If you are going to your first vendor event (or are still relatively new and have not learned all the lessons the hard way already) READ THIS BEFORE YOU GO! Trust me.
1.) First and most important thing of all- buy a good tent. I'm talking a $200 heavy duty tent. I wasted so much money on cheap $50.00-$100.00 tents. I bought four (all four broke while at a vendor event, one broke with people inside) before I figured out that I had already spent more money buying all those cheap tents than I would have if I would have just bit the bullet and bought one good tent in the beginning. It will make you stand out as a legit business too. Trust me, once I had my good heavy tent I got more traffic. Maybe it was thought that if I had a high quality tent I must be selling high quality products.
2.) Do not mess with tent sides unless you have the heavy duty expensive sides that zip into place to go on your heavy duty expensive tent. Two of my four tents had sides. Both of those tents were turned into huge kites and lifted off the ground at even the slightest gush of wind. One of the tents was a assembled piece by piece (not a pop up) and when the wind picked it up it separated the lower part of the legs staked to the ground from the upper part of the legs attached at the top (I had the canopy strung down and staked on the ground too but it didn't help at all) and my tent pretty much fell in on itself with people in it. It was very very bad. The other one was a pop up tent that had Velcro/bungee on sides and when the wind caught it bubbled the material into the next vendors pottery booth next to mine and knocked over a bunch of pottery. I tried to fix it but the velcro had ripped right off of the fabric so the side was flying loosely in the wind. Thank goodness nothing broke- but I almost had a huge bill from the pottery lady all because of the wind! Take it from me- forget about the sides unless they are the zip on expensive ones. The only one person I ever saw in all of my years setting up who had sides that didn't allow the tent to take off like a kite was a lady who had an EZ-up tent with EZ-up zip in place sides and she said they were so hard to get in place her husband had to do it for her…but they worked really well. Hers was the only sided tent left standing after that market.
3.) MAKE SURE TO PACK WEIGHTS! I'm talking good ones. Do not tie your tent to your product baskets. This will not work if a pop up wind storm decides to pay a visit. I have actually seen tents fly through the parking lot dragging a cinder block where the owner thought one cinder block would be heavy enough...it was heavy enough to keep the tent from totally going air borne but not heavy enough to keep it in place. I use steaks and weights on grass and weights on all four legs on concrete. I did forget weights one time and it was so windy I spent 30 minutes holding onto my tent to keep it from flying away rather than making sales. Lucky for me the pumpkin man at the end of the row saw me struggling, brought me four pumpkins in plastic bags, he brought rope with him to tie the bags of pumpkins to my tent, told me that he forgets weights sometimes too and that improvising becomes easier with each market. Ever since that day I always bring extra stakes and weights for the next person like me who forgets them...I was so thankful for that pumpkin man and I've had many who were so thankful for me too. OH and for those of you with clothing racks- make sure to bring some type of anchoring system for those too. The market I spoke of with the one lady who’s tent made it with sides- there was a clothing vendor set up across from me and it was so windy her stocked clothing racks, dressing mirror, and signs were falling constantly. One time it almost fell on a lady pushing a stroller but the mom caught it before it hit. WEIGH ALL OF YOUR DISPLAYS DOWN SO THEY CAN’T TURN OVER.
4.) Pack a tent kit: tape in case your canvas gets torn (I bought white gorilla tape to match my white tent but they have all kinds of colors), extra stakes, scissors, rope (trust me- someone always ends up needing rope for some reason or another), trash bags (you WILL have people leave their cups and such in your booth), band aids, a candy bar (just in case it is so busy you can't actually leave to visit the food truck OR it is so busy you can't sit down to eat your lunch- a candy bar will provide you with enough energy to get through the rush), and BREATH MINTS- trust me, nothing is worse than visiting a booth just to have the owner breathing ranch from their salad they ate an hour ago in your face or old coffee- yuck- just take the mints and use them the whole market (trust me- when you smell minty clean people will relate your products as clean too- it is psychological).
