2021 was the year I did my very first market. My first event was the end of July and by the end of 2021, I had done 6! *Spoiler Alert* I totally fell in love with them.
My biggest advice would be to just start doing them!! I've found I sell different items better at different events, but I never would've learned that if I didn't try them out. Each event brings a different demographic based on the location and other vendors and so they are all unique. Each business has different levels of success at the same market based on what they sell, and you won't find out what works best for YOUR business until you start showing up!
How to Find Markets-
The very first step is to find events. Search Facebook Events, Instagram Hashtags and Accounts, and ask your small business friends in the area! Use key words for your niche. I like going to events with similar vendors but where I can stand out. I look for markets that don't allow direct sales booths, and I use search terms like "flea" "market" and have found success in my product niche- plant events and greenhouses! A lot of bigger events will have applications for their vendors, so you may have to plan in advance. It's never too early to start looking for upcoming shows!
Invest in a good tent canopy. I got mine from Dicks Sporting Goods, here. Look into tent stakes or weights (a lot of markets will actually require these and may have specifications you need to meet), I use these weights and like them a lot.
You're also going to need tables and table cloths. It's pretty simple, the more product you bring, the more you will sell. I use 6' x 2.5' folding tables, depending on the space I'm allotted, I'll bring up to 3. I sell significantly more at events where I have space for 3 tables compared to events where I can only bring 1. I also bring simple folding chairs, enough for myself and whoever will be helping me with the event. I also bought tablecloths from Amazon, here and ironed my own logo onto them. I get A LOT of compliments on my tablecloths and it makes it easy for my customers to find me.
Figuring out how you're going to take payment is also important. I use the Square Card Reader from Square and you can either link that to your Etsy, or just use Square's platform for ringing sales. A lot of shoppers like to use Venmo, PayPal, CashApp, Apple Pay, etc. just make sure you have those accounts all set up before hand if you're going to take payment that way. It is also REALLY helpful if you print off QR codes or a paper with your tag names for the different platforms so it's a quick process to pay. A lot of customers like to pay cash at these events so I would definitely recommend bringing change AND something you can keep it in. I typically get about $20 in singles, $20 in fives, and a few $10 bills. Something I learned the hard way, if you're taking cash for a sale, round down to even dollar amounts and don't deal with coins.
Bags are essential and I would say pick an option that fits your budget. When you're just starting out in markets, there are a ton of things you need to buy (tent, tables, etc) so I chose to pick an affordable bag option. I use paper bags from Amazon and stamp them before hand with my logo. I may consider investing in more customized bags in the future now that I've made my money back on those initial market investments.
Lastly, bring business cards!!!!! Most of your shoppers will want one, but even people not purchasing from you may ask for one.
How you display your products can make or break your success. I use some home decor I have around my house to create some visual appeal (like woven circle pictured here, but also rattan trays and catch-alls). I bought different retail displays for my products at Amazon, Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, and wherever else I could find them. Research retail displays specific for the products you're bringing for inspiration and go from there. It's hard to recommend displays because what works for my products, might not work for yours. But at the bottom of this post, I'll show some of the displays I use to give you some ideas.
Planning Products to Bring-
This is still tricky for me, but I've found it's better to over prepare than under prepare. Don't go broke trying to stock up, but bring plenty of extras. You don't want to run out of your best-seller one hour into the event. You will not make a lot of money if you don't bring a lot of products.
Advertising the Event-
Advertising up to the event is CRUCIAL for it to be successful for you. If the host of the market has created a Facebook Event, mark that you're attending and SHARE IT! Share it on your business page, your personal page, and ask your friends if they would want to share it as well.
Plan to bring a product that is either brand-new or usually sold-out and advertise that it will be available at the market! The week leading up to the event, share pictures of what you'll be bringing and remind your customers WHEN and WHERE the event it.
Once you're there- take some time before the event starts to post where you're located and some pictures of cool vendors around you.
Extra Helpful Tips-
Bring a cooler of water and snacks with you ESPECIALLY if your event is outside. A lot of events have delicious food trucks, but sometimes that food can be a little harsh on your tummy. I like to bring granola, cut up veggies, and plenty of water bottles.
Have a friend help you! It's much more fun than doing an event alone, but it also makes the shopping process easier if there's somebody to bag up the items while you're ringing them out.
Plan your table set up before-hand and TAKE PICTURES so you can easily and quickly set it up when you arrive. Ask the host how early you can be there to set up and take advantage of all the extra time until you've got a few markets under your belt and learn how long your set up takes.
Make some kind of flyer you can stuff in the bags that has your business name. You will meet a lot of people for the first time, that have never heard of your business, so introduce yourself and invite them to check out your website or Instagram or Facebook! You can even offer a discount code if they want to buy something in the future.
Pack your car up the night before if you can. I've found the less stress and last-minute to-do's in the morning make for an easier day.
For tax purposes, make sure you're set up with a vendor license, know how much tax to charge and how to pay it after the event.
Get a good night's rest and plan to have fun!!! Not only will you have the opportunity to meet your customers, but you'll be surrounded with cool vendors from your area.