Checklist to Prepare for Holiday Markets and/or Vending Events

Whether you’ve been in business for a decade or you’re prepping for your very first holiday market, there are certain steps you should go through to ensure you will have a smooth and easy experience on the day of vending.

At the Time of Booking

  1. If you have any special needs (close to a restroom, handicap accessible, etc.), be sure to speak with the event organizer to ensure he/she can accommodate you before sending your application.
  2. Ask the organizer about the event – previous attendance, target market, amenities, etc.
  3. Check the calendar to make sure the event doesn’t coincide with some other major event that will draw attention away from the market, for example, a marathon in the center square.
  4. Send your applications in as soon as possible. Use a confirmable payment method such as a check, money order, or PayPal.
  5. Find out what the market is giving you for the money – Are they including a table? Chairs? Tent? – What supplies are you expected to bring yourself?
    1. If you do need a tent, make sure you have a quality pop-up tent with tent weights, and make sure someone can come with you to help you set up the tent.
  6. Order any marketing material you may need – brochures, business cards, catalogs, order forms, receipt books.
  7. Order a payment gateway that will allow you to accept credit cards. Popular choices are Shopify, Square, and PayPal.
  8. Order and/or manufacture enough inventory to ensure you have products for cash-and-carry.
  9. Make sure you know the proper state and county sales tax rate for the market. Ensure you submitted paperwork with the state to collect sales tax. Keep strict accounting records so you may remit your sales tax.

One Week Before

  1. Confirm your spot with the event organizer.
  2. Find out if there will be vendor parking. If not, ask if you will be able to unload by the doorway. If so, ask if there will be any stairs to get to your placement.
  3. Ask if there will be any dollies or hand-trucks available for use; if not, prepare to bring one.
  4. Check what time is the earliest you are permitted to begin set-up. Plan to leave early enough to get there on time for a complete set-up. Count on taking at least 1 hour to complete your presentation. Remember to account for traffic!
  5. Create a full inventory of everything you plan on bringing with you to the event.
  6. Begin making clear signage. Make a sign for prices, information about your brand, any fun facts.
  7. Plan what your table should look like. If you’ve never done a market before, create a mock-table to get a feel of your presentation.
  8. Begin packing your inventory in a safe-for-travel method. I recommend using Rubbermaid Clear Bins to make it easy to identify the products you’re bringing.
    1. Remember samples!
  9. Remember to purchase plastic/paper bags and tissue paper for your customers’ purchases.
  10. Share the event on social media and with your email list so people know to find you there.
  11. Be sure to pack a bin or bag with basic essentials for every show:
    1. Hand sanitizer
    2. Extra phone/electronics charger
    3. Packing tape
    4. Regular tape
    5. Pens
    6. Scissors
    7. Box cutter
    8. Counterfeit-money checking pens
    9. Receipt book
    10. Email sign-up notebook
    11. Paper towels
    12. Band-aids (or mini first-aid kit)
    13. Emergency ice-pack
    14. Credit card reader
    15. Extra wires for phone and card reader
    16. Lockable cash box
    17. Sunscreen & Sunglasses
    18. Hat, gloves (change this up for different seasons)
    19. Tablecloth(s) – Make sure these are long enough to hide boxes under your table.
    20. Frames for your signs
    21. Bags for your customers’ purchases
    22. Garbage bag
    23. Gum/Mints
    24. Deodorant
    25. Perfume/Cologne (choose a very light fragrance)

Day Before 

  1. Charge up your extra battery, your phone, your credit card reader, and any electronics you plan on bringing with you.
  2. Double-check your inventory, your bags, your bins.
  3. Clear out your vehicle to make room for everything you will need to pack.
  4. If possible, load up the big items such as your tent, chairs, and table into your vehicle.
  5. Pack up your lunch, snacks, and lots of water.
  6. Plan out your clothing and be mindful of the weather, especially if you will be outside for extended periods of time. Layers work best.
  7. Get a good night’s rest – you will be on your feet for most of the next day!

Day Of

  1. Make sure you have everything you need to bring with you. Don’t forget your lunch and waters in the fridge!
  2. To be on time, plan to be early. Set your alarm to give you enough time to get ready, pack up your car, drive to the event, and unload.
    1. *Pro-tip – Pack up your car and then shower to avoid being a sweaty mess.
  3. Looks Matter: Set-up your pop-up to sell!
  4. After unloading, store all of your extra bins under or behind your table.
  5. Keep your card reader, counterfeit pens, pens, a notebook for email sign-ups, and bags for packaging orders easily accessible.
  6. Introduce yourself to your vending neighbors so you can help each other out throughout the day.
  7. Take a trip to the bathroom before the show begins.
  8. Take pictures of your table and share on social media so people will be eager to come to the event.
    1. *Pro-tip – Use these photos to help you improve your display for future events.
  9. Smile, be positive, share your business literature with customers and non-customers alike.
  10. Have a great show!

