April 28, 2016

Small Business Advice - Market Day Observations

Lessons Learned From Third Graders

By Sean Claes

A few weeks ago I attended my daughter’s school’s Market Day. This is where the entire third grade class gets together and each student (or teams of students) decide on a product they will make (or buy), price and sell. The concept is to teach kiddos about money management and entrepreneurship.

So, I went to support my daughter in her endeavor. Every classroom in the 3rd grade hall was turned into a marketplace. They had posters up, items displayed and were there at their “booth” selling their wears. While walking around and interacting with the kids I observed some things that I thought were great and some things that I saw as mistakes that I have seen small business owners make.

I thought I’d share a few things I took away from the day by equating their Market Day to the larger business marketplace in the world.

My daughter & her friend... the young entrepreneurs.

With the cost of entry (each child had to fund their own products) and the fact that it was a “sell from a desk” environment, there was bound to be overlap in product. There were several pickle vendors, cupcake vendors and stressball vendors. There were also a few other popcorn vendors…. Which is what my daughter decided to sell. I first bought from her, then walked around to the other classes to buy from kids whom I knew and a few that had some great and different ideas/products. I visited one child who was also selling popcorn. He looked at the popcorn in my hand and said, “That popcorn sucks, you shouldn’t have bought that, you should buy mine.” So, I told him that while I was going to buy popcorn from him as well, after he trash talked my daughter’s popcorn, he was getting no sale from me… and walked off.

  • You never know with whom your talking to when you encounter someone at your store. It might just be a friend, or worse the father, of your competition.
  • There is no reason to drag down someone else’s product. You’re not making yours look better, you’re making yourself look shallow.

Yeah, I know their 3rd graders, but I was having fun trying to talk them down on prices. Discounts are a real thing when it comes to business. What you have distinguished as your price may not be what I’m willing to pay for that product. I tried to spend my money on things that I thought were different and special. Things these kids took time to make and/or ideas that weren’t the norm. The ones that were innovative. One kid had taken popsicle sticks and rubber bands and made catapults out of them It was just cool. So, I tried to talk him into a 50% discount. He was really nice and said, “Let me go ask my teacher (whom is a friend of mine)” I ended up paying full price for the product just because of his approach. I also told quite a few people about his catapults. He handled it right. Other kids rolled their eyes when I tried it and some just gave me the discount.

Lesson Learned:
  • Treating your customer well sometimes turns no profit into expected profit.
  • Acting like you’re being put out or annoyed loses you a customer and any customers you may have gained by treating the situation with decorum.
  • If you can easily give 50% off of your product you either have overpriced your item or don’t understand the cost of what you’re selling.

By and large, this was a fun event for the kids and they were enjoying themselves. But there were a few that either sat there without a thing to say, that kept leaving their station or looked annoyed when people came to their “store.” I didn’t buy from them.

One child in particular had a fantastic idea… and it was totally inexpensive and could have net a large profit. He was doing Magic 8-Ball readings. For $1 you could ask two questions. The problem is… he had no signage, no pricing (had to ask) and no motivation to sell his service. I REALLY wanted to do it, but he talked me out of it… and then ran off to talk to a friend of his. I was totally into it, but he convinced me otherwise.

Lesson Learned:
  • When you’re selling a service or product, be excited about it.
  • Customers who want to buy from you won’t if you aren’t interested in selling… even if it IS a great idea/product.
  • If you can’t get behind your product, nobody else will either.

Over-all is was a really interesting experiment and one that my daughter was excited about taking part in ever since her 6th grade sister did it in 3rd grade. I hope there was a post-sale conversation that touched on the subjects I touched on above. That would make Market Day an even bigger learning experience than it already was.

If not, at least I got this article out of it and it is my hope that small business owners read this and if they see themselves in any of these situations, adjust accordingly.
Thanks for reading.

About The Author: Sean Claes has worked with Mom and Pop shops, International Corporations and the Music Industry on their branding, marketing, events and communications for more than 15 years. This article is just a sample of the observations he's made over the course of that time. For more information or to see how he might be able to help grow your business, contact him at seanclaesATseanclaesDOTcom.
Read more Small Business Advice via his Small Business Marketing page - link.