CREATING AN EYE-DEAL LOCAL ECONOMY
By Two Way Street’s Editorial Team
Two Way Street had the pleasure of meeting Jacqueline Andrews at the beginning of Brick Light Nights Season 2 when she was referred by our Board Member Liaison, Justin Gaudian. Not only did Two Way Street’s team appreciate Andrews for all of her feedback on how Brick Light Nights Season 2 was operating, but we are happy to see her continued engagement with vending opportunities at ABQartwalk. Overall, Andrews has helped Two Way Street expand its target population to include aspiring micro-entrepreneurs, along with Two Way Street’s original target population of low-income and homeless individuals.
Two Way Street had the opportunity to sit down with Andrews before the upcoming ABQartwalk to see what has been working for her at vending events and where she might need more assistance. Two Way Street’s Editorial Team identified four key areas of inquiry for Andrews: 1) Defining Business, 2) Logistics and Coordination, 3) Table Set-Up, Sales, and Promotions, and 4) Key Takeaways.
How would you describe your niche among the local arts and crafts micro-business community?
My artwork is more abstract and is locally crafted. I have recently starting incorporating characters and themes, into my work and I am also trying to make them more useful by turning them into clocks, larger pieces of art, and overall more desirable. I want it so that people can use my artwork to fill and activate spaces rather than just trying to fill up their wall area. Pretty much all of my art is made using recycled materials as well – old records that I paint on or turn into clocks. It’s all about being resourceful.
Who is your typical customer? What are strategies for broadening your customer base?
My typical customer is someone who is wanting more of an experience than necessarily a product. There are a lot of people that go out during ABQartwalk who aren’t looking to shop but just have a good time. For this reason, my typical customer is someone who simply wants to talk, network, and grab something they can’t find in 500 other living rooms. People want products where they can see the personality went into making it. My products are more about making connections with people. You can’t do that online. It’s funny how after engaging in a long conversation with folks, they end up hanging around long enough to buy something. And, as an artist, if you want someone to promote your work when they go home with one of your products you better have developed a relationship with them.
Logistics and Coordination
How have you deal with logistics surrounding your mobility, weather patterns, venue coordination, etc.?
After Brick Light Nights, I definitely have been paying closer attention to the weather. I have different variations of ways I set up depending on the weather. For instance, I probably won’t bring an upright board if it looks like it is going to be windy. If it is going to rain I am going to figure out a strategy for being able to pack up quickly. I still want to invest in a dolly, and until I do that I can’t’ get a canopy yet. There are always going to be a few small things that will help you vend more effectively, but when it is already difficult setting up by myself I try to keep things as simple as possible.
How have event coordinators helped support your business? How could event coordinators improve their events?
Without having event coordinators in town I wouldn’t have been able to find many of the vending opportunities that I am now being offered. Having good event coordinators creates a chain of events. Good events attract other good event coordinators and opens up other spaces. Maybe I could just cold-call bars and ask about pop-up opportunities, but that is both intimidating and a little off putting. When it comes to room for improvement, I feel that it is often hard to keep everything straight and the more that they could solidify times, places, and resources for vendors the better. Not every one of these kinds of events is similar, but it is all connected by the new wave of people attending these events.
If the City could help coordinate a short-term lease agreement between you and another brick and mortar location, what kind of space would you want, how often would you want to be able to sell there, etc.? How could you partner with other vendors to increase each other’s sales?
Ideally I think breweries, bars, cafes, and any place where people hangout are the kinds of places I would like to vend. Music events are always good too. Anything that drives a lot of foot traffic really and where people aren’t just hanging around in one spot. When it comes to receiving more support from the City, I like the idea of identifying vacant spaces for vendors, but it is also important to work more closely with 2 or 3 vendors at a time to ensure there is synergy there. It’s about matching up a handful of vendors with very different products and developing a good solid schedule where at least one person is there at a time who can help each vendor generate sales for all of them. You want to be sure they are like-minded and can cross-promote through social media and word-of-mouth because that is what everyone is having to do these days.
