When I first started making candles in 2016, I was happy to make them as a new exciting hobby. It wasn't until 6 months later after lots of lovely feedback and encouragement from the people around me, that I made the decision to try selling them, but I had no idea where to even start. There were lots of different platforms to try, but I decided to try my local creative market first and I am so glad that I did.
Selling at a market, a fair or an event when you are first starting out with a creative small business is very valuable. Not only do you learn to talk about your handmade products but you also learn a lot about yourself and your business.
You learn to talk about your products
When you are first starting out, your customer base (besides your partner and your Mum) is probably quite small, which is totally normal and to be expected. By selling your handmade products at a market, you will have your first opportunity to fine-tune your product conversations with 'real customers'. It doesn't matter if you don't have the answers straight away but it will be good practice for you to learn and have some good takeaways for you to practise and learn for your next market.
New customers are naturally inquisitive about your products and love that you have made them, so here is your time to shine and really explain to them what is unique about you and your products. I actually really enjoy answering questions and love that customers are wanting to know about me and my business. With time and practice the answers you have to these questions become a part of your natural conversations with people/customers. Soon you will become an expert at these questions and in fact, the tables will turn and you will even start conversations with new people and will be happy to do it too!
Helps build your small business brand
At the beginning, when you are first starting up, you may have a couple of products to start with, ones which you have really enjoyed making, and you are looking forward to seeing how they sell and what feedback you will get. In the beginning you may not have a deep grasp on what your small business brand is or will be, you may have a baseline of what it is you would like to achieve but this will evolve as you navigate through your new business.
I may be completely wrong on this and you may have it all sorted, but in the beginning, I certainly hadn't really thought about this too much and just selling at a market felt huge and purposeful.
I found was that by selling at markets and having conversations with new customers and other new people at markets, I was able to slowly build a picture of what my brand was. By that I mean, through conversations, I worked out that I only made scents which were from nature (this truly was not on my mind when I first starting making candles), I just loved the scent and chose what I liked, and luckily lot of my customers did as well. I also learnt that I used natural ingredients and loved to use them because of the benefits; again this was subconscious in the beginning. I figured out what my key values were: sustainable, nature inspired, eco-friendly, seasonal scents and customer focused.
You work out who you are
There is something to be said about standing behind a market stall, in the middle of a cold hall, on your own, nowhere to hide, no distractions, the focus really is on you and at first this can feel quite vulnerable. Selling at markets enables you to quickly learn how to hold yourself in a new space, to communicate effectively, to be as friendly and as approachable as you can. On the flip side you have to face rejection as people may not like what you do and some unwanted attention if you are not used to it! However the communication skills you learn through attending markets will be really useful to take forward in your everyday product-based business life. I found when I started selling at markets that my alter ego would come out, I could happily talk to customers all day about my candles and felt really energised by it. I learnt that, although I am a happy introvert, selling at markets brought out the best communicator in me, that I enjoyed talking about my products immensely and that I was an extrovert when selling my products at markets.
Gives you lots of juicy information
I cannot tell you the value of having your customers stood in front of you at a market. Not only is this a great opportunity to talk about your products, but its also a great time to ask your customers some juicy questions. If you have an engaged customer, why not ask them about how they found you? What is their favourite product? Is the candle for you or a gift? These nuggets of information can be so useful to you and your business when you are starting out and will start to shape the direction of your business going forward.
My hope is that I have given you some good reasons to try a market if you are just starting out, equally if you haven't done one in a while. The value of attending a market is high and the benefits are so positive for your business, think about how you and your business can benefit from selling at a market/fair/event nearby.