Friday, January 31, 2014

More Flea Market Follies

Oh my goodness, I feel like I have walked back into middle school with the drama that has been happening in the past couple weeks.

So where did we leave off????  We were doing well.  Having a hard time getting product from the manufacturer since Christmas and our biggest worry was do we have enough product to last the whole weekend???

Then two weekends ago a woman about 10 booths up from us on Aisle C decided to get her hands on our product and start selling it in the market.  She had the same price point as us and has about 5 different flavors.  She already had a table where she was selling scarves and candles.  She moved the scarves to the middle and started selling beef jerky.  It was a strange sight to see scarves and beef jerky on the same table but it was more shocking to see how many other vendors came up to us "excited" to tell us that she was selling the exact same product as us.  We have an exclusive agreement with the manufacturer to not sell product to any person in about a 50 mile radius of us.  But they can't do anything to keep other people from getting their hands on the product and selling it in the same place as us.  So now we have competition.  We didn't see any drop in our sales on that aisle even though she was there, which was interesting.  We think she sold a few but can't be sure exactly how much she sold.  Later in the weekend we found out that she had moved the scarves off the table completely and was using the table completely for jerky.  Then on Sunday of that weekend she brought in a second table and made the table twice as wide in her space to display her jerky.  Again, while we were angry that someone would come in and sell the same product there wasn't much we could do.  We contacted the manufacturer on Monday and let our rep know that someone else was selling the jerky in our area and he basically told us that he would talk to the other distributor in the Orlando area who knew people in our market and we had heard that was where she got it from, but other than that there wasn't much he could do.  Fine.  So now we have competition.

Last weekend she continued to sell but again there wasn't much change in our numbers so she wasn't affecting us much.  We have already established a clientele and they were still buying from us.  Also last weekend we bought a new booth.  It is on the produce aisle. This is a highly sought after aisle and it is the only aisle that they sell produce.  Everyone goes there to get their produce so you get a highly visible spot for the locals and regulars to the market.  Many people shop on produce and don't go to any other aisle. We rocked on that aisle, however, the market management decided that we can't sell eggs without a license from the Florida Dept of Agriculture.  However, when we contacted the FDA they said that we didn't need a license from them and that our vendor's license was enough.  The market didn't believe us and they asked us not to sell the eggs until we had documentation or a license.  So we shut down eggs completely.  It was becoming too hard anyway with having to keep them cool and we weren't selling enough each weekend to warrant much more effort on our part.

Then today we find out that a booth just two booths away (we are supposed to have a 5 booth buffer) is selling the exact same jerky as us.  They also sell honeys, jams, and salsas.  They do a nice business with their honeys, etc.  So why they want to sell jerky, I don't know.  But I went over to "check things out".  I go up and the guy asks if he can help me.  I say I am looking for a strawberry jam and I was also interested in his jerky.  His wife pops around from the back of the booth, recognizes me and immediately goes up to her husband close up and tells him something.  I know she is telling him that I am the lady with the jerky on the other booth.  Good he needs to know.  Yes, I am going to confront him.  I am also going to be nice and I also want to get rid of all the extra eggs we have that we can't sell any longer.  So I ask his wife "how did you like the eggs you bought from us last week?" Nervously, she answers, "they were good." So I tell her, "I am glad.  We have a bunch of extra eggs and I would like go give you a dozen eggs completely for free. No strings attached. I ask for nothing in return." I tell her to come see me on aisle A later and I will give them to her.  Her husband then says, "you are the one with the jerky, right?"  "Yes I am." He then goes on to say, with a guilty tone in his voice. "please know that us bringing jerky to our booth was already in the making before you came on our aisle.  We were already in the process of getting it and we don't want you to think that we were trying to be vindictive in any way towards you all."  :?  yeah right.  But I say, "I am sure you weren't.  We moved to this aisle just last week and I am sure we cause quite a stir around here.  We are just a family trying to make a living here at the market.  This is our only income and our only job.  There is enough business in this market for everyone."  We go on to talk about strawberry jam and I tell him that I usually make ours but we are living in a trailer right now and I have 6 inches of space and not enough room to do any kind of canning or I would make my own (total truth). We talk a few more minutes about that and he comes back to the jerky.  He says that the other jerky guy in the market got it for him and that he really wanted us to know that it was not vindictive at all.  I tell him that I am sure he wasn't doing that and again reassure him that we are good honest folks just trying to make a living and that we have specific principles that we live by and one is that we aren't going to try to hurt his honey business and that we respect the rules of the market and respect other vendors and their products.  These are our values and it is surprising to us that others think that if they bring in the same exact product that they will do well with it in the same space as another vendor who already had it first.  When that happens the vendor is only hurting not only the original vendor's business but their own at the same time.  They can't expect to have the same success with the exact same product as what they witnessed the first vendor have.  We choose not to do that to our neighbors but can't control the actions of others.  So then I tell him I will be back later in the weekend to buy the jam as I don't have the cash right now.  I start to walk away and he says, "please let your husband know that we weren't trying to undermine him or his business."  I told him, "I will tell him but it would be good in you told him yourself as well."  He says, "well, I am not able to get away from my booth much to do that."  :?  Whatever, dude, you have a wife who can watch your stand while you go over and introduce yourself to my husband and try to grovel your way through this.

