In 2023, I participated in more markets than ever–some that yielded great results and others, not so much. In this post, I’ll share my insights on what I learned from these markets, why some were more successful than others, and how you can determine if craft or maker markets are a good fit for you as a flower farmer.
If you prefer watching over reading, check out my YouTube video below!
What to Consider when thinking about if a market is right for you
In 2023 I did a lot of maker sale or craft-type markets rather than regular farmer’s markets. I personally didn’t want to commit to farmer’s markets then and am still not ready to, as I have four kids (three of whom are quite little), and it’s a major factor in deciding whether a market is worth it or not for me.
I did eight different markets ranging in size and type of audience in 2023. Some of the markets were a little bit more bougie and had great turnout and intense marketing, some were private sales with a set community, and others were community-focused or focused around a certain church. While I am grateful for the experience of doing all of these markets, I am going to be dropping at least half of them in 2024, and here’s why…
1. Executing a market with really little kids is hard
Markets are difficult to manage when you have children, and especially when you have a baby it can be really frustrating. Throughout the year, I found that I was constantly working around whether the baby was sick, whether the baby was sleeping, whether the other kids were having a good day, whether I had daycare that day or not, or whether my husband was able to watch the kids. Here’s the formula I’ve developed for myself because of this…
stress + time away from my family + the cost of a babysitter (or making sure that my husband is available to watch the kids)
the hours I spend at the market + the money that I actually earn at the market
whether I’m going to participate in the market or not
2. Different audiences want different things
2023 also really brought home the fact that every single market has a different audience and a different level of organization. Some of the markets I participated in were marketed to really trendy millennials, others were marketed to people who really wanted to get fresh homegrown produce from farmers, others were straight-up craft sales, and others were more general. From doing all of these markets, I’ve noticed that the Shifting Blooms customer is a specific type of person who wasn’t necessarily the person who showed up at all of these markets.
3. People don’t like to leave the house
People just don’t come to an event anymore. If the organizer of your market is not good at advertising, you’re probably going to have a low turnout, and if the other vendors also aren’t good at advertising (and they don’t promote on their own social media platforms) it’s going to be so much harder to have a good market experience!
This past year, I noticed a massive difference between vendors. Some really push and promote their markets, and some sort of sit back and barely have a social media presence at all. I understand that we’re all at different levels, but if there are too many vendors that are just starting out or aren’t really social media savvy, it can really impact your market.
4. Everything I make is perishable
If I don’t sell everything I make, I’m losing money because I can’t bring it to the next market. With the exception of the winter markets, I found that if I guessed incorrectly about how much traffic was going to come that day (especially in the multi-day markets) or if I misjudged when I had to turn around and make more product for the next day, I really lost out on money. So I ended up crisis arranging in the back room of the mall or using up everything that I had first and then going to my other suppliers and flower farmers that I know who live around where I do. And when that happens, I can’t just expect them only to sell me exactly what I need or take back whatever I don’t sell, so if I don’t sell it or guess wrong, I eat that cost, which is really frustrating.
I also found that the grind of making more products between market days is just too much for me when I’ve been at a market all day. I want to be able to spend the evening with my kids and let them know that Mommy loves them. They need that Mom time, and it’s really hard when I’ve been gone all day only to give them a few hugs, maybe have supper with them, and then push them away and say, “Mommy needs to work now.”
5. Social Media presence is important
The other thing I learned in 2023 is that using social media or having an email list or something else that keeps you in constant contact with your customers is absolutely key. I noticed in my markets that the customers who showed up often said, “Hey, I follow you on social media, and I knew you were going to be here,” or “I’m so excited to finally meet you,” or “I’m so excited to buy something from you.” Especially when I did a mall market this year, I noticed that my audience was driving a lot of the traffic. Especially the first day, some other vendors who didn’t have that kind of connection with their audience were struggling.
So let this be your sign in 2024 to get on it with talking to your customers regularly. However, that may be!
What I’m Doing in 2024
So now that I learned all these lessons… what am I doing in 2024?
1. Cutting my markets in half
The first thing I plan to do is to drop all of the June markets. It’s just not worth it. The sales weren’t there last year, and I can do much better with my own private sales. When going to markets, I have a decent relationship with my customers, so I think that if I spent more time promoting my arrangements, it should make up the difference between what I would be making at an underperforming “market” market.
I’ll probably be dropping at least half of the markets I did last year because of that equation I wrote about earlier. At this point in my life, I feel like, unless I can reasonably make about $700 at a market per day (ideally $1,000), it’s probably not worth it for me, and I’m better off focusing on my own sales.
2. Starting a roadside stand
Another thing is we’re going to see if we can get a roadside stand. We live not far off the highway, and we’re close to the city, as well as to a small community and a few other businesses, so I feel like we have a reasonable location where a roadside market stand could work for us. So, if the municipality approves it, we will try it- especially for Christmas sales!
3. Building up inventory ahead of time
I plan to build an inventory ahead of time this year (and hire some help to do it!). In 2023, I was speaking at a conference in Alaska the week before an important market, and then my flight was delayed because I missed one of my connections. It took me an extra day to get home, and when I came back, I had only two days to prepare for my next market. I didn’t have any of my fresh wreaths or anything made because I couldn’t make them that far in advance (it just wasn’t cold enough to keep them outside, and it was still early in the season).
As soon as it gets cold enough this year, I plan to build up an inventory of what I think will sell for the entire Christmas season. That way, if I want to do multi-day markets or have three market weekends back to back, it won’t be so hard to have to do that reset, which was really killing me last year.
So what do you think? Are you a craft or maker market person or are you a farmer’s market person? Do you agree with what I said about where I’m going in 2024? Are you doing anything similar? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!
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