punch cards!
 
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...and I did mention you have to find what works in your market. My end cuts are my smell samples unless they get to old and faded to smell then I will open an end on a full bar
I do use punch cards and my customers always keep them bringing them when they buy soap. Mine are buy 7 get one free and my customers love the punch cards. I recently ran out and need to get more printed. Now customers are asking for their punch cards!

I like the punch card idea; will have to keep it in mind.
 

Lin19687

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TY, just trying to figure out how many of each for the 1st show. My mold is 16 bars and I was thinking 10 each, but not every scent.

Oh it is hard to choose which ones ;)
 
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I know, right?

I've had a chance to talk with John's boss, who's staying with us right now. She's owned a number of businesses, including a soap store. She suggested only putting out one or two of each scent; I'm not sure I agree with that but it was an interesting thought.
 
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For my weekly market I put out approx 6 soaps of each scent, remembering all my soaps are shrink wrapped so they stay clean. Very seldom will a customer purchase a soap when I am down to only 1 or 2 left. It usually has to be a flagrance they have used before and want it. I take a selection of 40-50 different scents/soaps each market. Not all my recipes are the same. I have vegan, non-vegan, non- fragrance, oatmeal, gm, no CO and the list goes on. If someone asks for a particular soap I usually have one unless it is really off-the-wall. One day I hate a man ask for a soap with wood in it. He wanted ground up wood. Every time I see piles of termite droppings on my floors, I think of him and wonder, should I.....:lol:
 

NsMar42111

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I know, right?

I've had a chance to talk with John's boss, who's staying with us right now. She's owned a number of businesses, including a soap store. She suggested only putting out one or two of each scent; I'm not sure I agree with that but it was an interesting thought.
I've seen people do a display shelf with one unwrapped bar of each (labeled on the shelf) and then the extra sellables were kept in totes under the table...
 
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