This has been the first year that I branched out into displaying my soaps at Festivals, markets, bazaars etc. Each experience has given me valuable ideas and great new friends!
Prior to this year, most of my soapy sales have been online only and through word of mouth. Like many other crafters, I work outside the home at a full time job too, many of which are weekends. So, my weekend time is limited. I chose mostly local festivals this year and local markets, which is easier on my time and finances.
How did I find the festivals? I looked up online local town chamber of commerce sites. If there is a yearly festival in that town, they often have vendor entry forms right there online, OR you can call and ask they send you one.
How did I choose the festival? For me, it has been mostly regional. Somewhere where I can come home easily every evening and sleep in my own bed! I also looked at the type of venue and concept of the festival to see if it would fit well with what I sell. I've also had some feedback from other vendors that I know too.
I'm BIG on asking questions, so I ask lots and lots of questions when I talk with the chamber of commerce.
Booth set up: Well, first off, have a sturdy canopy, weighted in case of overly blowing breezes. Very helpful. Have a "wall" around you canopy where the sun and wind can be better managed. A tarp isn't pretty but works. If you see other vendors, you notice all kinds of fun ideas. Lattice fences, bamboo shades etc (I like the bamboo shade concept). I haven't gotten them myself yet, but hey, I'm new at this. Workin' on it. Set your tables in an inviting way. I like more than one table. Having the table set out flat in front shows your wares well, but I always feel this "blockage" between me and my customer when it is like that. So I like to set a smaller table out front for customers to see (flashy eye-candy stuff), then another table that "invites them in" with the meat of my product, that is placed inside my canopy. Once they're "inside" they've usually become more than just a casual onlooker and more the purchaser.
Samples, samples, samples! I have LOTS and LOTS of samples. One lady was so excited about one product she took the sample instead of the full size product and I didn't realize it until after she left! I kept hoping she would come back, but she didn't. Amazingly, when I went for a little break about an hour later, I found her at the festival and she came back for her full size product and traded the sample back. Then, she bought something else while she was there too!
Which brings me to another subject. DO visit as many of the other booths as possible, compliment and get to know your "vendor neighbors". Some are more friendly than others. I have found some great folk and we plan to keep in contact. One fella came without a canopy and it was going to be a miserable hot day. My hubby and I offered to go back home and get our other other canopy for him to use. Hubby was home and had it all packed up, when our vendor neighbor's family called saying they found a canopy for him and were bringing it. Always be neighborly to your vendor neighbors! You may make some great friends.
DON'T just sit there and read a book or engage in private conversation with your family and friends in front of customers. It tells your customers, "Don't bother me" and you WANT your customers to feel welcome. I smile all day long (till my "smiler" hurts!), ask how my customers are doing and get them to talk a little about themselves. That way, I can point them to one of my products that may be of more interest to them. AND, I'm one of those of people that is truly interested in what my customers have to say. I don't pretend interest. People can see through that. If I compliment them on a piece of jewelry they are wearing, it's because I really DO like it.
Now, here is a fun little trick that gets people to stick around, but I need the cooperation of my son. He's a teenager and loves playing the guitar (acoustic and electric) and he's quite good at it. Mostly, he enjoys classic rock pieces and some folk rock. He comes with me to help out, but gets a bit bored at times, so brings his guitar with him and plays. People stop to hear him play! I told him he should leave his guitar case open, maybe he'll get some money for his playing! But, it brings and keeps potential customers to my booth, hence increases sales.
Bring food, bring water, bring towels for any spills or clean-ups. Bring a change of clothes, bring deodorant, bring a mirror and gals, wear make-up and dress nice but casually comfortable. Wear comfy shoes, bring comfy chairs, bring an ice chest! Bring a water spritzer, bring sunblock! Bring pen, paper, calculator, scissors, bags, tissue paper, a small first aid kit and basic OTC medicine, including your prescription meds if you have any. Bring a jacket in case the weather changes!
If your product is good and you are genuine and respectful of others, the rest is gravy! Just enjoy your time and don't think of it as work or money-making. Enjoy!
And while your at it, I'm at Harvest Days in Battleground this weekend (July 17, 18, 19th). Stop by and visit if you are local in the Portland metro/SW Washington area!