Have you ever wondered what its like to participate in a maker's market? I attended my very first market last week, and let me tell you—it was quite the adventure! In today's blog, I'm sharing the story of my first market experience, including how I prepped for the day, what expectations I had going into it, and the reality of how it all went. Read on to learn more!
How I Prepared For My First Maker's Market
For starters, I'm a list-making kind of girl. There's just something so satisfying about opening my Erin Condren day planner to a fresh new page, grabbing my favorite pen, and making a list of everything I need to get done.
The actual doing of the to-do list? Definitely not as fun. 😂
My market to-do list included:
- Find & apply for local markets
- Build up inventory
- Buy and set up display elements
Step One: Find Local Maker's Markets
Even though we've been in the Houston area for a full year, I haven't gotten out much... so this step was actually a lot of fun! I did a few Google searches for "maker's market near me" and "houston area farmer's market" and found a few promising candidates.
Then, I took a look at the application criteria. There are quite a few curated/juried markets, and although these are definitely a ✨ goal ✨, I wanted to start with something a little more low-key. Especially since most juried shows are looking for display set ups that involve more than just a table and some product.
I chose some smaller markets in my area to test out my target audience. For these first few markets, my primary goal is just to get my name out there and get some real-time feedback from potential customers.
I'll do some more blogging on what to look for when choosing a market once I've got a few more under my belt.
Step Two: Build Up Inventory
Now that I had a few market dates in mind, it was time to start making! Who knew that this step would be the most stressful!? I mean, I probably could have guessed, but still. 😅
I focused primarily on making handmade wristlet key fobs, and some cosmetic pouches/toiletry bags. I also started a ton of pride-flag-themed pillow covers, but didn't finish them in time to showcase them at the first market.
There were two major factors impacting my ability to build up as much inventory as I originally planned: I had a custom quilt order to create, and my first market date was a week earlier than I thought.
Yep, you read that right: I originally thought my first market was going to be the Conroe Sunday Market, on August 6th.. but my application for the Rayford Sunday Market on July 30th was approved with only a week's notice. 😱 So instead of having two full weeks to finalize preparations, I had just the one week. *cue internal panic*
Although I was happy with the amount of items I was able to display, I wasn't as happy with the variety of items I had. So I'll be spending my time over the next few weeks focusing on expanding my product selection!
Step Three: Buy & Set Up Display Elements
Prepping for the market was no easy task—and it wasn't cheap, either. I was starting from scratch, which meant I had to invest a lot of money into initial expenses like display items and basic necessities (bags, cash box, business cards, etc.).
A canopy tent is pretty much essential for an outdoor market, and I chose this Crown Shades 10x10 pop-up canopy from Amazon. My #1 criteria for a tent was being able to set it up by myself, and this one is soooo easy to set up!!
Of course, I also needed a table, table cloth, and inventory display items. I went with a 6' table from Home Depot, which I'm not linking here because I actually don't love it. For display items, I ordered some wooden crates, a bamboo mug stand (for displaying key fobs), and a couple bamboo plate racks for pouches.
All in all, I'm happy with how things came together... but I'll definitely be adding to it all as time goes on. Especially if I want to be accepted into those juried shows! 🥰
Expectations Vs. Reality: My First Maker's Market Experience
As a first-time maker's market vendor, I had some high hopes... but I also really wasn't sure what to expect! I had visions of a bustling crowd of enthusiastic shoppers, all of them eager to support local artists and discover new, exciting products. I had hopes for lots of sales (gotta pay those bills, after all!) and was looking forward to networking with lots of other like-minded makers.
Y'all. That is so NOT what happened.
The reality is: my first market was kind of a bust. 🤷🏻♀️
The crowd was nowhere near as large as I imagined. It was actually pretty non-existent, despite being located beside a well-known grocery store on a Sunday. Then again, it was also 100+ degrees F outside, and we were all melting in the obscenely-hot parking lot. 🥵
And you know a market is slow when even the lemonade and snow cone stands don't have a line.
I was stationed between an Indian food vendor, and a couple selling steak jerky. The rest of the makers were behind me, too far away for me to chat and connect with them. I stood and watched while what few customers we had walked from one food vendor to the next for samples, skipping over me with barely a glance in my direction. I don't blame them—the Indian food smelled amazing, and the jerky looked delicious. And I definitely didn't have free samples!
The Benefits of My First Market Experience
Fortunately, there were a few silver linings to the day, including:
- Making my FIRST sale, to a lovely customer who was clearly there to support local shops. She bought from two crochet makers, and then came to me for a key fob.
- Meeting a local sewist who came to the market JUST TO SEE ME. (Shout-out to you, Sylvia!) She got there right as I was getting ready to pack up, and purchased 2x pouches. This sale nearly made me cry tears of joy—and relief.
- Getting feedback from potential future customers. I had a few customers take my card, asking about custom orders. Their questions gave me a few ideas for future product offerings, too!
- Learning valuable feedback regarding my market display/experience. For example, at the beginning of the market my prices were clearly and largely on display... so many customers were walking past, seeing my prices, and not even approaching my booth. When I took the prices down, more people started walking up to check out my products.
The wildest thing that stood out to me? The importance of my "speech" as customers approached my booth. It was amazing the number of people who didn't realize that all of my items were completely handmade! This is definitely an area I'll be working on refining during future shows in order to better "sell" my products.
Overall, my first maker's market was an incredibly valuable learning experience. And while my visions of crowds throwing their money at me weren't exactly reality—I'm definitely not rushing out to upgrade my sewing machine any time soon—I did still cover my entry fee, and that was my entire true goal from the start.
I'm one step closer on my journey to build the Flying Goose Studio business, and I'm more motivated than ever to continue pursuing my passion. Juried and curated shows, here I come!
If you've been considering participating in a maker's market, I strongly encourage you to give it a try! It's a great opportunity to get out into the "real world" and gain valuable real-time feedback from customers and other creators. Just.. maybe not on a wildly hot Sunday in Texas in July? (Just kidding; I've got 3x more markets coming up in August, and they're all going to be equally if not more hot!)