First year to do farmers markets

Discussion in 'Melt & Pour Forum' started by Big T, Aug 7, 2018.

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  1. Aug 7, 2018 #1

    Big T

    Big T

    Big T

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    I want to say if anyone is new to selling at farmers markets, do not be discoursed by other soap vendors. I would like to say that every other soap maker and vendor is happy and excited to have someone else love the craft, but this is not the case and you may run into a few that try and discourage you the first time. If this happens, do like I did and laugh it off. My first visit to a farmers market, I was so excited and nervous. My son had a table selling seasoning salts, meat rubs, and jalapeno salts and he asked me to join him and bring the soaps I make. I set up and before the market opened, another soap maker came to my table, her face scrunched up and her hands fisted, tugging on her vest, and looks my table over. She didn't smile or introduce herself, just frowned at me and my table. She didn't pick up a soap or even look at me. Finally, she said, "Just came to see what my competition was. How much do you sell your bars for?" I told her my price and she grunted and went back to her table.
    I looked at my son and was like, "No, that didn't just happen?" So I smiled, went to her table and admired how pretty it was, after introducing my self. After telling her to have fun, I went back to my table, feeling a lot better that I didn't let her bother me. The next week she was a lot more friendly. So, the message here, don't be discouraged. Have fun.
     
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  2. Aug 7, 2018 #2

    cmzaha

    cmzaha

    cmzaha

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    While I do not scrunch up my face or make comments if I check out a new soap seller in one of my markets' I will go check them out, introduce myself, and tell them I am looking in case someone asks for something I do not have and will recommend them to the seller if they have the product and I do not. Markets are hard and it is hard when they let new soapers in a market you have been doing for a few years building clientele. I would take your comments as being just as mean and condescending and her scrunching up her face. Not all of us do markets as a hobby, but need to make money. I do a Holiday Market that I started doing several years ago unknowing there is a soapmaker that had been attending the market for years. We became friends and we send each other customers, and we both become upset when the manager brings in 4 other soapmakers. We have to work together to survive. I even purchase some soap from her because she carries a fragrance I love and will not pay the price for it. I simply refuse to pay $60 for a lb of fo after shipping costs are added in.

    Many times the resident soaper in the market becomes resentful, especially in small markets, that the manager would bring in another soapmaker. But business is business. I had another approach when I was the newbie on the block, I had to go bigger and better :D. No matter what size a market I attend and how many soapmakers are in attendance I do not let it discourage me having that much confidence in my products. I will usually check out the market before to see if there are other soapmakers, especially a small local Farmer Market. If the market it small with an established soapmaker I do not intrude.

    One thing that does make me mad is when a soap seller comes to my booth and starts picking through my soaps and reading labels, which I had happen last Friday night at a small Summer Fest market. For years I have been making and selling a foot scrubby that I have seen nowhere else and no has copied it to my knowledge. Well, he picked it up and looked it over well, leaving before I could say anything. I was a little slow realizing who it was. I did temporarily feel a bit sorry for them because they were across from me one booth away and all they did was stare at my booth. Finally they moved to the same side I was on and four booths away. I lost the feeling sorry for them after his picking through my booth and going up to see what they had for sale. She had, at most, 6 soaps in very nice custom boxes, and no smell samples. To top that off she was burning incense. What a no no that is.... Although her display was nice, her packaging attractive she lost a lot of money, with incense being one of her downfalls. She had charcoal tooth powder and a customer came to my booth looking for charcoal toothpaste so I sent her up there. My hubby watched to she is she bought it, but he told me she never walked up to the booth. Incense...
     
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  3. Aug 7, 2018 #3

    amd

    amd

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    I have to admit that I am awkward when I run into another soap seller at the same show. I don't have any problems if I am shopping as a customer to ask questions and chat about the process, but I struggle if I'm there as a seller as well. My first two experiences with another soapmaker at the same show just left a bitter taste in my mouth. One was doing a make & take cp soap, so I was curious what she was doing for molds and how she was explaining the cutting and cure process to customers. It was, honestly, curiosity and not critique (a good answer probably would have gotten my business because it was goats milk soap which I would have enjoyed using) but she responded "Maybe you should be worrying about what's going on at your booth and not mine." The other lady (also goats milk) is just loud and rude to start with, I run into her at the shows I do back home twice a year, and her main staple is canned goods with just a few soaps off to the side. But every year I can hear her from across the room telling people that her soaps are cured for 4-6 weeks, and not like my uncured soaps. She has never talked to me about soap, she has never looked at my soaps, so I don't know if she is judging that my soaps are m&p based on how colorful my table is... or just wants to be loud and rude.

