I did my first market in June 2015. In this two-part series, I would love to share my experience with markets during my time in creative business. Under my label, Blue Radish, I did Canberra’s Handmade Market several times over the course of four years. I also did several other markets. I credit the Handmade Market with so much of my development as a creative business owner and of my brand. It is a big, busy market – one of Australia’s premier markets. Consequently, the standards of product and presentation are high. From humble beginnings, I learnt a huge amount and am proud of what I achieved. If I can help others with finding success in this aspect of creative business, it would be an honour. In Part 1, I will share my experience at my first market.
My First Market
My Dream to be a “Handmade Designer”
Doing the Handmade Market was a dream come true for me. I first went to the Handmade Market not long after it started, at the Yarralumla Woolshed. Wandering around, I was awestruck and inspired and left with my wallet quite a bit lighter! The market filled a gap for handmakers. It was a place to showcase work free from competition with cheap, mass-produced, loveless items. For me, there was something of interest at every turn. My head was filled to the brim it inspiration and ideas. I think it was at that time a little candle was lit. I wondered if, one day, little ol’ me might have a stall at the Handmade Market!
When I decided to build my little label Blue Radish into a business, I was already looking toward the Handmade Market as a venue to promote myself and my products. Audaciously, even before I was really ready to, I put in an application to be at the June 2015 market. I was delighted (and secretly petrified) that my application was successful! That little candle turned into a great big fire under my feet! I had about two months to get myself ready for it and I had a lot of work to do. I’d done lots of planning and playing but not a lot of actual producing. The six weeks before the market were a frenzy of making and preparing. It was pretty exhausting but a bit exhilarating too.
Thank goodness I have such an understanding and supportive husband and pretty awesome kids! But, I made it and I’ve lived to tell the tale. And now I can call myself a Handmade Market Designer. Yes, little ol’ me!
If you dream of doing your first market, my advice is just to do it. There is nothing like that deadline to get you moving. After it is over, you’ll wonder why you waited.
My First Market Stall
My first market was lots of fun. It was lovely to have so many friends come to visit me, give me encouragement and support. And to buy something! It was also lovely to have the help of my sister, Sarah. She helped me to get set up on Friday and held my hand on Saturday morning! It was a very busy weekend. The Handmade Market attracts incredible crowds. There were times I could not see across the pathway in front of me to the stalls opposite.
In quieter moments it was fascinating to do some people watching. I observed the different styles of market surveillance that people do. Some people walk right down the middle of the aisle glancing side to side and only going over to the stalls that interest them. Others browse slowly, making sure they don’t miss anything. They like to stop and chat with the stallholders as they go. There are some that seem intent on just particular things like jewellery and make a beeline to just those stalls. Some people clearly don’t want to engage and keep their eyes down so as not to make eye contact and invite conversation.
There are lots of people, however, who come to meet the designers and makers. They take the opportunity to talk about what you do and what you have on offer. I really enjoyed talking to all the people who stopped by my little stall – and it was a terrific learning experience!
Lessons I Learnt at My First Market
I was quite cramped in my 2m x 2m square! I always took a larger 3m x 3m space at the Handmade Market after that. It was too much of a squeeze to display all my products. It was hard to find a spot to stand that wasn’t right under people’s feet or intimidatingly in their faces! At a couple of markets I did, I had even less space though. I had to alter my set up completely and take fewer products.
Some friends who came to see me at that first market said they could not find me, which was sad. I think that is because as soon as someone was in the stall, it was difficult to see in. My signage was at the back and obscured by tables. The jewellery stall next to me which was often very crowded. Their customers were leaning over from my stall to see the items on their table. I did feel a bit invisible at times. I worked hard on this for my next market.
Another piece of feedback I got was that my price signage was not clear enough. People often don’t like to ask the price of something or be too obvious about checking the price of things. It needs to be clear to put fewer barriers between the customer and the sale.
All in all, it was a fantastic experience. Getting my products out into the world where I could talk with customers face to face really helped me to refine both how I presented my stall and what products interested people most. There is nothing like hearing direct feedback from customers to help you improve what you do.
So what tips do I have for you? I’ll share them, and my Market Packing List, in my next blog post, Craft & Handmade Market Part 2 – Tips for Market Success.