In a sincere effort to be entrepreneurs and have freedom to explore the country, my boyfriend and I decided to do something drastic - invest all of our money in a vendor business, travelling to yoga festivals all Spring, Summer, and Fall of 2016 in the United States.
Now, understand that there are 3 kinds of vendors: promotional vendors there to spread brand awareness and SPEND money at the event, stay-at-home mom types who make a craft and are happy with a LITTLE extra income, and US - artisans, gypsies, and entrepreneurs desperately trying to support our freedom from grey-scale hell (sorry, I used to work 8-5 in an uninspiring office).
We have gained a TON of rich experiences on the road together and we plan to write a post about them soon. For this post, I want to share the wisdom I wish I would have had at the beginning regarding $$MONEY$$. Dolla dolla bills y'all! If you want to make REAL MONEY by vending, DO ALL OF THESE THINGS right. Mistakes have large price tags in this world. I always talk to other vendors at the festivals to learn. Here's what I've gathered from my experience and from theirs.
Here we are in Telluride, Colorado last weekend. That's the festival banner behind my head. It was a GORGEOUS place! But our worst festival for vending. Read on to find out why.
Maybe you want to know this: We are clothing vendors who also sell handmade malas, earrings, aromatherapy sprays, and palo santo.
Profitable Vendor Must-Haves:
1. Choose self-contained festivals. The tighter-knit the better.
When we have everything else in check, this is the single biggest factor in our ability to make money. What do I mean by "contained"? Here are two contrasting examples. Asheville was the smallest festival we have been to, with only 150 people attending. The entire festival was held in 1 large room surrounded by a residential neighborhood (no shops nearby). All vendors surrounded the yoga floor and were entirely visible at all times. Vending happened for 15-30 minutes between classes. During this time, I rang up a line of people as others filled the booth, shamelessly trying things on and sharing the mirror. It was AWESOME. I didn't have to "sell" anything, and it was one of our top $$ festivals.
Contrast this showboat to the festival that came next, Telluride, a mid-size festival that was spread across 5 locations of stunning scenery with up to 45 minutes of travel time between them each yoga stage! (Walking + Gondola) Some people skipped the travel, choosing to stay in one part of the fest for the day. Between the locations were a hundred tempting boutiques. How does a tiny vendor compete? Local shops even advertised in the festival guidebook. The vendors were all spread out across the various locations. Each of us stood there hoping that someone would bump into us in the sea of allurement. Some vendors changed locations on the last day hoping for better luck. This was our least profitable festival. What a disappointment. But Telluride was so pretty that it helped ease the pain :-)
TIP: Ask about the layout ahead of time, research the surrounding neighborhood. Is food available at the festival? LOOK FOR FESTIVALS WITH EVERYTHING ON ONE CAMPUS and minimal or no outside shops mixed in.
2. Be a big fish in a small pond.
Get this! We have made far more money at smaller festivals than at larger ones. Choose a small festival and make money by paying less for the entry fee. Enjoy being the only vendor of your kind, and likely being in one single vendor village. Being an average fish in a big pond means you will have to work harder and move more inventory to make the same amount of money. We have paid $900 and $100 for entry fees. It’s more rewarding to see familiar faces throughout the weekend and make connections too.
TIP: Ask if the festival selects vendors for diversity of product categories. How many [ your type of product] vendors will be there?
3. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION!
Item 1 was the most important because really, LOCATION is the most important. Do not locate yourself in a cul-de-sac of any kind, EVER! People do the “look-from-afar to see if it’s worth walking down there” thing. Like how you drive by a garage sale. Make sure your booth is located on a MAJOR PATHWAY. The only exception to this is if it's on a music stage or "square" where people are constantly socializing there. If it isn't in one of these 3 locations, don't bother!
At Shakti Fest we were placed behind a yoga class area where no one would ever go unless they were specifically coming to see us. After a day of ONE meager sale, we moved 300 feet to a major pathway and started collecting money and dancing again.
TIP: How to identify a pathway? Look for where the bathrooms, food, and classes/events are. Make sure there's an anchor at either end. A trail of non-food vendors with nothing prominent at the end is NOT a pathway! If you get stuck in a bad spot, try to move right away. Don't be shy to ask. Vendors do this all the time.
4. Sell what people want in the moment at the festival.
Sweatshirts when it’s cold, parasols and hats when it's hot and sunny. Sell for the weather and the colors of the nature in the place (pastels in the desert, bright colors in Mid-West Summer, white in the South). They are shopping for right now. Check the weather forecast and consider the level of humidity - what colors and textures would you want to wear in that climate? Put those items out front and bring the right quantities.
