Presentation: Vendor booths benefit from positivity: Lekwauwa: Preparation and passion are keys

Julie Lekwauwa gives advice on product marketing for art fairs and farmers markets Tuesday evening during a “Create Your Best Booth” workshop at Ketchikan Public Library. Staff photo by Dustin Safranek

For some, the holidays might signal a time to relax with family and friends. For local vendors, the season brings new opportunities for their small business to attract attention at various festive bazaars and fairs.

Julie Lekwauwa, a lifelong Ketchikan resident, presented “Create Your Best Booth” at the Ketchikan Public Library on Wednesday night.  The workshop aimed to deliver tips about displaying their wares at holiday fairs, such as the upcoming Winter Arts Faire.

As the assembled crowd of nearly 20 people settled into the room, Lekwauwa explained how she got started selling her homemade jam.

Lekwuawa — who told the audience she believed “jam is love” —  got started making jam as a teenager, when a family friend showed her how to make raspberry jam.

“I literally have taken that legacy and just ran with it, sort of,” she said.

Originally, Lekwauwa did not sell her jam, saying she only made it for family and friends.

Her first venture into selling her creations was at a farmers market in the summer of 2013. Lekwauwa remembers selling an estimated $700 worth of jam in less than two hours.

Lekwauwa said that her first success showed her, “OK, Ketchikan needs this. Ketchikan wants this.”

Years later, she is now the director of Ketchikan Farmers Market and has participated in each market since 2013. Lekwauwa also sells her jams at pop-up displays during art walks, and at the Blueberry Festival and Winter Arts Faire. Occasionally, Lekwauwa delivers her jams on request to customers.

With years of experiences and “mistakes” to help guide the workshop, Lekwauwa gave her first piece of advice to eager listeners: ¬“Do your homework.”

“So you have this thing you want to sell,” Lekwauwa said. “Now what? Do your homework.”

Lekwauwa said to first consider if the event in question is “the right fit for you.”

“I’ve been offered to do pop-ups at a lot of places and I’ve turned a few down, because I knew there would not be enough traffic to support what I feel like I need to make,” she explained.

According to Lekwauwa’s presentation, “doing your homework” includes considering big elements of the event — such as the size of your space and how popular the event is — and small things, like parking availability, participation fees and where the event will take place.

Also included in “doing your homework” is advertising.

Lekwauwa explained that advertising isn’t always guaranteed once a vendor has secured a spot at a farmers market or bazaar — they may need to ask for advertising, or it might come with a fee.

Lekwauwa also reminded the audience of rules concerning advertising, which is different for every kind of vendor and event.

Another key element of “homework” is making sure the business is operating legally.

“The number one question to ask yourself is do you need a business license?” Lekwauwa said. “I highly recommend (to) go talk to the borough.”

Different types of sellers must abide by different sets of rules, she explained. As a “cottage industry seller,” Lekwauwa can only do business in a person-to-person manner, and is forbidden from selling on Facebook or other websites.  This rule would be different for vendors registered as “micro” or “macro” businesses.

“You want to know what the rules are,” Lekwauwa said. “These are all questions — if you do your homework — that will make your life a lot easier.”

Lekwauwa moved on to explain how sellers can present themselves and their goods at an event.

She firstly advised vendors to make sure their booths look presentable.

To give the audience a visual example of a “good” and “bad” booth, she set up four tables that would be near the size of the average booth at a holiday fair or bazaar. Two of the tables were set up to be “bad” designs — bare of decorations, with the merchandise carelessly spread out.

With help from local artist Krystal Thomas and Thomas’ husband, Lekwauwa set up a table that featured Thomas’ paintings lying flat on the table. There were no personal touches or decorations. The same idea was applied to a table of Lekwauwa’s jam, where the jars were simply sitting in cardboard cases on a bare table.

Two “good” tables also were arranged, each displaying more of Thomas’ paintings and Lekwauwa’s jam. These tables featured decorations, display cases, signs and variations in how the merchandise is displayed.

Lekwauwa noted that a good booth should be visible from 10 feet away — if everything is lying flat on the table, nobody will want to stop and look your table.

“Think vertically,” she said about designing a booth. “It’s more interesting to look at.”

She also said that gift bags were a must-have.

“Part of why people come is the experience,” Lekwauwa said. “It’s such a simple thing, but a bag for your customers’ purchase (completes the experience.)”

However, “you can have this great set-up and look like you just rolled out of bed,” she said. “Whether you’re a first-time vendor or a seasoned pro, dress like a professional.”

Lekwauwa made an example out of her own clothing, which featured a brightly colored handmade apron.

“Typically, you want to pick something that reflects you,” she advised.

Lekwauwa’s clothing matches her slogan, “jam is love,” which coordinates with her “made with love” theme, she explained.

 She makes her booth to be very colorful and cheerful, decorated mostly in pink, purple and teal.

“Use color to draw people in,” Lekwauwa said. “Color can create the mood.”

She also stressed that “your vibe attracts your tribe.”

Lekwauwa recommends interacting with customers — no matter how they react to your booth — and to “show the passion for what you do.”

She cautioned against being “cell phone guy:” a vendor who slouches in HIS chair, wears headphones and scrolls through HIS social media feed, ignoring passers-by who might otherwise stop at their booth.  

“My sales increased dramatically just by being nice,” she said.  “It’s about your vibe and how you present yourself.”

Lekwauwa closed the presentation by urging vendors to “tell everybody” about their work and to “leverage your tribe.”

She said that letting family, friends and co-workers know where exactly at the fair or bazaar a booth located is a good idea.

“The more interest you have at your booth, then the more people want to come to your booth,” Lekwauwa said.