Soap Making

8 Things I Learned Selling Soap at a Farmers Market

I just wrapped up my first season selling soap at a farmers market. It was great for my soap sales and I secured quite a few repeat customers. Before joining this farmers market most of my soap sales came from local stores where I have soap on consignment so this was a whole new learning experience for me. Here’s what I learned:

Multiple choice is prime. I didnt have the luxury of many Farmers Market choices because there are only two markets in the city where I live. I chose the one that I felt had the best location and traffic and reached out to them on Facebook. I just told them about my business and asked if I could join and what it would cost. During a brief phone call I learned that they just changed their bylaws to allow crafters there for the first time so I was welcome to join and I was invited to the season opener meeting. Success! Wait.. backup. Did he say “bylaws”??? That should have been my indication that this was going to be much more serious than I expected. Note that I said serious but not organized.

The first meeting was all business and no fun. I went to the first meeting and sat quietly listening to the other members talk about rules (so many rules!), last years problems (and their problem’s problems), advertising costs, and assigned spots. I left the meeting knowing what day the market would open for the season, that my assigned spot would be given to me on that opening day, and that some of the members are bitter old women who do not wish to see anyone succeed but themselves….which brings me to my next learning experience…

There will be drama. So. Much. Drama. I was assigned a spot next to the bitter old woman a lady who I will call Paula. Paula had something negative to say about everyone, just not to their face. When she found out that someone 5 tables down was now selling caramel rolls, which was one of the things she sold also, she made it known to everyone that she didn’t think it was fair. What I found out later was Paula’s caramel rolls were always gross frozen and then thawed that morning so it’s no wonder the other caramel roll seller made a killing on them. I can only imagine all the things she said to the other vendors about my soaps. Probably could have washed her mouth out with one of them. Enough about Paula and her negativity…

Costs were easily recouped. My annual membership dues were $100.00 and I also had to pay $5.00 every day that I attended the market. I sold enough soap to make back my dues on the first market of the season, thankfully.

Setup was simple. I brought a six foot folding table and a cloth bag with a zipper to collect money. I opened the rear door to my SUV and put the table a couple feet from it. I could then get a little shade from the door as well as sit in the back of the SUV if I needed to get off my feet. I did not have a canopy but everyone else did. I sold my soap the entire season without a canopy and there was only one day that I felt I really needed it and it was because of the rain. I was forced to pack up and leave that day. Looking back, it would have been better to have a canopy for some sun and rain protection, but I’m cheap frugal and felt it wasn’t a necessity while I was still testing the waters of selling soap at a Farmers Market. Did I mention that I’m frugal? Also – the wind where I live makes it difficult to put up, take down, and secure a canopy by yourself and since I was next to Paula I knew I wouldn’t get much help.

My soap display evolved over the season. I started with these silver platters that I bought on sale at Hobby Lobby with some matching chalkboard signs.

I sell my soaps naked so they don’t have individual labels on them (I put one in the bag when the buy). It looked great but the little signs weren’t practical for the wind so I started writing on the table with my chalkboard markers. I didn’t use a tablecloth so this turned out to be a genius idea because I could wipe it off with a baby wipe and rewrite it at every market. Eventually I had my husband slap together this little wooden riser from old fence boards and I displayed my soaps on that.

I still wrote the name of the soap on the table in front of the riser and had the sliver platters out next to it with more soaps stacked on them. I actually had other people taking pictures of my little stand because they liked it and wanted to copy it something similar! The best part about writing on the table was that I had a little corner section where I would write “Currently Available for Pre-order” and I would list my soaps that were at home curing. Customers then knew what soaps were going to be available soon and/or could Pre-order them.

Neighbors matter. Towards the end of the season some of the vendors stopped coming because their growing season came to an end. I was then moved into a vacated spot way down at the other end of the parking lot away from Paula. Seriously, it was like a whole different market! My neighbors were friendly and talkative and helpful and all of our customers seemed to have a really good time. My soap sales increased dramatically. The vibe was just different and my customers could feel it too.

Customer reactions were not what I expected. So many people thought my soaps were either cheese or fudge…. At least 5 people a day, and thats not an exaggeration. Many people were drawn to my table from the scent wafting their way in the breeze. To be honest I’m somewhat nose blind to how great they smell because they are in my home all the time. It was a nice compliment to hear how good the soaps smell. I also found the customers to be very interested in the soapmaking process. They asked so many questions, the most common one being, “What’s it made of?”. They wanted to know how it was made, how long it took, how I learned it, etc. Their genuine interest gave me the opportunity to communicate my passion which in turn sold a lot of soap.

Conclusion. Overall, my experience selling soap at a farmers market was positive. It was an excellent way to get rid of dead inventory. I’m now going into the holiday season without a bunch of Spring and Summer soaps taking up real estate on my curing racks. I also developed some long term customers which I wouldn’t have been able to do had I not had the face to face interaction with them. I will return to sell my soap at the farmers market next year but I will definitely ask to move if my market neighbors aren’t conducive to sales. I might also join a different farmers market altogether. Your vibe attracts your tribe yo! I will also continue to tweak my soap display. While I loved my chalk marker labels written on the table, it was only a cheap temporary solution and it can be improved on.

Have you sold soap at a farmers market? Was your experience at all like mine?

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