I did notice that he sounded like he had gotten caught and that he sounded like he was feeling guilty about what he had done.  I also noticed that many vendors don't have the guts to confront one another with a problem or issue like I am willing to do.  I also noticed that he had taken his six bags of jerky off his booth by the end of the day.  Hmm....... My husband said that he didn't come over and talk to him at all and that it didn't appear that he had samples of his jerky out or that he didn't appear to sell any.

Now, over on aisle C my son said he didn't notice anyone walking by with bags of jerky that they had bought from the other lady on his aisle.  But as we were packing up on that aisle this afternoon I heard the lady who sells jerky tell someone else that she wanted the table and something else moved to aisle F.  The guy said he would do it.  So I wonder if she is going to move her jerky business to another aisle this weekend or next. I would be in full support of that.  I think Aisle F would be a great spot to have jerky.  But we don't have the man power to man a booth over there.

Back when we started with the jerky, there was another guy in the market selling it.  He was selling it on aisle B.  We moved to another aisle and began selling it.  There is enough business in this market for the both of us.  But not on the same aisle.  I still stand by that.  We knew the other guy already had a following and that people came to find him on aisle B.  We didn't want to take that away from him.  We didn't want to confuse his customers by having a booth on the same aisle as him.  That wouldn't make good business sense nor would it make a good business practice.  We would hurt his business as well as ours and look stupid in opening up a booth on the same aisle.  So we opened on another aisle.  We would establish our own customers and be at another location in the market.  The only people we would confuse are the visitors/tourists but they wouldn't really be confused as they wouldn't know of the other guy.  Any of his regulars would know where to find him. Period. We weren't hurting his business.  But to think that by bringing in a product on the same aisle as us would be suicide for them.  What makes people think that this is a smart move?  Basically, they aren't thinking.

As for us, we will defend our product and our brand.  We will guide people to us and give them the facts.  1.  We are the ONLY manufacturer authorized dealer of this product in this area.  2. We don't know where they are getting their product from. 3.  If our customers have any issue with the product we have direct contact with the factory, they don't. We can call the factory directly and get resolution.  They can't.

Oh the honey lady never came this afternoon for her free eggs.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

New Happenings at the Flea

This weekend has been interesting!

First this past Tuesday we met with a local baker and agreed to try her breads in our shop. We tried to make it easy on her and told her to give us a variety of breads and some cinnamon buns. Period. She could pick the breads and she could piggyback on what she was already making for her own booth in other markets this weekend. We just asked her to make us some too. That is it. Easy. Nothing special for us. We would pick it up and pay her on Friday morning at her market that both she and my husband go to. Easy Peasy.

