This past Saturday morning, bright and early, we loaded up the Excursion with our fresh baked goods, free range eggs and fresh cut herbs and headed for our first day at the Lake Saint Louis Farmers and Artists Market. It was a sunny, but very chilly spring morning, so we bundled up in preparation for the day’s event. As we neared the market location, trying to be a little early to allow extra time for our first booth setup—which we had practiced a few times at home—we saw the market parking lot already dotted with many blue, white, green, and black vendor canopies. We were getting excited for our first day!
The market, which runs every Saturday from 8 am to noon, April through October, was already abuzz with vendors coming in and setting up. We had a total of about 55 vendors there this past Saturday including several local farms and artisans. We even had a taco truck, shaved ice truck and a family that runs a kettle corn business out of a trailer.
We arrived at about 7:20 am and were able to setup our booth and display in about 20 minutes—not bad for our first actual setup. Our market manager rang the bell at 8 am sharp and the day was off. It was a slow start due to the cold morning, but by about 9:30 the market came alive. There were all kinds of folks at the market from families to older couples to singles walking their dogs.
At first we stood at our booth quietly waiting for folks to come in and buy. But I quickly realized they were walking by without really noticing us.
Our first lesson we learned: Be open and engaging with people.
We started with a simple, but hearty “good morning” and a big smile. As the morning progressed and we got more comfortable, we loosened up a little and began engaging folks with a happy “Looks like you need a muffin with that coffee” or “I bet that young man would love to have a cookie” or “Would you like some fresh homemade bread?” This really started pulling folks into to the booth.
Our second lesson we learned: Have fun and be yourself!
Our family likes to have fun and joke with each other. As we loosened up, we brought our family dynamics into the booth creating a happy and fun environment. This was contagious with some of our patrons. We had fun and so did they—and they bought several items.
Our third lesson we learned: Know what sells.
As our first day and not knowing what people would like, we made a variety of baked goods and more of some things that we thought would sell. We made several loaves of bread and pound cake and pumpkin bread. But we soon found that the really hot ticket items were the cookies and muffins. These were a big hit and we sold out of these by mid-morning. We also thought we would sell a lot of eggs so we brought more cartons. We ended up only selling about half our eggs—still not bad. Also, we brought several packages of chives and thyme. We sold only a few bags of chives, but the thyme almost sold out. Next time we’ll make more cookies and muffins—and these have better profit margin than the cakes and breads.
Our fourth lesson we learned: Don’t price too low.
We had priced our cookies at what we thought was a fair price from our way of thinking. But when one of the other vendors came by to purchase some baked goods, she was kind enough to let us know that we were way too low on our cookie prices. Boy was she right. We doubled our price on the cookies and no one even thought twice. And, as I said before, they sold out by mid-morning. The lesson we learned was don’t cut your product short and adjust to what is selling—but don’t go overboard.
We were very pleased with our first day results and we had lots of fun.
Have you done a farmers market? What lessons have you learned?