Archive for 2006

We hit the bigtime – Brimfield Antique Show

Sunday, September 10th, 2006

Anyone who knows anything knows hat the biggest antique show in the whole country is the Brimfield Antique Festival. It’s held 3 times a year and it’s huge. The town of Brimfield, MA gets gridlocked while over 500,000 people look for old, smelly, expensive crap. They got money, they get hungry. Get yourself a spot and you can retire in Flordia once it’s done. (Do the math! [uh-oh, we've screwed up before] Let’s be reasonable this time, say..only 50,000 people buy a $4 bag = WOO HOO!)

Problem is, Brimfield spots are highly desireable. Apparently people have held onto food spots for their entire lives. How do you get in? I shoot off a email to all the people in charge of their areas. (It’s that big, no one person runs it.) A guy by the name of Ed calls me back. He runs the FOOD COURT (it’s smack dab in the middle of everything) and says that his kettle corn guy won’t be there in the fall, do I want the spot? [HOLY CRAP] DO I???

Brimfield tent

We make it down there for the summer event to say hello to Ed and check out the spot. There’s someone selling “Maple Kettle Corn” at the moment, and we ply the guy for all sorts of information. We try some of his maple kettle corn. Eh, it’s alright. You kinda get overwhelmed with the maple flavor. It’s not as snarfable as good ol’ regular kettle corn. Ed gives us the spiel. It’s $2,200 for all 6 days of the event. They supply water and electricity AND an RV spot. We don’t need any of that, but what the hell. OK, let’s do the math again: we’re $360 in the hole BEFORE we make a dime……EACH DAY. “About how much do the other vendors make?” I ask Ed. “Those guys (selling pizzas and subs) can make anywhere to about 14 grand a week here.”

OK, more math: $14,000 – $2,200 = $12,000 profit for one weeks worth of work. WOO HOO! Ed wants someone who wants to do all three shows a year! ($12,000 x 3 = $36,000 Holy double crap!) OK, we’re in! By this point we’ve saved up about 2 grand from our farmers market gigs. It’s like the stock market…we’re not spending our money, we’re INVESTING IT.

We scramble to get all the permits in with the health department. I figure if it rains, we might need another tent to keep everything dry. We noticed that it got kinda cramped in our little tent when it pours. I also bought a huge 10′ banner that says KETTLE CORN. Now we look legit. How are we gonna spend our 12 grand at the end of the week?

The first few days were alright. We had Velma, Steve and I working at the same time. Steve would do his thing and give out free samples and schmooze with the crowd. We were right in the middle of everything, and also right in the middle of the food court. Tons of people all around us. We also noticed that there were TWO other kettle corn vendors, just up and down the street from us. OK, fine. We also noticed that people didn’t really want kettle corn when they’re looking for lunch. We noticed that sales picked up a lot at the end of the day when the crowd was heading back to their cars. We make our money back each day and then another $300-$400. (Hmmmm…the math says we each made about $100 a day. I’ve had an easier time making that amount sweeping floors.) :-(

Steve and Eric

That saturday was nuts. Velma was cursing that I ever got her into this “scam”. Shoveling kettle corn the entire day non stop. Steve hardly gave out any samples, they just lined up. (This was how it was supposed to be, right?) Sunday ends up being a short day ’cause everyone wants to clear out of there.

All total? We spent 2 grand to make 2 grand. Divide that up by 3 people and you get what? An average wage? I’ve certainly found easier ways to make that amount. Definately think that the other kettle corn vendors had something to do with it. I saw plenty of people walking past us already holding a bag of kettle corn. I find out after the fact (from the other vendors) that MANY kettle corn vendors have gone through that same spot and basically did what we did. That was probably the reason why Ed was looking for someone to be there all year.

OK, so the big time wasn’t that lucrative. At least we weren’t in the hole for our efforts. Boy, paying $15 for a spot at a farmers market and having loyal customers come up to you isn’t too bad after all. :-)

Puerto Rican Festival, Springfield, MA

Sunday, August 6th, 2006

OK, we were getting cocky. This stuff sells itself, right? Steve learns of an ethnic festival that happens every year in Springfield. Since he knows everybody at the town hall, he gets to schmooze with the person setting it up. The deal was: pay upfront and get a good spot at the Puerto Rican Festival. It’s a 3 day event with music and perhaps a couple thousand people each day. How much? $250 a day. (Quick! Do the math: 2,000 people x $4 a bag = WOO HOO!) The guy runnin’ the festival tells us that they’ll love our product! Can’t lose.

This is gotta work, right? We maybe have a couple hundred people at the farmers market each day and easily sell 125 bags. Who doesn’t like kettle corn? One slight problem: we need $750 upfront. We haven’t saved that much yet. My bank account is kinda slim after buying the tent and trailer. Steve has it in his bank account, so no problem. (Hell, we’ll make that back in the first day, we tell his wife to just think of it as a temporary loan.)

