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We have an exercise at Cleveland Flea called the "Best Experience Exercise" and it's where we define the most amazing possible experience we can provide for our dream clients (that's you all) and our dream customers (shoppers).
When we run this exercise, it pulls us out of scarcity mode and into creativity. Into love for everyone that we love. And it helps us go that extra mile to deliver extraordinary service online (new vendor app this year), on-site (super organization, team flea hospitality crew, signage, upgraded experiences, etc) even when we're a small business with a tight budget.
It becomes pretty clear to us through this exercise that the way to make more money (and have more impact) is to deliver more value.
And one way to do that is with a designed experience that feels really creative to shoppers. There IS a difference between shopping at Aldi (which we totally love) and Whole Foods. I'm not saying you need to be one or the other. But you do know what I'm talking about.
One is experience-focused and one is price-focused.
We think you can be both at Cleveland Flea. Deliver an exceptional experience while keeping prices affordable BUT we also think you can charge more if you provide more value. Better materials, better shopping experience, more thoughtful customer service.
Today, we're talking Setting Up Shop, though, so we'll stick to that.
Branded Setups have run themselves through that Best Experience Exercise. The small businesses who pause and take time to plan out their booth design from the moment a shopper sees you across the parking lot to the moment they check out have the most control over a shopper's experience and typically find ways to stand out and learn how to be exceptional.
If you're not spending a big chunk of time thinking about your customer's best experience and how that manifests inside your booth, you're leaving a lot of money on the table.
We'll be helping you with this if you're interested. We know that not everyone has been in business long enough to consider this type of thing- and if it doesn't come naturally it can be harder to solve.
Quick & Easy Ideas for Booth Upgrade:
custom wall panels made from a natural fabric versus the typical side walls
handmade signage (that matches your brand) versus the stuff that you can get printed at big print / tent shops
customized displays versus standard / stock displays from display shops
vintage furniture for display as opposed to pop up tables
head to IKEA for easy to assemble & clean-looking booth furniture
Look for us to announce à la carte workshops as well as a Season-long incubator program that will get you in tip-top shape by the end of September, so you can really kill it in #Holiday2019 and turn up the heat on your most impossible small business goals!
Every brand begins with a mission.
To do something different in the world, or to make the world a better place, in one specific way.
Our first lesson in #buildingabrand is deciding WHY you will work so damn hard on it. Just like any relationship, for it to work, you’ve got to decide why it matters to put the hard work in even during the tough times- when you don’t seen tangible results from your efforts but you’ve got to continue pushing.
Businesses who don’t have an internal mission have a hard time staying committed.
Because most times, there will NOT be an immediate return on your investment in time, money and energy. And you MUST continue.
So, why will you? Why will you move through the fear, disappointment, confusion, anxiety and learning required to do new and amazing things?
If you haven’t created a business that makes your heart leap, it will be hard to keep up the creative stamina that a business requires.
Our mission at Cleveland Flea?
To show the world that it’s possible to turn what you love into what you do AND make the money you want doing it. We want to be an example of what is possible when you lead with your heart.
We put millions of dollars into this economy in just 9 market days.
That’s believing hard.
That’s the manifestation of our internal motivations into the external world.
With no investors.
With no business school.
With just a team of believers.
Who stop at nothing to create the future that they want to see in the world.
And you can, too. But just answer this:
Why does it even matter? If your answer doesn’t make your heart come alive, pick a new one.
As vendors of Cleveland Flea, you’re all going to be enrolled in Vendor Prep School- a coaching program for all the prep that you SHOULD be doing leading up to event day. It’ll be broken down weekly, based on your type of business and based on what is required of you by us, the City of Cleveland, and any other regulatory boards like food service or fire department.
It’s essentially like having a temporary Business Manager for when you need them- reminding you to do all the stuff that, if not done, can easily contribute to you:
getting kicked out of the market day
losing your opportunity to sell
putting yourself in a state of panic
causing serious damage to your vendor neighbors or shoppers
not being able to focus on selling
getting yourself kicked out of Cleveland Flea permanently
getting on the bad side of all the regulatory organizations (food safety, fire, taxes, etc)
Being a small business owner can be really cool. But without adequate preparation it can easily turn into a nightmare. And we’re not there on-site to solve problems you could have easily solved early. No reputable market can afford to spend all their time attending only to the concerns of it’s business-owner community during an event. There are thousands of other people there- your shoppers. And it’s our responsibility to keep them safe. Also, we have things we want to sell and lives we want to live.
And that requires your participation and partnership.
To get your shit together.
To get over yourself.
To switch from confusion to confidence.
We KNOW it’s hard. We’re also a small business, friends.
