Last year I sold Cupcakes/Cookies at a local Farmers Market...The Market was small (15 vendors) with little to no advertising. I took this year off to focus on passing the Washington State Cottage Food Law (which is now in full effect thanks to me...sorry had to give myself a shout out there..) So now, I am gearing up for next season. The family and I went to 2 Markets yesterday to scout them out. I wanted to find something bigger than the one I had previously been at since it wasn't very succesful. Here is my problem: One is too big and the other is too small! I am feeling very discouraged...My business focus is Custom Cakes that are allergy friendly, the Market is a great way for me to advertise this and bring in some new business. I am not expecting to make a profit, more so just breaking even on costs and using this strictly to get my name out there....So, here is what I was considering...
The Big market is way too big, I would have to hire on someone to be with me and it requires me to be there Sat/Sun. The smaller market is Sat only, has great advertising and the potential to grow into something bigger since this is only their 2nd year open. Hubby thanks I shouldn't do the small market, but then this leaves me with no Market at all...I need some advice...On a business standpoint I feel like I should at least try this smaller market out for the season, but I am torn!
What would you do?
Forgive my ignorance, but I'm not familiar with Farmer's Markets as we don't have them here where I live.
Do you have to sign some sort of yearly contract/least with either market or can you go on a week to week basis?
My thoughts are, if I were forced to commit to one full year or season and it's not going well, I'd like the option to pull out.
Especially if your custom cake business begins to take off, you may not have the time to spend all day Saturday or Sunday (or both) at the market, since that's when most custom cakes are due.
It doesn't seem to me that a farmer's market is the place to develop a custom cake business at all. I think you need to rethink your target audience and then seek out advertising opportunities that reach that audience. I can't imagine that people at an outdoor market who are looking for small take-home baked goods are your market for custom cakes.
If you want to do wedding cakes, you need to be at the wedding shows. If you want to do couture cakes for a high-end crowd, then you need to develop relationships with caterers who work for that group and advertise in media that wealthier populations read, like local papers in rich neighborhoods. If you're doing allergy friendly, see if you can advertise at stores where people buy that stuff.
Basically, I have a feeling you're entirely off-base with the vegetable market crowd.
We looked into doing something similar...we also specialize in custom allergy-friendly cakes. Putting aside the fact that most farmer's markets around here did not have vacancies for non-farm vendors (most markets have a tight cap on stalls that don't sell produce), the ROI just wasn't there.
People at farmer's markets are usually only interested in low-margin items like cookies and muffins as opposed to cakes, and especially since we were looking at a niche market the number of potential customers in our target demo at the farmer's market was not worth the expense. You might be better off networking with local food allergy support groups or buying target AdWords on Google.
Thanks for the feedback...Let me clarify that I will not be selling my custom cakes at the market, only cupcakes & cookies. I did "ok" last year at the market, definatley brought in some business for cake orders. Under our Cottage Food law I must sell my goods directly to the consumer so I am unable to try any specialty shops or the like.
My business is already well known and I have a great customer base set-up...but I want more! I have no desire to open a store-front, so this was the next best thing in my mind.
I will definatley look into the allergy networking groups, this is a great idea!
If you have lower overhead the numbers might work, but when you need to pay the hourly wage to make the products, hourly commercial kitchen rent, the hourly wage for 2 people to staff the booth, the extra health dept fees for selling at the market, and the fees from the farmer's market itself it turns into an expensive proposition for reaching a non-targeted market.
Discussion groups for food allergies are very active (mostly parents dealing with kids who have allergies), as are Celiac groups (which are mostly adults). Once a year there is a Celiac event here in the SF bay area with a vendor fair for local gluten-free businesses -- these types of events are ideal since you know that everyone who visits your booth is in your target demographic. I'm sure there are other events like this across the country for both Celiac and allergies. We've also attended meetings for both discussion groups and brought samples of our products while answering questions about allergy-friendly baking.
The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) is another great organization to get in touch with. They are holding a food allergy walk in several areas this year:
I can't comment on the food allergy part, but our farmers markets are definitely higher end markets. The baked goods are priced high and the purchased food for sale is gourmet and priced high. Even the chips are gourmet. Figure the income level that you are targeting and sit in the parking lots and note the cars and the way people dress. Also, the average total sale price, received from management, may help you decide.
It sounds like the bigger market is a good option. Hire someone and put them on commission.
[quote=(which is now in full effect thanks to me...sorry had to give myself a shout out there..)[/quote]