500th Market Stall
Last Sunday was a milestone in my 11 years of market stalling. Having charted my first market stall ever since I decided to embark on this journey over a decade ago, I was able to mark this rather significant number at the Busselton Foreshore Markets on a gloomy, cloudy Sunday morning. This brings me to the topic of what I might be able to offer by way of little nuggets of advice to aspiring market stallers hoping to turn their hobby into a small business.
When starting afresh, avoid being a fair-weather market staller. Don’t let bad weather dictate your commitment to attending a market. You can afford this luxury once you’ve established yourself. In the initial stages, however, you are better off being focussed on attending come hail or shine as long as the market organisers don’t cancel it.
Don’t expect to start raking in the dollars from the word go. In general your first market may be your quietest as far as sales are concerned. Let customers check out what you have on offer. Allow them time to get used to your wares. Be congenial and generous with information that you can provide. Many may walk away without any purchase, but keep in mind that you are now in their memory bank. They will know where to find you next when they need what you have on offer.
Unless you’ve had sales that barely covered the stall fees after your third market presence, don’t give in to the temptation to give up. Persevering and remaining a constant presence at your chosen market is often the key to your success further on. Keep in mind there are slow and busy seasons in the year. If you ventured out during the slow months, you can look forward to the pre- Christmas boost in sales starting as early as September for some.
GET IN DURING THE QUIET MONTHS
If you plan to be market stalling for the long run, avoid trying to secure a place at a popular market just before a busy festive period. It’s often easier to get your foot in the door during the quiet months when many regular and established market stall holders venture away to cooler or warmer climes to have their well-earned break. This is the period when you can expect to find more vacancies and less disappointments in securing a place. If you do get knocked back the first time, don’t feel shy to ask to be in their books for the future. Also, don’t get put off by the first rejection and be thick skinned enough to call/text/email and follow up for any changes if you are keen to get into a particular market.
FOCUS ON A FEW
Unless you have the time and resources, avoid spreading yourself thin around too many markets. It may work initially but be ready for market fatigue to take over eventually. Personally, I started with a few small and local ones where I felt comfortable as far as distance and location. Even though I had fellow stall holders vying to attend as many of the annual (and therefore lucrative) events, it just didn’t fit into my agenda. It may well work for you so it is important to know your limits and capabilities. If the idea of big events sit well with you and you are well equipped for it, go ahead. If not, remain in your comfortable space until such time you feel ready to move to something bigger.
Once you have established yourself and find yourself drawing a steady amount of sales (usually a few years), you may find that less becomes more. That is, you can now become more discerning about the markets that work for you. You can then drop a few and focus on the others. You can also decrease the number of markets you attend each month because by virtue of your customer base, you could end up making as much money doing one market instead of two. The time gained frees you up for a better quality of life making and creating what you love as well as sustaining family activities. I am now comfortable with the markets that I’ve established myself in namely The Bunbury Markets, Boyanup Farmers Market and Busselton Foreshore Markets.
OPENING UP OF NETWORKS
Some valuable business opportunities that can emerge from being at the markets long enough is networking and securing other avenues for sales. Through people getting to know me and making the right contacts, I now have products being sold at Harvey Visitors Centre, Eco Warehouse Bunbury, Vasse General Store and Green Being Eco Store.
Immerse yourself in the market stall economy. If you’d like an enjoyable market life and one that can be sustained for the long run, my advice is to be a supporter of the other stall holders around you and become a part of their customer base. Our proximity to makers, growers and producers means we are not hostage to just the supermarket chains that we’ve become accustomed to. A lot of my quality shopping is done at the markets and adds to the pleasure of being present at one. Depending on my budget, the occasional lunch from some of the food vendors adds to the simple joys of life.
Keep records. This can be in the form of a register with all your markets, sales generated, costs incurred (materials, labour, fees etc) and can be as simple or sophisticated as you want to make it. This bookkeeping is the only way you will be able to trace your progress in sales and is key to growth of your small business.
VALUE OF HARD WORK
Be prepared for hard work. As with all work, it isn’t just smooth sailing all the way. There will be times of drudgery. But if you are involved in making what you love and enjoy, have a close and supportive family base (especially another member whose financial support you can fall back on!), you can make this avenue of business a part of your lifestyle that remains a lifelong adventure!