Do you have any other tips or tricks for successful vendor events?

kristen-fusaro-pizzopresident-2

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What to Do When Attending Networking Events

In a previous blog, I wrote about The Need and Power of Networking for Small Business. So now you’ve signed up for a networking event (maybe your first), what do you do? First and foremost, relax. Attending networking events is an excellent way to get started because you’re teaming with a group of like-minded individuals who are all after the same goal. It’s normal to feel a bit nervous, but just stay calm knowing you’re all there for the same purpose.

The first step is to dress for success. Whether the tone of your business is whimsical, professional, elite, or casual, attend network events in business-professional attire. Always start with a firm handshake, offering eye contact, a smile, and asking questions. When you introduce yourself, immediately offer your business card – this serves two main purposes: 1) It can be a conversation starter and 2) It will help the person remember who you are later.

Networking events are essentially informal mutual interviews, so asking professionally-based questions makes you appear engaged, and it also helps you gauge if the person you’re speaking with can help you with your business. Be mindful not to ask personal questions – but basic family questions are okay ONLY if the other party mentions it. For example: “My wife and I decided to open a winery in Napa.” You can follow-up with: “How long have you been married?”

Be a proactive listener; it’s okay to ask for clarification if you don’t understand something. Ask follow-up questions and integrate bits of yourself when appropriate. To relate to the previous example of the winery, you could follow up with: “Really! What would you say are the best wines from Napa Valley? I do not know much about wines, so I actually just took a basic wine course a few weeks ago.”

The main point to remember at networking events is that everyone there is looking to meet people. If you are pleasant, engaged, and a good listener, that’s all you need to make an impact while you’re there. Finally, you want to follow-up with people. The next day, send a quick email to each person individually and cite a specific point from your conversation with them to help remind them who you were.

kristen-fusaro-pizzopresident-2

Looks Matter: Set Up Your Pop Up To Sell

With large vendor events and expos, customers are overwhelmed and excited by the experience, sometimes so much that they don’t know where to look.  They trick to being successful at a pop-up is to create the brick-and-mortar store experience right at your table.

 

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Beezy Beez New York Local Raw Honey

1. Have Clear Signage – From across the entire expo, you want your business to be obvious and distinct. Whether the signage is a colorful tablecloth with your business logo, or across the back of your display, it must be something that is easily read from any point in the room. Bright colors with easy-to-read font are the best choices to ensure clarity and understanding.

 

2. Create an Easy-to-Navigate Display – A display that is clearly defined with your products in order will be appealing to customers. A sense of organization and categorization is necessary for customers to grab and shop. Group products together that would make sense in the customer’s mind. Make sure there is enough space for a customer to touch an item and place it back without having to dig through piles.

 

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Origami Owl Custom Jewelry

 

3. Create a Display that is on Brand – When a customer walks over to your table, they should be able to get a complete feel for everything your brand represents. From colors, to display, to ornamentation, it should create an atmosphere of how you want the customer experience to be. Use your table as a space to create an emotional connection with your brand.

4. Make Your Table Tangible – What makes a small business stand out is customer service and what better way to offer customer service than to give your customers the opportunity to actually try your products. Offer up some samples, show them how to use the product, let people play, touch, and feel. Once people can physically experience a product, they can make a better decision (and usually one in your favor) about making a purchase.

 

 

 

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Bath, Body, Candle Moments.

5. Build Up to Save Space – Booth spaces are often expensive, so work with the space you have by building upwards. Use shelving to stack your products and maximize your product display. You can use racks, baskets, stepped shelves, even crates that you carry your products with. If you’re afraid of how the shelving might look with your brand, consider a tablecloth to go over lower-level shelving

6. Have Product for Cash-and-Carry – Pop-ups and vendor exhibits are places where people want to come and physically shop. You might be a catalog or web-based business, but these are not ideal events to drum up sales. You could have a table with catalogs or samples for people to try and place an order, but people want the physical product as a cash-and-carry. Invest in some best-selling inventory to have a full table.

7. Use Props and Lighting to Create Focus – Your table is similar to setting a stage. Feel free to use props or different types of lighting to create ambiance or focal points for your table. Items with ornamentation, detail, or glass should be propped up against white backgrounds with direct lighting to give a full effect. Bring items that would go along with your products to demonstrate what it could look like.

