Sunday, 24 February 2013

Diversification....more vintage business opportunities

You've probably noticed on your vintage journey, that there are many other businesses built on a love of vintage style.  Many of these have a good synergy with vintage trading and some can even work well if you find it hard to part with your treasured items.  Diversification can bring in extra income and a new direction for your vintage business.  Serial start-ups are common to many entrepreneurs who like having the stimulus of new ideas and different challenges.  If you are content with what you have achieved and want to stay focused on that, then there are always ways of improving on an existing business model.

But, if you are now thinking about what you could do to expand, then this chapter will introduce some possible avenues to explore.

Vintage events
If you go to many markets and fairs, you may have considered setting up your own vintage-themed event.   Setting up a vintage fair requires a relatively small investment, but a lot of time and good planning;  no specialist equipment is necessary and therefore putting on a fair is open to anyone who wants to have a go.  However, as you will have noticed on your research and buying trips, there is a wealth of difference between a really well-organised and actively supported event and a chaotic, poorly attended one.  Of course, an element of luck is involved but successful fair organisers put a lot of work into bringing together the best traders and plenty of buyers.  Running a fair can be fun and does not require masses of experience or training, but it does involve a lot of legwork and meticulous planning.  If the idea of staging your own fair is a serious consideration,  I will be going into greater detail about the process of setting up a fair in a separate chapter. Here are a few questions to think about when you are making your first plans.

Will your fair fill a gap in the market - if you are in an area where there are already many fairs, will your's stand out or just got lost in the crowd?  If the local market is saturated, you may need to look further afield to find an area where there will be demand for a new event.  There are various websites and magazines listing vintage events to check out what's on. 

Think about how your fair/event be made different or special and thus make it stand out from the competition?  Can you introduce some USPs (unique selling points) to make it more interesting?  Do some market research amongst your friends and customers - what attracts them to an vintage event?  Many fairs offer "pop up tearooms" and "vintage makeovers" so your challenge will be to think of something new or introduce another fun element. 

What are the estimated costs and how will you cover these and make a profit?  Fixed and upfront costs will include venue hire, advertising and publicity, printing of marketing materials, transport/fuel costs if you are driving around to leaflet or put up posters.  Will the projected stall holder fees cover all the upfront costs? Will you charge an entry fee to the public and how many people need to come through the door to cover any costs or get into profit? 

Catering and good quality refreshments can bring in substantial profits, but there is a great deal of work involved in preparing and serving food.   Will you need to find a partner to run this part of the event?  If you plan to do the catering yourself, don't forget to cost in all the ingredients and production.  Also, are you certificated to cook and serve food - many halls demand that caterers have the basic Food handling and hygiene qualification.

Do you have enough contacts with other stallholders to fill up your venue and have some back-up stallholders when people drop out?  If your venue can comfortably accommodate 20 stalls, you may need to approach 40-50 to fill a hall or marquee.

Are you physically able to move trestle tables and chairs to set up your venue or can you get help?  Will you have people on the day to run admissions, help with set up and catering and help clear up at the end?

Remember, with events most of your costs are upfront and un-refundable so you have no way of clawing back your initial investment.  Most people start off low-key in a village hall or other local amenity, so costs do not have to be over the top for your first venture.  Advertising can be surprisingly expensive and if the event is cancelled, you will not get a refund on ads that have already run.  Try to be creative about how you advertise making the most of low cost options such as local free papers, online newsboards and diary listings and by putting posters in as many locations as possible.

If running an event is not your cup of tea, another popular vintage themed business is wedding styling.   You may have styled your own wedding or a friend's using vintage china and props and then found others wanting to hire your items.  If you are willing to invest in and keep a lot of stock for styling, this might be a great way of making it earn its keep.  You will need a great deal of vintage china tea and dinner ware and cutlery in order to supply groups of all sizes.  Most stylists mix and match patterns and this creates an eclectic look, popular with brides. As well as china, you wil need many other props for styling - bunting, old luggage, vintage cycles, old toys, dressing up clothes, pretty garden furniture, old tennis rackets all seem to be popular but there is no limit to your imagination and creativity.  You will be making a substantial investment and stock will get damaged, broken or even stolen.  Ideally, you will have a good storage facility where items can be shown off to potential customers.  If you enjoy buying but hate selling items, this is a way of building up a lot of lovely pieces for your collection.

Hiring out china, glass and props and styling weddings and other events can be very satisfying - but there is a lot of work involved.  Firstly, you will have to spend some time with the client (bride to be, mother of the bride etc) to establish their requirements.  And some brides are notoriously difficult to please, so a lot of tact and diplomacy will be required.   You will need to have a tariff of charges for hire, either by item or as a package eg enough china and props for a wedding involving 100 guests.  Bear in mind the wear and tear on items and ensure that you are upfront about what you charge for breakages or damage to items.    Weddings can get quite high-spirited and your precious vintage props may get handled roughly.  Don't forget, as well as the fun part of styling the wedding venue and dressing the tables, all the china and glass will have to be cleared, washed up and repacked.  This can be hard work at the end of a busy day, and sometimes with fairly basic facilities available.  You will need a reliable vehicle to transport the boxes and props and probably someone to help you at the other end with unloading and laying out the items.  It is a labour-intensive business and one where you cannot afford to make mistakes.

A further option might be to offer catering alongside styling - this takes the business into a whole new level.  I know of one very successful business that offers a complete service and has expanded their offering to corporate clients for product launches, fashion shows and private views.  There is a lot of scope for a vintage themed catering business but a lot of hard work, too.

These are just a couple of ideas for diversification and I hope may be inspiring.  There are so many spin-offs and business opportunities and some more unusual business opportunities will be described in future chapters.

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