Feb 29, 2016
It seems now that every newspaper you read or every online post you see is talking about a cool new market happening in town. From the newly-minted Ballard Estate Festival to the two-year-old The Lil Flea to food and shopping markets popping up in the suburbs of Mumbai, they are simply everywhere!
Perhaps you’ve seen the beautiful photos of festivals in the city being thronged with people, or you’ve seen that happy smile your friend had as she posted ‘Sold Out’ on Facebook, and you felt your chest squeeze with excitement. The question is should you have a stall at one of these fests too? After all, you cook much better than the insipid tacos you ate at the recent music festival you attended. And surely, it’s a great way to not only turn a profit, but also take that budding home business of yours to the next level.
While flea markets are great fun to be a part of and definitely do help new entrepreneurs, they can also be full of hidden costs and need to be taken seriously. Since I started Bawi Bride, I have participated in a few such markets. Here are three things worth thinking about before you become a ‘flea-trepreneur’.
Get your expectations right
The objective of taking part in a market will be different at different stages in your business. If you’ve just started, perhaps you just want feedback on your product or you want to spread the word. In contrast, if you’re a few months or years in, you’re doing this because you want to turn a profit. Having your expectations right before signing up will not only help you choose the right market, but will also help prevent a lot of disappointment later. For example, if spreading your word is the key priority, a festival that only focuses on food like Karen Anand’s Farmers Market is better as the people attending know their food and will share critical feedback. On the flip side, if you’d rather be turning a profit, a bigger music festival where you have a captive audience may yield better results.
Double trouble or home alone?
Once you’ve shortlisted your market of choice, the first thing you will have to do is cough up the rent, and with the going standard that’s not a paltry amount. You may decide to do it alone or partner with someone. While being home alone is more fun and you’re bound to get better brand recall, will you be able to recover your rent? Do you have enough support within your family or your team to do it alone? Because, trust me the market may only be on for three days, but you will be out of action for much longer than that tying up all the loose ends. On the other hand, while sharing the work and the rent burden are good, you must think about the synergies you will have with the person you’re partnering and how you will work together – to each his own versus a new partnership? Don’t be afraid to test each model to see what works best for you.
What kind of people will be coming?
Any festival is only as good as the people it attracts, and no people equals no business so this is an important one! You may want to do a market in an area that you already service so that any interest you generate is beneficial to the business in the long term. Or, you may decide that you’ve had enough of Bandra and a suburban festival will help entice new crowds. There’s no right answer but knowing the kind of people that will attend a market is like finding gold! This may just be my observation, but I’ve found that if profits are your goal, it’s better to be at a market where attendees have limited options and must buy from one of the stalls. On the other hand, if your focus is on promotions, established markets like Mumbai’s Kala Ghoda Arts Festival and Upper Crust yield better results as they have a critical mass that always attends.
It’s taken me two years to figure out which model works best for me so my final bit of advice would be to trust your instinct and do the one that sounds the most fun. And, remember to carry some extra cash to support other ‘flea-trepreneurs’ like you out there – they are often your best customers!