Ready, Set, Off to Market!

It’s all in the life of a small cookie business; plan, plan, plan, bake, and bake some more and finally, off to the market. All of this along with packaging and traveling (early birds catch the worms) can pay off. Weekly markets can really be a ton of work, and no different than selling at special events, but often far more unpredictable. They do take a bit more for us in the actual planning and execution, but sales can easily be triple if not more than our regular weekly markets.

In the summer, particularly here in southern Arizona, we back off of some of the weekly markets because of the heat and lack of customers. Yet with special events, at least for A Simple Cookie, we’ve been able to consistently expect to have a good turn out and equal sales. People have to make the effort to attend a special event, and they generally have already decided that they will be spending money when they attend. That, in turn, seems to be the optimum equation.

Obviously, we need to pick our markets and special events carefully. Timing and the type of clientele that will be attending the event factor pretty heavily. Can we cover the cost of any travel and extra expenses, and have we attended before? We also must figure out how our preparation is going to factor in with our work schedules, not to mention when the actual event will take place. We do this for our weekly markets, but special events will often take the place of a weekly market. We simply cannot cover both right now so it’s pretty important to make sure that we’ll sell enough to make it worth our while.

This past Saturday, we attended and set-up as a vendor at the Empire Ranch Foundation’s National Day of the Cowboy. We set-up last fall (November) at their Cowboy Festival, and we were thrilled with the attendance and our sales. While this event takes place in the hot summer month of July in southeastern Arizona, we decided to give it a try. Knowing it was going to be hot! and the attendance much lower than the 1000+ at the fall event, we would need to make a few adjustments. Primarily in the amount of product that we would take.

We baked and packaged roughly half of what we took in the fall. (We sold out early on in November and this market would have many of the same people attending – mostly an older, more mature crowd.) Attendance for this summer event was 300+ and would likely be the same but perhaps more families with small children. We took the same variety which included our Sampler Stacks, Oatmeal Raisin, Beth’s Chocolate Chip cookie stacks, and individual Cowboy Cookies and brownies. We decided to not take individual cookies (other than the Cowboy and brownies) because this event had a much shorter time frame and most people would probably be taking them home and not necessarily consuming on the property. Of course, our Boogiemen Dog Biscuits would be on sale as well.

I prepared the dough the weekend before and baked mornings before going to work on Thursday and Friday. Our Boogiemen dog biscuits I made the weekend before as they are easily frozen in advance of our events. By Friday morning, we’re ready to go. I normally load the car the night before, with the exception of the cookies, but this time around, I waited until morning.

Boxed Product; cookie stacks, brownies, individual cookies, all ready to load.

 

These stacks are ready for transport!

cookies boxes ready to load

 

And even more cookies ready for the road.

 

Did we mention our baskets upon baskets?

Loaded and ready to roll. Thankfully, this event was only about 30 minutes away in Sonoita, Arizona. Empire Ranch is now a historical ranch and part of the Bureau of Land Management. It’s also in a beautiful area of southern Arizona that looks entirely different from Vail and Tucson, Arizona, where we live! The vendor fees that we pay go to the Empire Ranch Foundation that takes care of the property. This particular event is free for visitors.

 

We’ve arrived! Ready to set up!

 

Let’s do this!

I guess we should have taken some more pictures but we were able to pull up close in order to unload. We were located under the roof of the feed trough and decided to still use our tent because of the angle of the sun! There was a little breeze for a while which was great considering that the temps would rise to 108 by the time the event would close.

 

 

Our spider tent before it becomes the much-needed shade for this 100+ degree weather.

Silence is sometimes the norm; we were both still waking up and there’s a lot to do. Always easier though with two! I was still worried about what the attendance would be like but my philosophy has become simply that if we don’t have it, we cannot sell it. Within reason, of course, and it’s always a little bit hairy in trying to figure numbers when it’s a new event.

 

Haley getting ready for the day, not saying much because of lack of coffee.

 

Mom making the stand look beautiful.

 

Still not enough coffee yet…

People started rolling in pretty early even before the event officially began and Granddaddy (Bob of Bob’s Clocks) came to see how we were doing as well. He said there were plenty of cars out in the field! We had quite a few customers that remembered us and purchased from us last fall – always good to hear! along with a lot of new faces.

 

This was our FIRST rendition of the sign, but then….

 

We realized (after it being pointed out to us) that it was actually a bit negative, so we changed it!

Good day overall; almost completely sold out, with the exception of the Boogiemen Dog Biscuits. That definitely a change from the fall event. A few Sampler Stacks left and individual Cowboy cookies and brownies. Certainly cannot complain, especially when the temperature climbed as it did. Chocolate is not really a huge commodity when the temps start soaring in the upper nineties, much less over a hundred degrees and humidity. Always a nice goal to meet when you don’t have a lot of product to take home!

Packing up and it was suddenly pretty hot. We were both definitely ready for a diet coke – even if we had to head in the opposite direction for a few miles to the nearest convenience store/restaurant. Haley figured that we took in $1 for every attendee; almost half of what we made in the fall and less than a third of the visitors or customers. Not too shabby.

 

WE DID IT! We are hot, tired, but very happy with the day.

I personally, think it was a nice event – and a welcome change from the weekly markets. The weekly markets sometimes get a little “stale” in that they can really become a chore. That in itself is another reason why it’s nice to change it up a bit. A new event, or special event, often sparks our excitement, but also tends to get us to start thinking about new options or marketing ideas… Inspiration!

 

And the beautiful road home.

Ready, Set, Roll… Let’s do this cookie thing!

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