In which Stella goes to market.
The main 'front of house' for my business is my stall on Maltby Street Market, it's where I can meet and talk with you lovely people face to face (which I love - do come and say hello!), where potential stockists come and meet me, and where I can judge the reaction to new products or scent blends; It's my store-front and my office, and where I share my trials and tribulations with other small business entrepreneurs - my colleagues and friends.
It seems a long time ago that I first walked down Ropewalk with my picnic baskets of soap.
One post-Christmas Saturday, I met up with some friends down at Ropewalk (as I did most weeks back then, though just for the atmosphere and the amazing street food!) to give them their presents - soap cupcakes that I'd made. They loved them, and one - you know who you are - insisted I should sell them 'Like, maybe here?'. Inspired, I put down my @littlebirdgin and went and found the Market Manager, Tavi Ionescu (who these days is an incredible photographer)!
Long story short: Much to my surprise, without too much convincing, he said 'Sure, when you're ready give me a call, we'll do a trial and see how it goes'. It took me a couple of months (and much paper work), but one Friday night in late spring found me up until 3am, hand stitching bunting for a stall which was due to open the next morning. I was in a total state, not having done anything like running a market stall before: I'd no idea where I was going to be put, how large my stall would be, what I needed to take, how big a 'float' I'd need, how much stock to pack, what I would say to people and of course, I was filled with every entrepreneurs greatest fear - what if no-one wants what I'm selling.
That first Saturday was an incredible learning experience; in the production of my soaps I'd spent months researching, testing, refining and improving the product, but on my stall, I was just dropped in and had to learn, quickly, while on the go.
The one thing that wasn't a challenge, as it turned out, was talking to people interested in the product - passion shows, they say, and 'Stella' had clearly just been waiting to share hers!
A bit of time has passed since that first crazy Saturday, and my hobby is now my business...of course, nowadays I'm much more organised in my preparation, and Maltby St. is like a second home. But those pre-game nerves still sometimes set in, so I follow a set routine the day before market to minimise them. A typical Friday consists of the following:
1. Get up early, then faff/check website/social media/email for a minimum of three hours until caffeine levels are at suitable levels to tackle actual preparation.
2. Decide whether I'm introducing something new and, using photos of previous set up plan where to put it on the stall (then make the difficult decision of which of my babies to leave behind to make the space, if necessary).
3. Check 'core elements'; stock levels of balms, candles, soaps, room fragrances, bath bombs. Replenish where necessary (I won't actually make anything today - I've been doing that all week).
4. Prepare a limited number of gift sets and wrap, (with either @BBCwomenshour or a black and white movie on in the background for inspiration).
5. Check the stall 'presentation elements' are all in good order; lights, linen cloth, wine crates, fresh flowers, various props to reflect the natural ingredients like pine cones or oranges etc, gazebo...
6. Check the 'store elements'; my float, card reader and wireless speakers are ready and charged.
7. Go over 'detail elements' - business cards, ribbons, bags, soap holders and replenish.
8. Load stock and accessories into my vintage wine crates and load up my trusty van.
9. Realise I left some key stock/packaging/accessories in the workshop.
10. Unpack van, repack crates with missing stock, reload van.
11. Get an 'early' bed and some quality sleep (following my Bedtime Ritual first of course)!
I'll be at Maltby Street each Saturday in the run up to Christmas, (including the 23rd which will be just incredibly exciting). If you have the chance to, please do come along and say hello - I may even have some mince pies to share!