Reflection on the First Year

It’s been over a year since I began this business in earnest.  When I began, I honestly had no idea what I was doing or how to go about anything.  I’ve never taken business classes, and in the beginning, it showed.  After a year, I know that I still have a lot to learn, but I can see the improvement already.

I’ve accomplished a lot of my goals:

  • My products are in retail locations.
  • I have repeat, loyal, fabulous customers. (THANKS)
  • My products lines are continuously expanding.
  • I’ve established a proper home office, with work stations and streamlined storage.
  • I donated over $75 to environmental charities.

Still, it’s good to set goals for year two, so here goes.  By the end of 2013, I want to:

  • Donate at least $200 to charities
  • Sell products in at least two retail locations
  • Cut my business debt down to no more than $2,000
  • Trade-in for a more fuel-efficient business vehicle
  • Streamline my branding, logos, and naming conventions

Some of these goals are bit of a stretch, but any small business owner knows that it’s all about dreaming big!  If it wasn’t, none of us would make it past year one!  To my fellow vendors: onward and upward!  To my customers: I can’t do it without you either!  A sincere THANK YOU to everyone who helped me get this far!

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Display Evaluations: One Store Front

Everyone knows that it’s a rough economy.  I can’t afford to pass up on a single potential sale, especially with soap’s small profit margin.  This is why I’ve been tracking my booth layouts to see which system works best.  Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

Booths with One Store Front

This layout puts me right in front of the customers.   They can see everything that I have to offer and they do not have to decide whether or not to enter the booth, which intimidates some people.  The main disadvantage is that this layout has limited space.  On the other hand, this was a great layout when I had low inventory and wanted the tables to look full.  Another advantage is that I can move the tables either closer to the entrance or further into the shade depending on the weather.  This is crucial since the soaps and lotions need to be kept out of the sun and rain.

 

This layout relies on customers’ willingness to enter the booth.  During bad weather (high heat or rain), folks are more than happy to seek shelter inside.  They do not all make purchases, but I do see a lot more foot traffic with this layout if the weather is killer.  On the other hand, if the weather isn’t pushing people into the shelter, then this only works for determined customers.  The bright side here is that if someone enters the booth, I know they are genuinely interested.  This is also a decent layout if there are two storefronts, one in front and one in back.

This layout allows me to separate special products, especially the fragrance free line.  This is nice because it means I’m not accosting people with the scent of the soaps.  Since the kind of people who need fragrance free products are also usually sensitive to air-borne scents, it only makes sense to put their products up front.  It also gives people a chance to see some of the products as they walk past and a chance to come inside for more information if they want.

This layout allows for the most display space, but requires an additional table.  As with the other internal layouts, this requires that customers enter the booth to see the full range of products.  However, once they enter the booth, I have the chance to talk with them, get a sense of their interests, and suggest products that they might appreciate.  Having those one-on-one conversations is really important in a business like mine that deals in intimate issues like skincare.

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Fenton Street Market (May 2012)

Location: Silver Spring, MD

Day of the Week: Saturday

Weather: Sunny with a gentle breeze

Organization: Excellent! Lots of information before the event, porters available for hire during the event, and event staff throughout the market to answer questions.

Crowd Size: Decent crowd.  Not large, but steady.

Crowd Make-Up: A good mix of families with children and adults with dogs. Not as many elderly.

Booth Fee: $50 for a 10′ x 10′ space

Today at the Fenton Street Market, I sold more product than ever before!  It might have been due to the fact that there were only two soap makers there (a lovely lady from BEST, in fact), but I’m chalking it up to good organization, extensive advertising, and great weather!  I almost sold out of a couple of things!  I had steady business for the entire 6 hours and had nice conversations with plenty of browsers.

I showed up early because I wasn’t sure about the drive, but the event staff were already ready to go and helped me get set up quickly.  There was free parking for the truck (hallelujah!) and a nice porter named Jeremy to help me set up the tent.  It was in a nice part of town and we were surrounded by businesses.  I’ve never been in such a busy part of town.  Even in Annapolis, the streets were so blocked off for the festival that we didn’t get much random business traffic there. In contrast, today I met people who saw us out of their windows and on their way to do their normal shopping.

Once again, one of the vendors who was supposed to be my neighbor didn’t show so I was left with a beautifully set up booth and customers wandering around the side where they weren’t supposed to be.  It is so frustrating!  I always look at the map beforehand and try to figure out how I should set up the booth; and I always have to set up before I know whether or not my neighbors will all be there.  Inevitably, the customers don’t come in the front like they should, but go around the side.  I’m usually tempted to just turn the products around to face the outside, but then I lose a whole table’s worth of display space!

I added a few more items to the displays this time around.  I made soap balls out of the leftover Miel Citron bars and called them Lemon Drops.  They looked pretty adorable wrapped up in tulle and terry cloth.  I also finally put up a fragrance free sign.  Not everyone looked at it, but it did save some people the embarrassment of trying to smell the scentless soaps.  My corner display unit finally arrived and it was the perfect place to show off the sea salt scrubs.  Every time, my booth looks snazzier and snazzier!

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All in all, a great day!