We are at River Hawk Music Festival in Live Oak, Florida and we are embarking on our first official music festival. Coming from Naples, Florida a community where women shop for sport and who neither care nor need to know the price of the pieces they fall in love with. Here at the music festival, things seem to be a little different. Today the crowd is DEAD!
The good thing is that the music is great! This festival is bursting with talent at the seams. From playing the fiddle to singing acapella, and from bluegrass, to blues, the musicians here are lighting up the crowd from the inside out. The other great thing here, which I did not expect, is there is really yummy vegetarian food. We had veggie quesadillas that warmed my tummy and my heart yesterday as I devoured the only decent meal of the day.
Another not so unexpected but delightful experience I am having is meeting other vendors and sharing stories and experiences over morning chi tea. We have pooled together someone’s electric hot plate, another person’s fresh herbs to make the tea, and our big pot. This little morning event attracted several vendors down the row from us over, and we sipped some puffed and others chatted the morning away until it was well after 10 am before we realized we had to open shop.
But, as the first day grew dark, the sky grew cloudy and the rain and wind came and paid us a visit. The tent leaked, the jewelry went flying and muddy took on a new meaning for us. It rained all night as the temperature continued to drop into the 30’s and we froze ourselves to sleep.
Today is a new day, and the sun is high in the sky. I am cozy warm in a beautiful wool sweater made in Alaska that I picked up at a garage sale for a buck. So the tent is up, the jewelry and bags are secured, and the wind continues to visit all day.
Besides the weather, and the fact that I could make more money in a sweat shop in China, there is some other little thing I feel in the air. This is resentment. For some vendors, when they make most of their items, they resent the fact that others buy theirs. Although our stuff is hand made, it was not made by us, and this is not quite acceptable by ‘the real artists” making a living here. I could argue that they too could go to Thailand and buy their stuff, but that is not the point. The point is that all I had to do was buy it, and they have to pour hours into it, and must therefore charge two to three times as much as we do for many things of lesser quality. And I feel this tension as we sell a few things here and there grow. I am just learning this process, so perhaps my prices are low, and this, I believe, is what infuriates those around me.
So here are some tips as you venture into this world of festivals:
1. Design your setup to be wind resistant. Or at least bring heavy items, chords that you can strap, hand or dangle your props from your tent poles.
2. Be open and friendly and share food and drink with your co-vendors so you can help each other out. This makes it more fun.
3. Try to keep your prices competitive. No one likes to be under cut by much.
4. Keep track of what sells where. You will find that your items sell better in some festivals than others. This is a learning curve and you must give yourself some time to figure it out.
5. Bring a little TV tray dinner table so you can sit at your booth and entertain yourself. Reading is not much of an option, but art, or making jewelry, or writing is.
6. Tell your story. Everyone wants a story and they want to believe that what they are buying is more than just an item. They want to hear what its about, where it came from and the story behind it. It is not enough just to be unique. You have to have a story. People are growing more and more conscious when they buy and they want to believe that through the little things they are doing they are making a difference. Give them that opportunity.
7. Talk to other vendors and get ideas of other festivals where they have sold products similar to your and who have done very well. This will help you out tremendously as you try to decide where to go.
8. Take lessons from other vendors who are willing to share with you, how to make jewelry or any other hand made items.
9. Relax and enjoy the show. Sure we all want to make money, but, if you can have fun while doing so, then even a bad money weekend can in the very least turn into a great amount of fun. That has to be worth something!
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