Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
In the previous two blogs in this series (see Selling Your Honey at Fairs and Festivals Part 1, and Selling Your Honey at Fairs and Festivals Part 2), I discussed how to get started selling your honey or other products at a fair or festival, and some ways to get prepared for the event. In the final part of this series, I will share some ideas to help make the day of the event successful, and hopefully, fun as well!
One of the most important pieces of advice is to leave yourself plenty of time! There is nothing worse than feeling rushed and frazzled the morning of an event. As mentioned previously, we use a checklist to keep track of what items we need to bring, and what has already been packed. We try to get as many items as we can packed up the night before, saving time the morning of the event.
Most venues will let you know what time they will be open for you to set up. For your first event, I would recommend arriving as soon as they will allow you to. This will give you plenty of time to become familiar with the site, set up, and take care of any last minute details. Also, keep track of how long it takes you to set up. That will give you a good idea of how long it will take for future festivals, so you can plan your arrival time more precisely. After much practice, my husband and I can do everything from putting up the tent to the final arrangement of items in about an hour.
Another consideration: At some events, you will be allowed to pull right up to the area where you are setting up to unload. For other events, however, you may have to carry your items some distance. In this case, we also bring a small wheeled cart to make that job quicker and easier. Find out from the event manager if you will have direct access to your setup area or if you will have to cart everything in.
Create an Attractive Display
Be sure to set up your tables in a way that is attractive to customers. Making use of tablecloths, crates, shelving, and other such items will help draw customers in to your booth. Make sure signs are displayed at an angle that makes them easy to see from any walkways. Don’t forget those items that can add extra interest to your display – honey samples, observation hives, pictures, etc.
Also, be sure to leave an area clear to wrap and bag purchases, and make change. We have a small folding card table that is set aside for this purpose, in addition to displaying our business cards and brochures.
When the festival opens, and customers begin to enter your area, be sure to greet them with a smile, and invite them to ask you about your products if they have any questions. Many people are curious and interested to hear more about bees and beekeeping, so be prepared to spend a lot of time chatting with customers. This might seem like obvious advice, but it isn’t always.
We were once at a festival where the vendor diagonal from us left for about half the day, leaving her daughter in charge of the booth. This young woman spent most of the time with a scowl on her face, staring down at her phone. The owner was surprised that business had been so slow that day. A welcoming smile does wonders for business!
During periods of time when business slows down, I restock the tables, rearrange items that have been moved, and generally neaten up. We keep our extra inventory in labeled boxes under the tables. That way they are out of sight (due to the long tablecloths we use), but are easily accessible.
As mentioned in an earlier blog, don’t forget to make arrangements for someone to come give you a break at some point. You will need a chance to use the restroom, get something to eat and drink, and just have a rest. Plus, these festivals are usually full of vendors selling unique, creative items. It’s good to be able to look around and maybe even do some shopping yourself!
Keep Good Records
When we pack up at the end of the day, we are careful to put items back in the correct labeled boxes. This makes it much easier to do our final inventory when we get home – we count up how much of each item is left, and figure out how much of each item has sold. We keep this information in a notebook, so we have a good idea of what items to bring more of or less of if we decide to attend the festival again the following year.
It is also good to do an analysis of the amount of profit you made at this event. After subtracting the cost of the event, travel expenses, and your inventory cost, how much profit did you make? What does this work out to as an hourly rate? Is this event worth your time? Keep in mind, however, that there may be other factors to consider. For example, publicity and name exposure. If the event ends up introducing you to people who then go on to become regular customers of yours, then that is another type of profit.
Also, how much did you enjoy the event itself? Were the organizers friendly and helpful? Was the location convenient for you? Again, these are all factors to consider when deciding if you will be attending this event in the future.
Participating in fairs and festivals can be a rewarding experience, not just bringing in extra cash but also in meeting new people and teaching them a little something about beekeeping.They have definitely benefited our business!
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 by: Keith Freeman
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