The soap making market is beyond its saturation point. Etsy is wall -to-wall, floor to ceiling with them. The internet is fully stocked with so many you’d never be able to view them all if you sat there looking at them for 100 years. It’s tough out there trying to get noticed if your biz is online exclusively. Most makers will tell you that’s not how to create a business if you want it to succeed. You’ll have to beat feet to be seen, found and heard in this biz.
Being seen, heard and found isn’t that easy either. Many markets, fairs and special events are in our area but to get into them is the toughest thing I’ve seen since trying to apply for college loans.
Farmers markets in my area are full. Crafter markets have fees so high I can’t afford to join. One that started up just a couple of years ago was pretty wide open with just one other Bath & Body maker in it whose product was quite different from mine. I thought it might be possible to get into this market because we didn’t create similar things, but to the everyday person and the vendor oversight/approval committee, if it’s soap, it’s soap. Period. If you make something that a current vendor makes you’re not welcome here. Go somewhere else. No room here.
It was clear to see the many crafters in this market are savvy, creative, talented beyond description, know all the right people and have plenty of connections to keep their spot confirmed in the marketplace. I’ve seen them, visited their web sites and their products are truly unique, of high quality, presented with clear, clean lines that customers appreciate. They are were very fortunate to get in on the ground floor with this market. Getting their face and brand out there in the public eye is not half the battle it IS the battle. And those early bird vendors have won.
I’ve been on their mailing list for a couple of years, applied every season with hight hopes only to be turned down again and again, placed on a waiting list that never gets called back. It more than clear this is not going to happen so I’ve moved on though not without being curious, just one last valiant effort to try to apply. Just to see what happens. Can’t win if you don’t enter, right?
So I’m back in their website, looking up their application form and my heart plummets. There’s now a fee. Not a large one mind you, but still a fee in involved. Maybe it would be fine for someone who’s business is doing far better but mine is struggling, seriously struggling to stay alive. Maybe I’m too stubborn for my own good to keep fighting for it to live, to succeed, but I keep pushing forward. Despite little income, despite being horribly introverted, it continues. Even a few dollars is hard to part with, but to part with it and never have anything to show for it? No, I cannot afford it.
My business is my baby and I’ll fight on for it, but it will have to be quietly, here without a huge following and definitely without fees for events. I’ve done the social media outlets, I use Google analytics, I work diligently on a web site, setting the SEO just right, post frequently with interest and interactive content. The steps are done but the numbers don’t show it. But what are numbers anyway when really all it takes in just that ONE person to order, be pleased and spread the word to their friends and pass it along.
The customers who do visit are treated with respect, individualized attention, care and concern. If they’re not happy, I’m not happy. Their needs are paramount and I listen to them when they talk of what their issues are and what they’d like to see more of in a product. I care about my customers whether they number in the thousands, hundreds or just a few. They still have high expectations and I’m going to do all I can to never let them down.