Taking the Next Big Step: Small Business Pros & Cons of Where to Sell Your Stuff

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esf-logo Vancouver Is Awesome is a proud sponsor of The Eastside Flea, fun & lively pop-up markets around the city! Always a good time, expect everything from vintage clothing & collectables, handmade goods, art, local food, & more… Catch a monthly post on all things ESF on V.I.A.!”

So you’ve always been good with your hands. Maybe you have a great eye for finding other people’s junk and turning it into someone else’s treasure. Maybe you have great style & taste and think other people will be into the same things you are. Or maybe you don’t have any skill whatsoever and just want to do something outside the box & find a new way to make your own living!

Join the ranks of thousands of Vancouverites who sit hunched over their own work at night, feverishly creating ideas, crafting them into something tangible, and calculating how much money they could make doing it for a living instead of ‘working for the man’. Lift your chin, call yourself an entrepreneur, and get thinking about building your business for the long-term. Welcome to creative small business, early stages! 

Hannah J? handmade bag
One of Hannah J. Newton’s handmade creations, sold at the E.S.F.

Once you have an idea and something to sell, deciding how to get it into people’s hands is always a tough one. Here’s a bit of advice from ESF on the pro’s & con’s of three most common ways to hawk your goods: markets, online, or traditional retail storefront. 

MARKETS
PROS:
– Low cost/low overhead
– Marketing, advertising and admin work done for you
– Face to face interaction with customers
– Can start small, see what reaction is from public, grow your business based on needs of people and demand
– Fun, exciting & always changing
– Usually on the weekends – don’t have to quit your full time job to participate

CONS:
– Need storage for your booth display – table(s), small furniture & display items, signage, and your goods themselves
– Vehicle to bring everything back and forth
– Might need help to set-up & tear-down
-Usually on the weekends – if you work a 9-5 your weekends are usually time to relax

ONLINE
PROS:
– Easy to do from home
– Computer knowledge and adeptness will help greatly
– Money comes straight to you
– International marketplace – prices can be higher online in many instances
– People are searching you out and coming to you

CONS:
– Customers can’t see your item in real life, so you must be very detailed in describing it & have great photos
– Taking good quality photos, uploading and inputting details is time consuming and tedious
– More competition
– You have to sell yourself within a few seconds, it’s easy for potential customers to click away from the page
– Shipping is a pain in the ass – trips to the post office, cost & storage of shipping supplies
– People expect immediate responses to questions. If you’re not online all the time, response time may hinder purchases 

STOREFRONT
PROS:
– Building strong relationships with the surrounding community, other local businesses can support each other
– Growing a regular customer base, people know they can come back time and time again
– Stable and consistent space to sell your wares as well as work on other areas of the business
– Control over your own location, freedom to set hours etc

CONS:
– High overhead (utilities, rent, taxes, staff and more)
– Regular maintenance (fire inspections, permits, utilities)
– Storefronts are a big responsibility, it’s on your shoulders to market, operate and upkeep the storefront
– Very demanding of your time and energy, most small business owners have very little time for anything else in the first few years
– Stock on hand at all times can be costly, unlike online or at markets where you can allow customers to pre-order goods or prepare stock for a single day

HJN-Rollbag

One of our greatest success stories comes from a vendor who rented a table at the first ever Eastside Flea, as her first ever attempt at selling her handmade leather goods. Hannah Newton shares her experience with all three vending platforms and weighs in on what’s worked for her…

Hannah J. Newton – HJN Leather Craft Co

What was the catalyst for starting HJN Leather?
I think when I moved to East Van and saw so many young, talent people doing their own thing and actually making a living from it.  I thought to myself, “Hey, I think I could do that too”. I want to love what I do everyday, and I knew I would kick myself in the future if I didn’t give it a whole hearted try.

What has been your experience in selling on each these platforms? Markets, online, storefront.
I much prefer the direct, person to person platforms like a market or store. I love talking to people and getting to know them before I sell them something. Sometimes it can take up to a week to make a bag and I often get very attached to it over that time… so I like knowing they are going to a good home. But, that said, the web is great at getting your products out into the world, so I think a nice balance of both is key.

What were the steps you took in getting to open your own storefront?
I basically took a huge leap of faith and jumped into it head first with my eyes closed :)

How has the ESF been part of this journey?
The ESF is where it all began!!! It gave me the guts to go for it, and keep going for it. Couldn’t have done it without you guys.

What items will you have available at the Midtown Pop-up?
I will be selling mostly smaller Items like belts, wallets, and purses. I’m hoping to have a few larger bags too, but will be taking orders for totes and satchels if people are interested. (I’ve got a waiting list for those at this point)

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Hannah is a great example of a young entrepreneur who by intuition found the right path for her and her small business! She was able to try out all of the different options, and put her finger on exactly what works best for HJN Leather. Although it was a fairly clear process for Hannah, the Eastside Flea works with all types, levels and forms of small businesses who have jumped from online to markets to storefronts and back. In our experience we’ve found that there is no right linear progression to follow, it really just depends on your business and it’s needs.

By taking part in the Midtown Pop-up Experiment, we ourselves are testing the waters of a storefront and seeing what it would be like to utilize another one of these economic platforms and allowing our vendors who are ready to do the same. We’re very excited about this new adventure and we invite you to come check it out to experience it along with us!

esf-poster

ESF Midtown Pop-Up
585 East Broadway
Vancouver, BC
Mon May 26 – Sun June 1
11am – 7pm+ daily

P.S. – This is also our very first Vancouver is Awesome article! There’s a lot of directions we can go with future articles, but we’ve been thinking of continuing “Welcome to Creative Small Business!”, as a series with tips, ideas, and vendor experiences to guide you along in the process of creating a small business out of your vision.

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