Over the last three years of market selling, I have been asked so many questions about my side hustle. People seem to be fascinated about what the actual selling experience is like, can you make any money from a market business and how does one get on-board? So I thought I would share with you what a typical market experience has been like for us. I say us because this side business has definitely been an all hands on-board family affair. At the end of this post, I will put up some links and resources for anyone that might be keen to take their passion or hobby to the next level.
One of the biggest questions I get asked is why candle making?
I would have to say I am definitely an accidental entrepreneur in this gig. I have always loved candles, but I got tired of paying the extraordinary prices. One day, Paul and I started experimenting with a candle kit we bought online and then out of nowhere the candle addiction hit us. We were off buying different aromas left, right and centre. We were giving testers to friends and family with some good feedback. Before I knew it, I had quit my recruitment day job and decided to give market selling a crack! On reflection, it probably sounds like a spur of the moment whim, but for years I had been yearning to do something creative. I think I just got to the point where it was either going to be now or never. Without a doubt, I don’t think I this leap of faith would have been possible without my supportive partner or my mum cheering me on from the sidelines.
In the early stages of setting up, I can honestly say I had no clue. Everything was by trial and error. And boy did we make some screw ups. One time I had just finished making a large batch of Cottage Roses candles and the strength of the aroma was just about knocking us out. So Paul decided to open a window to let some of the fumes out. When we came back later basically all of the candle tops had blistered (the candles had cooled down too quickly with the draught). There was no saving those sensitive beauties!
Another early issue involved judging how much product to make for each market. I believe this is only something you can evaluate after doing a number of them and looking at the former stats of foot traffic. Usually a week out from a market, I would feel super organised and ready to go and then I would get a customer/or retail order in and the pots and pinny would have to come out again. Sometimes this would involve late night pours and early morning stints so I would have enough product for the actual market day. One of my biggest pet peeves was attending a market and running out of stock. For me, that is like inviting people over for dinner and running out of food!
Here is an old shot of MWH completely taken over the lounge. Paul is still smiling but the cat is definitely over the mess!
On the day of the market, Paul often drives me in so he can help me set up with the Gazebo. It’s quite a sight seeing the car loaded up to the rafters with candles & gear. You can almost feel the car groaning on take off from the sheer weight of stock. Even after 3 years of experience, we still get market butterflies. Often we joke that arriving at a market scene is like going camping because you can never anticipate what you are about to find once you arrived in your allocated spot. “Would our neighbour be friendly, would we have enough space, what would the weather be like, have we brought everything”?
After the initial stress of setting up, lining the products up just right, and meeting the neighbours, the 5- 8 hour day (depending on what market) would just whiz by. The bigger Markets and especially the markets before Christmas can be intense. There have been a couple of times where I have left mum on her own for too long and I have come back to her saying she is handing in her resignation! Thankfully I have had mum by my side, but if you are setting up on your own I can honestly say in my experience, Wellington stallholders have been some of the most helpful and interesting people that I have ever met in a working environment. Often my neighbours would lend me their Eftpos if mine went down, or mind my stall if I needed to run off to the powder room, or tell me what markets worked the best for them.
On the flip side, when things go bad they go really baaaaad. Here I arrived at the Martinborough Fair at 6.30am with my gazillion boxes only to find some kind person had parked overnight in my spot. We didn’t know what to do…wait it out, move, try and find the owner of the car. After sitting on my boxes for over an hour, my lovely neighbour with the coffee cart gave up part of her space for me. After preparing for a couple of weeks this was pretty frustrating! The only positive here is when the punter sheepishly came to get his car, I made him buy a Lavender and Vanilla candle.
Apart from the occasional hiccup, the first year was so exciting, and I was working all kinds of hours researching everything from product design to business financials. Doing something creative and on my own terms had me fired up in all kinds of ways – such a terrible pun, I know!
Running a market stall is an incredible way to learn about small business and about yourself. So if you have an idea or a hobby that you would like to test the market with, I say go for it! You definitely don’t need to give up your day job as your market income can be a nice supplementary bonus. However, I would say you will need a lot of stamina if you are going to do both. I currently work in 25 hours in an administrative role close to home with Mondays off, so it is a really good balance.
If you are thinking about or have already started planning on setting up a stall, I would be happy to answer any questions -especially around designing your stall.
A drastic life change rarely feels ’realistic’. If it seemed achievable, you’d already be doing it!”
Resources to get started:
An invaluable Facebook page listing key Markets around New Zealand.
Wellington Market that runs every weekend in an underground car parking building. They often have weekends where you can pay a small fee to try a stall for a day.
Libby Dearnley runs these popular markets in Wellington. She is always super helpful and friendly. A really good starting point if you are fresh onto the scene.
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