    I think those two initial experiences just warped my brain that other sellers are going to be rude as well. I had a good experience with the lady I met at the beginning of July, but I think part of that was just how I handled it. She had some soaps that looked like they could be DOS, but she didn't have labels on them, so I couldn't be sure it was herbs or puree causing a normal discoloration. I could have started the conversation when she had a handful of customers, but I didn't. I waited until no one was around (I even told her a few times when there were customers browsing, that I would wait to talk to her) and then I said "Do you have something in this soap that is causing the discoloration, or is it possible you have DOS?" My instinct to wait was correct, because she explained that that particular soap was made with cucumber puree, and the cucumber peel was causing the discoloration. She then thanked me for waiting until she had no customers, and we chatted for about 15 minutes (it was a really slow show), swapped soaps and went on our way. [I didn't like her soap, but I did enjoy talking with her and I look forward to running into her again.]

    The soaper at the show last weekend... well... that was just awkward. This was the soaper that got priority placement at the show, which I don't blame her for as that is totally on the organizer so I really wasn't upset about another soaper, just where we were placed. Anyways, this lady showed up an hour late for the show, packed up an hour early, and didn't even bother to come back for the second day. I did pop over to see her when my booth had slowed down (customers came looking for me out in the boonies! Yay! but also a huge props to two vendor friends who made sure that people knew where I was). I didn't bother to introduce myself, I looked over her soaps, checked her price points and then just moved on like I was a regular browsing shopper. I told my husband that I felt awkward about it, but after hearing her tell a few customers that it was freshly made soap (HP) just for this show, I didn't feel inclined to talk soap with her. Man, it was awkward though. I didn't even check her labels (which I confess, I do whether I'm a shopper or seller, sorry @cmzaha) although I did notice she had her bar weight listed at 4.5 ounces, but I don't think they were that big. Of course, I under label mine at 4.0 ounces but they're in the 4.5-4.7 range... blah... I just didn't have anything good to start out a conversation with her. We used different methods, we apparently have different thoughts on cure, questionable label practices... I don't think it would have been good for either of us. So in the end the only thing I took away was checking to see if we were competitively priced and what she had for fragrances. Yep, I was "that" soaper last weekend and I'm not apologizing for it :D
     
  4. Aug 7, 2018 #4

    Mara

    Mara

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    The farmers markets in rural New Zealand are very small. We have a well established soap lady in the area, so I gave up selling soap for her sake. She was very supportive and friendly with me right from the start, and the soap wasn't my most important product anyway.

    I make mostly hair shampoo, conditioner, deo-sticks, solid perfume, lotion bars, insect repellent, itch balm, sleep balm and such things, with all natural ingredients. LOHAS is big in this country.

    But the main reason why I don't bother with soap commercially anymore is the perceived value that people give to handcrafted soap versus handcrafted creams and balms.
    They have no problem paying 12 NZD for a 26g tin of face moisturizer, but when it comes to buying an 80g bar of cocoa butter soap, which is expensive to make, they don't want to pay more than 7 or 8 NZD for it.
    The same amount of oil makes 2 small lotion bars which sell for 16 NZD each. And it's much less work, so why bother at all? I never sold much soap anyway, so I only make it in hobby quantities for my friends and family now and I'm happy to leave this market to others.

    The packaging was fun though, I loved wrapping it for the markets, because they looked pretty on the table. This is what they looked like:
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2018
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  5. Aug 7, 2018 #5

    shunt2011

    shunt2011

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    I too have had a few bad experiences with other soapers. One was telling customers that I was using FO that wasn’t natural like her product with FO and then went on to bash my colors. It really steamed her though when several customers left and came back to me to purchase because of the same reason she pointed out as negative.

    Two were hawking all natural, cures everything etc loudly. And one of them mostly had MP. Not my style

    I’ve made friends with a couple others. These days I mind my business as I’m usually alone and I enjoy my customers. I’m proud of my products and stand behind them.
     
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  6. Aug 8, 2018 at 12:42 AM #6

    Misschief

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    Right now, I'm the only soap only vendor at the market I sell at. There are two vendors who sell hand crafted creams, lotions, and facial products (one is an esthetician by training); one of them sells a couple of kinds of soap, including a shampoo bar (which I don't, and won't, make). She and another vendor also make a few bath bombs just to have them on hand but no other bath products. Both have said their bath bombs don't sell so I see no reason to make them (although I might try a few that are made in moon presses towards Christmas). I'll stick to soap and a couple other bath products, like Bubble Scoops, Shower Steamers, and Bubbling Bath Melts, all of which sold well at the last market.
     
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