Friday, October 30, 2009

Small Business Info

Ok, I haven't done a small business post in a loooong time. And I think we'll go with a topic near and dear to my heart. Rent. The last company I worked for (which will remain nameless as they are a list of dirty words that I don't use in this blog!) They just recently purchased a shopping center by my house, so it has me thinking about rent costs and things that go along with setting up a space for a small business.

If your business is tiny like mine, a space in a shopping center might seem like a far away dream. Having worked for a property management company . . . let's just say to think of it more like a far off nightmare. Please email me if you are thinking of getting a shopping center space so I can give you some more information on what to look at in your lease. I have some very specific and very important information on this.

So if you aren't ready for a shopping center space just yet, where else can you sell what you make? For me, festivals and craft fairs have been a great start. The downside, it's a ton of work. But any level of running your own business is a ton of work.

Festivals have been the most profitable for me. Also the most amount of work, and the highest amount of risk. They range in cost from about $65 on up. The top range of festivals that I'll do is $125. Anything more than that isn't worth it to me. That may not be the same for everyone though. A couple things to look for when you are looking over the application is to see if there are any other requirements that are going to cost you. A couple festivals that I've opted out for require the vendors to have their own liability insurance. There are some that require you to have a business grade fire extinguisher. I opted to make that investment since my craft involves fire. Another large expense for festivals is the tent. A halfway decent tent is usually around $100. The tent is a pain and a half. Take a look at the cute little picture on the side that shows how easy is it to pop it up. Then laugh. I almost always take my hubby with me when I have to set up a tent. It is not a one person job. Even with two people, it's still not easy. If my hubby isn't with me, I play the damsel in distress to get some man help from other vendors. Learn to look stressed out and helpless. Against my principles, but a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

Another big problem with festivals is weather. It's very risky. If the weather is bad, there won't be as many customers. And you have to sign up for the festivals months in advance. So there's no way to know ahead of time. An extra bonus is that if the weather is bad, not only will you have fewer customers, you also run a pretty big risk of losing inventory, and possibly even your tent. Last year I lost two tents in storms. I just love it when the tent loss comes on a Saturday so you have to run out Sunday morning and get a new one and rush to set it up and get things ready before the festival opens on Sunday.

But festivals are not all bad. Far from it. Once your set up is done, it's fun. Most customers are in a good mood. Because they are at the festival to relax and have a good time. They usually have money in their pockets ready to spend. And they are happy to look at new and different things. It's a very laid back atmosphere, and sometimes there's beer. And guess what? It's your business. You're the boss. If you want to drink, drink! Personally, I indulge (when I'm not pregnant) but I am usually very discreet with my cup.

This time of year, craft shows are getting underway. These are great! Not quite as profitable as the festivals, but you don't have to worry about the weather. Most craft shows I've been involved in are around $65 to $100. I've seen some for $25. Setup can still be stressful. But without the problem of the tent, it's not terrible. A lot of the same principles of festivals apply. Customers come in looking for crafts with money in their pockets. The biggest challenge with craft shows is finding ones that are big enough. I've done some that are great. I've done others where no one seems to know about them, so no customers show up. So ask around. Other vendors are a great resource to find out about good shows.

Once you've decided where to sell, the most important tip I have is to just relax and have fun. I've seen vendors get totally stressed out during set up. And I've been one of them too. But if you give yourself plenty of time, have a plan for how set up is going to play out, be prepared for the fact that there will probably be some hiccups, (like finding out that the organizers changed your space as the last minute) and just enjoy yourself. Try not to let things aggravate you too much, and when things don't go as smoothly as you would like, make the most of it. Bad weather is a good opportunity to network with other vendors. You will find that there is a family-like atmosphere among vendors. Most are friendly and willing to share information and experiences. And don't worry, you'll have your own horror stories to share soon too! The horror stories are horrible when they happen, but they turn into bragging rights among vendors! Mine is about how I was out at the Scarecrow Festival in Washington Court House, OH when that freaky hurricane blew though. I had made the hour and a half drive only to find my tent in ruin, and had to hurry up and pack everything into the car while street lights were flying down the street. Even better, it took two trips to get everything there, and I ended up having to leave some things there because not everything would fit in the car in just one trip. But I did have the help of some very nice vendors and people in the community.

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