Buy From a Babe: Veteran Vendors Share Their Secrets
Selling takes many forms today. Some people elect to sell exclusively online through their website or sites like Etsy. Others may be taking advantage of social media, incorporating tools for users to sell directly from their platforms. With so many options, there is one that business owners in the digital age shouldn’t be so quick to overlook and that is, selling directly to their consumers at marketplaces. Short of opening your own brick and mortar store, marketplaces allow your customers to have a tactile experience with your product or an in-person discussion about your service. The value of that interaction cannot be underestimated. How can you take advantage of the potential sales at a market or an event? We asked veteran sellers, Karisa Perrone of Velvet & Slate, and Jaclyn Connor of Tobin Connor, to share their tips for a successful day of selling.
First, let’s meet these Babes!
Velvet and Slate is a collection of handmade jewelry that uses materials such as feathers, metals, leather, and stones to create modern and bold pieces for everyday and special occasions.
Tobin Connor is a small shop of curated brands for your home, gifting & lifestyle needs.
"We want you to love the space you're in and will help you do so through our retail products/accessories as well as Interior Styling Services. You can find us popping up at events/markets throughout Monmouth County and also shop us on our online boutique."
How does being a vendor enrich your business?
Karisa: Being a vendor gives you valuable facetime with your customers that you just don't get as an online-only or wholesale business. I love being able to talk to customers and hear what they love and what they want more of. It really helps to guide me in where I take my designs next. As a business, the best thing I can do is listen to customer feedback, whether it be compliments or suggestions on how I can improve what I do. My customers are the reason that my business exists, so I never take them for granted and I am always excited to see them! I take each vendor event as a learning opportunity and always come home with a few lessons learned.
How do you choose what markets and venues to attend?
Karisa: Finding the markets that best work for me was a process of trial and error. One year I promised myself that I would try any event that I could get into and do. I set aside the money for vendor fees and tried and tried again! Not every event was for me, but from every event that did not work, I learned something about the kinds of events that would work for my brand! I learned that I have to be at events where the main attraction is shopping. Events that are food based, or "festival" based just don't work for my brand, so I tend to avoid them. I feel with my price point and style, I just need to be at shopping based events in an area that speaks to my customer. I need to know my demographic of customer is going to show up to the event for me to consider being a vendor.
Jaclyn: I would say choosing the right Markets/Venues to attend comes with a lot of trial and error. Every business is different and unique so you need to know your customer and where they will be shopping. Events such as Babes in Business and the Asbury Park Bazaar have been the most successful for me and I think a lot of that has to do with all the marketing done around the events and how perfect the locations are. Try and test as many as you can at the beginning and you will learn which ones will work for you and which to not participate in going forward.
How should business owners assess the costs of vending?
Karisa: I totally get that being a vendor at events can really be a big business investment. Firstly, I think you need to try an event in order to be able to determine if it's right for you. It's very hard to just ask another business their opinion because what works for one may not work for another. If you live close to the event, I highly suggest attending the event first to get a feel for it before applying to be a vendor.
Remember, there is more than a vendor fee that goes into these events. You really need to look at the cost of your product and figure out if you could really sell enough of it in a 4-6 hour period, to make it worth your time being there. Calculate the time it is going to take for you to get there, as well as other factors such as parking, food and any other expense that you may incur. I often have to adjust my prices to work for all of these factors. It’s just part of doing business. I think if you are doing an event for the first time, go into it with the idea that you are there to learn! After that first time, get pencil to paper and make sure you are spending your time and money wisely. Be realistic with yourself and make sure you are charging enough for your product! You also need to consider the kind of event you are doing. If you are at a shopping event, yes, the goal is to sell. If you are at a networking event, consider that your goal should be more expanded than just selling. You are there to market your business and meet potential customers!
Jaclyn: Business costs to be a vendor at events should reflect on a few things with the main thing being, in my opinion, the marketing of the event. You don't want to pay someone $200 for a table at a random spot or business that hasn't even promoted or posted that the event is happening. I have learned this the hard way several times. Not to say every event will be a home run for you and your business but, you also want to know that the person or event you're paying for and investing your time in, is doing the same on their end for you. Another important thing to consider is location, location, location. You want to be in an area with high foot traffic so do your research prior!
What should vendors bring with them? What marketing materials should they be sure to have on hand?
Karisa: My market bag always includes at least a $100 bank to make change. Make sure to have a lot of singles! Always bring your credit card reader (and maybe a back-up one as well). I always have a large bottle of water, a snack and a portable charger for my phone. Don't assume that you will have electricity. If I am doing an event on my own, I try to carry all of this in a small backpack. It makes it easier to have your important belongings on you at all times, especially if you have to run to the bathroom. Always be sure to have plenty of business cards on hand. It always shocks me, but I go through so many business cards at each event! Also, make sure that you have good and clear signage of your brand so that customers who are looking for you can find you and so new customers know your brand!
Jaclyn: Vendors should always have the following things with them: The product they are selling, signage/banner, merchandising pieces for your products (such as trays, baskets, etc that are visually appealing to the customer), card reader/change for cash, and gift bags/tissue paper for sales. Every event you do you will grow your booth/table creatively but, I would say these are the main things.
What are some mistakes that you made in your early days of attending markets?
Karisa: I think my biggest mistake in my early market days was not charging enough for my product. You really need to put pen to paper and make sure that being there is profitable! Another mistake that I used to make was trying to make sure everyone at my booth was taken care of at the same time. In doing this, I made mistakes with money, gave back too much change and sometimes did not properly charge people. It's okay to take your time and be thoughtful in working with your customers.
Jaclyn: I would say some mistakes I have made while working events in the past are probably just picking ones that weren't best for me. Once I overpaid for an event over an hour away that I knew nothing about. I didn't break down the cost of traveling, gas, etc (things you don't really think about at the beginning). Again, it is all trial and error and you can only really learn from those mistakes for the future.
What advice can you give to business owners attending their first market?
Karisa: Go into your event with an open mind! You never know who you will meet and what connections you will make! Whether it's a good day or a slow one, keep in mind that you will learn so much!
Jaclyn: The main advice I would give to any business owner attending their first market is to truly take in the entire experience. Network, Network, Network! Also, don't get discouraged if you didn't meet your sales goal or do as well as you would have liked at your first event. I am still telling myself that starting and growing a business takes time and is not going to just happen overnight. Some events are not always going to be your best, but what matters is that you were there, showing your face and promoting what you love and are passionate about.