Several weeks ago I had the joy of participating in a Student Commerce Fair be involved in something like this where she was able to market her “wares” to the public. We had an amazing time together, and it has sparked her entrepreneurial spirit quite a bit! Being fresh off of this experience, I wanted to take a moment to share with you a few of the things we learned in preparation for our first event.
I call these the “lemonade lessons” because that is how most kids start out selling to the public for the first time…the ever popular lemonade stand. However, these lessons are applicable not just to this summer activity, but any event where your child signs up to represent her business and sell handcrafted products or personalized services.
1. By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.
Best said by Benjamin Franklin many years ago, this timeless phrase is still applicable today. Once we had her booth reserved in March, she began making bracelets and clay charms for the event. When it got closer to time, I was so hypersensitive to making sure we were prepared that we took a LOT of our schoolwork off of the week prior, and I let her focus on her product for the event as well making lists of everything we would need.
We ordered a money box from Amazon, went to the bank and got $50 of change (mostly $1 bills and quarters), found out the dimensions of the table so we could purchase an inexpensive tablecloth, made a sign for her business as well as signs for each category of items we were selling and mapped out how she would display each of those items.
The night before the event, we made sure all of her product as well as the things we purchased were grouped together by the front door, so there would be no danger of leaving anything behind. I also loaded the car with extra card stock paper (in case we needed to raise or lower prices during the show), Sharpie markers, and a paper cutter.
And then we got rest. In my opinion, having your or your child(ren) well rested when they participate in an event where they are interacting with the public and needing to put their best foot forward is an integral part of the preparation.
2. Marketing is key.
Picture in your mind the last time you attended something like a craft fair or church bazar. Even though the majority of the vendors are not professional companies, and you do not have the same expectation of their presentation that you may of a retail store in a mall, your eyes will still be drawn to the booths that are displaying their name and products in an organized and visually pleasing manner.
Their sign needs to be well-displayed so that the name of your student’s business is clear and easy to read. The products they are selling need to be easy to see, and the pricing needs to be easy to understand. If they are offering a “BOGO” type of special, or bundled (3 for $1.00, or something similar), both the cost to the customer and what they are getting for it needs to be straight forward.
The booth or table needs to be cleared of trash and anything extraneous that does not have to do with the mission at hand…..promoting themselves, their business and selling their product.
3. Your pricing strategy will determine your outcome.
Now I have to admit…this was a VERY tricky one, especially given that we had never participated in such a thing before. Adding to that was the fact that it was the inaugural year for the particular Expo we were attending. No one knew what to expect when it came to attendance of the event OR the best pricing strategy for the kids.
I did not pay too much attention to the rest of the tables, but as far as ours goes, we seemed to have been priced right in line with what the customers were willing to pay. She sold her homemade baked clay charms for 75 cents a piece, her friendship bracelet sets for $2 and singles for $1, and then we added cookies ($1 for a baggie of 4) and Rice Krispie treats ($1 for a baggie of two large ones). We did not have to adjust prices during the show, and she sold about 65% of her inventory….which was more than she expected to sell, since she went with quite a bit.
I believe the best strategy is to know that you are not trying to get rich on a single sale, but that you should be fair to the value of your items as well. This will give you a balanced approach to your pricing.
4. Prepare them to be the “face” of their business.
Some children (mine as an example) tend to be a little bit shy when interacting with adults IF their parents are around. When we are not there, and they’re on their own, I believe they tend to be a little braver because they have to. Knowing this about my daughter, I discussed the importance of being the representative of her business. SHE was the artist who crafted these items. Customers were there to purchase from her, not me. They wanted to hear from the kids themselves about how they made their crafts….or took their photographs…or whatever their chosen products were. Looking adults in the eye, being polite, answering their questions and doing all of this with confidence and poise are invaluable lessons, and what I consider to be just as important as the amount of sales generated by the event itself.
5. Success is defined by you and your child.
If you are a parent, you are familiar with the fact that often times children have very high expectations of events, and the “success” of the event can be colored by how well it met their expectations.
Okay….let’s be honest. I don’t think this is limited to children. I think it is human nature to occasionally build something up so grandiose in your mind that there is no way the actual experience can even come close. I think the only time our expectations will truly be exceeded is Heaven, because I don’t believe that we can even begin to imagine how truly glorious it will be. Outside of that, I think it is always wise to do our best to temper expectations as much as possible without dampening our enthusiasm.
So in an effort to make sure that she would walk away from this experience with a positive viewpoint, we had several conversations about what a successful event would be for her. I tried to drive home the fact that if we had fun and she learned more than she knew before we started about how to prepare for and participate in a commerce fair, that in my opinion, it would have been a GREAT success.
Fortunately for both of us, two things happened.
First of all, she agreed with my thoughts. Secondly, we had a TON of fun AND she sold three times more than she ever expected. So not only was it a success in terms of how we defined it before we got there, but it also exceeded her expectations!
There will be times when you will participate in an event that does meet the traditional expectations of what success means. The most important thing for your kiddos is to prepare them for all the possible outcomes. You will play a major role in how your child views his or her experience.
Is this something that your child enjoys? We would love to hear about your experiences!
Ellen is a homeschooling mom to one sweet young girl. If you ask her about homeschooling, one of the first things she will tell you is that it is the “coolest thing I’ve ever done!” Next she’ll let you know that the whole thing was God’s idea, and she just had to pay attention to His calling on their life. She is married to an overwhelmingly supportive man who adores his family. You can find her in her corner of the web blogging away at Grace Tells Another Story, sharing her passion for homeschooling and Jesus, and sharing her thoughts the curriculum she and her daughter review!