Updated: Jan 27, 2020
I wanted to take a moment and share with you my new journey. I stopped answering to the 9-5 work calling. I gave my notice a few months ago and have been working on being my own boss. There are times that I miss the non-complexity of having a schedule, a lunch time, break times, co-workers to talk to, free lunches and snacks and a 401K. The decision to delve into the baking industry - and it is without a doubt a big industry - was not taken lightly. And it is not the first time I left a stable job in search of taking on baking full time. I have struggled with many of the same things other bakers have - locating a good commercial kitchen, finding quality ingredients that would not drive up the cost of the actual product too much, finding good packaging, a good invoicing system, and on and on. I searched high and low for the best farmers market set ups; where to find the best signage, t-shirts and other apparel and how to display what I am selling.
I love to support local businesses as much as possible but I knew that for some things it just wouldn't be doable. I did find a great local place for my banner for the tent - if you're in the Austin area check out Affordable Signs, affordablesignstexas.com. I believe they also deliver. They had lighting fast turn around and fantastic pricing!
Tents are tricky - and you will need a quality one. Tent pricing is all over the place, you can start with a basic one from a local sporting goods store ( I am still currently using one from Dick's Sporting Goods) but am about ready to put in an order for a better quality one. Do not forget weights - really what seems to work best is cinder blocks from your local hardware store. If you hook up the legs of your tent to these bad boys your tent will not be flying away in the wind! I've been to many markets where vendors have had to literally chase down their tent due to wind currents. Not only can a flying tent be a huge liability if someone gets hurt it is costly to replace. Not to mention slightly embarrassing.
Sorry - little sidetracked here as my 22 year old son just handed me a Girl Scout S'mores cookie. I can turn down many a cookie since I am surrounded by flour and butter every day but Girl Scout cookies are a weakness. It did not disappoint.
Ok - back to it. I absolutely LOVE the boxes and packaging ideas from BRP Box Shop. The price put me off a bit in the beginning but after ordering several times it is hard to order from anywhere else. There are also holiday themed boxes which are really cute! If you buy pie boxes in bulk this is the place to do it - each pie box ends up costing less that .60 per piece when you order 100. I've ordered in smaller batches from vendors on Amazon as well when I've been in a pinch. I also order a mini pie box for under .35 each per piece when ordering 100 pieces. Make sure to check out the clearanced boxes too.
If you are selling at a farmers market make sure to reach out to your fellow vendors - support local businesses and they will usually do the same. If you can partner with a local farmer and get fresh and organic fruit and eggs your sales will increase. Make sure to let your customers know that your fruit or eggs or nuts come from a fellow vendor. People shop at the markets for a reason. Make sure to pick out a color scheme that is not only eye catching but also rustic and not overwhelming. Don't have so much to set up that you are spending a lot of time doing so. Simplicity goes a long way. Make sure to have a cooler so that your items do not melt or sweat. The last thing you want is damp packaging full of condensation. Reach out to your local grocer about bulk pricing, also check out pricing discounts online. I've found that a few online stores have cheaper pricing when buying in bulk and I usually get free shipping. Buy some large dry storage containers and don't forget you can always keep flour in the freezer : ) When our local grocery store has my favorite butter on sale I stock up and freeze it. You can do the same with fruit if you like. The key to having a successful booth at the farmers markets or market days in your area is to have fair pricing so the better deals you can get on your supplies is important. Don't be swayed by amazing sales on products you don't use (like different brand flours or butter) - stick to what brands you like. Contact the company and see if they will send you coupons.
One of the most important factors in baking from home - also known as a Cottage Baker - is to make sure that you are fully versed in your County food laws. Here in Texas we have pretty easy guidelines to follow and great resources in correctly labeling your products, etc. We have a determined group of bakers who fight hard for us Cottage Bakers to be able to stay in business.
Building a successful booth is as time consuming as building a good product! Don't go into it lightly. Spend time perusing the local markets to see what booths have good foot traffic. See what works - talk to the vendors and ask for advice. Before I set up my first booth I dragged my husband and son to farmers markets all over the Austin area. And lastly - bring change. Plenty of it. A lot of people like to use cash. Also have square or Venmo set up as an option for those who like to use their debit/credit cards.
Keep tuned for updates on my journey! I will post pictures of my booth along with other booths I find appealing.