Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
If you are at the point where you have extra honey to sell, one option is to sell your products at a fair or festival. We have been doing this for a few years, and it has worked out very well for us. Here are a few tips, tricks, and pointers we have learned along the way.
First of all, it is good to evaluate what sort of time commitments you already have, (work, family, other hobbies, etc.), and not overbook yourself. For example, we decided to sell our products at local festivals instead of a farmers market due to the time commitment involved. My husband and I have full time jobs and did not want to overextend ourselves by having to be at the farmers market every weekend. Selling at a few festivals a year allows us to pick and choose which weekends we wanted.
Secondly, you will have to decide what events you want to attend. Here are some factors to consider; 1) Travel distance and time. You will have to decide how far you want to travel to participate in these events. After some trial and error, we set a limit of no more than a 30 minute drive. Any longer than that makes it seem like a very long day, and too much money spent on gas. 2) Cost to attend. Another consideration is how much the event is charging you to be there. In our area $25 -$50 per day seems to be about average. We have attended a few that cost more, but it is often not worth the extra cost. We have also attended some events that are free, and have done very well at those. 3) What types of vendors will be there? It is good to find out if any other honey vendors will be at this event, and if so, how many. I have seen some events that had so many honey vendors that the market was saturated, and it was just not worth it for us to set up a booth.
Next, think about what kinds of products you want to sell at the event. Obviously we sell honey, but we make sure we have a variety of bottles in different shapes, sizes, and prices to appeal to different customers. We also sell our maple syrup, a variety of beeswax candles, honey soap, and beeswax perfumes. You will also need to decide how much to charge for each item. We determine our prices by looking at honey market reports, online, or at farmer’s markets to see what other people in our area are charging. It is important to be fairly compensated for the products we are selling, but we also did not want to overcharge our customers, or undercut other beekeepers in our area.
Before your first event it is also a good idea to have a plan of what you want your display to look like. Here are some things to consider:
Tables – Most festivals require you to bring your own tables. We picked up two plastic foldable tables for our products, plus one smaller foldable card table that we use when customers are checking out. They are lightweight, and easy to pack. We also cut 8” lengths of PVC pipe that fit on the end of each table leg to give them more height. This brings the product closer to eye level for our customers, so they do not have to stoop over to look at the items. You will also want some sort of table cover that accents your display. I have seen displays using burlap, checked tablecloths, or colored tablecloths to match the business’s colors. We decided on a plain cream colored table cloth to keep things simple.
Tent – I highly recommend getting a foldable tent, preferably with sides that can be attached. We have attended many festivals that had at least a little rain, and this was a real life saver. Direct sunlight can also affect honey and beeswax products so it’s nice to have the sides handy to keep them in the shade.
Signs – You will need some way to let customers know your prices. This could be as simple as printing the prices on paper and placing them near the products. Small chalkboards are great because if your prices or items change, you can just erase them and rewrite it. For our signs we picked up white corner tiles from a home improvement store, and some dry erase markers. We can write directly on the tiles, and if there are any changes, we can just wipe off the marker and rewrite it. It is also nice to have some larger signs that customers can see from a distance. We use a large framed chalkboard to write our business name and what products we sell, and display it just outside our tent. We have also accumulated various “Honey for Sale” signs that we use.
Display Items – It is nice to have some variety in height in the placement of your products. Some ways to do this is to use small shelves, wooden crates or boxes, or some type of serving stands. We also use baskets to display some of our smaller items. This makes your display more attractive and interesting to your customers. It is also good to have some additional items to generate interest and draw people in to your tables. We have created a photo album of our beekeeping and maple sugaring activities that we keep on display for people to look at. We also have a small model hive, and sometimes bring a portable observation hive for customers to take a look at. Another consideration is having samples of your honey to try. The easiest way to do this is to have a squeeze bottle of honey and some small plain crackers.
Hopefully this will give you some ideas on how to get started selling products from your apiary at fairs and festivals. In my next blog post, I will give some tips and advice on what to do the days just before and the day of the event to help your day go smoothly and successfully.
Jennifer Ford owns and operates Bees of the Woods Apiary with her husband Keith Freeman. You can visit them at Bees of the Woods.
Photo Credit: Keith Freeman
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