I've almost finished another book!
Set to release on Amazon on April 15th, 2016, One Season of Farmers Market is the book that I only wish I could have read last April. It is part how-to survival guide for newbie vendors, and part memoir (in the form of weekly blog posts) of my journey as a new farmers market vendor.
The ebook should be available for pre-order on Amazon soon. For those of you wondering, I do plan on doing a print version as well, but that could take longer to finish.
One Season of Farmers Market EXCERPT:
In every project you decide to take on, there will be what author Seth Godin calls, "the dip". It's the point where you just want to quit- to give up and go home. The dip will be the hardest part of your venture. The important thing isn't knowing how to get through or avoid the dip. The important thing is knowing if you are willing to follow through with the project regardless of the dip. If you are not willing to follow through, then don't start your project in the first place.
I had spent most of the winter of 2014/2015 thinking about the farmers market. I thought about what I would sell, how fun it would be, how much money I would make. Then the weather began to warm up, and I had second thoughts. Do I really want to sit at the market every Saturday when I could be on a bike ride or working in my garden? Do I want to be tied down every week, stuck making candy and bread at least all day on Friday? I knew there would be a lot of garden work to do, and I still had a blog to keep up, a house to clean and meals to make. I told my sister-in-law that maybe I wouldn't do it after all. It was too much work. Then she mentioned that she would be willing to help with most of the baking. That would take a load off of my shoulders, but would it still be worth it?
I knew that if I decided to go through with doing the market, I would have to invest several hundred dollars in ingredients, a spot at the market, a canopy tent, table, and every other little thing that a booth requires. And I knew that after I invested so much, there was no turning back. In order to build a customer base, I would have to be there every week, consistently. I would not make a fool of myself by talking about it all winter, investing hundreds of dollars, and then quitting.
Tara, the Marshmallow Lady
My first week as a vendor, I walked through the entire market to see what was there and scope out any competition. Sure enough, there was a lady selling baked goods and marshmallows. She was there with an older woman (maybe her mom?) and a van full of sweets. Tara* had a nice big banner with her business logo and contact info. She had ordered matching business cards as well, and had bought a canopy tent like the rest of us. She had cinnamon rolls and biscuits, individually packaged in plastic boxes, and was also selling no bake cookies and plain marshmallows. Each product was $1, and the cookies were $0.50 each. These were stacked up on a short card table with a pink plastic tablecloth. The decor was nicely matched and put together. I talked to Tara and got one of her business cards. I didn't think she would be competition to our business just because she had so few products.
That day when I got home, I sorted through my business cards and visited the other vendors' websites. Tara had a Facebook page for her business, where she had posted pictures of some of the things she had made and sold to people. Her page had plenty of likes, and some good reviews. She had only opened the page a couple months earlier. Her most recent post was asking her readers what she should make next week, and a comment about how she underestimated the work load involved in doing farmers market.
The next week was rainy and I was busy at my booth so I didn't get to see Tara. The third week, however, the market manager had placed her just down the street from me. It was cold, a little drizzly, and sales were extremely slow. Thankfully, later in the morning things picked up a little. Every once in a while someone would come by with a pack of Tara's marshmallows and show them to me (as had happened the two weeks prior). I would smile and make a comment like, "I see. It's good that she has plain ones, because we only have flavored marshmallows." That day was my least profitable; I only made $4 after costs.
On the fourth week, Tara was not at the market. I checked her Facebook page, and she had posted that she would not be at the market due to allergies getting her down. Uh oh, I thought. This is the beginning of the end! She had probably not made a red cent last week, and was wondering if farmer's market was really a smart thing to do in the first place. I was surprised that she had not shown up or sent her mom, because it was a gorgeous Memorial Day weekend and her sales would have been higher than ever.
Sure enough, before the next Saturday Tara posted on her Facebook page that she was pregnant and would no longer be at the Farmer's Market, though she would still be taking orders. I was happy about this because now I would get ALL of the marshmallow business, but sad for Tara because she had invested so much money and time in those first three weeks. She had decided to "cut her losses", but it would have been smarter for her to cut the project BEFORE there were any losses.
Til next time,
*Name changed to protect privacy.