For this story we talk to two successful business owners and former (NEIS) clients, with a wealth of experience in the world of maker’s markets. Say hi to MaryJane Gibbs, founder of Waxiwraps in WA; and Gemma Holmes, founder of Gemma Vendetta Cosmetics in SA.

Markets might be daunting for first-timers, but success will come with planning and the right attitude.

“Have everything ready well in advance of market day – and be sure to pack your vehicle the night before.” That’s your first simple piece of advice from MaryJane.

Spend some time planning the layout and look of your space. A tiny stall can be a cool creative challenge! Research stalls and booths at your favourite markets before you start, and take notes. Pinterest is a wonderful inspiration tool for visual merchandising.

On the day

Make it instantly clear what you are selling; and make it inviting and easy for people to make a purchase.

“I have large pull-up banners that are designed to match my packaging and branding. They clearly state who I am, and what my brand is. You have about 3 seconds to draw someone in,” explains Gemma. “I have noticed that the texture and smell of fresh native flowers will entice people in. You may want to try a light box, or flags. Go with what you like! I have found that if I’m outside of my stall (instead of hiding in it), this will draw people in.”

Consider attracting customers with an experience – a mini-workshop, a demonstration or complimentary samples. Gemma notes that “as soon as you say something is FREE, people are drawn in. At markets I have a sign saying ‘Free skin tone matching by makeup artist Gemma Vendetta – meet the maker.’ This works well and I will also promote it on socials.”

MaryJane says: “We love market days… it’s all about meeting new and regular customers face-to-face and enjoying the hands-on demonstrating of waxiwraps.”

MaryJane at Perth Upmarket.

“If your stall is appealing to the eye, people will come and check you out,” explains MaryJane. “And you MUST smile, smile, smile! Be friendly to every single customer, no matter what. Engage in conversation; ask questions. We sometimes answer the same questions over and over, but you have to realise that every customer is an individual who hasn’t heard your spiel like you have!”

“You love what you do – show it!” says Gemma. “I don’t focus on selling, I focus on solving a problem. I have niche products on purpose. I’ll say: ‘No I don’t do lip balm, but my friends at another skincare brand at the market might.’ Stallholders love it when other stallholders recommend them to customers.”

“You can develop an awareness of different customer shopping styles,” says Gemma. “Adelaide shoppers love to be greeted, to stop, look and sometimes chat. They aren’t afraid to touch and try on samples, they may either purchase on impulse, or they may do all of the above, walk around, and return. Whereas Melbourne shoppers prefer to stroll throughout the entire event, make comparisons, almost ignore the stallholders, and then return to make their purchase without too much fuss.”

Look after yourself on the day so you don’t run out of steam. Keep hydrated and bring an emergency market kit with snacks (perhaps energy balls, nuts and a piece of fruit), tissues, sticky tape, a portable mobile phone charger, a notepad and a pen.

“STAND UP” is strong advice from Gemma. “Get a spongy yoga mat, or spongy floor tiles from your local hardware store to stand on. After a 3-day event, your legs are going to hate you.”

Gemma at Finders Keepers Market. Photo by Adam Crews, courtesy of XERO Accounting Software.

The cost of doing business

Assess each maker’s market. Stall costs can vary greatly from market to market. Will a higher-priced stall translate to higher sales?

“Larger markets provide more potential to be seen and more impulse buyers,” says Gemma. “However, if the layout is wrong, you could be missed by passing traffic. Smaller, more intimate markets give the opportunity to talk and connect, perhaps with local makers whom you’ll develop friendships with and collaboration opportunities. This can sometimes come with fewer sales, less advertising, smaller crowds. But it’s still a great starting point!”

MaryJane says: “We spent one year travelling around to numerous markets to figure out which ones suited Waxiwraps the best. In the second year we settled on the ones we felt worked for us. There are two in Perth city we attend regularly and a few WA country shows – Denmark Markets, Dowerin Field Days, and the Wagin Woolorama. We travel up four times a year to Perth Upmarket and this is by far our very favourite market. It’s held at the University of WA, which is a stunning place. We also enjoy Stackwood, which is an eclectic suburban space in Fremantle.”

