Why isn’t my farmers’ market based business making any money?

Dear FMNS,

I’m a vendor at a farmers’ market and I sell a wide selection of products because I want to cater to as many different people as possible. Whenever a customer asks me if I can make a new kind of product, I start to make it, but I’m not making very much money. Should I diversify even more?


Over-extended Vendor
Dear Over-extended Vendor,

The mistake that you are making is not unusual for new businesses; trying to do too much, not focusing on what you are really good at and what your customers want the most.

It’s really important that you are known for a particular thing or small selection of things. For example, customers at the market may call you ‘The Scone Lady’ or ‘The Man with the great hat and really tasty carrots’. If it isn’t clear what you sell, if you sell preserves and hand knitted dishcloths and flower arrangements and fudge, then it isn’t clear what it is that you ‘do’. Your display may well look confusing and customers will keep walking by.

If your business could be called ‘Dishcloths, Fudge and Stuff’, you have a problem with focus.

Try explaining to a friend what it is that you sell. If it takes you more than a sentence then you are doing too much. By simplifying your business model to focus on the product or products that are most popular, you can start to evaluate who buys your products and figure out how to attract more of that kind of person. If you typically sell to Moms with kids, then focus on the needs of Moms with kids and don’t worry about single men over 60 or other groups. Not everyone is YOUR customer so don’t try to please everyone.

You can still add variety, for example you could offer 5 different kinds of scones and maybe sell jam to go with them. Or, if you sell gift cards, consider selling gift wrap as well. These combinations make logical sense in the mind of the customer.

Good luck and enjoy reaping the rewards that simplicity brings!