The main goal for your pop-up is to create a total experience for your customer with limited time and space. Step out of your own business and imagine you were your own first-time customer seeing your table. What would you need to see to truly get a beautiful experience? What products together would give you that full effect?

kristen-fusaro-pizzopresident-2

 

 

Holiday Shopping at the Hilton – 11.4.17

We have been talking about it since our inception- running our very OWN event! Finally, it’s happening! On November 4th, 2017, we will host Holiday Shopping at the Hilton at the Hilton Garden Inn in Staten Island, New York.

Our wonderful group of Vine Vendor Network Members will have first priority to be our vendors, but vending spots will soon be open to the public. (Why wait, join the Vine Vendor Network now!)

Vendor Application: http://bit.ly/2koYYwX

Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/209545782846052/

**UPDATE 2/8/17 FROM VIDEO: NEW TIMES OF EVENT – 10AM-4:30PM**

Watch a recording of our Facebook Live video about the event:

 

kristen-fusaro-pizzopresident-2

How to Apply to Be a Vendor at Events

How to Apply to Be a Vendor at Events

The first presentation you offer to your clients for vendor fairs is not really to your direct customers, but to the people running events. How you apply to be a vendor somewhere is significantly important because that is your initial impression which can actually better or worsen your chances of being selected.

Who to Contact

If you’re unsure who to contact for a vendor event, start with the most logical place. For example, if an event is run by a school, you should contact the PTA President, the Parent Coordinator, or even the Principal. If it’s run by a religious organization, you can contact the rectory, or main house. When you make contact and you’re unsure, always kindly ask to have the message directed to the right place. Start with an email and follow-up with a phone call in a few days if you do not receive an answer. If the event explains who to contact, they also usually state how to contact them. The choices are usually by email or phone.

If the contact information is clear, do not make up your own rules about contact – for example, if it asks you to send an email, that does not mean to send a Facebook message. If it asks for a phone call, then that is not the same as an email. Respect what is being asked of you.

How to Contact

Before sending your contact emails, check your spelling and grammar, and send a polite, semi-formal request. It does not have to follow extreme rules, but it should express your questions clearly, your contact information clearly, with a polite and formal tone. For example:


Good afternoon [Mr./Ms. Person’s Name],

My business is [Business Name], and I sell [list items/services]. I am interested in bringing my business to [Event Name] on [event date]. I am inquiring to see if you have any spaces available for my business?

If you are not the correct contact person for [Event Name], would you kindly forward this message to the right person, or please contact me with the correct information, so I may properly address this request?

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
[Your Name]
[Business Name]
[Email Address]
[Phone Number]


You can adjust this note to inquire more information such as price to vend, how big the space is, if there will be electricity, or any other inquiry best suited for your own business.

If you’re making a phone call, use the same formal tone and be clear about who you are and your business.

When to Contact

It is best to contact the person in charge of an event as soon as you learn about it, but if you know of a steady event (perhaps one that happens yearly), go ahead and initially contact them two-to-three months in advance, depending on the popularity of the event.

If an event is particularly popular, you will want to contact those people as soon as possible within a reasonable time. Holiday fairs can get quite saturated, so if there is one you want to join and you’re sure of it, it’s recommended you start making those contacts in early September.

Following Up

Most well-organized events will offer more information as the event draws closer, but if not, use the same contact information to follow-up from five to seven days before the event to ask for any clarifying details. Always confirm that the event is still being held, and if there are any specifics you need about organization for the day of (for example: parking, set-up time, break-down time, internet, etc.).

 

The Top 10 Mistakes You're Making While Vending

The Top 10 Mistakes You’re Making While Vending

You’re at an excellent vendor affair. There are tons of customers in your target market. It was well advertised…but you’re not selling anything? You could be making some serious vending mistakes without realizing it.

