That’s horrible grammar, I know, but my brain is fried and I can’t come up with anything clever. This may be boring for a lot of you, but I’m writing it all down while I fumble my way down the road to a small business in the hopes that it helps someone who finds herself on the same path. Getting started is the hardest part, isn’t it? Anyway, back to the point!
The night before market I had the truck loaded down with furniture and my sales tax permit and booth priority number packed. I had made up some tags, grabbed some twine, magnets, and 4×6’s to stage frames, and tossed in a couple of camping bag chairs to sit on. We totally spaced and forgot to make change the day before, so we pulled $40 out of an ATM and had a super friendly gas station cashier make change in 1’s and 5’s at 6:45 am. Whoops! We showed up for day booth rental which means you wait around in the main pavilion with 80+ people hoping that you get a booth. I was #39 on the list. It was really stressing me out. My heart was pounding the entire time and I was just sure there wouldn’t be enough booths. I’m totally a “don’t count your chickens before they hatch” kind of girl. The ringleader gave us the schpiel about the rules, and started with a dozen booths that had emailed ahead that they wouldn’t make it. Luckily I was the only person peddling large wares! I snagged an empty lot space right off the bat, and we were setting up by 8 am. Not 10 minutes after getting things into place, I made my first sale!
I sold my three barstools for $150, and I definitely could have held out for my full asking price ($225). The ladies who snagged them asked if we would hold them for the day, which was great because people kept trying to buy them all day! Now I know to make a lot more for the next market in March. They were a hot ticket item! I was completely surprised.
After that though, things went south. I made about two small sales between 8:30 and 2:30. It was awful. I started getting really discouraged. Don’t get me wrong, traffic to the booth was awesome. There were hundreds of people at the market that day. But they would just come in, compliment how great/pretty/clever things were, and then just LEAVE! Nooooooo! I can’t pay the bills with compliments people! I learned that most of the stuff I brought isn’t ideal for this sort of venue. I had a coffee table, a large shelving unit, two shutter tables (which I was shocked didn’t get picked up by any customers at all! These were so popular in Lake Jackson) and my Rustic X Console which I priced so high to make sure it didn’t sell unless I was thrilled about the offer. I just wanted it out there to pull people into the space. Anyway, I was kind of a snot in the afternoon. I was sick and tired of watching people come in, look interested, say it was the perfect piece of furniture for them, and then book it out of there. WTF?!
Then 2:30 came. This was the serious crowd. They had eaten lunch, had a beer or two, and were ready to shop! I finally started moving stuff out of there, and my mood picked up considerably. I was just so afraid that I would fail and nothing would sell. That I would have to load up all those pieces I had worked so hard on and hoped would move on to new homes. I didn’t want to eat my pride and admit that I brought the wrong stuff. And in the end, it all worked out. I pulled in $418, and only had to pack up 3 big things. A lot of small stuff, which surprised me because I figured they would be popular gifts. But, now I know that I either need to stage them better or just leave them home!
Now for the numbers. I know some feel it’s tacky to talk shop, but I plan to be open about my pricing in the hopes that it helps, and to get some insight and advice if it sounds like I’m doing it poorly! After the booth cost ($60 – so reasonable!) and the cost of materials for the items sold, sales tax (8.25%) and income tax (30%), I made a profit of $65. Not awful, but not awesome. That roughly checks out to about $5/hour for the time I spent building. Considering it was a hobby at the time, I’m not disappointed. But for the future, I’m going to try and price more competitively and focus on pieces that have a lower materials cost.
Overall it was a really great learning experience, and the perfect scenario for my first time. I didn’t lose money, people were fantastically nice, and my husband put up with all my nonsense. I feel confident enough to go ahead and sign up for the 2013 season! It gives me about 2 1/2 months to find a booth space, build a small inventory, and get my business started for real. That means LLC, tax id, and business account. I’m really going to do this! Thank you all so, so much for your kind words, your emails, and your support. I never would have had the courage to really go for it without y’all. It’s going to be a wild ride, but at least I have all of you to go with me!