Hello! Welcome to my first proper blog post on DorcasCreates!
I'm hoping to demystify the self employed/maker process, be as honest as I can about what I've achieved and impart some of the knowledge I've acquired, because I firmly believe there is room for us all to succeed and have fun whilst doing so.
Whilst I put a lot of my successes down to timing and good luck, I don't want to downplay the hardwork that went into researching and figuring out the best moves for myself. Of course what's worked for me may not work for everyone, and one of the most important things I've learnt has definitely been the value of patience and allowing myself the time and scope to grow on my own terms.
Okay so this first post is dedicated to markets and events! I know it seems like I'm at every event but the reality is that I'm quite selective with the events that I apply for because I know that not every event is for me. I can't stress enough that you shouldn't feel pressure to be at every craft market or at every event. Not just from a financial standpoint (unless your cashflow is popping like that!); events are hard-work and very physically draining. Don't overburden yourself because you want to be seen to be everywhere. Be selective and strategic with the events that you apply for to ensure that you'll get the most out of it financially and in terms of contacts and future prospects, that you'll enjoy it yourself and you give yourself the time to recover and recuperate afterwards.
I've split this post into three parts (as you can tell I tend to write alot!) to make it easier to digest. Parts two and three will follow next week
Right onto the tips!
1. HOW TO FIND EVENTS
I get asked this question a lot and the reality is quite a few of the events I've found by just simply googling "craft markets in **insert your city here**" or "African events in London" etc and going about 10 pages deep down looking through the events that the search brought up. If like me, you're a black owned business, then the kinds of events that you're looking for may not necessarily be the ones brought up. In this case I run to Instagram and Twitter and look at the types of events that the people I'm following are going to.
When I first started out I was following a lot of natural hair pages and bloggers on Instagram and noted down the events they were attending such as Afro Hair & Beauty Live, Curlfest , Essence Fest and Curlvolution.
Most of the pages for these events will have info on vendor/marketplace applications. If you don't find any it's worth emailing and just asking!
I've also found it helpful to create a spreadsheet of upcoming events, dates & locations and the costs associated with each event. If you're not as nerdy and into spreadsheets as I am then you can buy/print out a calendar and mark down events manually or create reminders on your phone. It's just easier to plan when you can clearly see which events/markets are coming up.
If you're London based you should know that every Friday-Sunday there's a TON of craft/maker markets on including Broadway Market, Netil Market, Jubilee Market, Greenwich Market, Portobello Road Market, King's Cross Canopy Market, Spitalfields Market, Brick Lane, Sunday UpMarket, etc etc etc. Most have a website that'll give you information on how to apply to be a vendor. Some have a large volume of applications so please don't be discouraged if you don't hear back straight away. Not all of these markets will appropriate for you, so it's worthwhile to do some literal market research!
Set aside a weekend to take yourself out on a research date and try and visit a few markets to get an idea of what they're like. Careful when picking a day as Sunday's tend to be busiest so can give you a skewered perception of foot traffic. Also pay attention to how people are interacting with the stalls - are they browsing or actually purchasing. Does the market get a lot of passing trade or specific repeat customers? Are they gravitating to elaborate displays or displays where products are laid out minimally? Are there a lot of food vendors? People love to eat! What about the vendors themselves? What's the average price point of the things on sale? Will your creations fit in with the market in terms of price point? Are there a lot of mass produced merch or more vintage, handmade merchandise?
Okay so you've found an event or great market, applied and you got in! Yaaay! Once you're there speak to other vendors and find out other events they've done. For the most part fellow makers and vendors are lovely and willing to impart information when approached correctly. And of course in the same vein; share any info you can too!
So in short:
a. Google it!
b. Which events are your favourite influencers/bloggers attending? Are there vendors/ a marketplace at this event? If so contact the organisers and get their info for the next event
c. Take yourself out on a market research date! Note down all the things you've observed to find out if its the right market for you.
c. Do you follow any online platforms like gal-dem, Afropunk, Essence or Black Ballad? They regularly organise events and it's worthwhile keeping an eye out for vendor applications on their websites or emailing for info when you see an event pop up.
d. When you're at a craft market or event - speak to other vendors and find out where else they've popped up
2. PRICING - IS THE STALL FEE WORTH IT?
Pricing varies wildly dependant on whether you're applying for a weekly market or a one off event.
