One day, what feels like a long time ago, I decided I was going to start a sewing business, Astrid and Friends. It happened on a whim, truly. I had a three-month-old baby, and during a late night feeding session, I had sent an email to a local event asking if they still needed vendors. It seemed like such a fun idea, and 3am me was very brave! I didn’t expect a response, but instead got an email back at noon the next day, inviting me to participate.
Over a year later, during busy season, I do 3-4 events a month, while maintaining a small online store, as well. However, markets and events will always be my absolute favourite, and I have no plans to stop anytime soon! If you’re wanting to start selling your sewing at markets, here’s a few tips to get you started.
Tip #1: Be Your Authentic Self
Although it might seem obvious, my first tip is to be true to yourself. When daydreaming about what you want to sell and create, focus on what your own vision is. Don’t get lost trying to be someone else! While I’d love to be all neutrals and linen, I will always gravitate towards pastels, quirky prints, and alllll the pink. I had to remember that it doesn’t matter what people on Instagram are doing – I needed to find my niche and market, and not worry about theirs. And guess what!? Turns out, there’s a whole market for quirky pink dresses.
Tip #2: Invest What You Can
You don’t need a perfect booth and a million beautiful creations to start markets. Design a booth within your budget, and absolutely make it look as nice as possible. But, when you’re first starting, it isn’t about having the nicest booth, or a million outfits. It’s just about taking that first step! Bring what you can comfortably create, even if it’s just 20 or 30 dresses. Everyone has to start somewhere, and my booth from my first show looks nothing like my booth now. As I grew, I was able to invest in my displays and expand.
Tip #3: Batch Sew!
If you’re sewing a lot of pieces for markets, especially on a tight timeline, it’s time to break out the batch sewing. This means arranging your sewing tasks into groups to make things more efficient. I cut on Mondays and Tuesdays, and sew everything Wednesday through the end of the week. This way, I am not back and forth from the cutting table a million times, and can focus my energy on whipping up my creations! If I’m sewing multiples of the same pattern, I do all the steps concurrently, so I can make them all at once. It saves a lot of time and means I can make more during busy seasons.
Tip #4: Be Discerning in What You Sign Up For
When signing up for markets, don’t just pick anything that will take you. Not everyone is your clientele! Investigate what markets in your area serve your ideal buyer, and visit them before filling out an application. See if you feel like your products would fit in. There’s no point in going to a market if no one there will be interested in your product!
Tip #5: Price Yourself Fairly
And that means fair for YOU! Don’t undersell yourself and your hard work. Sewing takes hours, and even in wholesale quantities, fabric, machines, and tools add up quickly. Pricing yourself low will only serve to burn you out, even if it moves product quickly. Your time and effort are valuable.
And finally, Tip #6: Enjoy It
Cheesy, I know, but make sure you don’t steal the joy when monetizing a hobby! Sometimes, things are just meant to be fun, and that’s okay, too. Not everyone needs a multi-million-dollar business! Markets are a time for me to get out of the house and to do something I’m proud of. Even when I am up late sewing to meet deadlines, I love every second, and I make sure I don’t lose that joy. After all – without the joy, what would be the point?
Good luck at your markets!
~ Inara MacKay