Gemma shared her favourite market. “Hands down it’s Bowerbird design market! It has been great for sales (sustaining my cash flow for several months after the event), but also for promoting my brand. I continue to have amazing editorial and media opportunities as a result of my initial showcase there. And as a result of trialing and testing my products at Bowerbird, Gemma Vendetta is building up a reputation in Adelaide as a Bowerbird regular. That experience has also given me the confidence to explore market opportunities in other states. I have just completed the Finders Keepers 3-day market event in Melbourne. I thought no one in Victoria would even know who I was; I was pleasantly surprised to find repeat customers, and new customers curious and eager to learn about my products, and my brand. Finders Keepers was a raging success, which now means I will do a debut stall in Sydney next year too!”

Finder Keepers Market, Melbourne. Photo by Brittany Gaiser.

There will always be forms to fill out. You may need to pay for particular registration, a license, a permit or insurance to run your stall. This may even involve footpath usage or obstruction permits. You may already have insurance policies for your business and products, but do they apply to selling at markets? There are specific policies available, often known as Market Trading Insurance. Check with your appropriate state body for all the details. Self-Employment program partner BizCover has this handy article about insurance for market stalls.

Although most market-goers pay with cash, it’s important to have another payment option such as portable EFTPOS, Square or Paypal mobile. The higher the price point of your product, the less likely customers are to pay with cash. There may be a hefty percentage of sales you just don’t make if you are cash only.

Social success

Make the most of your effort – let everybody who could possibly be interested, know what you are up to. Use your social media strategically. Build up to the event. What products and offers will you have? Use Instagram’s geo-tag feature to show your followers where you are physically located, and use event-specific hashtags on the day. Upload great images leading up to the event, and feature photos of your happy customers with their purchases on the actual day (with their permission of course). Many small businesses don’t have bricks and mortar stores – social media is a great way to connect with customers, and continue the conversation after the event itself. Building your customer base is as valuable as making sales, especially for new businesses. Make sure your social handles are easy to find on your stall signs and banners.

“In the lead up, I’d recommend doing Instagram stories,” says Gemma. “Show the preparation, answer questions. People love to see the setting up of your stall live, and they also love to see a hyper-lapse of the event!”

Gemma Vendetta cosmetics at Bowerbird Design Market, Adelaide.

Before you commit, ask yourself, does a particular markets’ reputation and their online promotion work for your brand? Will this market create sales and exposure for your business that’s worth the fee being charged?

“Generally, the bigger markets have promotion packages attached to their marketing,” says Gemma. “In most cases, image tiles and banners are provided and their use is encouraged by the market organisers. I go one step further and I’ll find out who other stall holders are, that are on the same social media or editorial features and I’ll tag them, as well as the event organisers. I’ll also tag the media partners, and some of my favourite food and drink vendors. Because I’m South Australian based, I will also do a ‘SA represent’ post, and look through the stallholders list to tag SA businesses. And I will also showcase the awesomeness that is NEIS, by tagging them, too.” Thank you Gemma 🙂

Gemma explains, “I’m just starting to explore other social media avenues like TikTok, too! This app is a lot of fun, and you can snap at intervals, and put your snaps to a fun, catchy tune. The hashtags are key with this app. Compared to Instagram, I’ve gone from an average of 85 story views, to over 300 on one upload on TikTok in much, much less time. I’d also recommend keeping some statistics of your social media posts, to compare event strategies to see what works for you. There’s no special formula per se, just be consistent.”

WaxiWraps at Perth Upmarket.

A final word of advice for new stallholders from MaryJane. “Go with the flow of market day; sales might be good, or they might be slow. There’s always someone to talk to and engage with, even if it’s your next-door stall neighbour. The best thing about markets is the one-on-one time you get to spend with your customers. Sometimes if you’re busy you can’t spend too long with each one, but it’s so important to be a face of your brand and be present in the moment with your customer.”

Thanks so much for your time and advice Gemma and MaryJane.

See you at the market!

Gemma launched her business with help from (NEIS) at Holmesglen in Adelaide, and MaryJane started WaxiWraps with assistance from (NEIS) at Business Foundations in Fremantle. Do you need help to start your own business? Self-Employment Assistance is an Australian Government sponsored new business training program, to assist with self-employment. Use the postcode finder for your local provider and contact them for a chat.


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