5 Tips For the Success of Your First Small Business Market Stall

We held our very first market stall at Female Founders Festival (Melbourne) at the end of last year. Thank you to everyone who showed your support, big or small - we couldn't have done it without you! <3

If you have a small business or label and are thinking about participating in your first in-person market, here are 5 important lessons that we will be taking with us to our next event:

1. Do your research

Holding your first stall at the wrong market or time of year can set you up for disappointment, and waste your money and time.

Choose a market that aligns with your small business values and products. For example, we chose to hold our stall at Female Founders Fest because we are proudly female-owned, and wanted to connect to customers that valued this too. Due to our premium product range, we opted against farmers’, second-hand, and flea markets, where buyers would likely be looking for cheaper items.

If your products are seasonal, it is important to consider the market's time of year. As a silk loungewear label with a majority of summer styles, we opted to hold our stall in December (the Australian summer, and also the holiday period - since our products are giftable), rather than winter. It is also important to look at the projected weather on the market day (unfortunately on one of our market days it happened to be cold & rainy - on this day the sales were more than halved!)

2. Minimise your upfront costs

If you’re like me, you want your first market stall to be perfect. However, when combined with stall fees (which are usually significant for any popular market in Melbourne), the cost of buying materials to set up your stall can add up to a small fortune. Remember that all the money you spend will be extra product you need to sell in order to break even. If your goal is to make a profit, save on every expense possible to maximise your returns.

Spend on your “needs”

  • Our market provider required us to have an A2 poster with our brand logo. We opted to spend a little more and have a reusable one printed at Officeworks, as this reduces the cost of future markets (and also is less waste!)
  • Your point of sale (POS) system (if applicable): avoid buying second-hand unless you have enough technical experience to troubleshoot on the day. Your POS does not need to be expensive however - we got the Shopify POS and loved it!

Save on the “wants”

  • These $12 clothing racks from IKEA are lightweight and easy to assemble. You could find an even better deal on Facebook marketplace
  • We bought our gold hangers second hand on eBay
  • Work with what you have already! I re-purposed a lamp, marble side table, and mirror from my house to save costs.
  • I made these super cute personalised shopping bags with our branded ribbons, rather than buying branded bags (which are much more expensive)

3. Your customers don't know anything about your business

If your label is relatively new like ours, visitors at the market will likely have not heard of your business before. This means that customers will be forming their first impression of you and your brand upon meeting you.

As a small business owner, only you know how much time and effort (and blood, sweat, and tears) you have put into your business. It can be easy to forget that customers don't see any of this, nor do they know the meaning behind your brand, or the story behind your products, unless you tell them!

Before the market lay out your "selling points". These should not just be the physical features of your products, but also your brand's core values, story, and unique selling points. Brainstorm how this information can be relayed to customers succintly and naturally. This is often the biggest challenge for stall owners, and it was for me as well. If you're not confident with this, it is beneficial to use written materials to re-inforce your selling points, such as signage and pamphlets.

4. Expectations and re-defining success

When you picture your first stall, you can't help but imagine it being an amazing success. For most people, this means their stall will be extremely busy, and they will make a profit. Anecdotally however, the reality is that not all market stalls are profitable. Set yourself up for the best chances of "success" by re-defining your expectations.

At our last market, our market profits unfortunately did not break even with our upfront market expenses (we spent around $1500). We were told that our particular market weekend had a low turnout over all, and the rainy weather didn't help. While this was disappointing, in hindsight I realised this does not mean that the market wasn't a success!

  • We achieved holding our first ever market stall, sharing Silky with over 2000 people, through the market event and on social media
  • Our email list grew by 23 subscribers
  • We made 10 sales - ten whole beautiful people who now have a heartfelt piece of Silky Loungewear in their lives!
  • We had some beautiful photos taken that we have used for our website
  • I met and shared with 25 other like-minded, hardworking, encouraging, and insanely talented female founders
  • I felt the undescribable love and support of friends and family

The positive outcomes of Silky's first market far outweighed the fact that we didn't make a profit, and the valuable lessons we learnt will make our next market llikely to be even more successful. Remember that your first market stall is a huge achievement in itself, and you should be excited and proud of yourself no matter what!

5. Your market stall will grow you as much as it grows your business!

These days, so many brands are online-only and rarely will have the chance to receive in-person feedback from customers. Holding our first market stall really refreshed my perspective on Silky, showing me what people loved about my label and designs, and also challenged me to understand areas where growth and development was needed.

What I wasn't expecting, was the confidence boost that holding this market stall gave me - both professionally and personally.

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