Friday comes and I am feeling better (had a stomach bug on Wednesday and Thurs). My husband goes off to the market first and my son and I follow to pick up the bread about two hours later. We get the bread, take it to our market and open up for the day. Friday morning at the market my husband was at was super slow, and it was also slow at our market. One vendor bought some of the artisan bread that we got from the baker and went off. He came back about five minutes later and brought me back the bread. He had begun to eat it and noticed that the center wasn't done. It was raw dough. He was super nice about the whole situation and I gave him his money back and I took the bread back. I also checked the other breads that were artisan style and they were all raw in the center too. My husband had already left the market he was at so he called the baker and told her. She was mortified and said she would fix it. That morning when we picked the bread up she had said she was up all night baking our bread and it was a long night. She hadn't slept yet. I told her to go to sleep and not worry about replacing any bread with us this weekend. She agreed to back us muffins next weekend in exchange for the bread that we had to throw out. We offered to save it for her to pick up but she told us to throw it out. 
On the way from the first market my husband was at he stopped by our "secret place" to pick up some Nature's Own, Wonder Whitewheat, and Merita breads to sell for the weekend. He got a nice variety. We didn't sell any of her cinnamon buns on Friday or today. I take that back. We sold one to a vendor. But we didn't sell any of her other breads. We did sell some of our Nature's Own, Wonder Whitewheat, etc. yesterday and today. This may be the way we go at this point.

New news!!!! Someone else is selling the same product as us in the market this weekend. This lady, Bobby, has two tables in the center of the aisle about 8 spaces down from us on Aisle C. We suspect she got it from the original guy who was selling it in the market when we started selling jewelry next to him. It is just speculation but we will find out soon, I guess. When we contacted the manufacturer of beef jerky the rep told us that we would have exclusive territorial rights. He would not sell to anyone in the area of us. While we can't control who brings it into the market we can control how they get it. They would have to drive to pick up the product from another distributor or have it shipped to an address over 75 miles away from here. OR they can buy from us if we agree.
While she didn't really hurt our sales yesterday on Aisle C we think our sales today over there were hurt by her. We hardly sold a thing. There were people who walked by our booth and said "we already sampled on the table back there" pointing to her table down the aisle. We didn't see but one person carrying a bag they bought from her but we can't be sure how many walked the other way and not by us after they bought. Also we had our son over on that aisle manning our booth as I had to stay home most of the day with a sick child. Our sales could have been off with him being over there all day long too. 

Tomorrow, my husband will man the booth on Aisle C. He will get a better feel for what is going on over there and she will have to compete with a grown man, not a kid for sales. My husband is a great sales man too. 8) On Monday we will contact the manufacturer and let them be aware that someone else has encroached on our territory. We aren't sure what they will do if anything but we hope they may have some ideas for us. In the meantime, my husband will talk to Bobby and tell her that we will be contacting the manufacturer about this and let her know that they will follow up on it. We will also let her know that we are the ones that she should be talking to if she wants to purchase at wholesale the product to sell and we can discuss that with her if she is interested in continuing to sell it. We will also let her know that we don't have any "beef" with her but with the person she is getting the product from. 

If it is the original guy then my husband is going to go to his flea market where he has bragged that he makes all this money and will tell him that we are willing to set up a booth there and sell our product at wholesale cost to the public for as long as he wants to continue to supply Bobby or anyone else in our area with product. Basically, my husband will attempt to make a "gentleman's agreement" with him (Roger) to stay out of our market and we will stay out of his. Hopefully this will work. Crossing our fingers. 

I have other news too. We think we may have a lead on a booth on the produce aisle. This will be HUGE for us!!! This aisle is always busy and our eggs belong on this aisle. We would sell both eggs and jerky in the booth. It is a center booth and it is smallish but it will work. We hope to talk to the person renting the booth right now and will know what we can do soon.

Haven't heard anything about the house yet. Hoping to know something tomorrow or Monday on that. 
I had no idea that we would be involved in such "drama" by moving down here and just trying to make a living here, eek out a livelihood, and raise a family. Ha!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Eggs, Christmas, Jewelry and Drama at the Flea

