5 Tips for Hosting a Successful Vendor Event
I think I’ve mentioned this before, but my business started with selling vintage. I had been sharing my thrifting finds on Instagram, way back in the day, and people started asking if I was going to sell certain things. I hadn’t been planning on it, but also, the thought of making some extra cash seemed pretty appealing to me at the time. I created a separate account just to sell on—I didn’t want to annoy the followers on my personal account with tons of vintage Pyrex for sale, although, I’m not sure who wouldn’t want to see that. Also, that was when Instagram was good and pure, and you saw everything that everyone posted—in, *gasp* chronological order. *Sigh*
Cut to me selling like a bandit and riding the high…until I had to come home from working full-time, package orders, and then stand in line at the post office during my lunch break. No, thanks. Also, after setting-up at a couple of flea market and town festivals to sell, Jason informed me that he didn’t want to continue spending his weekends doing that and I needed to find a different outlet. After that, I didn’t pursue selling as hard, but I did still dabble here and there. I still sold online, did a little bit of Ebay selling, and even held a sale in our house. I had different zones set up and everything displayed. Have I told you my dream is to have a brick and mortar someday?
Soon, my interior decorating business started, and I had a new outlet for my thrifting—my clients! I could still buy things, but they didn’t have to live in my basement until I sold them - #winning! The call to curate a selection of goods to sell is still strong, though, and so I started thinking of a way I could incorporate it back into the mix of the zillion things I always have going on.
Regan, a friend of mine who owns Doe A Deer, a graphic design and home goods business, loves to thrift and often sells that along side of her own designs at vendor shows. Now, like I said above, I’ve done vendor shows before and they’re not something that I necessarily want to get back into. They are a great marketing tool, though, and a fun way to make a little extra money selling your products—whatever they are. In our case, we both have a good eye for finding vintage home décor and goods that others might not have the time or expertise to find “in the wild,” but that there is a market for. Regan and I have been thrifting together, somewhat regularly, and we started thinking that it might be fun to have a vendor event of our own.
There are so many great shows around our area, state, and beyond. It’s hard to think that there’s need for one more like what we started planning. You know what, though, those other shows don’t have two things—they don’t have us, and they don’t have our followers + fans. It might sound presumptuous and a little cocky, but we’re our brands and people like us and want to have the opportunity to interact with us outside of social media. Plus, Regan and I both have great style and that’s something that others can appreciate and want to be a part of. I’d venture to guess that if you have a business of your own, that you have a group of people who would love for you to put on some type of event that they could participate in.
For our first event, Haven Market, held about a week ago, we made sure to do a few things to set ourselves up for success. Now, nothing is promised, but I believe these steps helped our event to have the turn-out that it did and will help us to level-up for the next event. Since Regan and I are both new to hosting events and maybe you are too, I thought it would be helpful to share a few tips with you—in case you’d like to do something similar.
5 Tips for Hosting a Successful Vendor Event
1. Branding. This is one of the most important things you can do for any venture you’re pursuing. Most people think of branding as the colors and design of your logo and the images you share. Branding is so much more, though! You want to be the brand. Share pictures of yourself, make sure the people you’re trying to reach know who you are and why you’re putting on the event. Then, tell them what you’re going to be doing, why they need it, and how it’s different from other events they may have been to in the past. Your brand is YOU and how YOU can help others through what you do. You want to have a name for your event that is creative and tells a bit about what the event is about. We landed on Haven Market—haven is a term often used for a place you feel comfortable, that belongs to you, and market is a hot term these days for a sale. We also called the event a pop-up shop to give it a sense of urgency and coolness. It tells people that we’re not always open for business, so they better come see what it’s all about and take advantage of the sale, since it’s time-sensitive.
2. Collaborations. The world of social media has made collaborating an everyday term. Who can you partner with to make your even more successful, while helping to spread the word about their business? For Haven Market, we needed a couple of things: venue and refreshments. What better way to source either of these, than to take to social media. We shared in our Instagram stories that we needed these things for an event we were hosting—we didn’t give all the details…keeping it a little more secretive and exciting. Soon, we had lined up the venue and a few vendors who wanted to trade their services for some free marketing! We lucked out this first time around with a lot of freebie trades, but next time, we’ll be prepared to sweeten the deal for our collaborators! (Sweet treats provided by: Yum-E Cookies, Libby’s Eats & Treats, and Tiff’s Sweet Treats. Coffee was provided by: Barnstorm Coffee.)
3. Products. It’s hard to know what people want to buy and when they want to buy it, but you can try to get a read on what your audience is reacting to by sharing sneak peeks. We created an Instagram account specifically for this event—with the hopes of future Haven Markets popping-up—and started sharing snippets of what we would be bringing to the event. It was fun to see what people would comment on and like! Once your first event is over, take notice of what people bought vs. what they didn’t. Sometimes there’s no rhyme or reason, but other times, there’s a clear trend to what they’re into! You don’t want to waste your time or money by producing or buying things that there isn’t a strong market for.
4. Display. We lucked out with our first venue! Workshop DSM is an art workshop space and the owner was so kind to rent us the space for the weekend of the event. Not only was it the perfect size, but she had tons of great furniture pieces we got to use for display! It’s always a good idea to have different sizes, heights, and shapes of display pieces. They all allow for the eye to travel and break up the items you’re selling into vignettes. You also want to be able to use vertical space to your advantage. Our venue had a peg board, hutch, and picture ledges we could use to elevate some of our vintage pieces. We also hung a basket wall collage using Command Strips—they were easily removed, without damaging the paint!
5. Feedback. The first feedback we received was meeting our goal of ticket sales for the early access shopping night and then comments from the shoppers during the event! Everything we heard was positive—making all the hard work worth it! Now that we’re a week out of the event, we’ll be asking more questions of our audience as to what they want to see at future Haven Markets, how we can make the experience better for them, and how we can set it up to be more successful for ourselves. People are very willing to give their opinions, especially when it’s on social media, so we will be using that platform to ask questions. Never underestimate the power of an Instagram story poll—just be ready for the results you might get.
There is so much more I could tell you about this event—how it was successful and what we’ll do differently to improve next time. I think these five tips are a great place to start, though, if you’ve been thinking of hosting a vendor event, or really any type of event. You can easily change out the products part for whatever it is you’re “selling.” If you’ve been thinking about hosting an event, I can only tell you to do it! You’ll learn so much and it’s a huge marketing opportunity for your business. You get to meet with people who are everyday supporters of what you do and sell, plus new folks as well. All of them are potential customers—which is what we’re trying to make, right?