Market Season: Then vs. Now - What I learned to stay sane!

Last year was my first year of doing big scale markets and I’m going to be completely honest, I failed at market prep miserably. I was not prepared. I procrastinated. I underestimated my time and in the end I didn’t have enough stock for my markets. I had 2 markets last year, about a month apart. I figured hey if I start knitting in September I’ll be able to make enough for my both in November and December. Nope. No. Definitely not.

My first mistake was starting in September. With two kids, one in school and both starting activities that month, September came and went in a blur with not much time to really sit and knit. I was on the go from the moment I got up to the moment I went to bed. When I did find the time, I never made enough because I was too tired and just swamped.

 My second mistake was taking on way more than I could handle. I had 2 big wholesale orders on top of my market prep. Tie in orders that came in through my website because of shop sales and I was elbow deep in knits that I couldn’t keep up with. Biting off more than I can chew has always been a problem for me because I tend to be a people pleaser. I say yes yes yes when on the inside I’m like how the heck am I going to manage all this?!?  

And last but not least my third mistake was that I was just plain lazy. There I said it. There were days where I just found excuses not to knit or I justified why not doing any market prep was a good idea. Hello Procrastination Queen! Telling myself I work well under tight deadlines and under pressure is one thing but then actually having to knit 10 hats a day and only sleep an hour each night is another. After last year’s season I was so burnt out that I couldn’t look at my yarn for months let alone knit with it. That’s when I vowed to myself to never let that happen again.

So now this brings us to my experience with this year’s markets.   I took away from my experience last year and did the adult and mature thing; I learned from it. I applied for my markets earlier in the year, this way I had an idea of how many markets I had to potentially prepare for.

I realized that my biggest downfall was not being organized. So, after the New Year I checked to see what was left of my inventory. This includes materials (tags, poms and yarn) and finished products. I made note of all the popular colors that sold. This made it easier for me to gauge what I needed and to cut out unnecessary spending throughout the year. I bought my materials in bulk and I made sure to stock up as much as I could so that I didn’t have to scramble. This was so important to me because I didn’t have to order materials last minute and pray for it to come in time for me to be able to use it. I also made detailed lists of all the items that sold best. This gave me a good idea of what you guys loved and probably wanted to see more of! I wrote out each item in every colour, style and size so that I had a visual of what I wanted to accomplish. My first list was almost 400 items LOL so I had to scale back and choose a colour scheme for myself which brought my number down to something more manageable. Also by choosing a color scheme, my items looked more cohesive and it looked like I had a collection rather than just one offs.

After I edited and finished my list I started knitting in the summer. This gave me a few more months than last year to get a head start.  I set a personal goal for myself on a daily basis of how many items I wanted to knit. Every day I made sure to knit something different so that I wouldn’t get bored and things wouldn’t get redundant. I also didn’t pressure myself to knit every day because let’s be honest that’s just not realistic. Once I got organized and set achievable goals, I felt more motivated to knit and create!

 Another really helpful thing I did was make doubles of every colour and sometimes triples if I knew it was popular last year. So if I was making a mustard Miner toque, I made 3 one right after another, that way I knew I’d have stock no matter what. This decision was a game changer for me. By having multiples of my inventory, when an order came in I could take from my market stash to fill that order and not have to feel pressure to make up for what I took.

The next thing I did differently was I didn’t take on any wholesale orders this year. I made the conscious decision to focus solely on markets. Although the thought of having my items in a store thrills me, it just wasn’t worth the time, the stress and the pressure I was feeling, having to fulfill those orders and keep up with prep. There is also the factor of cost. Doing wholesale only brought me a percentage of the sale so I had to really dig deep and decide if it was worth it for me. I’m not by any means saying that wholesale isn’t a great decision, what I’m saying is that for me, a full time working mom, it didn’t make sense to take on wholesale on top of my markets.

And last but not least, I had to make make the crucial decision to cut out shop sales. I did this not because I don’t like offering discounts to my customers, but because during Black Friday last year I got so many orders that I almost didn’t finish them in time for Christmas. I still have PTSD because of it. I’m not saying that I’ll never have a shop sale again, but I definitely will not be having one between two of my really big events where I should be focusing on prep rather than working my 9-5 everyday momming in the evening and staying up all night to knit. Not only was that just brutal but I was a complete miserable zombie.

So there you have it. So far I just finished my last market this year and they have all been really successful and my experience from last year to this year has been night and day. I had enough prep for all three markets and boy does that feel amazing! And you know what else feels amazing, SLEEP!