Being a vendor is tough. Being a maker-vendor is even tougher.
Over the weekend Monica and I were set up at Pop Shop Houston Fest set up at Silver Street Studio’s in Houston’s Historic First Ward. The space is an old warehouse that has been retrofit to host artist studios. We are very lucky to have show organizers like Brittany Bly, the Founder of Pop Shop America, to host such fantastic shows.
We really like the Pop Shop shows because the caliber of vendors is top-notch. It gives us the inspiration and motivation to do better with our products and our presentation. Show like this are where small businesses are discovered not only by people but also potential retailers.
However, this show was not great for everyone. I hear all the time from people about how they want to do what we do. They want to make something and bring it to a show to sell it. They do not realize all the time, effort, sweat and tears that go into selling products at a show like this or even a farmer’s market. You might be set up for a short 4-hour show, but there are many, many hours that go into the creation of your product, the packaging of your product, display design, setup, tear down and clean up. This can easily add up to 100’s of hours of work to set up for even a four-hour show.
At this particular show, there was a lady across from us selling the clothing that she designed and made herself. Before the first day of the two-day show was over, she was packing up and leaving. She didn’t sell a thing. She was not even close to prepared for a show. She had no booth display to attract people and she sat behind a folding table scowling at people as they walked by. She might have been giving away gold, but no one would know it by how she acted and displayed her clothing.
Right next to her was an amazing young woman whom you can read about here. This young woman was prepared. I mean really prepared. This was her third show but you couldn’t tell. She had one item – a perfume that she had crafted herself. Her goal for the weekend wasn’t to make a fortune, but instead to build the buzz around her new fragrance. She did that by offering samples, having a simple but great display, being well-dressed and highly conversant and engaging with every potential customer that came by. What really impressed me though is how she made every customer who purchased her perfume feel really special by taking a selfie with them. It was very much like being on the red carpet. She definitely accomplished her goal of getting some buzz about her product and she made some money as well. I saw her take a lot of selfies with customers.
It doesn’t matter how many people come to a show or how much money they have in their pocket to spend. If you aren’t prepared with your products, your display and your personality, you won’t sell a thing. You will be uncomfortable, sweaty, tired and utterly miserable with nothing to show for it. If you are prepared, you will still be uncomfortable, sweaty and tired, but have something show for it!
Another person who bailed after the first day was the cookie lady. She had to bail early because she sold out of cookies the first day (1000 cookies in a day!) and had nothing to sell the second day. If you are prepared with the right product, the right display and the right attitude, this could be you as well.