Tips for selling your goods at festivals and local events

Lots of small businesses get their start at local festivals, fairs, and farmers' markets. These tips will help you ease your way into local events and set your business up for success.

by Kylie Ora Lobell
updated May 11, 2023 ·  5min read


Festival season is in full swing. All across the United States, towns are holding summer and fall festivals celebrating their local chefs, craftspeople, artists, and entrepreneurs.

If you are interested in participating in festivals, take the following steps to help ensure you are successful in your endeavors.

Do your homework

Before signing up for a festival, go to it and look at who has sold there in the past. Ask the vendors about their experiences. See what booths customers are flocking to and which booths are the biggest. One festival in your area may not be a great fit for you, while another could be perfect. Examine the clientele and see if they match your existing customer demographic.

Figure out the legal paperwork

Before you sign up to be a vendor in a festival, you have to fill out all the necessary legal paperwork. You will need to complete an application to get into the festival, secure permits to sell your goods, and perhaps purchase vendor insurance. All of the requirements will be listed under the festival's FAQ section on their website or be on display when you apply.

For example, sellers at the Rose Bowl Flea Market in California must secure a resale number if they plan to participate more than twice a year. This resale number is so sellers can charge state tax. The Flea Market also requires that sellers register with the California Board of Equalization and pay state taxes on the income they make. Vendor's insurance is optional for the flea market, only if you're not selling food and beverages. If you are, you will need product liability coverage.

However, if you want to fully protect yourself and your employees at any festival, vendor insurance is always recommended. In your state, you also may need a food handler's license if you provide food and beverages.

Determine the operational logistics

Once the festival accepts you and you've filed your paperwork, then you need to figure out the nitty-gritty of your operations. Determine what time you have to arrive at the festival, how you will get your goods to and from the event, if you'll need help setting up, what kind of tents and tables to purchase, and how customers can pay for your goods.

For all of the physical items you need to purchase, you may want to consider using a business credit card. It will be simple to track your expenses this way when tax time rolls around, and you may receive rewards as well.

If you hire employees to assist you with set-up, look into employee insurance coverage, in case anything goes wrong during the festival. For example, if an employee gets injured while setting up your tent, you will need protection to cover his or her medical expenses.

Know how you'll get paid

Along with buying a cash box and bringing enough cash for change, you'll need to invest in a credit card reader as well. Two options, without having to have a merchant account, are Square or PayPal Here. Square costs 2.75 percent per swipe transaction; PayPal Here costs 2.7 percent per swipe transaction. They both charge 3.5 percent plus 15 cents per manual entry, as well as offering free swipe readers. A chip card reader for Square is $49, and for PayPal Here is $149; PayPal Here gives you a $100 rebate if you process at least $3,000 within the first three months of use.

When do you get paid? The money from Square normally takes one to two business days to receive, or it can go into your bank account immediately for a 1% fee. Money received through PayPal Here is immediately deposited into your PayPal account; a transfer to your bank account, if desired, can take three to five business days.

Have a marketing plan that includes social media

Now, you have to build hype around your products and get your name out there. Make sure you position your booth in a high traffic location so people can find you. If your booth location is assigned to you, or if you find people aren't approaching you, send out employees to give free samples of your items or attract people to your booth.

Working within the festival's vendor guidelines, use bright colors and lights so you don't blend in, and utilize decorations that tell your brand's story. For example, if you sell sun hats, you can decorate your booth with beach items like seashells and white rope.

For your packages, look at what your competitors are putting out there. Then see what kind of packaging your demographic likes. Maybe your potential customers are eco-friendly and want recycled boxes, or they are young and like millennial pink. Your packaging should match your booth, your website, and any other marketing materials you have so that you are consistent and your brand will stay in your customers' minds.

Make sure you are active on social media as well, and use any hashtags that the festival provides. Post pictures before, during, and after the festival on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, and tag your customers. You can Snapchat your experience, too. With all the marketing you do, make sure it ties back into your brand story.

Build your future sales

Congrats—you've sold your product to a festival customer. Make sure you capture his or her email address so you can send out emails when you plan to sell at this or other festivals again. Cultivate relationships with other vendors and participate in local trade shows and other events.

By keeping in touch with everyone you meet—from the vendors, to the festival organizers, to your customers—you can help guarantee an even more successful run the next time.

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Kylie Ora Lobell

About the Author

Kylie Ora Lobell

Kylie Ora Lobell is a freelance copywriter, editor, marketer, and publicist. She has over 10 years of experience writing… Read more

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of the author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.