We never expected to have such a positive experience when we decided to try selling our handmade leather products in the local artisan and farmer's market. We had heard stories of other crafters who had gone through difficult experiences trying to find success with their crafts, so we weren't sure what to expect.
But after months of preparation, we finally made it out into the world and were welcomed by an enthusiastic crowd at the markets. We quickly learned that there was more than just money involved in selling our items - it was also about building relationships with customers and learning how they interact with our products. It has been a rewarding journey, one that has taught us valuable lessons about entrepreneurship and connecting with people on a deeper level. In this blog post, we will share some of those insights as well as tips for anyone thinking about taking their craft business out into the world!
First of all, it is important to be prepared with a plan. Have a checklist ready for when you arrive at the market and make sure you have everything you need before launching your booth. From pricing strategies to marketing materials, having an organized approach to selling your handmade items will help ensure success. Also, don't forget to bring business cards so customers can easily reach you if they are interested in buying from you again.
Every time we head out to the market, I and my wife go through the same routine of checking if we got everything we need. Tables, chairs, our store banner, food, inventory, etc. But most importantly, the little tiny square device to process the transactions. I have nightmares about the possibility that we set everything up and customers start to buy from us, but we have no way of swiping their credit cards! Hasn't happened yet, but it can, and hence a checklist is a lifesaver.
When we first started selling at the outdoor Ann Arbor Artisan Market (The Sunday Artisan Market), winter was just setting in. The first few weekends were nice and pleasant, and the foot traffic was still good, so we had good sales. As November and December rolled around, it got really cold. We noticed that customers were hesitant to walk around and look at our products. To keep them engaged, we started setting up an enclosed tent and kept a heater running all day. Customers appreciated this and it helped keep them warm and interested in our items. And let me tell you, going to the car and back in freezing temperatures may not be a big deal, but when you have to sit outdoors in below-30 F temperatures with the wind blowing for 6 hours at a stretch, the cold gets into your bones and you start to feel it!
At the end of the day, though, the experience was worth it. We had made connections with customers who regularly came back and bought our items, and we got a lot of great feedback from them about our products. It felt like a real family and we wouldn't trade those experiences for anything.
Second, don't be afraid to get creative and think outside the box when it comes to marketing your business. We found that engaging with customers directly was a great way to build relationships and trust with them. It also allowed us to explain why our products were unique and why they should purchase them.
When we first started, we laid out all our products on our tables in a single layer. Flat on the table. We did not have a good way to display our items. We thought since we do not have much inventory, this will be good enough! Believe me, the first day we set up a vertical display rack, our sales went up by multiple factors.
People can't buy something that they can't see. Your goal is to bring your product to their eye level so they have the opportunity to get excited. We have also found great results in setting up spotlights to highlight different products.
Finally, we discovered that there was great value in attending the market multiple times. We had customers come back to our booth after visiting our website or reading about us online, which showed us the importance of having a presence at the markets consistently. Additionally, returning customers allowed us to build relationships with them and give them more reasons to keep coming back.
Since all our leather items are handmade by us, we are also able to make custom items for our customers. A few weeks in, we started to bring a custom order form to the market, and the customers appreciated this. After every market day, we come home with a few custom orders to work on and deliver to the customer next weekend when we get back to the market. If you do take custom orders, do not be scared of asking for a deposit. In our experience, the customers find it more credible if you take a deposit; it seals the deal in their eyes.
Selling at the local artisan and farmer's markets has been an incredibly exciting experience for us. It has helped us better understand the process of selling our handmade products as well as provided us with invaluable insights into the business world. It helps us to quickly test which of our designs have demand and the feedback helps us to make changes before we put it out on our website. We hope that this blog post was helpful in providing others with the motivation they need to take their craft business out into the world. Good luck!