You excitedly submit the application and payment for your business to participate in an outdoor event. Now you have been accepted and it's time to make preparations. What should you pack? How do you prepare? How to set-up for outdoor conditions?
I started my first event at a free Friday farmer's market with one 4' folding table, one tote and one 8' pop-up tent; all tucked in the trunk of my car. Now, we have a large enclosed trailer and usually get a 12' x 24' space at events that on average charge at least $180 (on up to $400+) for a space.
We are thankful for the growth of our business and our customers. We sure have come a long way from when we started. Here are a few things we learned for a successful outdoor event.
Ten Tips for Outdoor Vendor Booth Success
1. Electricity: If you can get electricity it will be worth it. You can charge your devices and plug in a fan or two. Try to make the electricity pay for itself by bringing an item that you can plug in for customers (e.g., a custom created light fixture with an Edison bulb). Just be sure you don't have trip hazards and cover any cords that may run along a walking path. Use outdoor cords only and immediately unplug if any cord is in danger of getting wet.
2. Anchor Tent: Always anchor your pop-up tent. Tent weights that go around the legs are a good investment. We have even used straps to hook our tent to our trailer when we have a show where it can be parked behind us.
When we were first starting out we bought buckets from a local restaurant (previously full of coleslaw). We filled four buckets with water and using a rope from the top corner of the tent tied it to the bucket on the ground by each leg.
3. Tent Sides/Tarps: Be prepared for rain with tarps and plenty of bungee cords that will allow you to get all the way around your tent from the top of the metal frame to the ground and secure to the sides. You may need to have a step ladder if you are not tall enough to reach. Some pop-up tents have sides that can be purchased that velcro or zip on. If you are on grass you can also push a tent stake/peg into the hole that should be in the foot of each tent leg. The tent/outdoor camping supply section at your nearby box store should have a variety of bungee cords and tent stakes. The ball bungee cords are ones we like to have on hand.
4. Tablecloth: Secure any table coverings with spring clamps along the legs to prevent the wind from whipping it up and around and potentially moving/breaking any product on display. The tool section at your nearby box store should have a variety of spring clamps. We usually keep large and small ones on hand.
5. Think Safety: As you are setting up always give a "bump test" to verify it is secure and any inventory on display will not fall/break. What if a stroller wheel knocks into your beautiful display of stacked crates? What if Timmy's foot kicks into your table leg? If anything falls easily it needs to be secured and placed differently. Cover all cords and make sure any area rugs will not be a trip hazard (some customers have difficulty with rugs).
6. Wind: I can't tell you the number of times there has been a gust of wind causing something to fall and break. If it isn't your booth you sure can hear it down the way with the whoosh, crash and gasp from the business owner and surrounding customers.
I think wind has been the biggest nemesis for outdoor vendors! Along with securing your tablecloth (see #4) you can use safety pins to secure any overlay material. Use bungee cords to secure items to your tent legs. Angle items so that they are not straight up and down. If you have a business sign make sure all four corners are fastened down.
A beautiful display of our products is what every business owner wants to have, but for outdoor events it is not worth it to have lightweight items (anything under 10 lbs) on a higher tier than the table. Using a soda crate on its side gives visual depth and the ability to display products in and on top. However, the wind will push against this and knock down items on top and perhaps even the crate itself.
7. Hydrate: The night before an event open several of your water bottles you want to pack in your cooler and empty out a bit of water. Put these water bottles in your freezer overnight. The next day they will act as ice in your cooler and will melt throughout the day giving you nice cool water all afternoon.
8. Rain/Heat: What can get wet? If you have any products that cannot sustain a little bit of moisture they are not the right product for an outdoor event.
What can get hot? If you have any products that cannot sustain being in the sun or heat then they are not the right product for an outdoor event. For example vinyl not designed for outdoor use will get hot and start to slide.
9. Signs/Price Tags: It is best to have signs in either a frame or a plastic stand. Place a frame where the wind will not knock it over. I have had the best luck with clear plastic stands that I can put a weight on.
I use a variety of price tags, but for outdoor shows I have started to use old plastic vertical blinds. I cut them to size and staple them on/around the product and use a sharpie to write the price. It is a great way to have a waterproof tag that won't easily fade.
10: Extras to Pack: I have a standard set of items I bring with me to any outdoor show:
- Rope/String (various kinds)
- Tape (scotch & duct)
- Bungee Cords (various sizes & kinds)
- Clamps (various sizes)
- Clothes Pins & Safety Pins
- Pens, Markers, Paper
Do you have any additional tips to share? Do you have any incidents we could learn from? We would love to hear from you.
Blog by: Liz Gaunt - Anvil Market (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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