That’s why we’re creating this for you. We want you to have the BEST MARKET DAY EVER. Truly. And so we’re going to prod you to take care of the ‘boring but necessary’ stuff in the right time frame.
This stuff is YOUR responsibility, so don’t confuse it with being OUR responsibility.
Our responsibility is to kick you out if you don’t comply- not solve it all for you if you willingly show up unprepared.
It’s here! Season Seven! Cue the confetti! Put some whiskey in that coffee (or maybe just wait for happy hour) and let's celebrate!
What are we celebrating? Our first BIG goal of 2019 was to re-build an entirely new application experience for you all. And let me tell you, it was a wild time making this happen on the heels of an even wilder holiday market. But we did it. And we're here to continue to lead by example, proving that no goal is too big for you small, but mighty creatives if you show up for yourself every single day.
I mean, look at you- it's still January and you're taking big steps toward a bright business future. Further proof that you want to be the boldest brands and businesses in the land.
For those of you who don't know us, we're #TeamFlea and we run a business incubator-style market in Cleveland called The Flea.
We welcome some of the best brands from around the country (and from within our own city) and are the home for those who are on their way to greatness, too. In other words, we’re for those who want to be the best business or brand in their industry.
And lucky for them- our shoppers know how to SHOP. Within a 7-hour market, we have an estimated combined sales of $350,000 to $500,000 in one day consistently. Based on your ability to dial in your items, customer service, booth setup and sales mentality- you can walk away with what you want. 5,000 - 10,000 eager shoppers are there- ready to support those that provide the BEST value to them.
Will that be you?
WHO DOES BEST?
We're for independent, established brands with distinguishable styles AND we're for the dreamers- those people whose website might be yet to launch but with a little bit of fire (in the form of thousands of market shoppers) underneath them, will rise above where they ever thought possible.
The ties that binds you both? You take your business or craft seriously. Your focus is on delivering a quality experience to customers. AND you value our partnership by taking your behind-the-booth responsibilities (pulling permits, paying us on time, following safety instructions, etc) seriously.
We don't want to be babysitters. We want to set your brands on fire (in the best way possible).
And how do we do that? Well, we've built a market that delivers a consistent group of super-shoppers who are eager to #SupportSmall and buy everything in your booth- that is IF you bring quality merchandise, deliver a quality customer service experience, and know your financial goals before you even set foot up on that pavement.
And THIS is precisely why we're different.
We have the crowds, for sure. But we also have the creative business chops to help you make the most money by consistently delivering you OUT of panic, overwhelm, scarcity, confusion and copycat syndrome- all conditions that often afflict the creative business types.
We have an Event Coach- that's Sammy. Her goal is to help you get prepared for every market day- by encouraging you to show up for yourself in small (but powerful) ways leading up to event day. And we have a Business Coach. That's me and I'm here to get you prepared to run the best business you can run, beyond this one day of the market.
Together, with the rest of our crew, we are #TeamFlea.
Delivering you the best place to launch, grow and love your creative brand.
Your first challenge is here: The Season Seven Application. If you're nervous, I've already written several articles that are available at the top of the Vendor FAQ page so that you can head into this task with confidence, clarity and courage.
For some of you, this is a total breeze.
And for the new ones- remember that they all began somewhere. Many of them, in fact, HERE at Cleveland Flea.
Stephanie & Team Flea
If you don't start with a number, you won't know how to anchor and steer your efforts. For instance, my team knows well ahead of time how many vendors we want in each category to be accepted to the flea. We know how many attendees we target to show up at each market, and we know how much money ($1,000,000) we aim to make this year.
Knowing our numbers is the first thing we do. It steers our entire effort. If you leave your sales to the whim of a market, you're not really being a business owner. You're letting your business (and shoppers) run your business.
Step into your role as small business owner, and start getting the results you want.
FIRST, FIND OUT HOW MANY PEOPLE TYPICALLY ATTEND THE MARKET YOU'RE SELLING AT.
We intentionally created a predictable amount of shoppers for each Cleveland Flea. Our number is between 5,000 + 10,000 attendees.
But what if the weather is 'bad'? This is the thing you might not understand. Our shopping market is resilient to bad weather. That means that the SHOPPERS still show up, rain or shine. This is not the case for other markets. But because of how we run things, we always ensure (unless there is a really really really bad storm like an 'act of God') that you can depend on a core group of shoppers who know that unless they shop TODAY, they'll miss out. The people who skip the flea when the weather is bad? The Seen + Be Seen crowd, who actually contribute very little to the market economics anyway.
So, don't get worried if there's a storm. Shoppers are still on their way.