Weekly local markets tend to be cheaper. Stall prices vary from £25-70 per day depending on location (e.g. Shoreditch/Brick Lane will be more expensive than say Greenwich market) Markets operated by a local council will also be cheaper but you may have to apply for a Market Traders License - you'll have to find out on the council's website - and they tend to have long waiting lists.
One off events tend to be more expensive and pricing varies WILDLY. Some events are approx. £50-£200 per stall, whilst some are up to £500. For most event's you're literally paying a fee for the stall - i.e. you'll get a table and chair, sometimes a tablecloth but dasssit. Obviously there's marketing costs included in the stall fee, but you have to weigh up if the event will really be beneficial to you.
Of course you'll want to make back your stall fee, but consider if you'll be able to meet other vendors/creatives, share knowledge and meet potential future clients, customers and collaborators. Success isn't just quantified by sales. I've attended events in the past where sales were low, but I met a future stockist or was introduced to a client who commissioned me later on. I also notice an uptick in sales online after an event - usually from people who for whatever reason were unable to purchase on the day. Additionally, I've met some really lovely people who've gone onto become good friends!
If you can, it's beneficial to attend an event you're interested in as a spectator to gauge whether it'll be the right fit for you. If that's not logistically possible, reach out to another vendor that you know has done the event before for their candid advice - within reason! Not everyone likes to be approached in this way and they're well within their rights to ignore your questions. If you're active on Facebook or Etsy there are lot's of few vendor groups/discussions you can join and direct your questions there.
In all honesty I've attended events in the past and regretted it because the customer base wasn't right for me, or it was clear the event organisers didn't care about making the experience worthwhile for vendors. It's something I'd like to discuss with more candor in the near future.
When deciding if an event fee is worth it, consider:
a. Foot traffic
b. How many people that fit your customer base will be in attendance
c. Outside of the stall fee, what other costs will you incur? E.g. travel costs, PPL Insurance, will you have to hire additional help etc
d. In the event that sales are low, what other benefits will you gain from attending? Will you be severely out of pocket?
e. Can you share a stall with someone and split the costs?
f. Is this a recurring yearly event that you could see yourself at?
g. Is the event well marketed? Does it generate a lot of press and attention on social media?
3. ADDITIONAL COSTS - INSURANCE, TRANSPORT, MARKET SUPPLIES
Aside from the stall fee you'll likely have to consider these extra costs:
PPL Insurance - Public & Product Liability Insurance sounds scary but is necessary if you'll be selling items in public to the public! I get my current PPL free as a bonus from my membership with Artist's Union England (if you're an artist and you're not signed up with them, what is you doing?! Sign up now!). Prior to that, I'd purchased my PPL from CMTIA UK and also looked into Craft Insurance UK
When researching I found this post by the Craft A Business blog really helpful.
Most event organisers will ask for your policy cover to be up to £5 Million which sounds insane but is actually pretty standard across the board.
Transport Costs - Fun fact; much to the chagrin of my parents, I don't drive. When applying for events/market stalls I have to consider how I'm going to lug my wares across London and how much this will set me back. I once paid about £100 (£50 there and £50 back) for an Uber to Enfield for an event that I barely made back the stall fee (I did meet a few stall holders who've now become good friends so maybe it was worth it? Shrugs...)
For the most part I've been able to downsize what I bring to events in a single suitcase and tend to allow myself to be at the mercy of TFL but if you've got large products or elaborate displays then getting on the train will be a nightmare.
If you can rope in/emotionally blackmail someone into giving you a lift, do it! Or if you know another vendor who's close to you and drives, offer to pitch in with petrol costs, in exchange for a lift.
Or learn how to drive (!)
If you do drive, then you'll have to think about petrol costs and parking. Not all events offer parking - make sure you know the cheapest places to park near to the venue prior to the event date and get there early to secure your spot!
Market Supplies - By supplies I mean a table cloth, lighting, stall clamps, fabric for a backdrop (if necessary), hangers, string for hanging your merch, paper or plastic shopping bags, tissue paper (if necessary). Basically the random bits and pieces you'll need for your stall. Amazon is great for purchasing market supplies if you've left it last minute (thank God for Prime!), you should also check out Morplan, Tradersupplies.co.uk and Ebay. If you're London based I'd definitely recommend a lovely shop called Gardners in Shoreditch High Street. It's where I get most of my paper bags and other market bits & bobs. The owner is really lovely and chatty and it's nice to support a brick and mortar shop! They don't open everyday so check out the opening times on their website.
Aaaaand that's the end of part 1. Hope you've found this helpful. Comment below if you have any additional questions :)
Part 2 will follow in about a week's time!