This past Saturday, Kicheko participated in its first outdoor market. After three months of business planning, product making and much reading, it felt like the business' first day of school. Located on 15th & P St NW off of Logan Circle, DC Meet Market takes place the first Saturday of every month from April to November. Existing to support local business by bringing together community with craftsmanship, the market features 40+ vendors specializing in various mediums like graffiti art, photography, illustration, metalworking, jewelry, clothing, home goods, and of course, food. It was such a fun day testing out Kicheko's new tent and figuring out the best setup for the popup storefront. Here are a few photos from the market day and some lessons learned should any of you be curious or have plans to set up your own tent in the future.
The outdoor market is managed by Kelly Towles, a DC-based street artist, and his wife Virginia Arrisueno, founder and designer of knit accessories brand De Nada. This artistic couple has done a good job of bringing together business, craft, art and live music. Free to the public and both family and pet-friendly, Kicheko's booth was positioned in the middle of the first column of vendors close to the picnic area. From our view, we had great visibility from 15th St.
I really enjoyed meeting new customers and sharing about the brand story as well as my process making the goods on display. I try to source fabrics whenever and wherever I travel. The fabric stud earrings are composed of powder blue hole-punched suede, tweeds, silk, African wax cotton, gold lame, and various cottons. The earrings come in 3 sizes with the smallest button earring the equivalent of an altoid and the largest button earring the equivalent of a dollar coin. The earrings make for subtle accents to an outfit or statement pieces in themselves.
A small batch of necklaces also made their debut on Saturday. This collection drew several influences together - African paper beads, deer tine, purple quartz, recycled glass and Swarovski crystal.
The batch of necklaces feature contemporary looks mixed with tribal and outdoorsy elements. I was interested to see what would resonate and appeal to our customers. As the day went on, I nearly sold out of the deer tine, quartz and tribal necklaces.
An added style to the earring line is the dangling beaded fishhooks made out of gold-plated triangles, arcs, Ugandan beads and modern beadings (spacer, leaves and medallion coins). I noticed that the women who purchased these earrings have had some travel or experience abroad and the beads imagined in a contemporary design melded both worlds and perhaps provided a bit of nostalgia.
I learned that putting a tent together can be done by yourself but it is more fun to do it together with friends. For this first one, I wrangled a few friends and my husband, who is kind of defaulted as a co-participant/conspirator in one's pop ups and adventures. Here are a few other lessons from our first experience:
1. Weights & Wind
Knowing the weather prediction for that day is key but also knowing the wind prediction is clutch data for an outdoor market. The tent that I purchased can withstand 10mph winds. However, the wind prediction for Saturday was 22mph winds. I had 5lb weights attached to each of the legs. However, this was still not enough to keep the tent rooted. I was at a conundrum for what to do had it not been for my friendly vendor neighbor who lent me 4 cinderblocks along with bungee cords to weigh the tent down. So important to have weights or else bye-bye, watch your tent blow away! Yikes.
2. Where to Set up the Table
Originally, I had planned my 6-foot table along the far wall of the tent providing lots of real estate for passerby to come inside the tent and take a look at the goods. It turns out that having the table so far from the walking path of most market-goers was a deterrent to having them interact with the goods. After the first hour, we moved the table closer to the entrance so when people walked by, they could immediately see the the goods and interact with the product. It also added some depth of field to the tent, which made for a great look. Having the table inset placed some shadow over the display while moving it towards the front helped brighten the table display and illuminate the necklaces, especially the quartz stones.
3. Staffing the Booth
DC Meet Market operating hours ran from 11am-5pm with a two hour window of time for setup before official opening. It can make for a long day so it is important to have a couple of reliable friends who are familiar with the brand and good communicators to help staff the booth during key times so you can use the bathroom, grab a bite or a drink, and meet other vendors. Promotion of brand and product is absolutely necessary to growing your business but it can still be somewhat awkward to toot your own horn. Having friends help with the booth can alleviate some of that awkwardness and it is nice to hear them share their pitch of your brand and market on your behalf.
4. Emergency Kit
A box of necessary items such as paper towels, hand sanitizer, band aids, a tide pen, extra chapstick, mints, superglue, and extra scissors are essential for the potential situations you may come across on a market day. For this particular day, I did not have said items and consequently, I spilled coffee on my skirt, cut my finger on a cracked mirror blown over by the wind, and misplaced my scissors within the first hour and a half of setup. An emergency box is a handy reserve of supplies to help with the unexpected mishaps and acts of clumsiness. #whatamess #ithappens #nexttime
5. Smile, Connect, Have Fun!
Pretty straightforward and intuitive, yes. After 6-8 hours, it is important to keep the "smile, eye contact, and connect" stamina at a high level because you will get tired. Your cheek muscles will hurt and you will sound like a broken record sharing the elevator pitch for what your brand is and what you do. But each person or group of people is hearing this information and engaging with you for the first time so keep it fresh by communicating well with your body language, tone of voice and word choice. Give them the opportunity to look while observing what catches their eye and what they say. Offer helpful styling suggestions or extend the invitation for them to try the product on if possible. Be honest but also help them see the potential or the perfection of a particular product pairing. If one style or size doesn't seem to go, offer another. People come to outdoor markets to experience a smorgasbord of small business and unique product otherwise not found in box chain or retail stores. Showcase how your product/brand is interesting and different from other product that they would find elsewhere. Most importantly, have fun! You are outdoors in the middle of a great city, meeting a ton of people, and having the opportunity to share what you have made with others. Hopefully, people are buying it and will share your brand with others. How cool is that!