Sunday, October 14, 2012

Lessons Learned

I had my first show of the season and as with every season I show, I learn more valuable lessons.

Last year, I learned:

  • Don't make a ton of perishable chocolate product or you'll be tossing out a ton of it when it doesn't sell.  Lesson learned: list it as a "made to order" product on
  • I had a lot of folks asking for my business card, and I didn't have one.  Lesson learned:  I bought business cards.
  • Don't skimp as people want quality more than a cheap price.  The lesson was obvious even though I had sold some of the product in question.
  • Set up a better booth; another obvious lesson.

This year's lessons so far:
  • Don't put your business cards out in front of the jelly; someone's bound to dribble it all over the cards.
  • When you put down table cloths, get a clear plastic topper for a quick and easy cleanup.  It also helps to discourage the bees because the jelly doesn't sink into the table cloth.
  • For me, don't make too many products - people were attracted to the jelly, and that's great, but other items were overlooked.  Lesson learned: stick with what gets attention.
  • Don't make even small amounts of quality baked good - skip it altogether unless you're with the rest of the food tent.  Quality goods don't necessarily sell because of the pricing; too many don't want to pay those prices when they can approximate the same item with dollar store items.  It's one thing if the person is visiting a specialty bakery, and it's another when you're in a flea/craft market/bazaar.  Lesson learned: some places are more appropriate than others to sell certain types of items where pricing is expected to be higher.
  • Unique jelly and jam flavors sell.  I had suspected this would be the case, but that was confirmed at the show.  Flavors that you cannot buy on a store shelf catch attention.
  • Buy good quality items and stay simple!  Fresh items either grown or sourced at local farms gives you an edge over the mass produced cardboard tasting stuff.  
  • People know quality when you're passionate about your products.  If you've made it yourself, you know what went into it and no one can sell your products like you can.  
  • People like to know where the food comes from, and local sources means fresher raw ingredients, and results in a good final product.  
  • Taste testing is important, and you can never have too much bread.  
So in the end, I've decided I'm going to stick with selling what I know best and I'm most passionate about - jams and jellies.  The rest of my talents will be restricted to family, friends, and gift giving.  They say do what you love and the money will follow, and I believe I've finally learned that lesson.

Anyone can load second hand items on a table and they sell because they fall into the category of "wants or needs", and junk is cheap.

Jelly isn't a want or need, it's a bit of a luxury, and it doesn't sell itself.  Only the person who's made it with the best ingredients and is passionate over all aspects of the process can sell it.

I'll always be thankful to Fred for having all those brown turkey fig trees on his property in Dallas.  If he didn't want to preserve them, I wouldn't have learned the dying art of jam and jelly making from him.

There was an old comedian that went by the name of "Brother Dave Gardner", and he had this great line: "Man cannot live by bread alone...he must have peanut butter!"  Thankfully, I know how to make my own bread and jam.  I joked with a friend, "I need to skip the idea of getting a farm and raising some livestock; I need to raise peanuts and I'll be all set for life!" 

Happy Eats!   :)

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