Wearing cream in Albuquerque, inspired by the sun and landscape.
5. Diversify. Carry a variety.
The more variation you have in your products, the more you will sell. If things are in different categories, tie your booth together with a lifestyle philosophy - yours :-) A fun and easy way to get variety is to work with other artists to sell their wares on consignment. Usually the deal for consignment is 70% to the artist, 30% to the seller.
6. Don’t be afraid to charge the price you would never pay.
REASON: As a business person (and artist or world traveler), you are conscious about the money you spend, and you know what a good deal is for your stuff. Remember that your customers usually don’t know what you know. Most of them aren’t world travelers or DIY types. They are consumers who are used to paying retail for new things. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself, "WHAT WOULD NORDSTROM CHARGE?" and then reduce a little from there. Your stuff is handmade and/or handled by you with love. It’s not from Target!
REASON: People want to support you. When they love your stuff, they love you a little bit too – and they get to meet you! The item is worth more to them when it carries a memory of meeting the owner or artist. People feel good directly supporting you, and they see how much effort you made to be there.
REASON: See the participants’ festival experience. They are coming to a festival to enter a new, celebratory world and they want things that will bring them into the vibration of the fest. They want to leave the mundane behind and enter a place where the possibilities are endless. They want to carry that vibration into their lives back home. New, unique things on their body help them forget the regular world. They are also paying for that when they buy something at your price.
THE TIP: We raised our prices twice and no one batted an eyelash. Experiment to find the happy point. Remember that you have to live on this!
I'll leave this section with a story. Yesterday, a lady who bought two pairs of pants at my booth came back to ask if she could have a third pair at half price. Tired from not making many sales at Telluride, I said yes. That means we made $10 on that pair, only $5 each. I should have said no. She then stayed a while longer and told us all about her son who wanted to go to graduate school. She had paid tuition for his private collage already, so, alas, that money would have to come out of his inheritance. I wish I could take those pants back! My point is, take care of you first. This is something I'm learning, personally, by being a vendor.
7. Offer unique things that you believe in.
Please don’t sell furry animal hats at a rave. No one wants to meet you if you do that. I'm sorry, but do it from your heart as your art. Don't sell something people can easily order online, either. For example, at one of our most profitable festivals, I was chatting with another vendor when we were packing up. She was selling screen-printed PVC yoga mats (the cheap, run-of-the-mill yoga mat). The poor thing might have made some sales if the festival wasn't loaning free mats to people who forgot theirs at home. Her item was slightly unique in that she could do a custom screen print, but it's not unique enough. It's PVC just like everything else. Gimmicks don't work (at yoga festivals anyway).
8. Bring a floor and some fun props.
Our booth is super simple and minimal. We fit everything + our camping gear into a Hyundai Accent hatchback coupe! (My boyfriend does unbolt and remove the backseat entirely for extra travel space.) Having a floor and a couple fun props really elevates the energy in the booth and makes people want to visit. If you are on lush grass, then roll in the grass! No floor needed. Here's an example of our first time. See the lantern, parasol, and floor?
Grass is the best! This is at Breathe Yoga Festival, Fort Collins. Breathe we did!
9. Have as many things visible from far away as you can. Change the front runners regularly.
It's not in the picture above because I have learned since then to hang as many items as I can on the inside up high and outside the booth, flapping in the breeze. The best sellers tend to be what's most prominently on display. Change these every couple hours.
11. Offer small discounts for larger purchases when people seem on the fence about getting a second or third item.
It works almost every time!
The most attractive thing is your energy. You are at a festival! Make sure to get out of your head and enjoy the collection of hearts who are coming here to celebrate life together. You are all sharing energy, and you are in a leadership role in that regard. Make sure to kick up your heels, have fun meeting people, and take a break each day to participate in the festival. Wear your stuff and dance in the front. That's also a great way to sell your things later on ;-)
AND . . .
IF YOU WANT TO TRY THIS FULL TIME FOR A SEASON, my biggest tip is that you choose a home-base that's inexpensive or maybe it's just a storage unit. You will be so fulfilled and stimulated by your trips that during your short stints at home, you'll probably want to rest. Or, save on travel costs by making a tour if you can. Camp or stay at airbnbs. You don't need a big place in the best neighborhood for this job. Live light. Maybe choose to rent in a small, quaint town in a nature place you love. The sky is the limit :-)
I hope these dozen tips help you create a life you love! Please leave any tips you have in the comments. We are always learning! Thank you STEEMIT for giving my boyfriend @darkb4dawn something fulfilling and exciting to do while I'm selling to all the ladies at our booth. We are loving this site and community!