Sunday, September 11, 2016

Fat Lady Foods: Growing Pains

For the past few weeks I have been feverishly preparing for the Dallas Chocolate Festival.  It was the first time that my company would participate in this show, and I consider it to really be our debut in Dallas Foodie Circles.  We've done a lot in the past four years, but this is really the first show that we've worked that is centered around people who are more on the adventurous, gourmet side of food.

My goals were simple:
  • Get the Fat Lady Foods name out there in circles that weren't aware of us before.
  • Get 10% of the expected attendees to spend $5 each at the booth.
The first goal was met brilliantly.  Our placement in the room was wonderful, close enough to the doors that most people hadn't broken away from the line yet when their time to enter came along (there were four General Admission ticket times and a VIP ticket time), yet far enough away that we weren't dealing with the sound from the big screen that was right there and people weren't rushing past us to get in further.  We had time to talk to people, to engage them, and to interact.  Since all three people at our booth are Scarborough trained (Shado, Rae, and myself), the engagement part wasn't that hard for us.  

Shado handled the retail part of things, selling products, cashing people out, bagging items, and giving them their Jamilicious Club cards and free recipe booklets. 

Rae started out helping Shado but then jumped in and became the sample disher when people started going through samples faster than I could replenish them.

They were both my heroes, and I can't imagine trying to do that show without either one of them!

I schmoozed, marked off their sample cards, and pushed the Facebook page, Twitter feed, Instagram feed, and website.  I also answered questions, promoted the farmers markets where I sell, and handed out business cards.  I do have to say that the sample cards are a brilliant idea.  Everyone who came in got a card listing all of the exhibitors / vendors.  When they got a sample from a table, that vendor marked themselves off on the card.  This meant that everyone got to try a sample from every vendor BUT only one sample, so the vendors didn't run out because people kept coming back and taking multiple samples.  Brilliant idea!

The show also had a cameraman following the emcee around as she interviewed the various vendors.  This was shown on the big screen up by the doors and, I think, on screens outside where ticket holders lined up to come inside.  I was happy with how I did when she came around to me.  Ironically, the experience I'd gotten the week before while moderating a panel in the arena at Geekinomicon worked to my advantage and added to my SAPA training to make me pretty comfortable in front of the camera and with holding a microphone.

Sadly, I had to do most of this sitting as I managed to do quite a number on my left leg earlier in the week by taking a nasty tumble in the parking lot at the kitchen, but none of us really got to leave the booth for very long during the day anyway.  Every time we would start to catch our breath from one wave of attendees, the next wave was let in.

We got to meet others in the food business too, which is good.  One chef is an instructor at a magnet school culinary program.  He asked me if I would be interested in coming and speaking to his students about the realities of starting a food-based business, and what is is actually like versus what "The Next Food Network Star" makes it seem like it could be.  I made sure he had my card, and am looking forward to hearing from him. I would enjoy going and speaking with the kids.

We did get some compliments from both professionals and amateur food lovers alike for having something different in the form of the fruit and chocolate jams.  I think it was a nice change of pace for people from the piles and piles of oh-so-tasty chocolates.  

Sadly, we didn't get to eat that much chocolate.  As I said before, we didn't really get a chance to get away from the booth much, though I did make sure that Rae and Shado each got to walk around at least once.  We didn't get much food during the day either, really, other than a pastry during setup and a 3" piece of Jimmy Johns subs for "lunch". Even that took quite a while to eat since we couldn't step away to do so.  But that's okay.  It was worth it to keep talking to people.

Now...the second goal?  That one wasn't as successful.

You see, this market season has not been a great one.  I'm doing twice as many markets as before, and I've made about half as much money total.  I don't know if it has been the heat, or the constant threats of rain, but people haven't been coming out and when they DO come out, they just aren't buying like usual.  So I really needed this to be a financial success too.

Well...the best that can be said is that it was our best day so far this year.  We did get an average sale amount of higher than I'd hoped, but a much lower sale count than I had been hoping for, sadly.  This is going to make things interesting, but I am holding out hope that there will be an increase in traffic to the website thanks to the cards that were handed out, word of mouth, and some other elements coming into play.

Unfortunately, I am going to have to depend on only a couple of holiday markets and the website for another holiday season as I just don't have the money to pay the booth fees for any additional market opportunities.  That's what I was hoping for, because just a few hundred more dollars and I could have gotten into more markets AND paid some of my company's bills.  

But we work with what we have, right?


All in all, it was a positive experience. It was a learning experience, that's for sure.  We know more about how this kind of show runs versus a farmers market type setting or holiday market type setting.  We also learned some things that will make next time go more smoothly (make sample cups up ahead of time!!!!)

Things are still on a pendulum for the business, but positive thinking is a must, and so positive thinking there shall be.  Onward, my friends...onward we go into the brave world of entrepreneurship!


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