We don’t give our children an allowance in our home. The economy and financial climate of our household has just never allowed for such things. I grew up getting an allowance and it was a great teaching tool for me to learn how to budget, save, give, etc. When it became apparent to me that giving our children an allowance was just not going to be an option, I began praying and thinking about ways to get money into the hands of my children so they could begin to learn about managing finances.

The year I joined the board of our local homeschool association, I took the position of activities director. I was overseeing all the social activities our group provided. It was also an opportunity for me to introduce new ideas to the group. I proposed doing a vendor market where student entrepreneurs could sell their handicrafts and products. It would be a learning experience… learn to market, to talk to people, to produce products that people want to buy, creat visually appealing displays, etc.

At the time, my kids were 9, 7, 5 and 3 (ish). They had seen me participate in vendor markets before. I have tried so many different things…. direct sales, knitting, sewing, wooden signs. We talked about something that all four of them could participate in making and landed on chapstick. We researched and tested different recipes and flavor combinations. They designed their labels, came up with a company name (EAST…. it is the first initial of each of their names in birth order… totally not planned when we named them). The older two helped mix the chapstick, the younger two helped put the tops and labels on. They made over $100 at their first market. They used their money to pay for a trip to one of those indoor trampoline parks.

The market has grown since that first year. We have expanded to include adults. By including the adults, the students upped their game. They were able to see more polished displays and products.

As time has gone on, my kids have tried different products. As the older ones branched out to try new things, the younger ones took more responsibility with the chapstick business. This year, my youngest had inherited the whole chapstick business for herself. She branched out and added Lavender Vanilla and Chocolate Peppermint to her flavors.

My # 3 learned how to make earrings earlier this year. She has had a ton of success selling her earrings through me on Facebook and was very excited to have her own tent and table at our market this year. She has really worked hard on her earrings. She tests them and makes adjustments where she needs to. This year at the market, she raised money to donate to one of her most favorite places- Camp Cedar Cliff. She was so excited to be able to take her money and drop it off at the camp office.

Guess what… she has her own website! She has been working on her website this fall to make her earrings available to any and everyone. Check it out HERE.

My #2 has tried a few different things. She is not super interested in crafting, but is super interested in making money. She put together some hand sanitizer for this market using essential oils, witch hazel, etc. She designed her label.

My #1 has been making candles for the last year or so. He likes to experiment with different scents. Unfortunately, he suffers from teen age brain and sometimes forgets what he puts in the mix. He decided to laugh at himself a little and marketed his mess ups as “Surprise Mystery” candles, sold at a discounted price.

The vendor market has been an incredible learning experience for my kids. They have had to realize that talking to people goes a long way. They cannot just sit at their table and expect people to buy stuff just because they are cute. One year, one of my children made quite a bit of money while another one made nothing. We determined the difference was that the one who made money sat towards the front of her tent and talked to every person that walked by. The other one sat back and only talked to people if they came into the tent.

SO! How does one go about putting together such an event???

  1. Find a Venue. Inside or Outside? How many vendors can your venue hold? We have done ours outside of a coffee shop, in the lawn next to our local Chick Fil A, inside a community church, and in the parking lot of another church.
  2. Find Vendors. Open first to your homeschool community. Seek out students who have handicrafts or small businesses. Jewelry, woodworking, photography, gift baskets, bath bombs, candles, scarves, paintings… these are just a few of the products our student vendors have sold. Once you have a good base of student vendors, open it to the parents of your homeschool community. If you still have room for vendors, open it to the public.
  3. Define your terms. What kind of market are you wanting to host? Direct Sales (Lula Roe, Essential Oils, Papparazzi, etc.) ? Crafts? Services? All of the Above? My advice would be to limit your direct sales to one vendor representing each company… like one essential oil vendor, one scentsy, etc. Remember… this is about the students… so make sure you give opportunity for them to shine!
  4. Set a booth fee. We have been able to use our venues without having to pay a fee. Because of this, we were able to keep our booth fee low. We charge $5 for members of our homeschool association and $10 for non-members. If you aren’t setting your market up for a particular group, you could have a price for students and a price for adults. Charging a fee helps students see there is a cost and to help them buy into the idea. They want to earn their money back!
  5. Vendor Application- Google Docs, specifically Google Forms is a great tool for creating a vendor application. You’ll want to ask things like: Name of Business, Type of Product being Sold, Website or Other contact informtaion, Student or Adult, do they need electricity?
  6. Vendor Responsibilities– We tell our vendors they are responsible for their space- tent, chairs, and tables. Determine the size of their space and make it clear to your vendor. Most outside spaces are 10ft. by 10ft.
  7. Advertise! Advertise! Advertise! Create graphics and flyers to share in person and on social media. You can use a free program like Canva to design your flyer. For the last couple of years, I’ve created a Facebook event to go alongside our in person event. It is a chance for our vendors to introduce themselves and share what products they will be selling. Help your vendors have tools to get the word out. Word of mouth and personal invites are crucial when drawing people to your event. On the day of the event, have signs pointing people to the market. Balloons are always eye catching!
  8. Offer a Raffle– This isn’t a must, but it is nice! Get your vendors to each donate a product to a raffle basket. Sell tickets (or give tickets) to your shoppers. At the end of the day, pick a winner!!
  9. Make sure you have people available to help set up and clean up. Organize a team to help with the event. Assign some people the task of directing vendors to their designated spot and helping set up tents. Have someone in charge of collecting booth fees. Have someone available to help clean up and make sure you leave your venue in good shape!
  10. Use this as a teachable moment. Help students understand how to set a good price point, advertise, market, etc. Share pictures of nice vendor displays. Talk about eye contact and speaking to people directly. Communicate with your vendors at least once a week for the month leading up to the event. Make sure they have access to the flyers and graphics. Encourage them to advertise. Ask them if they have everything they need.

A few extra things we have offered in the past include:

  • A Sidewalk Chalk Contest. If you have space at your event, offer chalk and invite people to create art. You can gather judges to pick winner in different age groups. The prizes could be items donated from the vendors. We had participants from preschool- adults.
  • Lawn Games. If you have space at your event, you could set up corn hole, ladder ball, lawn jenga, etc.
  • Inflatables. If your budget and space allow, you could have some bounce houses set up.
  • Face Paint. I usually provide the Face Paint and invite a student to set up and paint faces. I encourage them to put out a donation jar!
  • Free Coffee and Doughnuts. One year we had to move inside due to rain. I had a local doughnut shop donate their day old doughnuts and we bought coffee from them. We gave out coffee and doughnuts to our shoppers until we ran out.

The vendor market is one of my most favorite events that we do in our year. I enjoy the time spent with my kids getting ready for the market. The energy in the house is high, creative juices are flowing. Every year, I think I’ll just let the kids participate and I will sit back and watch. Inevitably, I end up setting up a table as well. This year, I learned to make vinyl stickers … like the kind you put on a water bottle or phone or laptop, etc. You can check them out in my Etsy Shop HERE.

The week leading up to the market this year was all about the crafts. I had the kids continue with their daily math, but all other assignments were put on hold as they spent time getting ready. They all felt success at the market. It was a beautiful day and fun spending time outside with our homeschool community. A little bit of normal in the midst of a chaotic year.

What are some events you participate in with your homeschool community?

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