Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Festivals, ya'll!

Ali's Pet Kitchen Booth
Festivals and craft shows are a staple in the South. Though most are in the fall and spring, there are a few in the summer, too. We had our first taste of a festival market place this weekend at a local Christmas In July event. We had a fairly good turnout that would probably have been better if we hadn't had monsoon weather outside keeping everyone away.

We did sell several treats to some dog lovers so we will call it a success. We also debuted some Big Dog treats which we package in 4oz bags with approximately 8-10 treats in each. We did these in Apple, Banana and Sweet Potato flavors and they went over well. Check back because we will probably be doing a Christmas in July-themed giveaway with some of these in the very near future.

What did we learn from our festival experience? Well, for one thing, we enjoyed meeting the fellow vendors and sharing experiences with them. Like us, many of them were first time vendors and were trying to get their feet wet. We felt that $35 for our 10'x10' space was fair and we were located right next the bathroom, which we felt gave us a somewhat captive audience! 

Dog jumping
One drawback, however, was that the festival was held in the back of a co-op market and the owners charged visitors $5.00 to enter the area where we were. We felt that some people didn't want to pay the extra amount just to see what was in our area when the vendors with permanent spots up front were accessible for free. I think that it also hurt our bottom line since we only charge $5.00 for our 1/2lb product, $3.00 for the Big Dog Treats, adding a $5.00 charge makes those treats now $10.00, which is high. By noon we noticed that they had stopped charging at the door, but since most of the traffic was gone we think that the damage was done. We might not participate in a pay to visit festival again unless all the vendors were under the same entrance fee.

We ordered shirts, a banner and business cards from Vistaprint and they all came right on time and looked great. One woman even asked us if our treats were homemade because we looked so professional - so that was quite a compliment. We set up on Friday afternoon in the heat because the air wasn't working in our area yet. We came back Saturday morning to set out the treats and get down to work. Thank goodness there was a coffee vendor in the market because we needed it! My hubby even got the chocolate covered coffee beans for an added punch! It was supposed to last from 10:00 a.m to 5:00 p.m. but with the weather everything seemed to taper off at 3:00p.m. and the people at the market started to close things down, so that is when we packed it in.

We got home and put things away and collapsed on the bed for four hours - a typical caffeine crash! We made enough money to justify the booth rental and we made some good new friends and contacts so we are happy about our experience and looking forward to doing it again. I think that festivals in the fall will be better because we won't have a theme - we had to decorate for this one with Christmas decorations which added to the things we had to take with us. And, I think that we will have better success in the fall when people aren't trying to squeeze the last minutes of summer vacation out of time with their family. Not to mention that the weather might be better then. All in all, since we had a good time and it gave us something to do together on a Saturday.

Some tips I would suggest if you ever want to sell your crafts at a festival:

1. Arrive early and stay late. We were selling before some of the other vendors even showed up on Saturday. And, when others started to pack it in, we stayed an extra hour and made a couple more sales when our neighbors had headed home.
2.  Bring your own snacks and drinks. Since there were two of us, we could have taken turns going to get a drink or snacks, and we did do that for lunch. But, we saved money by bringing our own drinks and snacks. You don't want to get stuck in line waiting on a water or use all your profit on snacks!
3.  Bring your own comfy chairs. The festival provided some folding metal chairs but we brought our own camp-style chairs that were much more comfy.  You are going to be on your feet a lot so when you get a chance to sit down, make sure you enjoy it.
Lemonade stand4. Clearly mark the price on all your items. We had a price list for what we had to offer, along with a 'menu' that explained what the ingredients of our flavors contained. However, people still asked the price every time. So, a small sign with each size bag would have helped put the price with the product immediately for our customers. One of our neighbors noted that she should have done that on her embroidery items. She felt that forcing people to ask what the price was turning them away.
5. Stand up and greet people who come to your booth. There were a lot of people lingering around the booths that were a little stand-offish. We noticed them and said 'hello' and it seemed to draw them to us. They asked about our product and we gave them our 'gluten-free' product line and some bought, some didn't. But, a few vendors were on their smart phone or chatting or just sitting staring out at the crowds. They discouraged people to come to them. By being approachable and attentive we drew people to us, even if they didn't buy anything. Some people just took a card and info to give to their friends and family who have dogs.

All in all, we enjoyed selling face-to-face to dog lovers at the Christmas in July event.  If you want to check out our treats, click here to go to our E-commerce website. And, check back this week because we have extra inventory that we are going to use as a giveaway for our own Christmas in July celebration!

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