Behind the Scenes at a Market
I remember going to my very first market, as a customer, many, many years ago. I was afraid to be too interested in a booth or talk to the vendor for fear of the hard sell. And those prices - yikes! I could get 4 of those for the same price at (gulp...) Walmart! Now I'm on the other side of that table and understand the time, costs and the quality that goes into those items and that most vendors aren't going to harass you. And I very, very rarely step into a Walmart anymore!
Based on my experience (and others I've heard about), I'm going to give you a sneak peek at what it's like to be on the vendor's side of the table. But before you even get a table you have to apply - sometimes 6-12 months in advance. I hate thinking about Christmas in July! If you're accepted you submit your payment and start plugging the event on social media. Sometimes you're asked to submit a prize or donation. You spend a week or more creating your inventory. You drive to your event an hour and a half early so you have time to set up. Then you wish you took that extra five minutes to stop for a coffee! You cart all your stuff in, find your booth and get to work with quick introductions to your neighbours. Then the show starts. You hope its gonna be good. At least good enough to cover your costs.
And rarely, you're stuck beside another vendor who is loud, obnoxious and almost aggressive, distracting customers while others avoid them and the booths on either side of them. But more often you meet vendors who go out of their way to give you a plug on social media or valuable tips and information on a variety of things. And sometimes this person is you.
The rest of it is mostly up and down. Sometimes, for whatever reason, it's a ghost town. Other times it can be packed with people who may or may not be spending. And sometimes it seems that today's the day that you're going to sell out. No two shows are alike and they are all unpredictable! You get to know your neighbours better as you check out their wares and cover each other's bathroom breaks. Sometimes your heart sinks as nobody seems interested in your booth. Then you notice those food vendors are always busy and wonder if you should have got into something else! You talk to a lot of people - mostly customers and vendors. Sometimes you are approached by other companies offering their products or services. And every once in a while someone stops by your table and tells you they absolutely LOVE one of your products. It makes you do a little happy dance!
It can be lonely. Sometimes you see someone you know and they avoid you. What? I just want to say hi to you, not sell you something! Then you get that one customer who buys more than you've sold in the past hour. I smile most often when watching people who have tried my lotion and they're walking away as they're rubbing it in. They smell their hands. And smile a dreamy smile! Then they stop and MAKE their friends smell their hands. I smile every time! Sometimes things happen that you'll never forget. My most heart-warming story happened at the Make It Show. Mom, grandma and grandson stop at my booth and spend a lot of time looking at my lip balm. Grandma comes over to pay for one and is ecstatic because she's so happy her grandson is willing to try the bubble gum flavour. This poor kid had red, dry, inflamed lips but had always refused to use lip balm. She was absolutely grateful and he walked away putting it on his lips. An hour later they were back. Grandma bought four more and told me how it was already making a difference for him. It's the ultimate feeling when you know you've helped someone!
The show ends and you start packing up. It seems to go a bit faster then setting up - hopefully there's less inventory! You say goodbye to the new friends you've made and cart your stuff out. You're tired but you're already thinking about your next show.