Good Food Blog
Don't give up the day jobPosted at 6:30PM, 31 March 2010 by Emily Boyce - Sub-editor, bbcgoodfood.com
I saw it all coming - I even blogged about it last week. To quote myself, "We could end up with tons left over, losing money and leaving us with no option but to gorge ourselves on cake." Yes indeed, Emily, yes indeed.
If this had been an episode of The Apprentice (and in fact a BBC film crew was there, for a programme called Moneywatch, airing in July. I'll be the miserable one in the corner), I was Lorraine - predicting catastrophe, moaning about it, but doing nothing much to prevent it. So Sophie and I went ahead and baked our ridiculous number of cupcakes and biscuits for the first Underground Farmers' Market on Sunday, only to sit at our stall for five hours and gradually realise no one was buying them.
The thing is, I knew at the back of my mind all along that what people would want was something savoury to eat on the spot, which is what our co-stallholder Immy provided with her very popular veggie sausage rolls. I'm not bitter.
So now I find myself in the boardroom with some explaining to do. How much did you sell? Well, a couple of packets of biscuits, a few loose ones... gross sales of £5.50. Any genuine customers who weren't just your friends? Yes! Two! Pathetic. How much did you spend? £15 on the taxi, about a tenner on packaging, didn't really keep track of how much I spent on ingredients... You're a mug.
Putting all your eggs in one perishable basket is probably not a good idea
A few words of caution for anyone thinking of selling their food:
1. Think about what people will actually want to buy. People arriving at a market at lunchtime are quite likely to want - you've guessed it - lunch. It's all very well baking millions of biscuits because that's what you feel like making, but don't be surprised if you're the one who ends up having to eat them all.
2. Putting all your eggs in one perishable basket is probably not a good idea. At least those who had made chutneys and jams could take unsold stock away to sell at another event.
3. Can you handle rejection? When I bake, it's an expression of love to all those I'm baking for. The sight of my poor forlorn biscuits, sitting unwanted on the table then shamefully packed away again at the end of the day was too much to bear.
4. Are you a salesperson? One of those horrors who'd go on The Apprentice and boast that you could sell beer to a brewery? Me neither. I decided people would rather be left to browse than subjected to a hard sell, but that meant they just browsed on past to the next stall.
5. Make the most of the experience. Many of the other stallholders also failed to make a profit, but enjoyed the day nonetheless and used it as a chance to make contacts. And it was a pretty cool event. I had struggled to imagine how 38 stallholders and 200 customers could fit into someone's flat, but all the space was used imaginatively (cocktails served from the ironing board, cupcakes along the mantelpiece, jewellery sold in the shed), and it was a great bunch of people selling really unusual products ('Tourette's biscuits' with rude words on by Cruel Tea, delicious stuffed Chinese pancakes from Mama Lan).
I'm not sure it's for me, but if there is a next time, we'll be prepared... I just need to step away from the oven for a bit first.