For #spoonflowermaker and Small Business Grant recipient Nicole Brown of Ruth Nathans, the Brooklyn-based bespoke bow tie brand – say that 10 times fast – setting up shop at craft fairs and handmade markets has been the key to showcasing her custom bow ties while connecting with new and returning customers throughout the year. If you’re a creative entrepreneur like Nicole, you may be starting to prep for the upcoming holiday markets in your area, which is why we think you’re going to find today’s Small Business Handbook article extra helpful. Nicole is sharing her tips for successfully preparing for a stress-free market and whether it’s your first or fiftieth market, let her show you how to prep for success!

Prep for Success

So you want to set up shop at a pop-up market? Let’s start with the most important stuff: ensure you have enough product! This includes your handcrafted work as well as postcards, business cards, and packaging. How many visitors are expected at this market? Maybe it’s time to increase your production if this is a larger event. Prepare your items ahead of time so you won’t have to rush shipping if you’re mailing product to the event. If you do happen to run out of actual merchandise at the market, have a system prepared for taking orders to fulfill at another time so you don’t lose customers. Most people understand that you’re a small business and that you may not have a full run of products on hand 100% of the time.

Pro tip: Use a calendar or checklist to help you create a market to-do list and prioritize tasks leading up to the market.

1. Let your table to do the talking.

Before you begin your pop-up, decide what your table should look like. First, you want to find items that show you’re ready for business. Do you have any type of signage: a stand up banner, one that pins to your table or maybe even a projection with your business name and logo included? Will the venue be providing a table and/or chair or do you need to procure those? Will their tablecloth enhance my brand or should you bring my own just in case? Always do your layout before you arrive at the event to minimize set up time. Once you confirm the size of your table, you can decide what to bring (or not) and what will fit in your scheme.

Secondly, is it clear what you have for sale? Although my first pop-up was a memorable experience, most people did not know what I was selling. Make sure your table is aesthetically pleasing and clearly displays what you have to offer.

When it comes to table decor, don’t try to over do it by adding props and items that can detract from the product you’re selling.

2. Shout it from the rooftops.

Let your people know where you will be popping up! Prior to the market, make sure you have been promoting the event on your social channels and email lists. People love to be “insiders” so consider running a promotion; if a person checks-in on social media to the event then they can receive special pricing or a shout out on your social pages. 

3. Brand like a boss.

Next order of business is packaging and branding. This is free advertising! If a happy customer is walking around the market with a bag that has your logo, it’s likely that people may ask where it came from, especially if they see it repeatedly.

Additionally, are each of your products also branded? You want customers to remember you after they leave the show as they wear your pieces around town.

Nicole brands all of her packaging with the Ruth Nathan’s logo.

Need a little more help with branding? Be sure to read article four of the Spoonflower Small Business Handbook for branding 101 with Jennifer Diederich of Suite.

4. If you build it, they will come. 

Is your table welcoming? Would a customer want to touch your product or does your table look like it’s more suitable for a museum? Having a welcoming table is especially important for me because I want people to feel the “hand” of the Spoonflower fabrics I use, Poly Crepe de Chine and Organic Cotton Sateen.

You can address this task in terms of table colors, layout and your own presence as the creator. You’re your own best sales asset! Smile and engage with the customers through demonstrations and sharing your story. People love a great story! The fact that we create printed fabric that is made in America is a shocker for a lot of people. Eyes will light up. Ears may lean in. You may even hear an “Oh my!”

Nicole shows a customer how to tie a bow tie during a market.

You should also consider who is attending this event. Will there be more men or women? What are the demographics? I try to ensure that both men and women can see themselves in my product. Also be able to explain the different scenarios in which your product can be worn or used. “Will this look good with denim?” “What color shirt would you suggest with this?”

5. Keep It Simple

Another point to consider when prepping for your next market: How easy is it for visitors to purchase your items? Research which point-of-sale devices work best for you and always remember to make sure you can use it at your specific market – if you’re relying on wifi for your POS, make sure wifi will be accessible! Having cash on hand is also a great idea. This ties back into making it simple for your customers to interact with your brand.

Are there ways you can offer bundles on product as a way to treat your customers? For example, buy one item and get a discount on a complimentary item. Can you suggest how your handcrafted item is giftable? What holidays are approaching that are appropriate? Christmas-time is good for gifting. Or maybe it’s wedding season.

6. Extra, extra, read all about it!

Make it super easy for you to keep in touch with people who were not ready to buy the day of the market by having an email sign-up list ready. This can be done on paper or electronically. Either way, consider giving the visitors an incentive like “10% off your next purchase when you sign-up on our email list”. This is a great value-add because everyone loves special treatment! Another great way to stay in touch is to have visitors follow you on social media. Once they buy one of your products, they can tag you in their posts too.

7. Let Your Light Shine

Consider your “onlyness” factor. What makes your brand special? Use visuals to show these unique qualities. If you’re all about sustainability, let that show with your table. If you’re an Urban Peacock (aka: urban sophisticates with discerning taste) like the Ruth Nathan’s tribe, then make sure your display feels distinguished yet fun & fancy simultaneously. The essence of your table should coincide with the essence of your brand. If you’re featuring unique fabric designs from Spoonflower, make sure you’re talking about your inspirations for the prints as well. This contributes to your “onlyness.” Other brands could be selling similar products but no one will have your story.

Are you prepping for an upcoming holiday market? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below and don’t forget to apply for the next cycle of the Small Business Grant.


About the Guest Author

Nicole is an accessories designer with 4 years of experience creating bow ties, pocket squares and lapel flowers for the Urban Peacock. When she isn’t busy creating whimsical designs she is curing pocket loneliness somewhere in the world at her next pop-up event!



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