If you’re looking to grow your business by actively participating in events and fundraisers, here are 18 ways to source vendor events for your direct sales business.
A great source of information about upcoming events. Navigate to your chosen geography, then search for events in your specific area or chosen time frame. Many will indicate that they are accepting vendors.
Community/Local, County, State Fairs
Fairs nearly always have vendor booths. Research online for fairs in your area. Most will have a website that includes information for vendors or exhibitors.
Community events such as “Music in the Park,” Farmers Markers, or other regularly scheduled events (often in the spring/summer/fall) may provide opportunity for vendors. Check with your local community, community association, home owners association, etc. for possible opportunities.
Chamber of Commerce
Check out your local chamber. They may have leads on local events that are accepting small business participation.
Christmas Bazaar, Easter Eggstravaganza, St. Patrick’s Day Party… you get the idea. Do a little online research to see if there are upcoming events scheduled in your area for a particular holiday, that will include vendor booths.
Running events include 5K, 10K, 1/2 or full marathons, fun runs, and often include a vendor expo. Running events can be found all year, all over. Check online for running events in your area. The larger the event, the greater the likelihood of a large vendor expo.
It’s a bit old school, but the newspaper is still a great source for getting information on upcoming events in your area. Events can usually be found in the local section of the newspaper.
College/Community Career Fairs
Colleges often hold career or business fairs, for their students. If you are looking for building a team, this may be a channel to get team member leads. Check with your local colleges or universities for information on participation.
News Channel Websites
Local news stations all have websites that include local events and happenings. Check for any that might be accepting vendor or exhibitor booths.
Bridal shows are great for many direct sales brands, since brides are often looking for gift ideas and products for the big day. Research online for bridal shows in your area, and contact the event organization for whether they already have your brand’s representation.
If you are on Facebook, seek out neighborhood, school, church, and community groups you can join. They will often hold fundraising events, boutiques, fairs, and will actively seek vendors on their Facebook page. You can also just generally advertise on these pages.
Trailer and Mobile Home Parks
Who would have thought…! Trailer parks are often big areas for vendor shows and craft fairs. Research “mobile home craft fair” in your area. You may need to dig a little, but you’ll find good information – especially if you’re in the snowbird belt of the southwest or southeast.
Most schools have PTO/PTA or booster clubs (music, athletics, cheer, etc.) that are always looking to raise money for school events and activities. Some also have craft and vendor fairs (often around the holidays). Contact the school to get a contact name of anyone managing fundraising events. A direct sales fundraiser would be so much easier (and fun) than a car wash!
Like schools, churches are always looking to raise money to support their congregation or charitable causes. Whether it’s a craft fair, a Chili-Cookoff, or community outreach, contact the church and ask to speak to the person who organized the fundraising efforts. You may be able to put up a booth or table at an upcoming event, if you donate a portion of your retail sales to the church.
Malls are always looking for ways to bring in shoppers, and may offer Home-Based Business Expos. These types of events are often setup in the mall’s center court, and can attract a lot of foot traffic in a short period of time. Check the mall’s website to get a name of the management contact that you can contact, or check for upcoming scheduled events at that mall.
YMCA, YWCA, Rotary, Lions Club, Kiwanis, Elk, Shriners, etc. all have a purpose of raising funds and awareness for their causes. Contact your local organizations to see if they offer any type of vendor or exhibitor events that you can either buy-in to, or offer as a fundraiser based on the event’s retail sales.
Like other non-profit organizations, humane societies are always in need of additional contributions. Many hold events such as “Bark in the Park” or “Wag and Walk” to raise funds for their organization. Contact your local organization to see if there are any scheduled events for which they are accepting vendors, and their booth requirements.
Most national sororities are required to do a philanthropy every semester that supports their national organization. Offering an direct sales fundraiser where the sorority will earn a percentage of retail sales, is a fun and easy way to raise money that requires little investment from the active chapter. Check for Greek Life at your local university to find what sororities are on campus, or contact the campus’s Greek Life office to find a philanthropy contact name.
And if you still can’t find an event, make your own! Create a Boutique/Open House in your own home (or location of your choosing). Seek out a few other non-competitive vendors, and offer a “Home Based Businesses and Artisans” event. If you offer snacks and beverages, each vendor should “buy-in” to the event, or be prepared to offer a raffle prize. Advertise your event on Craigslist, Facebook neighborhood groups, email, etc. to drive traffic to your event.
People who attend events come for the same purpose that you’re there, to connect people of similar interests or purpose. Events are fairly easy to find if you’re willing to make the effort to find them, and make the financial investment in booth rental or donation of your retail sales. Most events will require a fee or donation. You will need to decide the financial breakeven point for whether an event is a good investment, based on the traffic you expect to get. Events are all about lead generation, exposing your brand to a new market, and getting party and team member leads. The money is truly in the follow-up.
Remember – this is your business. The vendor event leads won’t come to you – you have to find them! And sometimes creativity is key. My daughter’s preschool is classified as a non-profit organization. The school administrator had no idea that she could do a fundraiser event for her school. So we setup an direct sales fundraiser for three time slots on the chosen day, to maximize walk-in traffic from parents dropping off their children – morning, noon, after work. Her school got nearly $200, and I got access to a whole new group of potential customers and future team members.
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