I started selling my handmade soaps as The People’s Soap Company at farmer’s markets, small craft shows, and large maker’s festivals in Southern California. Although I now sell mostly wholesale and online, I still keep a few shows in my schedule.
As someone who leans more introvert than extrovert (knowing I re-energize by being alone), I was nervous starting out selling at markets, but found a path that worked for me.
Here are a few tips that helped me thrive at shows, and can hopefully help you too:
1) Mentally separate yourself from your business
Your business is not YOU. Although your products are your ideas and hard work, you are still much more than that! When selling your wares, keep a mental distinction between you and your products. Although you want to sell smartly, you should never feel like you're the one on sale.
2) Solve your customer's problems
Stand up and interact with your customers as much as possible. Put your customers first, and do your best to think of how your products can ease their lives, make them happier, or solve a common problem. Listen to your customers and help them as much as you can. It takes the pressure off you, and onto your products.
3) Take regular breaks
Step away from your booth often, regardless of how you're feeling. Breaks will reduce your stress, inspire you with others' great works, and keep you in perspective with a view of the show as a whole. Take regular breaks when you can, especially when the booth is slow, and at the beginning and end of the day. Bring a booth helper with you so that you can step away, and enjoy the show with someone!
4) This is your tribe, discover it
You’re here for a reason: this show is your target audience! This is your tribe! Enter the show with a great attitude and a willingness to make connections. This is a great opportunity to build friendships, meet potential collaborators, and discover deeply creative and inspiring people! Plus, I think many makers are introverts, so there's no need to feel intimidated.
5) Practice your FAQs
When you have a great answer ready to a question, you won't feel caught off guard. Ask a friend to help you list your most unique attributes and the most commonly asked questions about your work. I often get asked, “how did you start making soap?” “what’s activated charcoal?” “so you can actually MAKE this stuff?” Write a short answer to each question, and practice and refine. Make sure your answers reflect your brand. These questions are the most important ones you'll get. As you practice, answers get easier with time.
6) Plan ahead for great customer service
Although this is something I'm still working on, I find this really helpful when I'm feeling especially introverted or stumped. Think of great questions to ask customers, like how they found you, why they like craft, etc. You’ll find things in common and build a deeper relationship. And don't forget to prepare materials ahead of time for easy giveaways that keep you connected, like printed cards.
7) Stay self-aware, and choose joy!
Most of all, I often remind myself that there is NO destination. Even accomplishing huge goals, like getting featured in the LA Times, didn't mean things suddenly "changed" for me. All my best changes have been conscious choices, and were self-initiated with hard work and lots of decisions. It's all journey. So I ask you, are you mindfully present in your moments, are you aware of your journey? Are you choosing to enjoy it?
Start a business journal to track what works, and what doesn’t, and update it as often as you can, even several times a day. Bring your journal to your craft shows and jot notes when you can. Monitor your moods, energy, and motivation, and look for trends and patterns.
Well, that’s it! Good luck out there! Remember to keep your heart open and your energy vibrant, and you’ll do great. Feel free to send any questions to me at Hello@PeoplesSoap.com or follow me on Instagram @PeoplesSoap.