If I were to be honest I’ve always been an artist first and everything else second, but last week’s two-day stint at a local bazaar has forced me into multiple roles. I’d like to think that my day job as a white-collar professional has prepared me enough to manage all the planning months ahead of schedule, so much so it felt like a project with an insane timeline. In all aspects it really was a project – there were financials to consider, vendors to speak to, stakeholders (/customers) to manage, communications (/newsletter) to send out, weekly milestones to achieve, checklists to tick off and a schedule to keep…while making sure that I’m also not slacking at work. It’s positively demanding, no doubt, but also very rewarding when everything finally comes together.
This experience has indeed taught me a lot when it comes to setting up and running your own booth at a bazaar, and I’ve put together some five salient lessons learnt as a guide both for my future self (lest I forget) and for aspirants alike:
Work within your own means I’m naturally a worrywart so I dwell too much on whatifs, however having said that, it has also helped me work within my own means and not to bite off more than I can chew. Of course it's good to be confident that your product will sell (although really, you won’t know until you’ve put it out there…), but if I’m going to spend this x amount of money and time on manufacturing a product, I have to make sure that I’m not making a loss at the end of the day, and that it will not adversely affect me if the sale performs poorly.
Be clear with your objectives and set mini deadlines You can’t possibly turn up at the day of the bazaar without any preparations beforehand. There are 1001 things to consider – having a good variety of materials to sell (just so you’ll at least cover your booth rental), props for set up/decoration, the lead time required to manufacture your products, packaging, social media promotion…and the list goes on. One thing that I’ve done and found useful is to first list down all the things you need to do, and break them down into smaller achievable goals so you won’t be overwhelmed by the plethora of things to be done. When you have set the mini deadlines, make sure you stick to them, but of course it is always your prerogative to move things around as you see fit, while keeping in mind the bigger picture. Key idea is to not be blinded by tunnel vision.
Quality control pays As a consumer myself I love products that are well designed right down to the packaging – so when I’m on the other side of the fence I make sure that I do the same. Quality control has to be one of your main priorities – your customers are paying cold hard money for your goods so the least you could do is to make sure they are getting the best from you. All my kimono cardigans go through the same process – when I get them from the manufacturer I scrutinize each and every piece to make sure the printing is accurate and free of any imperfections before sewing my labels on them. I also made sure the packaging is right and complementary to my brand, and that when my customers get them they know exactly what they are getting. At the end of the day, it is still about making your customers happy.
Curate your online content While making sure I keep the production line and other 578 things running, I was also looking into building my online presence. I found that the best (and easiest) way to do that is to plan your content ahead – it could be photos of your products that will be available at the booth, behind the scenes photos, countdown to the bazaar, basically anything that will create some meaningful buzz surrounding your event. Usually I would just cross-post my Instagram images to my Facebook page so I’m essentially killing two birds with one stone, but I’ve also created a Facebook event so I can target my postings to those who have responded to it. I have a slew of photos and visuals lined up so I would just release them when the time is right (again, planning). But be mindful not to overshare – sometimes the materials I’ve prepared ahead of time do not end up getting posted at all.
Be creative with your customer engagement I think it is important to remember not to be too consumed by the planning that you forget to engage your customers ahead of and during the event. Since I've I coincided the launch of my kimono cardigan with the bazaar, I offered a promotional price just for the launch/bazaar. I emailed newsletters to existing subscribers about the launch so that they can also share it with their friends. I offered freebies during the bazaar – a free sticker for a Facebook like/Instagram follow. I almost had a lucky draw but decided against it since it wasn't the right setting – but the point is to be creative in reaching out to your audience so that they can look forward to meeting you at the bazaar.
This has all been an incredibly satisfying learning curve, and I can’t wait to see what else I can do at the next bazaar.