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Baby Steps

By Amy Nielsen

I am very proud of myself. I didn’t chicken out. I ran my first informational booth at our season opener, community vendor fair.

The monthly event allows anyone who pays $25 to host a booth. The spread included Mary Kay sales, the local insurance agent, wildlife rehabilitators and every Pinterest DIYer imaginable.

I had to work on a shoestring budget. To put it bluntly, I had literally no money to spend on this adventure. I scraped together enough to buy the second least expensive knock-off shade tent andbusiness cards that better reflect my current iteration. Everything else was what I already owned, or could find for free.

Luckily my husband works for an employer who doesn’t tally every single copy and we were able to print and copy my flyers and brochures for free. I knew I didn’t need tons of them so I bought a ream of paper and sent him to work to make copies.

I needed some sort of sign. Hey, I can do that. I’ve made how many homecoming signs in my life? I rifled through the kids’ sheets, found a suitably unstained, more or less white one. If you have kids of a certain age, you have a box of those little two ounce acrylic craft paints hanging around like I do, so those came out too. I went to town making a sign that matched my business cards as close as I could manage with my rudimentary skills. It turned out pretty well because I chose a very simple design for my cards.

Since it was Easter weekend, the event organizers asked the vendors to participate in the egg hunt. I agreed to fill one hundred eggs with – something. I found the fruit leathers we had just purchased for summer treats, added slips of paper with happy sayings on them and set the kids to stuffing. I decided to add a basket of eggs with sayings and chocolate kisses to my table to entice people to come talk to me.

The morning of the event came and insanity struck our house. The dog had gotten into the basket of eggs and eaten as many of the chocolates as he could. I still had to pack the car and get to the event site.

My husband came to the rescue. So much for his nice quiet morning. We swapped car seats, loaded my stuff up in my car, loaded the kids and puking dog in his car and headed off to opposite ends of the county.

I arrived at the event site, wrestled the shade tent into submission, set up my tables and was ready to greet the public well in advance of the opening time. Then, I remembered that my breakfast and lunch were sitting on the kitchen table, along with my water for the day.

My car was tucked way back in the outer reaches of vendor parking, and there is nothing within walking distance. This is a vendor fair, not a food fair, so there are no treats to go buy either. Whoops.

I am a new vendor so I didn’t get the front side of the row on the main strip. I am on the back side in the middle. My booth site is set between a fun pair of gals selling handmade beaded spiders and dream catchers, and a husband and wife team who seem to have gotten a great deal on a coupon match-up for shampoo and conditioner at the supermarket and is now reselling them at a profit.

Luckily, my back door neighbor never arrived, so we ended up with a little path between us, which brought me a little extra traffic.

Being the first event of the season and before most of the summer crowd arrived, the traffic was steady, but not heavy. Since I didn’t have anything to sell, my booth was more often passed by.

My little affirmation eggs were not quite interesting enough.

I have ideas to remedy my traffic flow for next month. The eggs I had on the table (the ones I was able to save from the dog) went over well once people realized they were free, so I am going to continue to have them with different things stuffed inside each month.

Cute as they are though, they are not enough.

For this kind of vendor fair, I feel like I need to have a theme. To that end I am planning to follow what I will be teaching in my monthly sessions. This month I taught about the space of being and of starting and beginnings. Next month is focused on doing and movement. I am researching hula hoops, jump ropes and ribbon wands to sell in order to foster movement.

I am also going to change what I have on my tables. Rather than the flyers for my classes, I am going to have take-aways with movement oriented activities on them, instructions for hop scotch, directions  to local short hikes and maps of local playgrounds and such.

I did have a chance to work out my language with people as they walked past. What words did I use when calling out to them that made them look twice? When someone did stop to talk to me how did I introduce myself? I tried all sorts of different ideas and those that rang true I will use again.

At the end of the day, after depositing the kids with me, the dog to home (not much worse for the chocolate), and before heading off to work, my husband’s observation was that I was the happiest he had seen me in ages. My biggest take away from this event was that it is the right place for me to start.

I have a few changes to make to get the kind of traffic I want into the booth. I need to make my space an active space not a passive space. Once I connect with a few more people on a more active level, then I think this will take off and bring in the class bookings I am looking for.

And when you are starting a business, this is what it is all about.

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