Sunday, July 28, 2013

Lessons From My First Outdoor Sale

This weekend I participated as a guest artist at the Waconia Farmers Market for the first time.  For those of you who live in the Twin Cities, you know that this last weekend in July felt much more like October than the season it is supposed to be.  I think that the chill in the air may have been a detriment to the early morning traffic at the market (it certainly didn't help the smoothie maker next to us!).  Eric and I were glad we brought sweatshirts but wished we had taken jackets as well (and maybe some cinder blocks...more about that later).

Eric and I got up early (too early considering we'd been out at a concert in downtown Minneapolis the night before) and headed over to the parking lot where the farmers market is held to get set up.  Some folks were already working on setting up their tents and booths when we arrived at 7:30 and the rest of the vendors trickled in as we started setting ourselves up.  As the guest artist at the market, I was able to use a tent that the market provided and Chef Craig helped us set up.  By opening time at 8:00 a.m. Eric and I had gotten things pretty well displayed and were ready to go!

Ready to start the day...we think.
A careful observer of the photo above might have some hints as to the peril my jewelry would soon face.  The wind was a problem for us all day long.  Soon after this photo was taken a strong gust of wind toppled over several of my display busts and one of my earring displays and threatened to take the tent!  Luckily, the earring display that went was the one with my lower priced pieces.  Nothing broke (thankfully!)  I did lose one earring from a pair but can easily make a new one to replace it.  It could have been much worse.  So, what started out as a multi-level display, had to be flattened and shored up as the day went on.

I'm stubborn, so the shift happened one display piece at a time as I slowly admitted that I couldn't beat the wind.  For the most part, we were able to sort of brace things whenever it got super windy and nothing too tragic happened.  Near the end of the day when we were starting to pack up, my reflexes weren't fast enough and the the open box and display bust next to it went flying!  I was amazed that nothing got damaged although the display piece did get a little scraped up.  I might eventually see if there's a way I can update that one to hide the damage to the "leatherette" surface.

My husband was such a trooper holding down the tent most of the day!
After that first big gust of wind tried to make off with our borrowed tent, Chef Craig came over and weighted down two of the stakes with some lovely City of Waconia traffic cones.  This helped, but Eric still had to spend most of the morning holding onto one of the other poles to keep the thing from flying off!  Have I told you all that I have the best husband ever?

Close up of one of my earring displays.  Photo Credit: Nicki B. from Terra Waconia.
Other than our wind excitement, we had a slow start to the morning.  But after the first hour it seemed like the market drew pretty good traffic that stayed steady until about 11:30.  I didn't make my first sale until 9:15, but gained momentum (and sales!) throughout the day.  In addition to actual sales, I gathered more emails for my mailing list and several folks seeded genuinely interested in either checking out my Etsy shop or coming back for something the next time I'm at the farmers market.

So, what did I learn from my first outdoor show?  Here's a short rundown:
  • Have extra supplies ready in the car (like weights for the tent legs, jackets, etc)
  • If you might be dealing with wind, a flatter display is better.  (I'll be buying more flat tray-type containers for my necklaces before my next outdoor show.)
  • I needed more more mid-ranged priced necklaces.  (People loved my more expensive pieces, but weren't prepared to make that sort of commitment at the market.)
It wasn't all work for us at the market.  Throughout the day, Eric and I also got to meet some of the other vendors and sample their wares.  We came home with a gallon jug of honey from Honey Hill Farms, some delicious Scandanavian bread from Green Olive Catering, and some yummy lamb polish sausage from Buffalo Creek Farm.  If you haven't checked out the market yet, I encourage you to do so...there's a lot of great stuff there!

A huge thanks to my sweet husband for sticking it out with me all day and to everyone who stopped by to look at my wares!  I'll be back at the Waconia Farmers Market again on Saturday, September 7th.

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