Master Your Next Kansas City Pop-Up Market: 9 Tips for Makers Who SellDavid Cawthon
It’s pop-up market season again for Kansas City entrepreneurs. Whether they peddle art, food, vintage finds or plants, Kansas City’s makers are busy preparing for upcoming events.
But pop-up market success takes more than just showing up. We asked four merchants for tricks of the trade – and how you can avoid big mistakes.
Our pop-up market experts
Combined, these vendors have more than 30 years of experience with pop-up events. Thanks to our marvelous makers for sharing their insights:
- Tarrah Anderson, founder of 18th Street Market and Whiskey and Bone
- Erika Lynnette Baker, maker/owner of Desert Pear
- Rachael Ruffin, founder and curator of La Lune Vintage
- Sarah Jane Scherer, founder/curator of 18th Street Market and Cult of the Wild One
These experts have been at it for a while – both Sarah and Erika made Barbie clothes as kids. But there’s a big difference between making as a hobby and selling your wares.
1. Do your research.
Like most business ventures, you need to have an idea of what you’re getting into. And you don’t have to go it alone.
“My advice to those who are new would be do your research,” Rachael says. “Visit one or two pop ups and never be afraid to ask questions. Networking with other small businesses is your strongest tool.”
You also don’t have to wait to ask for help. Market deadlines come faster than you expect.
“Have a list of things you want to do as soon as you get invited or accepted into a market,” Tarrah says. “If you need help, always ask people who are doing these kinds of things. More often than not, people are more than willing to give advice and help.”
2. Remember your purpose.
Every product was created for a reason. A good reason.
“La Lune was created after I became frustrated with the lack of plus-size vintage clothing,” Rachael says. Now, she helps fill that need for others.
If you like your products, someone else is going to be drawn to them, too. And their lives can be enriched. This objective can get lost in the hubbub of preparing for a market.
“Be proud of yourself and your craft,” Sarah says. “Represent you and your product with the highest of standards. Have the confidence to show it off and never express your doubts or insecurities about what you’ve created!”
More pop-up market tips below …
3. Showcase your wares well.
From the moment you apply to a market until you pack up the last of your stuff at the event, you should highlight your products in the most flattering way.
“I would suggest taking some really clear photos of your work, preferably with either a white background or in a staged lifestyle photo for your event applications,” Erika says. “When you are first entering events, the community won’t have seen your work in person. So, you want to have a good representation of what to expect since many groups, such as The Strawberry Swing, jury their applications.”
At the market itself, it’s all about presentation.
“Really make sure your display is as great as you can get it. It will have an effect on sales,” Tarrah says. “Your setup can absolutely help or harm your sales.”
Check out Pinterest for ideas on craft booths. And don’t be afraid to dream big.
“Create an experience!” Sarah says. “For us makers, we want to sell our products, of course. But for our visitors, they are looking for more than just merchandise. They’re looking for a happy, positive experience. Make a great first impression so you and your goods are memorable. All your interactions will count, even the small ones! Be kind, be courteous, know how to read your visitors. If they leave with nothing, at least they can leave with a smile.”
And when you dream big, don’t be afraid to start small.
“Just go ahead and try it and don’t get too worked up about having the perfect presentation on your first try,” Erika says. “At my first booth, I just had one table and a few jewelry stands, but everyone was so nice and supportive and people still shopped. You can build up your brand and presentation over time.”
4. Be organized.
There’s being prepared. And then there’s being able to run your business outside, from a table in who knows what kind of weather. Pop-up markets require capital-O Organization. Learn from people who have been there.
“Always make sure you are over prepared,” Rachael says. “Recently, I was late to a pop up because I didn’t load my car the night before. Not only did I stress myself out, I let down the event coordinator, and I won’t be invited back to that pop up. Lesson learned, pack your car the night before your pop up.”
Issues that might seem minor can feel huge at a pop-up market – and impede your business.
“Plan out your display before you get to the event. Make sure you know all the details before arriving,” Sarah says. “Sign and price everything. You can easily lose a sale if someone has to ask the price.”
And in 2021, the bummer of a dead phone battery can be a real-life nightmare for a maker.
“Make sure your phone has enough juice for the whole day!” Sarah says. “Nothing is worse than running a credit card and your phone dies with three hours left of the pop up.”
5. Have a handout or giveaway.
This might sound old school, but a freebie can be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
“I suggest having something like a card or handout with your email and social channels, even if you make it yourself,” Erika says. “I’ve gotten so many new followers and customers that way. Pop ups aren’t just about the profit at the end of the day. They are also a fantastic marketing and networking opportunity for your brand and can lead to sales later.”
At markets, Rachael has collected email addresses to enter visitors into a raffle.
“It’s a good way to get people on your email list,” she says. “In my opinion, if you just have social media, it’s imperative to have an email list for newsletters and sales. Email provides a way to keep customers in the loop, especially with the ever-changing social media algorithms.”
6. Manage your inventory.
Of course you need to have enough products to draw in shoppers. But you also need to keep track of what’s where and what’s sold, especially if you also sell online.
“When I first started doing pop ups, I had also had an Etsy shop,” Sarah says. “Back then, it wasn’t easy to synch your merchandise with your phone reader swiper. I took all my one-of-a-kind handmade art pieces to a big pop up. They sold amazingly! I was so excited.”
Can you sense the “but” that’s coming?
“However, people were also so excited that they took my business cards and immediately went to my Etsy to buy more,” Sarah says. “I had forgotten to put my Etsy on vacation that day and cross-sold about 20 $50 to $65 pieces that I couldn’t reproduce. I had to cancel and refund all those orders and apologize. So, if you are bringing website merchandise, make sure it isn’t active that day if you don’t have it synched with your reader/sellers app.”
7. Remember that it’s a business.
The IRS doesn’t care whether you’re selling pajamas or paintings, if you identify as an artist or an entrepreneur. They just want their tax money. So part of your job is to stay organized and on top of finances.
“There is a lot more work involved than people imagine when it comes to building your own maker business, and you really have to learn to be self-motivated and organized,” Erika says. She works with a local CPA to take the stress out of budgeting and taxes and to avoid surprises on April 15.
8. Harness the power of social media.
It can be easy to overlook, but social channels empower makers and build community.
“Sharing on social media is an easy way to get the word out!” Sarah says. “Tag as many other vendors as you can, and if you are a fan of their work, shout it out! Build each other up and support one another in the crafting community.”
9. Just keep creating.
Making new things can feel like walking around naked – many makers feel vulnerable and exposed. But it’s important to remember why you got started.
“Doing fairs taught me to trust myself more and has also given me the chance to experience live, in-person feedback, which has been really rewarding,” Erika says. “I was a nervous wreck at my first event, and now I look forward to them.”
Many vendors focus on the joy of sharing their work.
“Have fun!” Sarah says. “Sharing your creations with the world and having someone love it just as much as you do feels like an overwhelming honor sometimes, but you deserve it!”
The Kansas City pop-up scene is hopping and ready for vendors who are ready to dig in.
“Keep your head down and focus,” Tarrah says. “Try to be as original as you can. I can’t wait to see the exciting new things that 2021 brings for makers here in Kansas City.”
Get your hustle ready for pop-up markets
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