Farmers markets have become increasingly popular in recent years and maintain a stronghold in the warm weather months. In addition to farmers selling their locally grown produce, many of today’s markets also include vendors selling handmade crafts or food products.
Whether you’re looking to grow your full-time business or scale up your side hustle, farmers markets can help you get your products into the hands of more local customers. Here’s how to start selling your products at a farmers market.
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Define your product offerings
First, identify what you want to sell, whether it’s an existing product or a new offering. Common popular farmers market products beyond the expected fresh produce include soap and skin care products, flowers and seedlings, and prepared or packaged foods (such as baked goods or honey).
Consider your timeline, both with respect to production and selling, as well as any licensing and individual market requirements.
Create your business plan
Because of the possibility of needing permits and the money, time, and effort that will be necessary to get your products to market, it’s important to have a plan. This can be as simple as a checklist helping you to get all your ducks in a row prior to the day of the farmers market. However, the best and most effective business plans are intentional and methodical, and they lay out all the steps needed to make a profit selling your goods. When writing a business plan, consider potential problems you might face at every stage of the process, as well as solutions to address them.
Find and apply to the right farmers market
Once you have your product and business plan, research different venues where you plan to sell. Farmers markets, like people, have unique personalities, quirks, and expectations. Different events may attract different crowds, and it’s important to know your market — including ensuring the product you plan on selling is even permitted at the market. Also, you will likely need to fill out an application with the market’s organizers to participate.
Remember that you will likely have to set up and take down your booth or table, so aim for practicality in addition to visual appeal.
Research legal and regulatory requirements
Next, determine whether you need permits, licenses, or the consent of any regulatory bodies to sell your products. Depending on what you’re selling, you may also need to purchase liability insurance. Familiarizing yourself with this information not only keeps you in the clear legally, but also helps you speak intelligently about your business and offerings with potential customers.
Establish a payment system
You will need to have a plan for handling the financial end of things when people purchase your products — whether it’s just a ledger and a box for cash transactions, or it’s setting up an account with a third-party payment processing organization like PayPal or Stripe.
If you haven’t already done so, determine how you’ll price your products. You need to be able to recoup what you’ve put into the project, but also keep your price tags low enough to attract customers. Gather data on variable and fixed costs, along with your target profit margin, to establish your pricing starting point. You may need to adjust your rates as you continue to sell at the market.
Prepare your products, equipment, and visuals
Appropriate packaging, whether it’s for perishables or for fragile items, is a must. And, just as in a brick-and-mortar shop, the signage, branding, and arrangement of your products can go a long way to making a sale. Remember that you will likely have to set up and take down your booth or table, so aim for practicality in addition to visual appeal.
Increase your brand’s visibility
Finally, set yourself up for success beyond multiple days at the market by focusing on building brand visibility. Use your time at the market to network with other vendors who may have valuable insights or could even be partners for your business. You’ll also want to promote your business and its products on social media to ensure your target audience knows where to find you. Participating in community events can help get your brand in front of more local customers, building the groundwork for future success and continued opportunity.
[Read more: How to Turn Your Hobby Into a Business]
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