Purto Rican Festival tent

They supply us with a large tent pretty close to the stage. (This is good, right? The crowd will be RIGHT HERE. Funny that the other vendors grabbed all the spots way over there.) Off we go. We pop up our first batch…let’s get ready to start grabbing the money. Look at all these people here!

Nada.

Here’s how it’s supposed to work: you put your hand out, we give you a sample, you eat it, you give us $4. They were waving off the free samples! How do you NOT take free stuff?!? JUST EAT IT!! We were totally perplexed. We popped maybe half a 50lb. bag that night. We couldn’t GIVE the stuff away! We start to drop our prices: $6….$5….$4…$3. Barely any sales. The next morning Steve tracks down the guy and asks what’s going on. Nobody wants to even try the stuff. The guy says something to the effect that it might be a cultural thing, they don’t like taking free stuff, it might feel like it puts an obligation on them. Steve makes a joke that it’s like selling fried plantains at the Irish day parade.

Oh crap. We’re screwed. Time for drastic action. We noticed that since we’re so close to the stage, the crowd doesn’t really turn over that much. We end up with a packed bunch of humanity in front of us. Nobody could get to us even if they wanted some kettle corn. We pull our banner down and slap it onto another table and set it up behind the crowd towards the exits and other amusements. 2 bucks a bag. I continue to pop and sell it for 2 bags at the tent. We’re now double teaming. We break even plus make up for last night.

Purto Rican Festival crowd

The next day the same thing. Steve is relentlessly giving the stuff away. We break even again. *Whew* Steve gets his “loan” back. We basically killed ourselves for 3 whole days and made nothing. At least we didn’t lose any money. Wow. There’s more to this kettle corn “scam” than I thought. We can’t wait until next Tuesday when we can go back to the farmers market. :-P

Jees, They’re Buyin’ This Stuff!

Tuesday, July 25th, 2006

So the stuff is selling like….kettle corn! We’re starting to see the same faces each week. It seems we’ve now become a staple food for the people of Springfield. We’ve been selling more bags each week. (We’re now up to 125 bags per week!) Most people don’t even want the free sample we give out, they just go: “seal the bag up and let me get out of here.”

Velma's tent

What usually happens is someone will walk up and go: “what’s in kettle corn? Sugar? I don’t know if I’ll like it.” [crunch] [crunch] [crunch] They’re hooked. A little evil trick we’ve learned is to make it a point of giving free samples to every little kid in the parking lot. What kid ISN’T going to like kettle corn? “MOMMY! MOMMY! WE WANT SOME KETTLE CORN!” Out comes the money. :-D

Velma working

I’ve painted a sign that says ‘kettle corn’ with a big arrow pointing into the farmers market and have now started leaving that on the street. I call it our “kettle corn hot light” after the Krispy Kreme donut hot light. Definately getting the hang of popping the stuff. It’s weird when the weather changes or a storm is starting to come in, you can tell that the barometer has dropped because the batches don’t pop as vigorously. Weird.

Eric dumps a load

Our First Day!

Wednesday, June 14th, 2006

Ok, so we had to start somewhere, so here it is. Springfield farmers market, Springfield, MA – June 14th, 2006. How did we get into the kettle corn biz yer wonderin’..right? A few years back Velma and I had gone to a craft show in Sudbury, MA. There was a tent called “Grandpa’s Kettle Corn” selling the stuff and we went apeshit over it. We would come back year after year to buy a couple of bags. Of course we had tried in vain to make the stuff ourselves with no luck. We always noticed that the kettle corn tent had a line of people, waiting. I ran the numbers in my head and thought “I’d like to do that! It’s a portable biz too!” (Velma and I had always wanted to travel around the country in an RV. Why not sell kettle corn to support ourselves? That was the dream/delusion anyways.) :-P

I ended up buying a kettle from somebody on ebay around 2005. Slowly started to pop a few test batches to see how I’d do. (Terrible. It’s actually more trickier than it looks!) I Gave loads of it away to my co-workers at my corporate video editing job. THEY started to go nuts over the stuff and demanded that I bring my “tests” more often.

Our first day

Steve worked there as a video producer. The stuff got to him while munching on a bag when he was driving home one day. I told HIM about the numbers and showed him how “easy” it was to make. He mentioned that there was a farmers market down the street from him and we should give it a whirl. Why not?

We weren’t sure how people would respond to this stuff. I assumed anyone who went to a farmers market was a tree-hugging, earthy-crunchy vegetarian who went there for the organic produce. We sold about 50 bags that day. It was ok. Certainly didn’t make the same as my corporate job, but we had fun doing it and it paid for the beer and the meal afterwards.

Farmers markets usually charge about $15 to set up a tent. Craft shows usually want something around $200 to set up. At 15 bucks, how were we gonna lose?


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