  1. Your table presentation is less-than-spectacular. If you have a lot of product for cash-and-carry, then make sure it is organized in a logical manner. Think of a grocery store and categorize your products with the same pragmatism. Make sure things aren’t on top of one another and people don’t have to go digging through piles of stuff. Use height to display in a small space. Make it easy for customers to pick up your products and interact with them, as if they were in a brick-and-mortar store. If you don’t have lots of products for cash-and-carry, then make sure you have samples of everything you’re selling. People who are at vendor events truly prefer to be able to grab and buy at the moment, so catalog or internet sales at events are not ideal. Try to build up your inventory before you spend money on booking events.
  2. You’re giving off an unfriendly vibe. Vendor events can be very long, especially to spend so many hours on your feet, but when you sit and hide behind your table, you seem disengaged with your customers. People who come to these events want the personal touch, or they would just be shopping online or in a department store. All you have to do is stand up and say hello, ask if they need help, or to let them know you’re there if they have any questions. Most importantly – smile and say hello! Even if people aren’t customers today, they will remember how you behave for the future.
  3. You’re talking about your most “popular” products. Unless someone specifically asks what your best-selling products are, people want to feel like what they choose is unique. Instead, if you notice someone looking at something, share an anecdote about the product. Or you can ask if they had an idea in mind so you can guide them to the perfect product they were looking for. They want their needs filled, not the general populous.
  4. You’re on your phone way too much. It’s normal to spend empty time perusing through Facebook or checking your email, but if you see customers nearby, put down your phone and give eye contact with a smile. People lost in their phones give the perception of being disengaged, even if that’s not necessarily true.
  5. You’re over-selling. People want to be heard. Instead of trying to sell your product, ask questions about what the customer wants to buy. Ask about their interests, needs, even give a genuine compliment. You don’t need to start going off about the history of your company or why people should buy from you – pay more attention, listen more, and you will sell more.
  6. You’re using your vending table as a lunch table. Sometimes this is hard to avoid, especially if you are vending long hours or alone. If possible, bring a second person with you so you can take lunch “shifts.” If that’s not possible, pack a cooler and keep your food off the table and inside the cooler. When there are no customers around, grab a bite of your sandwich. Customers will feel funny interrupting you while you’re eating, so keep them comfortable by keeping the food out of sight.
  7. You’re not dressed to sell. Ideally, you’ll be wearing something with your company logo. If you don’t have something like that, or your product/service doesn’t work that way, then dress business casual. Presentation matters because it demonstrates that you are a professional and care about what you’re doing.
  8. You’re making the purchase process too difficult. This is the age of digital money. You absolutely need to accept credit cards! It’s so easy to sign up for Square and offer credit card services for anything you’re selling. Square offers free/low-cost credit card processors that you can plug into your smartphone with very low processing fees! If you’re using paper receipts, make the order form/receipt super-easy to write out. You could even pre-print them at home so all you have to do is quickly fill in the items. Be sure to also have plenty of small bills to make change and bags for customers to carry their purchases!
  9. You’re not responding to negativity with positivity. We all encounter those customers who have something grumpy or rude to say. Do not take this personally! Instead, use some verbal judo with: “I’m so sorry you feel our products are too expensive, perhaps you could let me explain how we price our products?” “I understand you believe you could find this item in a different place, but perhaps you could let me explain what our small business does to support the local economy?” This is hard and it takes practice, but if you could engage in mental-mindfulness, you can realize customers are just expressing a deeper frustration that you can flip into something positive.
  10. You’re not creating a long-standing relationship. This begins with having literature and a clear way to contact you. You can use brochures and business cards that offer your website, email, and phone number – all of this contact information builds trust which builds a customer base for future orders.

Do you have any other suggestions for vending success?

Kristen Fusaro-Pizzo
President
Vine Vendor Network

What Vendors Expect at Fairs

The Holiday Season brings its fair share of fun holiday fairs and events, and this is a perfect opportunity for small businesses to thrive and survive, but for events to be especially useful, there are certain expectations vendors have. If you want vendors to be excited about your event and show up time and time again, here are a few tips (in no particular order):

  1. Be clear about vendor pricing and placement in the contract. Vendors should know exactly what type of space they’re paying for.
  2. Do not book more than one type of the same vendor. It is incredibly uncomfortable for vendors to be selling against competition in the same place.
  3. Advertise, advertise, advertise! We understand this costs money, and we don’t mind absorbing a few extra dollars if it will get the word out and get customers to the show.
  4. Give directions for location, for booth presentation, and for what will you will be offering (such as chairs, tables, lighting, etc.). Let vendors know if there will be Wifi, electricity, and other amenities.
  5. Have a focus for your event, such as “handmade items only,” “flea-market,”  “direct sales consultants,” or “holiday-themed items.”
  6. Make sure there is plenty of space between vendors so they can store their wares and boxes.
  7. Book your event and your vendors far in advance to give everyone plenty of time to advertise and prepare.
  8. Create an email list to keep vendors aware of any changes or incidentals.
  9. Introduce yourself to each of the vendors while at the event.
  10. Check the authenticity of products as you vet vendors. You can truly change the tone of your event if you allow knock-offs or counterfeit merchandise.
  11. Do not be afraid to disallow vendors who break your rules or contract.
  12. Ask for photos of vendor displays and/or products before allowing people to your event. Once you set the tone, it’s very hard to change.
  13. Create a public Facebook event and allow people to like and share the event across all platforms. This is free and incredibly useful!
  14. Contact The Vine Vendor Network to have your event posted in our blog and our calendar!

If you have any other ideas or suggestions, please feel free to comment below!