Hi Gladys, I make wooden cabinets and furniture and display my work at various “nomadic” handcraft markets. Most of these events take place on the weekends and that works for me because I have a job during the week. So far I’m not doing well at some of these markets. But I want to make the most of my time there and sell as much as I can. One day I would like to work full time making and selling wooden furniture. How can I make this happen? — Vic.
Creative marketplaces — also known as indie craft markets — have proven beneficial for many new and part-time entrepreneurs. I have met people who have built full-time businesses from weekend indie craft markets.
Let’s begin with how to select a market that can work for you. Not all indie markets are the same.
Begin by doing your homework and check to see how much traffic the market gets and what kind. Visit a market before signing up and talk with some of the vendors to get a feel for the market and its developers. Most indie market developers will have a list of vendors on their website. Check this list and make a few calls to learn more.
Find out what the developer does to promote the event and to whom the promotion is directed. It’s also important to know roughly how many people will attend the market. I have been to many markets and some can attract thousands while others can barely draw enough to earn a vendor back his entry fee.
Once you find your fit with the right market get ready to attract business.
Make sure that you have connected to all social media outlets so that you can let the world know about your business and where you will be and when.
Consider starting a blog and use it to educate and entertain your followers on the art and craft of custom and handcrafted woodworking.
Work on your selling skills. Make a list of all of the benefits for the potential buyer and make a point to include them in your pitch to potential buyers. Perhaps a flyer or brochure describing your products and the history of how you got into the business could be given away and could bring you possible leads. Making a good case about the benefits of custom cabinetry can make a difference.
I remember being at a market last year and I approached one table and the woman was selling essential oils. I picked up the lavender oil to get a closer look and saw that a half-ounce bottle cost $12. I asked the vendor what I should use the oil for. She said smelling it would calm me down whenever I was nervous or anxious. I put the bottle back.
I continued walking around and happened upon another vendor also selling essential oils. I noticed her lavender oil was $12.50. I asked why oil that only calms your nerves cost so much. With great enthusiasm the woman told me that lavender oil was indeed calming in many ways. She went on to tell me that everyone should carry a small bottle of the oil because it is also good for burns. She listed many reasons why this oil was beneficial. So I bought it and lo and behold it did come in handy a few days later when we were barbequing and my daughter burned her hand on the grill. I whipped out the old lavender oil, and for sure it took the sting out of the burn!
If the first vendor had been more committed to understanding the many benefits of her lavender oil I would have saved 50 cents and she would have made a sale.
So, don’t dare go to market without being fully ready to talk up the benefits of your merchandise.
Aesthetics are also important. So, make certain that your sales area is inviting and pleasant to the eye.
Finally, once you are connected via social media and have set up a blog and/or website, don’t forget to network and make connections every place that you can. Put notices up in supermarkets, coffee shops, schools, libraries, etc. See if you can put notices in the church bulletins and other places that people gather. And don’t be shy about asking your family and friends to spread the word.
The nomadic, indie market place can be a great way to launch a business. Just make sure you’ve got a good product, knowledge about that product and how it benefits the customer and an attractive and inviting display area.
Gladys Edmunds, founder of Edmunds Travel Consultants in Pittsburgh, is an author and coach/consultant in business development. Her column appears Wednesdays. E-mail her at [email protected]. An archive of her columns is here. Her website is gladysedmunds.Com.