Trading tales: The logistics of market-stall selling

Matt Crawford, winner of last year’s Make Your Mark in the Markets competition, continues his account of setting up his Carribean food stall Easy ‘Nah

In my last blog I explained how I laid the groundwork to get my business up and running – today I’ll be delving into the build up to our first day’s trading and how we got customers through the door.

After sourcing supplies and organising legalities for the stall, I began to look at which markets I was going to run my first trials on. This can be quite a hard choice as rush hour travel times, parking, congestion charging, pitch costs and the weather can all effect how many people visit you each day, so asking the Market Manager for help getting all this information is absolutely essential. Before committing to a specific market I would strongly advise asking a trader if you can spend a day or two with them so you can see what it’s like first hand. Running a business on a market is rewarding, but also extremely challenging – before you invest too much time and finances to your potential project/career change, you need to know it’s suited to you. Hands-on experience beats any amount of theory or planning, no matter how certain or organised you think you are.

Perhaps my early expectations were too high but my initial feeling in the first few weeks was that trade took off relatively slowly. However, outside and experienced observers have said that our early weeks were relatively successful! We have built up a strong product in a relatively short period of time, and thanks to a pro-active sales approach by my fiancée Natalie, and I, we have managed to secure many new customers that would never normally have dreamed of trying Caribbean food!

We’ve worked hard to diversify our business and explore new routes to market. For example we use social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to find potential customers and do regular research into venues and groups that are holding events to see if they would like to add a Caribbean flavour into their party or event. We did try a home delivery service at weekends but orders became so sporadic that it was costing us too much time to keep running profitably – perhaps this is something we’ll pick up again later down the line.

The only marketing we have done from the beginning is flyering. Once we knew which market we would be at and when, we would hand flyers out in the local area, 2-3 weeks before trading. The flyer was just our menu on an A6 sized card printed at home, so no huge overhead costs involved but the response was fantastic! Within a week we were getting phone calls asking if we could cater for parties etc.

So that’s how we began trading. I guess my biggest fear along the way was that the business would fail. However I’ve learnt that the only way to overcome that fear is having a solidly researched product and market; thorough understanding of the legal and mandatory obligations ahead of you; and a strong back up team/person. If you have nobody to vent your anger, worries, stress and of course triumphs, I’m sure it’s a lot harder to reach your goals.

This year’s Make your Mark in the Markets competition is now open for entries. Winners will receive up to six months’ rent-free trading space in their local market. For more information, or to enter visit www.enterpriseuk.org/markets

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