How Not to Start a Shaving Flea Market Business

As I scramble around doing my "end of year" inventory this weekend, I just got off the phone with the local farmer's market organizer, encouraging me to yet again make a fool of myself sitting out in the sun on Friday afternoons. I love doing it, because I'm doing good in the world, it's a pretty decent family activity, and I get to talk to other shavers in person. But if I had it do do all over again, I would do a couple things differently.

Don't Register With The State

Very proud of my ambition to elevate the shaving experience in my local market, I got myself a fancy business name, for the princely sum of $50, and registered a "sole proprietorship" to collect (and avoid, where applicable) sales taxes. Two problems with that. For one thing, if your business flops, you're on the books for 5 years. The other problem is that no one gives a crap about classic shaving. Sorry. It's a fact.

Depending on your perspective, it may be well and good for large distributors to charge four to 10 times the cost of something and cast a wide marketing net, which is probably necessary in order for them to make a living. The real-world incidence of suck-- customers is quite low. Plus, you don't want to charge your neighbors that much. You're just trying to get the word out, and save them five or ten dollars shipping. You're trying to change the market.

In tax terms, that's called a "hobby." You are asked to consider whether you have a "realistic expectation" to make a living. Answer: no.

Don't Buy $1000 Of Inventory

You think you're smart, getting a bulk rate on all that shipping, and you're going to pocket the difference. Nope. You're going to sit at a folding table under a canopy or umbrella, while people look at you like you're a bum and awkwardly try to ignore you, as they browse for vegetables or antiques, or do whatever they intend to do.

Occasionally, someone will stop to chat, but buy nothing. One lady will buy soaps for all the men she knows, and the rest will get sun-faded labels and eventually have to be given away. Most people want the razor and a pack of blades, and will use up the can of shaving cream they already possess. Would you buy cologne from some dude on the street? Times are tough all over, and they won't see the value you're offering, just the relative cost and the risk. Rick Harrison did his homework.

Just Have Fun

The market is a stage, and everyone out there is a character. One visitor sold me a couple razors that were corroding under the sink of a family member. I have an arrangement to supply apple pectin to the jelly makers this year, that I wouldn't have had otherwise. Small stake in a community we only moved to recently, but a start.

The flea market experience re-framed how I approach providing beginner information and gave it a tangible form: "The Missing DE Instruction Sheet." Feel free to run off some copies for your stand -- trim it, and it folds to fit in a box most professionally. But I've learned as much as I've taught. Everybody has a story, be it about their prized Rolls Razor, their favorite shave prep... or how cartridges are still tolerable to them.

Take pride in putting (a little bit of) your money where your mouth is, but don't blow your tax refund.

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