There are a lot of things to remember when preparing for a farmers market. Even with the best planning, there are items you may not think to bring. We reached out to makers on Instagram to find out what they recommend. Find their tips below.
Liz, Soaps & Sunflowers
The biggest help when I’m getting ready for a market is using Microsoft Excel (so boring, I know). I make numerous spreadsheets that organize the hundreds of thoughts swarming around in my head. It’s easier to plan for and then execute your ordering, production, setup, etc. when all of the details are visually laid out in front of you. The biggest thing to tackle (in my opinion) when getting ready for a market is the product quantity. You need to figure out how many products you’re going to bring, what materials you need for each product, and then how much of each material you’ll need to make that quantity of product. You can create a spreadsheet that will help you determine those amounts, plus any others. So don’t do math! Let Excel do it for you. Then you can focus more of your time on your business!
Soaps & Sunflowers’ beautiful collection of gemstone soaps.
Jessica, Carolina Islands Soap Works
One essential item that I think people don’t think about bringing to markets is a floor mat. Customer service is extremely important when you are selling your products, which means you need to be standing and engaging with people who approach your booth. The problem with that is it can be tiring on your back. So a nice long floor mat where you walk frequently helps more than anything! Personally, we use a thick yoga mat. It’s long, cushioned and very portable!
Another thing I cannot do a market without is my credit card reader – 70% of sales come from credit cards. My biggest sales 90% of the time come from people asking if I take cards because they want to be able to spend a lot. A must-have!
Kathy, Milked Artisan Soaps
Bring a well thought out setup, including a gorgeous sign and a few props. If your setup is organized and has a cohesive theme, it is more likely to attract more buyers. Tip: do a mock setup before you attend the event and take a picture – this significantly reduces the set-up time.
An item you may not think to bring is a power bank! If you are attending a fair that is being held outdoors, or you happen to be assigned a space that is in the middle of a room without access to a power outlet, you can find yourself in a predicament where you aren’t able to use your devices to accept payments. I learned the hard way my first event, and now I have two fully-charged power banks with me at every event.
A tip for new sellers – it is imperative to do some research on the market(s) you are attending. I’ve been to only a few selective fairs, as I needed to make sure that my investment (the vendor fee) is something that I can recoup. And how did I do that? I read tons of reviews. You will be pleasantly surprised at the amount of information that is out there, especially if you are looking to attend an already established fair.
Stunning soap tops by Milked Artisan Soaps.
Liz and Ryan, Wandering Blooms Botanics
When we are preparing for markets we like to make sure we have a nice, clean, eye-catching setup with a nice variety of products. One thing that we like to make sure we always have plenty of is samples! Giving small samples of creams and soaps is always a big hit with customers! We like to label the samples with our name and product info to make it easy for customers to find us again. Most importantly, even if it rains, our tent blows over and we forgot our samples, we try to always have a great day and meet a lot of awesome people.
Anna-Kate, Ole Tradition Soap Co.
When packing for markets, I always make sure to bring plenty of business cards! Even if someone doesn’t buy something right away, they’ll take your business card and find your online store later. Just make sure you have plenty of information about where to find you! Your cards don’t have to be anything fancy – just your company’s name, logo, and where you can be found online. I print mine right at home to keep costs low.
Ole Tradition Soap Co.’s sample packs.
Brittany, Baabbly Soap
- Pay attention to the direction of the sun. If you have products that melt you want to make sure they aren’t in direct sunlight. Typically the set-up time at a farmers market is before the sun is fully up. Once the sun is up you are busy with customers. If you think about this early on then you won’t have to rearrange your booth mid show if you have products that are light and heat sensitive.
- Make sure you get a tent that is easy to assemble. Don’t mess around with separate poles. You want a tent that can hold its own in the wind and not crumple under water weight. Speaking of weight – get some heavy weights so your tent doesn’t blow away. Yes, it will storm at a market – it happens to everyone. Get a can of water repellent spray and put a good couple of coats on the fabric. Make sure to put plenty along the seams and touch points where the canopy meets the frame.
