By January 2017, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and try participating in a Pop Up Market. In case you are wondering, a Pop Up Market is basically a market to reach a specific audience or to appear in a neighbourhood for a particular period to enable makers including artists, designers, bakers, farmers and or vendors of mostly food items, antique products or handmade products to sell their merchandise. Depending on the nature of the individual Pop-Up Market, it might be a one-time event or might occur several times throughout the year.
I had never been to a Pop Up Market but I had seen several adverts online and decided to give it a try. My main aim as a maker and designer was to create awareness about our unique products and brand, interact first hand with our customers, listen to their suggestions and input on how to make the brand soar, make some sales and most importantly have fun.
All this while, Oye Bags & Clothing was a side hustle and I was a full time banker. This meant we could only participate in Pop Up Markets on weekends or holidays therefore, we had to plan and build stock someway somehow. I was very determined this will work so I put in my very best effort. Before Oye Bags and Clothing started selling at Pop Up Markets, you could only purchase our products from our brick and mortar store in Sakaman,Hyde Street,Accra. I must confess human traffic to the shop was quite low so this was one of our ways to improve the situation.
Our first Pop Up Event was on 6th March 2017 at Crystal Park, East Legon. I was quite anxious and didn’t know what to expect. I couldn’t sleep much the night before because my brains were super active trying to prepare and process information for the next days event. We parked all the necessary items into my Hyundai ix 35 and we were ready to hit the road. I started the car and for some reason, the car wont start! This had never ever happened to me, not my faithful, loyal Awurassie (pet name for my car. I actually named her after myself because I know what she’s been through yet she stands tall and pushes harder like a bull). To my surprise, the car decided not to start that morning. Then I remembered I hadn’t done the routine car servicing in a while. Well, that wasn’t going to be a show stopper for me. Those who know me will tell you I don’t take no for an answer. Everything and anything is possible. I left the car just where it was parked and went knocking on my neighbour’s door.
My neighbour, whose name I don’t even know came to our rescue. He offered to give us a ride to a point then we could get a taxi and carry on with the trip to East Legon, Crystal Park for the pop up market. That gentleman was actually God sent. He drove us all the way to East Legon, Crystal Park and you can imagine how thankful I was to him. We were lucky to get to the venue in good time and we immediately started our set up. I had read a little on how to prepare for pop up markets but truth be told, I was clueless about how to set up. My able assistant Sandra and myself managed to set up to the best of our ability and we sat down with high hopes ready for people to flock to buy our merchandise. That was my prayer in the morning and I was super hopeful, positive and ready to receive my biggest sales since I started making bags.
By 3pm, I was shattered. We had sold just 3 small items which couldn’t cater for the amount we spent on registration for the event, the lunch we had enjoyed and our return trip home. Then it started to rain! It rained cats and dogs and goats!! All this while, not only was I worried about the low sales but I was also worried about my car, how we would make it back home and even to my Bank job the next day. Although I had been assured that it will be delivered to me before the end of the market, I wasn’t too sure because whatever happened earlier in the morning seemed like a major fault and the thought of this alone was quite disturbing. As I sat down with a long face counting my loss, one vendor whose name I later on found out to be Clara of Clatural Wear told me not to give up. Infact she shared a beautiful smile with me and encouraged me. I latched onto her words and remained hopeful.
After the rains, we decided to close shop and take a taxi home even though there were still people on the market. Whilst we were packing, a familiar face passed by and as she saw our bags, she drew closer and she called her friends to come over to our stand. She loved our bags!! Ama Abebrese loved our designs and she kept saying they were unique and beautiful. That was all I needed, encouragement from a sister. She encouraged us to continue our hassle and She has been an awesome support to the Oye Brand ever since.
Although my first experience at a pop up market didn’t turn out as I expected, these are the few lessons I took home:
A Pop Up market is a fine place to meet people, an opportunity to interact and network with other makers, buy raw materials needed for your craft and even get information on your industry as a maker.
It also offers you the opportunity to get first hand information on customer demands. It is also an opportunity to meet both present and future buyers as well as wholesale buyers.
As a maker or vendor, be selective in your choice of pop up markets you participate in and invest in your set up. Your set up speaks loads to your potential buyers.
Never miss the routine oil change and servicing of your vehicle otherwise it will disappoint when you need it most.