We have spent the last few years doing plenty of markets and festivals. We have seen many of them run really well and many of them run really poorly. When events have been bad we have asked ourselves why and often attribute it to bad flow, poor marketing or poor event and vendor management. When events are good we ask ourselves the same questions and can usually attribute it to a well curated group of vendors, good flow and a well thought out marketing plan to get people in the doors.
When we moved into our new studio and opened up Yes Please with our good friend Kiwi from Craft Boner, we noticed a huge 10,000+ square foot warehouse with exposed brick next to our shop. We knew our landlord was in the process of filling up all of the spaces but he's been dedicated to getting a well rounded quality group of tenants which has made the process slower but worth it in the end. Kiwi has hosted a few mini markets in the past and we are both seasoned vendors so we decided to see if we could host an event in that space. We first reached out to our landlord who was immediately interested in the idea and offered the space to us for free because he is eager to get people to know about our up and coming area. The space was perfect. It was clean (which is really hard to get with old warehouses!), it had new bathrooms, plenty of parking and central heating and lighting
With all of that in mind, we saw that we could fit 55 vendors in the space. Because we have been in the handmade community in Denver for a while, we knew almost right off the bat that we could get a really good quality group of vendors for the market.
The purpose of the market was to provide our local makers with an opportunity to sell their items right before the holidays in a space that we will never have access to again because I will soon be built out for multiple tenants.
Because it's our goal to make it a success for our vendors, we decided to charge an affordable booth fee of $150 and put every penny into a cohesive marketing plan to get people in the doors. We communicated to the vendors that the only way we will be making money is from any sales of our own products sold at the market. This gave us a clear incentive to focus on bringing people to the market.
Since both Kiwi and us are crafters and need to take advantage of the holiday season to make as many sales as we can, our main focus had to be mostly on our own businesses so we created a team based on mutual connections that consisted of someone to do marketing, someone to do the event planning/vendor management and a street team to promote across town.
We invested in some ugly sweaters and set up an awkward family photo booth that was a huge hit.
Marketing plan We decided that our main focus was going to be by promoting on social and by posting flyers around Denver. We focused mainly on Facebook since we knew that it would be essential in reaching our target market. Prior to the market, we had roughly 3,200 people interested in going. We then hired a street team to distribute 11x17 posters and a series of mini quarter page flyers that people could take home. Since both us and many of our vendors participate in markets throughout the season, we divided and conquered to distribute 4,000 flyers to our target market of people that enjoy shopping local and who were looking for another local market to go to. Lastly, we used Eventbrite to get RSVP's so that we could attempt to track how many people were coming. We made the event free and as an incentive, we offered a chance to win $100 for anyone that RSVP'd. It was also important that we had people at the market when it started so we offered free tote bags (generously donated by our neighbors at A Small Print Shop) to the first 50 people through the door. Even though we didn't rely on the vendors to help promote, we gave them the tools and were really happy that all of them were so excited to get the word out to their customers as well.
Market turnout Holy moly! The response we received surpassed our expectations. The day started with a line of close to 70 people who were eager to get their free tote bag. The traffic then didn't stop ALL DAY LONG. We had food trucks and fashion trucks outside (We were also gifted a 65 degree weather day in December which made hanging out outside fun) and 50 vendors inside. We had a steady flow of traffic all day and got a whopping 1800 people through the doors. We focused heavily on signage since our location was literally a random hard to find warehouse. Once you are there, it is amazing but getting there is often confusing. We decided to have the trucks outside so that people could easily see where our entrance was. All of the customers had very positive reactions and were really excited to be there. We had vendors run out of product and some even had to go get more product a few hours in. We were pleased to of had a sales day better than most markets around town that we do.
What we learned We had SO MUCH FUN but it was a lot to do. From the beginning we knew that just surviving our regular holiday rush was going to be a struggle so adding a market on top of it all felt crazy. That said, the best thing we did is recruit people to do the things that we either didn't have time for or things that weren't really our strong suit. We hired someone to do our complete marketing plan and we hired someone to handle vendor logistics, decor and vendor communication. Since our vendors are all extremely professional and have been around the block with events, we knew we could rely on them to make their individual booths appealing and they knocked it out of the park. We used our resources and connections that we have built over the years to create a really strong team that was able to make this market a success. This market truly showed us what the power of collaboration can do. We stepped out of our comfort zone to do something we never did before and we had 55 vendors take a chance with us in hopes of it being a success. We were dedicated to putting our all in and hoping for the best and we truly felt as though it was a larger success than we ever even imagined.
Will we do it again? We are not event planners and know just how hard it is to keep people consistently engaged and willing to come to the same market over and over again. We really enjoyed this project and would consider doing something like this again but likely not anytime soon. We enjoyed planning an event from a vendors perspective so that we could implement what we knew we like about events and eliminate as best as we could what frustrates us so that our vendors would also enjoy the event. We wanted to give our customers something they aren't used to as well. We have seen the Denver market/festival scene blow up and transform over the years so we wanted to bring the idea of a market back to its roots. We were able to do this by offering an AFFORDABLE booth fee and by picking a location that was in a seemingly random location but was affordable to us and had absolutely everything we needed within it. We kept the market small but big enough to keep people engaged and interested. We were able to keep this affordable for vendors because we could justify our success as success from the products we sold, not the money we took from them because to us, that's not what our commitment to the community is about. We had a blast, we created something successful and wouldn't rule out doing it again. That said, we aren't greedy and we want this concept to remain something special, memorable and not over saturated. We never thought we would even host a market of our own from the start but sometimes life presents you with opportunities that you just can't pass up. We were excited to go out with a bang and will see what the future holds.