5.) If you are using a table cloth- don't use the cheap plastic ones. You are selling quality products- have a quality table cloth to reflect it! Also the cheap plastic ones will catch wind easily and knock your products on them over. Not to mention the plastic ones are a huge pain in the butt to get to stay on the table while you fetch something to weigh them down with. You can use sheets, shower curtains, blankets, and all kinds of other cloth items that will be heavier and look so much better than the cheap plastic things. Plus, you can wash the fabric rather than having to buy a new table cloth for each market. Way to go green!
6.)Do a total dry run two days before the market. Set up the tent, fill it full of products, get your layout down pat, take pictures, and pack everything in your car (don't pack anything that could melt or freeze in your car- keep all that in the house until the day of the market) so that you are totally ready to go the day of the market. If anything is missing or not right you will still have one day to fix it. If you do this then the day of the market you will be more than prepared. Your stress level will be down as well so you will be better equipped to handle market mishaps like someone rudely leaving their car smack dab in the middle of everyone's way so you can't get to your booth to set up or people setting up in your spot so you can't set up or any other pre-market stresser that is bound to happen.
7.) Advertise a whole month before, week before, day before, and day of. This will give people time to plan to attend and not schedule another event that day. It will also serve as reminders to those who were not originally planning on attending. Let your customers have a sneak peak about what to expect. Give them a reason to really want to visit you. You could also do a "mention this ad and get a free sample" type thing. People love free stuff.
8.) Have a show stopper item right in the front of the booth. This item will draw people in with out them realizing it. Spark their curiosity. My show stopper is soap nuts. Soap nuts are a natural laundry detergent that straight up looks like a nut. Not many people know what they are and with a jar out front with a sign that says "shake me" people are curious and will come up to shake them. Once they do that they opened up a door to ask me questions and are more comfortable shopping in my booth. I specialize in selling all-natural body / home care items and I will get the most non-natural shoppers in my booth making purchases just because I sell "cool" stuff. You could also do a spinner board- "spend $40 and take a spin of the wheel for an extra prize" type thing.
9.) SLEEP THE NIGHT BEFORE! Do not stay up til midnight sewing or painting that one last thing. Sleep! You want to be fresh, you want your mind to be clear, your body to be ready for set up, and you want to be alert enough to be able to handle even the toughest customers. Trust me on this- this honestly should have been number four on this list. You are nothing if you are not well rested. Two days before you should have your car packed- two days before stop working on making products! Your car is packed already, you have had your dry run, you know your placement, and adding new stuff will throw all of that off! You will have one full day remaining until the market- spend that day (the day before the event) planning your lunch, preparing your cash box, googling the directions, and all the light work that may be left. Do not go "oh, I have a whole day to make all this stuff!" DON'T do that! you will run out of this or need more of that and since you are almost done you will take a trip to town, get what you need, stress out b/c you are now behind b/c you had to go to town, so on and so forth. DON'T go down that path!
10.) Also very very important- REMEMBER, NO MATTER HOW BAD IT FEELS LIKE THINGS ARE GOING AT THE VENDOR EVENT THERE IS ALWAYS ANOTHER PERSON THERE WHO IS HAVING A MUCH HARDER TIME THAN YOU. TURN YOUR BAD EXPERIENCES INTO GOOD LESSONS AND MOVE ON.
Tents will break, tables will break, people will get in your way, people will be rude and ugly to you, customers will tell you your prices are too high and they can go to walmart and get that same stuff cheaper, it will pour down rain and soak your shoes so you have to slosh in wet socks for the rest of the day, the wind will blow so hard you can't catch a breath, products will break (I had a whole box of laundry scent boosters I made up in Mason jars fall and glass and epsom salt flew everywhere! Plus the essential oil in the concentrated jars was so overwhelming the people next to me had to leave their booth until the smell faded...it was almost as bad as the market my tent collapsed on all my customers!) trust me- you will not be alone in the "awww crap! why is this happening to me!!!!!" part of the market. Just smile through it and thank God that it wasn't worse b/c trust me- it can always get worse :)