Farmers Markets

In our area, farmers markets seem to be a HUGE way to get your name out. We've stumbled our way through two markets now, and intend to pick up more as soon as time allows.  But stumbling is really the main word for it.  I had looked around online for some input, but didn't find much and I feel like there should be more people around here who have definitely done more markets than us that should have more insight and wisdom!

 

Does any one have examples of how to arrange cookies and set up to sell at a farmers market?  Also - when you do sell individual cookies, how do you label/package... do you up your prices?  By how much?  Offer a discount for purchasing a certain quantity?  Sell only individual cookies or also sell gift boxes / only sell gift boxes?  And what sorts of designs do you make for your cookies?  Or any other sort of general market advice??

Original Post

I, too, am very interested in this topic.  If our governor doesn't veto the Cottage Food bill on his desk by 6/16/2013...come September, selling cookies for home bakers, especially at farmer's markets and local fairs, becomes "legal".  I'm thinking I want to make the leap at that point.  ALL feedback is appreciated.

I don't sell packaged cookies at farmers' markets, but I do sell my books at them, and they've, surprisingly, been a great venue for books. I have some tips that may apply more broadly:

 

1. Try to get into the markets (book a spot) before the season starts. Some can be tough to penetrate once the market opens for the season and vendors are already locked into spots.

2. Some markets charge you to have a booth. Be sure to factor these costs and also the time to transport, set up, and man the booth into the price of what you're selling in order to make a financial return on the event. The transport and setup for these things can be substantial.

3. Do some free sampling, but nothing elaborately decorated. Just a nibble to give people a sense of your product taste and quality. Samples will draw people to the table, but if you give away too much (or things that are too highly decorated), you'll get a lot of grazers (no buyers) and probably not make much money.

4. Invest in a Square card reader or equivalent. It's astounding how many people come to markets without cash and, though Square takes a cut of all purchases, I've found that having more payment options has always increased sales more than enough to make up for these costs. 

5. Bring someone with you, ideally someone willing to volunteer their time. This may sound like a no-brainer, but the tendency when starting a business (at least for me) is to try to go it alone to save on expenses. But it's really hard to field questions, handle product, handle the transactions, and be super pleasant to everyone all at the same time.

6. Bring enough change - again, this may seem like a no-brainer. But people bring more $20 bills than anything else to markets. 

Thanks Julia - great feedback.  We have a year-round market because we are sub-tropical and something is always growing!  I have friends who sell their books and photographic note cards at the local fairs and at the markets too.  There is a lot more going on than things grown in our area.  Our market just booms in the Fall and Winter months, unless there is an unusual cold snap going on.  The produce is pricy so I'm hoping cookies, especially decorated in a coastal theme for island visitors, will work.

I am just a hobby decorator though.  I don't want to take away the fun of decorating by having to produce quantity...so I'm still on the fence.

Good point. Producing something labor intensive in quantity can take the fun out of things pretty quickly. Be sure to price them right, if you go this route, to get your full worth! Nothing worse than feeling like you slaved and were undervalued.

I recently tried a farmers market in my area. I don't think I would do it again only because of the time. Between regular orders and preparing for the market, i was a bit overwhelmed.
I would suggest mostly individual favors. They're the easiest to sell. Then I would do half dozen themed cookies. Dont take too much. If you can sell out the better it is!  factor in your costs to have a table too. Nothing elaborate in any quantity but certainly try to bring something that shows the magnitude of your talent. I'd even have a photo album on the table for people to look through of your sets/favors previously done. Lots and lots of business cards and brochures, if you have them.
I personally wouldn't discount, nor overcharge. I did find that having te prices already marked on my cookies was great! No one bartered no one balked they bought. Also, my personal belief with discounts especially quantity discounts is that it takes me more time the larger the order, so I don't discount at all. Personal choice, of course but you out a lot of work, time and money into making your cookies, can you really afford to discount on top of that? 
Anyway, best of luck if you try the markets in your area. I've heard many 'cookiers' say they do great! 
Oh, one more thing ... I you try to get into a market that tells you they have bakers already, make sure you let them know how specialized you are. Not everyone knows what a decorated cookie looks like!