Just before Thanksgiving we went to another (about 15 minutes away but in another town) and we were set up next to "the egg guy".... stop me if you have heard this before. The egg guy started talking to us and then asked us if we were interested in selling eggs in our area. I feel like I have written this before.... We said yes but not yet. We called just before Christmas to tell him we were still interested in selling eggs but not until after the 1st. But during the conversation the egg guy told us that he had been contacted by our "nemesis" Chad (the dips guy) and he wanted to sell eggs in our area. We decided right there and then that we wanted to order some eggs and start selling immediately so Chad didn't get in on this. The egg guy said he wouldn't sell to anyone else selling in our market. We would have an exclusive agreement with him. Cool! So we got two cases of eggs, about 32 dozen and started selling that weekend. It was a bit sooner than we were prepared to do but we did it anyway. It made Chad mad apparently but he didn't talk to us about it. Chad decided to call the egg guy's supplier and try to cut out the middle man. The egg guy is their distributor and has an exclusive arrangement with the farm (the supplier). So fast forward to last week. The egg guy calls my husband to find out how many eggs we want this week. My husband tells him and he asks my husband how well he knows Chad. Not very well but not liking what we know of him. He is underhanded, a liar, sneaky, vindictive, and a bully. The egg guy tells my husband that Chad had called him back and told him he still wants to do eggs and the egg guy told Chad he already had a vendor in our market. Chad tells him that we aren't selling right and he will do it better than us. He then goes on to tell the egg guy that he tried to call the farm and they wouldn't sell him the eggs that Chad had to go through the egg guy. The egg guy tells him again he won't sell the eggs to him. Chad then goes as far as to cuss him out on the phone. The egg guy told us to tell Chad that if he ever sees him he is going to clock him. LOL. We didn't tell Chad that. We don't really talk to him.

So the long and short of it, yes, we are selling super jumbo eggs. They are all organic but not labeled organic because they don't go through the sorting process because they are so large, they don't go through that process, hence no label. But they are steroid and hormone free, all vegetarian fed, cage free, etc.

We have a new booth on the corner of a busy aisle for the eggs. Just down from our jerky booth. The kids trade off who is running this booth. It is pretty easy to run. The first order of eggs sold in two weekends and we picked up a second order, 5 cases instead of our first order of 2 cases. Today we sold 18 dozen eggs. my husband sold at a market set up at the local hospital this morning. It is mainly for the employees. They loved the eggs being there. In fact my husband took 12 dozen eggs there this morning and within an hour he was calling me to bring him more. Today was really slow at the flea market. The kids and I manned three booths while my husband was at the hospital with our youngest daughter. But even though it was super slow we had an okay day there. We made our goal of selling 20 bags of jerky and surpassed it by the end of the day. 

At this point we are doing pretty well. I got our books all up to date this week so we could send in some information to the landlord of the house we looked at. We are making our goal each week and have been steadily increasing in income each week for the most part since we started with jerky. We expect to level off in a month or so. At this point we are no longer having to dip into savings and are beginning to beef that up again slightly. When we get to our leveling off point then we will be able to add a few things to our budget like health insurance (not sure how this will play out with Obamacare now though), the kids sports again, and possibly getting those annual passes to Disney World. At this point now we can afford a house but just need a landlord who is willing to take a chance on us. We are keeping our fingers crossed and praying hard that this will work out for us.

Oh we also added a new item to our shop this weekend. BREAD. It is Wonder Bread, Nature's Own, and Merita. We have the white-wheat, whole wheat, whole grains, and my favorite, Honey Oat. Yum. They are close to the "sell by" date and are selling them at $1.99 a loaf. The "sell by" date on them is Jan 12, 13,and 14th right now. So there is still plenty of days to use the bread while it is still good. We sold a few loaves today which I was a bit surprised because it was so slow. Now that more people will know we have bread we will start to sell more. That is one thing we have learned is that when you introduce a new item it takes people a few weeks to start really buying from you. I had several people tell me they just bought eggs at the store or just bought bread at the store but now they know we have it they will plan to buy from us next time. That is how it works. So we "eat" a few weekends and then start selling like crazy. We are just testing the bread out right now and hope to have the Flowers bakery begin delivery of their breads to us each Friday morning at a cheaper rate than what we are paying now. We are getting it now for $1 a piece. 

At this point we are selling beef jerky, eggs, and bread. We are also in talks still with a distributor to possibly bring in pastries, cakes, coffee cakes, and artisan breads. It may be a while before anything is hammered out. My husband hasn't taken another job and if things continue the way they are he won't really need to. Oh, the website is beginning to pay off a bit too. We have had four orders in the past couple weeks. They were all sent out promptly so we are hoping for future repeat sales. We tell everyone of our website when we sell the jerky at the booth and we hope it will eventually begin paying off. 