Ok, so you have basically more shoppers than you need. 5,000 minimum.
IDENTIFY YOUR DREAM CUSTOMERS
Have you determined who your dreamiest customers are? If you haven't it'll be like you're shooting fish in a barrel. Sales is MUCH more difficult unless you know who is really into your stuff. Decide 4 types of people who you know will LOVE your products + your brand.
Make them real by thinking of real people in your life (or existing customers) and making a list of:
why those people love your products
what products they already own
what products you want to sell them NOW (think about the season, what's most likely to sell?)
new customers who you would REALLY love to introduce your brand to but who just haven't found you yet
You make this list for a few reasons, but one really big one is to be able to prepare yourself to spot these people in the crowd or when they come to your booth and have authentic conversations with them ABOUT products they love and why they'd find value in buying them.
If you don't do this (unless you're a natural-born salesperson) you'll most likely struggle with in-person sales and it will feel awkward or even confidence-crushing.
START WITH A NUMBER
This will be challenging when you're new but guess what? That's the situation you find yourself so stop the drama and just make a decision.
You will get better the more markets you do. The most stuff you sell. The more sales you track.
So, decide how much it is you WANT to make and then MAKE that happen.
Here's how that plays out:
Let's say I start with $1000 being the amount of money I want to walk away with and this number make sense for me (it is a number that feels really good) and I've done some planning to determine that will pay for my supplies and time, etc.
I'd then know how much product to bring. (with the caveat that making more is always better because shoppers love shopping booths that are FULL not sparse and empty, as a general rule).
I'd then know how to plan my pre-market schedule. I'd be able to decide how much raw materials I needed and how much time I need for production.
Then I'd think about all the other things that I would have control over in order to deliver myself $1000 on market day. Practical stuff like display, signage, what I wear, how prepared I will be, where I'll store extra product, my inventory list, etc. I mean, this is all the stuff business owners will learn to be great at, if they practice by showing up to markets.
Then, during the show, that number will guide my efforts. I'll know that each potential sale is really up to me. Sales will be about having authentic conversations with people that love my brand. My attitude will continue to soar. My confidence will go up. I'll be better at selling and pretty soon, I'll have blown past my number.
FIND A WAY TO SET YOURSELF APART
Don't fall into the Commodity Trap. What's that? Well, it's the thing that people do when they see something 'selling well' at markets and then decide they're getting in on that game, too. This might be a short-term (one market) win, but it's not a sustainable way to run a business.
Think about it. If your stuff looks like 20 other businesses, then you're truly directly competing for the SAME AUDIENCE.
However, if you have a distinct style, then you have a niche.
A commodity is purchased on price alone. So the only way you'll be able to make money is by:
keeping your prices lowest (that's so annoying and not fun)
constantly scoping your competition (you have better things to do)
following the whims of the market (putting your customers in charge of your business)
You can do better. Create items from within. Build a brand that is original and is designed based on the unique individual that YOU are.
This is the BEST way to build a sustainable business that gets better day after day.
Other ways to set yourself apart:
Create a display on-site that no one can pass by without stopping
Have samples of your product (if you're a food vendor)
Make sure everything in your booth makes sense as a whole.
Create a mission statement and display that.
Don't follow the trends of everyone else. Dare to be different!
DELIVER QUALITY TO YOUR CUSTOMERS
The businesses who do best:
Have a high-quality product that is well-made and well-cared for
Do something different than other people
Are confident in themselves and in their product.
Deliver a high-quality customer service experience. Greet customers happily and with confidence. Ask them questions. Tell them about your brand and who you are. They WANT to learn this about you!
Focus on what they can do to make the most out of a market day instead of just sitting in their booths waiting for customers. You're essentially managing a tiny storefront so look busy, don't look bored. Nothing turns customers off more than interrupting your low-energy social media browsing. They feel like they're interrupting you.
Now, spend your time focused on learning how to be the best version of YOU. Learn what you need to do. Have fun doing it. Decide what your dreamiest business looks like.
Stop the drama. Start being a BOSS.
Season Seven applications go live on Friday, January 25th.
Here are 4 reasons for you to step out from behind your computer or Etsy store, grab your tent (or maybe purchase one) and #SetUpShop.Read More
Do you want to do something BIG this year?
Start your business. Grow your business. Learn about your business. Grow your social media or get better at what you do or create a mailing list of the dreamiest customers?
Then you'll definitely want to apply to be a part of Season Seven.
We don't want any of you feeling anything less than confident about your Season 7 Application, so let's talk about how you can reduce (or even get rid of) Application Anxiety.Read More
We’re sharing some insider tips on choosing the best photos for your application.Read More