Table Set-Up, Sales, and Promotions
How much attention do you give to your table display/signage and how important is it for increasing your sales? How do you approach potential customers?
I have always been good at greeting people after all that I have learned from my previous work experience. It’s really about quickly establishing a stronger connection with people. Signage and display make a big difference but they aren’t everything. My table is already really bright and attracts people naturally. It is interesting to see how much more comfortable customers are if they can read something before you approach them though.
What is the appropriate amount of product that you feel you need to bring to a pop up event and how does that influence your success?
The more simple the better. I often see people overcrowding their tables. It’s smarter to only present your highest-quality products when you are tabling and then using your online presence to sell all of your other products.
What is the importance of being able to accept payments electronically? When/how do you get most of your sales? At events? Online? Etc.
Electronic sales are probably close to 75% of my sales. More and more people attending popups are attending spontaneously and often don’t have any cash. When you can accept a card it is turns everything around. And if people would rather take a business card and take a look at your work online they can buy it on their own time. Putting your work up online also helps you learn how to better market your products. For instance, on the Internet we see a lot of pretty things. On my Etsy page I have people Like my work over and over again, but then it never sells and I have to ask myself why a product is not selling. Is it priced too high? Should I change that next time I go out and table? Platforms like Etsy and Instagram will give you statistical analysis on everything that you can look back at. Overall, however, my online sales are minimal. They are primarily for commission pieces. It’s also cheaper to go through platforms like Etsy because they help out with shipping. Online is more about developing relationships and local promotion.
What do you feel is the value of having the City’s new Pop Up Business License?
I’m not quite sure what the value is yet and whether or not it might help you with your tabling. All I know is that if it cost less to vend at events where you had a license, I could see that would be valuable. I think the City should utilize business registration as an opportunity to create a network and/or a club of like-minded people that you can trust and grow with.
- Vending is not just about earning income – it’s also about developing relationships, networking, and sharing resources. Vending is a market-based strategy for addressing social-based needs.
- While having an attractive table set up and adequate signage are important for engaging potential customers and making them feel more comfortable about approaching your table, initiating genuine face-to-face interaction is what converts browsing into actual sales.
- Most people currently going Downtown on a Friday night have disposable income but are probably looking for an experience, not a product. This means that vendors need to focus just as much on the interactivity of their setup and their approach as they do on their products.
- While face-to-face interactions turn one-time transactions into long-term relationships, online interactions inform pricing and marketing strategies.
- No matter where it is, wherever you set up shop, KISS. Your table is your place to showcase your best work. Your Facebook, Instagram, and Etsy accounts are where you direct customers who want to see more.
- There is no science to creating synergy between vendors and creating a fluid continuum of commerce that involves brick and mortar businesses and property owners. Businesses of all sizes need to organize and coordinate their sales based upon shared values, trust, and potential for growth. Event coordinators need to find balance between letting vendors organize/collaborative organically and establishing standards that can be applied across a wide variety of vending events.
- Being able to conduct electronic transactions is becoming more and more important for business owners trying to compete in today’s economy. While the City of Albuquerque’s Economic Development Department recently established a partnership with Square to conduct a series of financial and technology literacy trainings with small and medium-sized businesses on a quarterly basis through the end of 2019, Two Way Street wants to be sure Albuquerque’s micro-business community is able to attend and reap the benefits of this opportunity as well.
- While developing and promoting the concept of a Pop Up Business License has started a conversation about improving access to income-earning opportunities to aspiring micro-entrepreneurs, the City of Albuquerque, local event coordinators, and vendors need to identify ways in which the administration of this program creates a win/win/win situation for everyone.
- Last but not least, Two Way Street needs to develop a Weather section that not only includes temperatures, storm conditions, etc., but also needs to provide tips and tools for supporting vendors who are tabling outdoors!