As for "drama" besides the Chad issues, Frank the collectible toys guy pulled out of the market over the Christmas holidays. We got back and he wasn't there. He left his sign up which was just a piece of poster board and he left us a message on it saying he had a fun time hanging out with us. We think his wife convinced him to shut down. The Avon people who bought the business in November have decided to move on too. Apparently when they bought the business the previous owner took all her business from the flea market with her and is now servicing these customers by door to door deliveries. I never got to know her well but am not surprised she would pull something like this. The new owners are the nicest couple but they can't stay with no real sales. So the lady got a job in Ft. Lauderdale and they are in the process of moving down there and they will open a booth in the market down there on weekends and she will keep her 9-5 job during the week for a while. It is sad to see them go and it leaves 5 empty spaces in our area not to mention the 4 center tables that are empty too. Joe and Joe the leather guys are fine. They had a nice Christmas visiting family in Long Island. The older one is ready to retire and they younger one is ready to fully take over the business. Joe Jr. is 55 years old and he wants to get rid of all the leather by summer and replace it with denim. He says denim is the new leather for bikers and he thinks he will sell more of it. He wants it to be a mens shop. He is talking about downsizing their 9 booths into 3 or 4 booths and giving up the rest. It won't happen until after "bike week" which is in March. Sammy the rug guy on our aisle is doing well. He and I have had some very interesting conversations about his religion (Coptic Christian) and his celebration of Christmas and fasting. He sells a rug every now and then and Joe Jr and I get excited for him. Sammy is a very quiet man generally but he enjoys a bit of "flea market drama" from time to time. Steve the dress guy said he was pulling out at Christmas and we put up with him through the weekends leading up to Christmas because we knew he was leaving and we wouldn't have to deal with him. We get back the first weekend in January and guess who is still there, :roll: yup, Steve the dress guy. He comes over to our side of the access road and smokes his cigarellos or whatever you call the cigars that are the size of cigarettes. The smoke blows right into our egg booth and my daughter gets really upset by it. I have had to talk to him twice about smoking on our side. Just smoke down wind of the booth. Easy right??? Apparently not. He sits right in front of our booth, under the big "no smoking" sign and smokes. Ugh!

I haven't done anything with the jewelry we originally started selling. We had been taking it to the flea market in a nearby town there and selling it all for a dollar and it was doing well but now that they are back inside the fairgrounds gates (when we were going it was held in the parking lot and it was easier to get a spot to sell). Now they are back in the gates it is harder to get a space and people are spending the nights out there in their car waiting in line to get a spot. It is crazy!!! We don't want to get involved in all that. 

I had the thought that I would put it on a table in the center of our aisle and sell it there until it is all gone. I have it all packed up in boxes in storage right now and it isn't doing me any good. Plus adding another table in our aisle will help to fill it up a bit more. 

We have a meeting with a lady who runs a bakery tomorrow morning to discuss bringing her items into our booth at the flea market. She does breads, sweets and specialty items like gluten free breads and vegan breads. We want to bring in her breads and her sweets but put it under a different label so it doesn't compete with her bakery or other markets she is doing. I will let you all know how it goes. 

Oh and yesterday a lady who owns a nice corner booth over on the produce aisle came to me and asked me if I wanted to buy her booth. She said she thought my eggs would do well over there and I agree. But she wants $15,000 for her booth which is a fortune that we don't have. She sells dip mixes like the other dip guy, Chad. They have been in competition with each other for a few months now. She said she isn't interested in competing with him anymore and wants out. She isn't selling her business but just the booth. I told her we would get back with her. She went on to tell me that Chad has a rich grandmother who is funding his expansions at the flea market. He is opening another booth soon over on aisle E also. So now he has the big booth with the breads and pastries and dips on produce aisle, a dip booth on C, a dip booth on Main, and now a new one on E.

This isn't the first time that someone has come to us and asked us to either sell their products or buy their business or buy their booth. We haven't figured out why but wonder if we look like we are made of money, look like suckers, or look like we are successful. Hmmm......

Monday, January 6, 2014

Great Household Tips

I found this link on Facebook and loved so many of the ideas.  Since we will be moving into a new house soon I wanted to keep this link somewhere I could find it later.  I figured you might want to see it too.  Great stuff here.

I particularly like the low hanging coat rack for shoes and the large muffin liners for flower pots.  I am wondering if I can use coffee filters instead. Hmmm....

Flower Pot Heater. Very interesting idea.

This is a very interesting idea.  The science makes sense.  When we get in a home I will try this and see how it works.