I haven't done a farmer's market yet, but probably will in the fall.  Regarding samples, I read on someone's blog (can't remember who's) that when she gave samples, people would graze and not buy.  She switched to a "money back guarantee," offering buyers the chance to return to her booth and get their money back if they didn't like the cookies.  More often than not, she said people would return and buy MORE cookies!  I think that's a great way to go.  It tells the buyer you're confident in your product and gives them a "risk-free" way to try your cookies without giving samples away for free.  I think this is going to be the approach I take. There's a big difference between a farmer slicing up produce for samples and cookiers giving away the fruits of their intensive labor.  Hope this helps!

I was thinking of trying the farmer's markets in our area too, as we just passed the cottage food bill here. 

 

I was thinking of doing samples using mini cookies (maybe using small fondant cutters), with just plain frosting, no details.  Maybe just a couple of boxed theme sets, a few individual bagged cookies and then an album showing other work.

Thank you both! It was all completely DIY. lucky enough to have a handyman stepdad! Haha.

 

We don't do markets anymore but to this day I still get messages emails and phone calls asking if we're there (it's been over a year since we've been!) They're definitely a HUGE stepping stone into public/local visibility and I reccomend going to anyone and everyone. 

Originally Posted by Amber @ A Cookie Family:
 Also - when you do sell individual cookies, how do you label/package... do you up your prices?  By how much?  Offer a discount for purchasing a certain quantity?  Sell only individual cookies or also sell gift boxes / only sell gift boxes?  And what sorts of designs do you make for your cookies?  Or any other sort of general market advice??

You can see how I package from the pictures, on the back I have a little plain (but pretty!) label following our local cottage food law guidelines. I googled and found a template in a brochure about cottage food laws available online. I also added my Facebook on there, too. (not that anyone ever looks lol) 

 

My first few markets I did sets but they were hardly touched, honestly. Same with bouquets and pops. We eventually only did individuals.

 

As far as designs.. MARKET THE KIDS!! They will cry and whine and scream until they get their favorite character!! Ask your Facebook fans what THEY want to see and they'll be more likely to come.

 

Offer contests for free cookies and one of the requirements to win is to come to the market. Nothing attractspeople more than the chance at free stuff!! 

I am also very interested in joining craft shows and our local farmers market - thanks for all the input and valuable information.

 

Wow Butterwinks, your display is amazing!!!  My hand hurts from thinking about all the different colors you had to mix for your display.  You should have a booth at Comic-Con!!

I will be selling at my first fair this November. The fair organizer estimates anywhere from 1000 to 1500 attendees. I read somewhere (can't remember where) that only 10% of attendees will buy sweets (cookies, pastries, cupcakes, etc.) Does anyone have any suggestions for how much product to make? I make decorated sugar and gingerbread cookies as well as traditional flavors like chocolate chip, peanut butter, oatmeal, etc.

Hello cookie friends! I see this thread hasn't been posted in in awhile, but I figured I would post here and see if anyone has any new suggestions/learning adventures that they would like to pass along. 

 

I was approved to be a vendor at a monthly market. It's pretty big - apparently last year over 15k people showed up during opening weekend. Eek! I've never done a market before and really am curious about how much product to bring. I plan on bringing a variety of packages - single cookies, packages of 3 and 6, and boxes of a dozen, as well as PYO cookies for the kiddos. The first day that I get to sell is the day before Mother's Day, so most of my cookies will be based around that theme. 

I'm Italian, so it's in my genetic make up to make FAR more food than I ever need, lol. If anyone can help me in the guessing game of how much to bring, I would greatly appreciate it.

thanks!

melissa 

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