Hello! I posted on here a few months back asking for advice on a farmers market stand I was planning on starting up. Since then, I've got so many helpful suggestions and followup questions that I've decided to post again about how the past three weeks of farmers market operations have been going.
First of all, the details: My farmers market is in a grocery store parking lot in a more affluent suburb of my city and consists of about 10-15 vendors selling a variety of items (bread, veggies, meats, soaps). A couple other vendors sell baked goods (biscotti, bread, cookies) but not one sells cupcakes except me. I make and sell 8 dozen cupcakes (2 dozen each of 4 flavors) each week, which seems to be a good amount. I could probably sell another couple dozen, but I don't have time to make any more since I work full time during the day.
The set up: I have one long plastic fold-in-half table with a table cloth under a 9x9 easy-up tent-roof-thing. I put out a few cupcakes on the table for a display but keep most of them in a big plastic storage bin with some ice packs underneath the table so they don't melt. However, melting hasn't been much of a problem yet since the tent blocks most of the sun. I also have a whiteboard on a nice easel and I write the day's flavors and prices on it with nice colorful markers. I have a vinyl logo sign (from Vistaprint) tied to the front of my table. I don't keep a lot of decorations or anything out on the table because wind is a huge issue and everything pretty much has to be tied down all the time.
Prices & customers: I sell cupcakes individually for $2 or in packs of 4 (1 of each flavor) for $7. My production cost is about $0.50 per cupcake including packaging because I shop in bulk for supplies. I make about 12 4-packs and the rest individuals and that seems to meet up with demand. I sell out in about 2-3 hours usually. I find that this price, though a little low, is similar to what other vendors are charging and just slightly less than what local bakeries charge. I kind of wish I would have started out charging a bit more, like $2.50 each, because I think that would still sell and I'm afraid if I raise my price now people will notice and be upset. Who knows, maybe I still will.
Scheduling: My market is 3-7pm on Fridays, which is good because it leaves my weekends free. I usually go grocery shopping (for cupcake stuff and general ingredients) every Sunday, Then after work on Mondays and Tuesdays I make frosting, make and print packaging labels, and do any ahead-of-time ingredient prep work (like chopping/pureeing fruits, measuring out some dry ingredients). This takes about two-ish hours each day. Then Wednesday I bake most if not all cupcakes, and Thursday I finish baking and/or frost and package. On Friday I go to work early, then leave early, swing by my house to pick up the already-ready supplies, and head to the market. I usually sell out by 6:00.
Expenses: There were several large purchases I had to make initially in order to be prepared for this. First of all, my market (and all others in my county) requires liability insurance coverage, which cost me $225 for a year's coverage. Next, buying the first load of bulk ingredients cost about $100, and the first shipment of packaging (about a month's worth) cost around $125. I had to buy a folding table for $40 (Score!) from K-Mart, and a $50 (double-score!) easy-up tent from Wal-Mart. Then there was the $17 Groupon for $70 on Vistaprint that got me a vinyl banner sign and a ton of business cards, and $20 to Zazzle for a custom apron. Oh, and $30 to a freelance designer on Etsy for my logo (seen in part in my profile pic). Last but not least, $10 every week for a market fee. Phew!
Unexpected problems: Problems that have popped up unexpectedly include the insane deluge of dishes I have to wash constantly throughout the week (it really takes up time!), ridiculous wind on the giant flat parking lot on which my market is situated that endangers my whole set-up, and just the straight-up huge amount of time this can consume without proper time management. If I don't put in a bit of time every day on it and wait until the day before, I'm going to up all night with icing-bag-induced carpel tunnel syndrome. It requires a strict schedule and really good time management, plus the ability to stay on task and work efficiently so it doesn't take anymore time than it needs.
So, in conclusion, doing the market is rewarding and fun, plus nets me an extra $200 a week, which is cool since my husband's in grad school making a pittance right now. It takes a lot of time, but less every week as I get better. I will keep it up through this summer, though maybe not EVERY week, but I'm not sure if I'll do it next year.
Thanks for the update! I just learned that at mine I will be the only person with bake goods. So now I need to add more then just cupcakes. I am kind of excited!!
AHow awesome! Thanks for the update.
AThanks for the information. It's very helpful!!!
AThat sounds just like how I started. I did decide to raise my prices of my brownies this year to $3.50 (but left the cupcakes at $2 &4 for $7 just like you) and it didn't affect the sales. I would wait until next season to raise prices. Just a tip...customers love to be recognized and by name if you can. Have you had a visit from the health department yet? Make sure to were gloves when handing out cupcakes because of handling money in between and a hat may be required ;-) I also take along a binder with pictures of my cakes for people to thumb through and that helps me stay busy with cake orders all winter after the market is over. I have a Facebook page on my business cards also. Hope these ideas help you also ;-)
AIf you handle money and cupcakes with the same gloves it defeats the purpose!
AThat's why you buy disposable gloves made for food handling and take them off when handling the money and throw them away then get a new pair of gloves each time needed...the health department requires this in most areas or they pack you up and send you home (or there are fines to be paid) .There is usually over 100-500 in a box depending on the size of the box you buy. Yes, it would be stupid to use the same gloves after handling the money with the gloves. There is no need to keep the gloves on when handling money....like i said, you take them off and get a new pair of gloves for the next customer it is only common sense.
Thanks for the update! It sounds like you have your routine down well. I have been a vendor at my local farmer's market for 4 years. I do it every other week so as not to get too overwhelmed. In addition to cupcakes I offer scones, muffins and cake-by-the-slice (very popular) and pies (large and small). I have steadily increased some of my prices with no complaints. If your stuff is good, people will pay.
Hope you have a profitable summer!
great information and ideas. Good luck
That's why you buy disposable gloves made for food handling and take them off when handling the money and throw them away then get a new pair of gloves each time needed...the health department requires this in most areas or they pack you up and send you home (or there are fines to be paid) .There is usually over 100-500 in a box depending on the size of the box you buy. Yes, it would be stupid to use the same gloves after handling the money with the gloves. There is no need to keep the gloves on when handling money....like i said, you take them off and get a new pair of gloves for the next customer it is only common sense.
so every cupcakeyou sell you change gloves? That is ludacrous. Wisebaker, it does not sound like you figured in your hourly wage in there...time shopping, baking, decorating, cleaning transporting, selling and shutting down for the day. I could be wrongand you did figure than in...but I would definitely raise my prices. That is a lot of work! It sounds like it is working out well for you though...just make sure you pay yourself well! You deserve it.
Wisebaker, you've given me a lot to consider. I was considering, if not this year then next year, to be a vendor at the farmer's market here. I really appreciate the breakdown of not just cost but also time you've given. I also work a full time job in addition to our cake design business. Reading this and all the comments has been a help. I do agree that you should raise your prices. You will continue to sell out in a matter of hours if you do, as long as your price increase isn't really too drastic. But if you're going up another .75 - $1.00 you should be fine. Best wishes!
AYes I do :-) they are not expensive.
Are your cupcakes not packaged?
ANo they are not packaged. I sell them out of to Bakery style display cases. I do pre package a lot of my brownies because they sell so fast ...so I don't have to use gloves when handling those. I just put a few brownies in the display case for show and when I run out of the prepackaged ones I do have to waregloves to package the course :-) I believe I have a picture of my display cases on my ( pictures) page under farmers market but I'm not sure. :-)
What great information. Thank you and wish you well.
Thank you for sharing that information! :)