A Visit from the State Inspector
Yep, we actually had the inspector come out! I was sorting some boxes underneath our table and got up to find a lady with a bright green polo shirt at my booth. She said, "I'm the state food inspector," (or something like that) and my heart did a flip-flop. Oh no, what had I done wrong? You know how it feels when you see a cop car hiding in the bushes, so you slam on the brakes even though you're only doing 25 mph? That's how I felt.
She asked if I was licensed or doing cottage foods. Then she asked if I had the notice written somewhere on my tag. Before I had a chance to answer, she flipped over a marshmallow tag and said, "Oh, yup! You do." Then she asked if I had anything with meat or cheeses in it, which I didn't. Then she told me to have a nice day and went to the next booth. Whew! A clean bill of health from the inspector. She didn't seem to mind that the labels were folded over, which was a relief.
We didn't make many changes to the booth this week. Hubs and I made some more crates to stack beside our table, which creates more of an inviting U-shape. Next week I'll have some different products to put on display in the crates. I meant to order a banner for our booth, but didn't get one in time. Instead, I printed out a plain sign and used a corner cutter to dress it up a little. Then we pinned it to the tablecloth. I also made individual price signs for many of the items this week. I've noticed that people read the signs first and then look for the product. Honestly, there is so much packaging on some of our items that it is hard to tell what it is. I think the signs really helped us sell more product this week.
Wins: I think most of our products were good sellers this week. 13 of our 26 products sold out! SIL sold all of her by-the-dozen cookies. I made some rice crispy treats this week with my marshmallows and sold 3 out of 4 of them- I brought six bags of toffee and sold five. Brothers sold 75% of their pumpkin bread and 100% of the rhubarb crisp that they baked.
Losses: SIL brought some individual monster cookies and sold a little less than half. I brought three bags of granola and only sold one of them. Also made a rhubarb cinnamon roll and only sold one out of three pans. But even these products weren't total losses.
No special marketing efforts this week. We had a lot of repeat customers again though.
Costs of Goods Sold: $13.10
Total Expenses: $27.10
Amish Peanut Butter: $6.00
Rice Krispy Treats: $10.50
Egg Noodles: $5.00
Rhubarb Sticky Buns: $5.00
Total Income: $64.00
Total Profits: $37.10
So there you have it! Almost $40 this week at the market. Between the three of us bakers, we had over $180 in sales last week, which was pretty impressive in my opinion. We brought home only one crate's worth of stuff.
My work load for the farmer's market gets smaller and smaller each week. I do most of my candy/marshmallow making on Tuesday. Last week I made egg noodles on Thursday, and rhubarb sticky buns & rice krispy treats on Friday. The majority of my work this week (Thursday & Friday) produced less than 20% of my profits.
Last week I made a "Profit of Products" spreadsheet that figures my profit per recipe, profit per unit sold, day's profit, and hourly wage (this is how I figure my "costs of goods sold"). Each product has an hourly wage. The average of all of my hourly wages comes to $11.72. I think this is okay, but not great. My goal is to limit the under-$15-per-hour and sell more of the over-$15-per-hour products. To give you an example, making toffee pays up to $20 per hour. Marshmallows are in the $17 per hour range. Baked goods, on the other hand, pay less than $10 per hour, and noodle making only pays $1 per hour.
The Pricing Dilemma
In addition to legal constraints, potential farmer's market sellers have a pricing dilemma to deal with. Most people are used to buying food at Walmart. This food is made with extremely cheap labor: machines or foreign workers. This is how Walmart can sell a box of noodles for $1.00. The home baker, on the other hand, must pay retail US-American prices for ingredients (already equal to $1.00 per box). The home baker doesn't have machines, nor can he hire anyone for $1.00 per hour, so he must either lose money on his product or work at foreign labor prices himself.
We've figured out that people at our market won't pay more than $5 for baked goods. In order to make a good $300 at market, we'd have to produce 60 items for sale. If each item took 20 minutes to make (perfectly reasonable if you include packaging time), you'd have 20 hours into your farmer's market venture, plus another 6 hours on market day and 2 hours per week on administration stuff. That's almost a 30-hour week, and what are you getting? $300 minus the cost of your ingredients, which are probably at least $100.
Honestly, I want a nice little side-income, not another low-paying part time job. So we've got a little ways to go on this hourly wage thing.
Next week I'll be looking for better, more profitable items to make and sell. :)