How do you decide if a vending venue is worth it?
I know what I do. I think about what I'm likely to make minus the cost for my table (I almost always vend indoors), + transport, or something like that. I figure the amount I'm likely to make based on my inventory potential and the foot traffic for that place. Then I try to factor in whether or not that crowd is gonna spend money, and if I'm their cup of tea. If what I think I'm getting is looking better than what I'm going to be spending, it could be worth it.
So when Brenda Brunson-Bey and Delali Haligah started the Diaspora Art Mart, I didn't know if I should be hopeful. It was an indoor mart, which is right up my alley. Outdoors can be much more rigorous, as everybody knows. You have to deal with everything from the weather conditions to the expense, to the physical strain of the setup.
But back in the beginning, I had heard that the foot traffic wasn't strong enough. I was used to throngs of people coming to the festivals that I attended. Also, this mart was much, much smaller, with only 15 to 20 vendors. And it was in the YWCA, so how would people even know we were there? Plus it was new, unlike the International African Arts Festival or BAM, both of which had been around for decades. All I could think of was that I was going to go there and spend my effort and time just to pay them.
But there were a few things that I didn't figure.
For one, the founders of the affair are dynamic women. Brenda Brunson-Bey was one of the founders of 4W Circle, a collective of entrepreneurs that shared a space, helped many men and women launch their business and was just one of the treasures of its Brooklyn Community. The market was Delali Haligah's idea. She is the designer behind Osun Designs and she founded Queens Fashion Week. These two dynamic women are like some kind of vortex for creating business and positivity wherever they go, so when they put their hand to something, they are never in it alone. They always draw a following because of who they are, and what they have done, and that wasn't something that I've ever seen discussed in any business model before. However it can be just as much of an indicator of potential as a good location.
Another thing I didn't count on was how the fact that this was a monthly event could help bring in more business. Most of the venues I'd heard of were yearly. This being monthly created much more of a chance to have a following. People can get to know you once or twice a year if they see you out vending and really like and remember your products. But if they see you once a month, it's like you're making a relationship with that crowd.
In addition, there is much more likelihood of having a made-to-order situation. People can order from you one month, and pick up the order the next month, or have it shipped.
Still another benefit is that my poor website, which I had gone to all the trouble to set up but didn't know what to do with, suddenly had a reason for being. When customers wanted something, I could send them to my site so they could see my styles and yarn swatches. They could order right then and there, or they could come see me already with an idea of what they wanted. I'm currently redoing the site for just this reason.
And don't forget that meeting monthly means you now have a special relationship with the other sellers. This means wealth on so many levels. They inspire me. We have done photo shoots together, which means we can get high quality photos from a professional photographer and models because we split the cost. We are putting together a website as we speak and they always know about more vending opportunities, including smaller venues that most other people don't know about, but that have really great customers that don't mind spending.
The best thing of all is that it's going very well, and certainly didn't see that coming!
Now I'm not saying that every small venue has the potential that the Diaspora Art Mart has had for me. And I'm there have been some days that are more lucrative than others, but that's true for the larger markets as well. But I'm so glad I tried it!
If you know what to look for, the next smaller venue opportunity that you come across just may surprise you too!