By: Sari Kimbell, Founder & CEO, Food Business Success
Are you dreaming of turning your passion for baking, brewing, cooking, gardening, knitting or jewelry-making into a business? Or have you made the leap and are wondering how you can grow your sales?
A farmer’s market is a relatively low-risk venture with few barriers to entry and is probably the quickest way I know to generate cash flow. You will receive the highest profit margin with a direct to customer model with relatively low cost of sales other than your time. The beauty of a market is that the organizers do so much of the work for you from marketing to space logistics. Your job is to turn that opportunity into success.
I visit a lot of farmer’s markets and grocery stores as a packaged food industry consultant. I also have a marketing and merchandising background in grocery from my four plus years at Whole Foods Market. I take what I learn from markets and grocery stores and use it to help inspired entrepreneurs who want to turn their passion project into a profitable business. The farmer’s market is an awesome first step, and one I encourage all of my clients to start with, before going bigger and investing more money and time into their business.
The first thing though, is to step back to ask yourself what success looks like for you. Everyone’s goals are a little different. Maybe it is a side hustle or passion project, maybe this is your primary income generator, or maybe you want to be a regional or national brand in stores. No matter what your goal is, at the end of the day no one wants to lose money or feel like it was a waste of their time.
It is important to recognize that you play two roles in your business: technician and owner. The first mistake I see food businesses make is failing to recognize that they must do and be both. It is easy to spend time making your bread, jam, kombucha, sauce, jewelry, scarves, eggs, vegetables, etc.; that’s the fun part. But if you spend all of your time wearing this hat your business will underperform and you will make costly mistakes from lack of attention to the business of running a business.
The second mistake I see entrepreneurs make is the belief that “if I make it, they will come.” Your friends and family all tell you how much they love your product but now you need to reach brand new customers. So, you show up with your table and tent and hope that people will magically appear with their money. I see a lot of vendors leaving money on the table and not getting the full value out of their time and money they invested to be there that day.
A secondary benefit of a farmer’s market is that they are also the BEST way I know to get immediate feedback on your product and overall brand messaging. Consider each market a focus group exercise that you get paid for (it usually works the other way around). The feedback comes directly from people’s lips if they stop by to try your product, but it also comes from observing those who don’t stop or those who do stop but don’t buy. Don’t get defensive. Don’t get angry. Be open. This is the third mistake I see entrepreneurs make: believing they have it all figured out and know what is best for their customer. Always be open to learning and growing. Some of the most successful brands pivoted from their original idea after customer feedback. Use this as an opportunity to learn from your customers, refine your product, your message, your packaging, your branding and more.
I am excited to offer a webinar through the Wyoming Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network to walk through my four-part plan to starting a profitable farmer’s market business and offer my many tips and tricks for maximizing sales and getting repeat customers who become your raving fans! This webinar will cover the basics from getting started with licenses and is focused on a packaged food business, however anyone who wants to start a farmer’s market business OR has started but, wants to increase sales, will benefit from this course. Visit the training section of WyomingSBDC.org to register.
About the Wyoming SBDC Network: The Wyoming SBDC Network offers a large amount of business expertise to help Wyoming residents think about, launch, grow, reinvent or exit their business. The Wyoming SBDC Network is hosted by the University of Wyoming with state funds from the Wyoming Business Council. Funded in part through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, conclusions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.