These days, most people think in terms of e-commerce, not local opportunities, but sometimes local is the best way to grow your business from the start. Don’t get me wrong- you need a website.
Let me explain what I mean….
So, as many of you know, I launched The Cookie Cups in May of this year and had every intention of selling nationally through my carefully developed website. Then, I realized there was SO much opportunity to get the word out locally through festivals, farmer’s markets and even some local distribution at bakeries and on catering menus. I spent about a week mapping out my local plan to go direct to the customers and sell my new product line without having to open up a bakery.
I spent the summer baking. Yes, “on the side” of my other endeavors, to meet my customers face to face and understand what they like and dislike and also what they want. I created my own test market.
I rented out bakeries so that I would be able to have the space to bring in a staff and produce large volume in a short amount of time, and my team of Le Cordon Bleu pastry students and I learned as we went.
You can do the same in your area with just a few preliminary steps:
- Think outside the box! The box is pouring your hard earned money down the drain by opening up a storefront right away. Research the local festivals, fairs and markets in your area and make a list of ALL of them. Include their pricing, location and admission process.
- Create your budget. Take a careful look at the total amount of dollars you are able to spend on this project and this will help eliminate the possibilities you have found that are out of reach right now. Maybe you have enough to participate in everything- GREAT! Either way, write it all down and track what you are spending.
- Make Contact. Many of the options you find for your test market will have an email or contact form through their website. If you can speak with someone directly over the phone try that first. I have found that this is the best way to introduce yourself, and believe it or not, some people still like that “human touch”.
Now that you have your plan, you will need a list of supplies you will need, any staffing necessary and the logistics of each event you are planning to participate in.
Also, think ahead and have a backup plan. What if it rains? Does the event get cancelled? Does it get rescheduled? What if your product does not sell out? Do you have somewhere else you can sell your product? (Mostly, this applies to food but still may require some planning for any company selling a product.)
A test market is crucial when you are starting any company with products to sell, so don’t leave this out of your business plan. Let your test market help you build from the ground up!