- For a sunny day it is nice to have walls up on your tent but it can get pretty hot in there without ventilation. You can pick up some pretty inexpensive sheer curtains from the home store that will provide some shade and still let the breeze through. You will want some side walls for those rainy markets though. You will want to get something easy to whip up if there is a sudden rain storm. I got some pretty economical side walls off of Amazon that had Velcro straps for easy and quick set up.
- I recommend you get a hand cart and totes. The hand cart is a back saver and the totes will provide a sturdy, waterproof place to pack your product. You want bins that are the same size so stacking on the cart is easy. It is tempting to save some money and use cardboard boxes or canvas bags, but they can get wet and your product could get damaged and they aren’t as easy to transport on a cart. My top tip for using your cart is to make sure you strap your product down! I have experienced packing all of my totes on the cart and wheeling that cart down the sidewalk where I, inevitably, hit a crack in the sidewalk that I wasn’t prepared for and all my stuff flies off the cart! It didn’t just happen to me. I have seen this too many times to count. I went to the hardware store and got some cinch straps to tie down my totes and I haven’t spilled a cart of my product since!
- Height is nice for your display. I use two-tiered fruit stands that I got from TJ Maxx for my bath bombs and a nice tiered shelf for my soaps and scrubs that we made from wood at home. Having product closer to eye level is a bonus for your customers. They will be able to see the product and read the labels without having to pick everything up.
- Think about where you will be vending when planning your shoes for the day. One of my first markets was on grass and I didn’t think about how dewy the grass was going to be until I was traipsing around on it and felt how wet my socks were. Sandals are nice because your feet will dry out, but standing all day can be hard without support. I invested in some nice waterproof shoes that were made for hiking. They kept my feet dry and had a decent amount of cushion that was great for standing for hours.
Baabbly Soaps’ lovely market display.
Candice, Sunny Crab
I think one important thing to take to a show that you might not think about is a cell phone power bank. You might not have anywhere to plug in a regular charger, and all those credit card sales will drain your phone! I also recommend being prepared for wind if it’s an outdoor show. I learned this lesson the hard way when all of my signs started blowing away at one show I did. Don’t forget water! I always get so dehydrated at shows from talking so much, and not all shows have available water. My last tip is to enjoy! It really is fun to sell products that you made!
Ashlee, Affinity Soapery
I’ve found the following to be super important for me when preparing for a farmers market:
- Count inventory that you’re bringing and create a spreadsheet with quantities of each item. When someone buys something, make a tally next to that item on your sheet. A clipboard and pencil hidden behind your table works great for this. This helps you to know in the moment what you’ve got left, and you can reconcile that at the end of the day to make sure nothing went missing.
- Create a checklist for essential items and physically mark off the items as you load them into your car. You don’t want to drive halfway to the farmers market 30 miles away at 5 a.m. and realize you don’t have your Square reader. Ask me how I know!
- Bring a helper; someone who can speak a bit about your product, if possible. If you need a potty break, you need the helper to watch your booth. Also, the helper can handle cash and give change while you talk up the customer, thank them for their purchase and package their items.
- Bring water and snacks (and sunscreen). A lot of water! You’re going to be chatting all day long and your throat will get dry. If the people turn out, you won’t have time to walk away and grab lunch, so snacks are never a bad idea.
- Put some effort into your setup. Get a sign made, or make one if you’re crafty. Practice your setup at home before the market. Also, make sure your items don’t look over-handled, dirty or otherwise dingy. This can be challenging if you load and unload a lot, so work that into your packaging if you’re planning on doing a lot of markets.
Glacier soap by Affinity Soapery.
I have just found this thread and will be attending my first market
in July. Actually, it’s a 3 day garden show with expected 24,000 visitirs expected over the 3 days.
How on earth do I calculate quantities???
Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Chloe with Bramble Berry says
Hi Sarah, I would reach out to the event coordinator, as most times you have to record daily sales if you are paying for a market spot and see how other people with your products tend to do. Then you will be able to get a better idea of how much you want to bring with you.
Thank you so much, I’ll do that.
I am so impressed and thankful for the generosity of soapers. Most and I mean like 90% of the advice given I would have had to figure out the hard way if at all on some things. I really appreciate the kindness and willingness to share so much that can help anyone become successful and not struggle the whole way. I helped a friend at a few markets and I wish we had this valuable advice then. Thank you so much for all this very helpful advice and your generosity in sharing.
Kelsey with Bramble Berry says
Absolutely, the soapmaking community is always willing to help. It’s amazing to be a part of it.
Erica P. says
This article is right on time! I’ll be at my local farmers market within the next two weeks and it will be my first time! I’m so excited but super nervous. Can’t thank you enough for the tips. 🙂
Kelsey with Bramble Berry says
Oh perfect timing! You’re welcome Erica, we’re really thankful to these makers for sharing their advice.
Cindy Perrel says
I love Farmers Markets.. In Chicago area.. How can I ever get in one when limited Soap makers are allowed. Ny hometown doesn’t allowed soapmakers, just food goods. Only option would be wholesale??
Kelsey with Bramble Berry says
There are other options for selling, including online and wholesale. This post talks more about that: https://www.soapqueen.com/business/sell-products-online-markets-retail/
Cindy Perrel says
Cindy, I’ve never sold soap at a farmers’ market, but I do bake for one and my husband used to do knife sharpening. I think the hardest thing about getting into markets is getting your foot into the door. I think that if you’re not in any markets, it’s extremely hard to get organizers to take a chance on you- but once you’ve done a market and proven you can be on time, neat, and friendly with great products, you have an automatic “in” with other markets. New, startup markets are often the easiest to get into, but they’re still hard unless you know someone. So, to know someone:
Research Christmas bazaars, 4th-of-July events, and other vendor-oriented one-time events. Once you’ve got an event to do, work on having a really attractive, professional-looking booth and a great product line. Be honest with yourself about quality before you offer something for sale. Make sure you have business cards and samples.
Get some photos of your booth with all your products set up. Make sure to seek out and thank the event organizer. Meet the other vendors and exchange cards. Make it known that you’re trying to get into markets. Often vendors and organizers will know market managers, so the connections and impressions you make at events can easily lead to more opportunities. The more events you’ve done, the more you can prove to market organizers that you have a good booth to offer. Also, in a big city, it helps to be willing to travel a little father for your first couple of markets.
The most important thing is that you must give of your best- be sure to be friendly, open, and helpful. Be graciously available to watch your neighbor’s booth if she needs to go to the bathroom. Be shrewd with business expenses but generous with samples, discounts, and product. Give a vendor discount. Notice if other vendors are eyeing your products, and offer to barter. If another vendor needs change for a large bill, say “yes” if you possibly can. Try to shop a little from other booths. I like to offer pastries at the end of the day, if some haven’t sold. Never be pushy in offering help, and don’t refuse help when it’s offered.
Make it impossible for your colleagues to wish you ill or grudge you success. This way others will think of you when there’s a space to fill at their next event- and be sure to think of them when it’s your turn!
Thank you for great advice al the way down to the little niceties that actually have a huge impact, first impressions and all.
Cindy Perrel says
Thanks fir your advice Corrie! 😊
Ande Spenser says
Get on the waiting list. I was able to get into a new market that was starting up because I was on a list for another market. After waiting about 3 years, I also got into the other one.
ROCKA MALIK says
I would make all my soaps in bundt cake molds and key lime color and scented soaps, and cheese-cake looking ones
package them in those individual cake boxes and call it cake soap – plus i’m thinking you can probably eat it if you really wanted to?
I ate my son’s rabbit poop as a dare and I’m still here!