If you told me that we’d do better at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Chile Fiesta, in the pouring rain, than the Atlantic Antic which had dazzling summer-like weather and about 10-15 times the traffic, I wouldn’t have believed you (actually, our numbers came in the same but the Antic was so much more expensive as a vendor). Know your demographic – and not surprisingly, the more focused foodie demographic, rather than the massive street fair audience, is our demographic. Hard to compete with beer and funnel cakes when you’re at a street fair.
People really dig the hot chocolate (It IS REALLY good), but apparently “Earl Grey Hot Chocolate” was confusing. Some people thought it was tea mixed with hot chocolate and other people thought we were selling tea AND hot chocolate. We changed it to “Earl Grey Infused Hot Chocolate” the next day. Was it any clearer? Not sure.
It was so nice meeting folks who read the blog that came by to say hello. You guys really are a sweet bunch. Thank you. You made the weekend, especially today.
Guess I lucked out with the whole “bathroom situation” because I was able to avoid going to the bathroom the whole freaking day at the Chile Fiesta. That is 9 hours which might be some kind of record for me. And it wasn’t because there were a lack of facilities, but it was a bit of a hike to the restrooms and it rained continuously for, like, 4 hours straight, with much of it coming down in torrential downpours (surprisingly, the crowds braved the rain and stuck around). In a stupid last minute switch that morning, I changed out of boots and a jacket and slipped on ballet flats and a sweater because I was so hot while we were loading up the car. Stupid decision, as the grounds we were on resembled Woodstock and the front of our table became of the muddiest of all (maybe a good indication of customer traffic as some people suggested?). I was *trapped* with my inadequate footware and it wasn’t like I was trying to have a cute outfit or anything. There were tons of mosquitoes at the garden and my ankles were getting horribly bitten, so I put on a pair of socks. Socks + ballet flats = big fashion fail.
Some lessons from the weekend:
* Lesson 1: when preparing products for an event, listen to the weather and try to be flexible. Really. We sold out of our Earl Grey Hot Chocolate in 2 hours at the Chile Fiesta and wished we brought along another container, but because it was so hot the next day at the Atlantic Antic, we barely got through 1 of the 2 containers we brought, despite the fact that most people who passed by were intrigued enough to read it out loud in curiosity. We should have made a last minute change and served up our Passionfruit Mint Limeade from the summer, but predicting the weather is a little tricky. We would have done a lot better though had we brought the cold drink.
* Lesson 2: You gotta be more aggressive at these massive street fairs than the more gentle craft/flea markets. If your neighbor’s tent is inching towards the middle of the street, than you gotta move yours up, even if it means you’re all inching it up continuously throughout the day. But despite all your efforts, sometimes it’s really hard to compete with Dora and Sponge Bob plastic blowup dolls next door, bubble guns, frighteningly loud toy bullhorns that you make you jump, and other little gag gadgets called “Dr. Fart” and “Poo Poo Stick”.
* Lesson 3: You also have to be more visible at these street fairs than other venues. I feel like we got swallowed up between 2 bigger tents crammed full of colorful merchandise, particularly since our stuff is so minimal in design and our banner is white and gray (for god’s sakes). We just looked so *dainty* with our cake stands and white tablecloths. If we ever do this again, I’m going to have Mark bring his blowtorch and make s’mores, put up more in-you-face signage like one that saids “WE SELL COOKIES RIGHT HERE”, get blinking Christmas lights to put around our tent, and maybe some huge plastic blowup cupcakes and marshmallows, as well as silk screened t-shirts of dancing cookies. Oh, and maybe Mia. I think she’d be a good addition for venues like this. Since many people have tunnel vision while walking the streets of a fair, it’s all about being visible and catching people’s attention.
* Lesson 4: See what sells, and then make more the next day. I don’t know what it is, but our Pumpkin Ginger Sandwiches just flew off the cake stand both days. Maybe because no matter how hot it is, it’s still Fall and there’s this mentalilty that you MUST CONSUME PUMPKIN PRODUCTS during the month of October, but people couldn’t get enough. So despite it being the last thing Mark wanted to do, he went back into the kitchen Saturday night to make more for today (oh and Mark? If calling them whoopie pies help them sell, we should call them whoopie pies no matter how much you hate calling them that).
* Lesson 5: Consider having a big sign that saids, “WE DO NOT HAVE A PHYSICAL STORE” because we literally had to answer this question hundreds of times, continually throughout the day, to just about every single customer who stopped by.
* Lesson 6: One so-so day is no indication of how your business is generally faring, but I must admit, after the early morning wake up, getting ripped off by the car service company who lied to us about the cost of a minivan 20 blocks away from our house to the street fair, unpacking and then packing all the stuff up again 11 hours later with sore backs, I did think to myself more than once “there’s got to be an easier way to make money than this”. After some talks with other street vendors who said their numbers were down this year compared to last, I felt a little better. I guess better enough to come home and apply to a large holiday craft fair in December.
So will we do another big street fair like this again? We’re glad for the additional exposure and the experience, but not sure we’d do it again without really changing up the strategy (see lesson 3). We’re just glad the weekend is over and we can get back to our boring lives of packing up orders and sitting in front of the computer.