This past weekend I worked at a farmer's market booth for a local pet treat company whose college-aged employees were headed back to school. I jumped at the chance to do something so close to my heart in an environment that I am familiar with from doing so many local events for my blog, all while earning some extra income so that I can continue to focus on Love, Laugh, Woof full time. Plus, during my interview, I found a fellow kindred spirit in the pet industry who is as passionate about her business and helping dogs be happy and healthy as I am about my business and the good of all dogs, so I couldn't turn down the chance to work for her.
On Saturday I woke to my 4:30 a.m. alarm clock, so early that it even woke the dogs up. By 5:30 a.m. I was in my car, headed to the market to help set up the booth, and by 7:00 a.m. we were ready for customers. The goal for the day was to train me so that I could be up and running independently.
Because my own business is not one that sells tangible, locally made items, I have never had a booth at a farmer's market, so I was not sure what to expect. As a blogger and author, the events that I attend are usually to benefit local rescues, and I pay to have a table or booth primarily to get out and meet people and let them know that I am local and that they can follow me for education and entertainment about dogs. I do usually sell some copies of my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog's Forever Owner, but mostly I get to meet lots and lots of dog owners and pet their dogs and get the word out about Love, Laugh, Woof.
Our booth setup was very professional and inviting, with a dog treat cookie bar on one side where customers could pick and choose a variety of cookies priced by the ounce. On the other side of our booth, we had a gorgeous selection of larger cookies in a variety of flavors and shapes on one table. Another table held grain free cookies plus turkey jerky and dehydrated chicken jerky. We were stocked up and ready for customers.
I was excited that the first regulars started to come in to shop as soon as the market opened, right at 7. Not only were they bright and early, but they knew where they were headed and what they needed to purchase as part of their weekly shopping.
Locally grown veggies, √
Freshly baked bread, √
Breakfast smoothie from the juice guy, √
All natural dog treats, √
One after another, humans and their dogs came to the booth, purchased their items with the knowledge that comes from being a regular customer, chatted with the owner, and went on their way to their next stall. Dogs of all sizes and shapes, young and old, purebred and mixed breeds, all entered our stall with tails wagging, happy to accept their free sample. Every single one was told to sit and take their treat nicely, a sign of a good and loving owner who works consistently on training.
We were steadily busy all day, at some point developing a short line. Of course, when you are working in a retail environment, being busy makes the day go faster, but this was not a normal retail environment because I wasn't clock watching or waiting for the time to pass: I was having a blast!
On Sunday an opportunity for me to run a booth on my own opened up in the next town over from where I live. I was a little nervous but mostly confident, especially with as much event experience as I have from running my own business. This market opened a bit later, but at 9:00 a.m., sure enough, when the market opened I found customers coming directly to the booth, selecting their purchases, and for the next four hours I was steadily busy.
Just like the first day, there was a huge assortment of dogs, as well as people who I knew from the dog world in our community. Just like the first day, I met humans and dogs who spent a lifetime going and doing things together. I petted Labradors, pitties, a Collie, and also had my first canine shoplifter when an overexuberant chocolate Labrador jumped up and took a big bone right out of the container before his owner could stop him. As I watched him wolf it down I laughed and imagined calling in the K9 unit to make the arrest. I let him get away with it because he was so darn cute.
My takeaway from the weekend was this: as a dog lover, the best part of working at a dog-related vendor booth is that you get to see dog lovers and their dogs spending time together and enjoying their lives. One of the problems with being a blogger or simply a dog lover and spending a lot of time on social media sites is that you can easily be bombarded by the ugly horror stories of bad things that happen to dogs or the endless stream of dogs in need of homes because their humans dumped them at a high kill shelter.
When you're out at a farmer's market or a pet event, you see the humans who love their dogs as much as I love Jackson and Tinkerbell. You see the owners who are reading every single ingredient on the treat table to make sure that their dog is not allergic to something. You see the owners whose dogs are an everyday part of their life, who take them fun places and "spoil" them with the best quality homemade treats. And you see the way the dogs look at their humans, checking in with them for further direction, so that no matter how many beef liver treats I hand them, if their human were to walk away, they would drop me like I was a piece of kale! Well, unless you are my dogs, in which case they love kale. But you get the point, the dogs and owners who I met were the very essence of the Love, Laugh, Woof lifestyle.
Of course, the second best thing is that I get to pet all of these dogs, too, and ooh and ahh over them all. That's a pretty good perk in and of itself, and I have to say I give the "sorry not sorry" to my pups when I come home to the Labrador Inquisition as they sniff me from head to toe to see who I was petting this time. At least I had not picked up and snuggled any puppies up by my face like I do at rescue events, something that causes Jackson to sniff my face thoroughly and then snort in derision at me.
If you live near a great farmer's market, it is dog-friendly and it's not too hot for them, definitely take your pups, and shop with the local merchants. Not only will you get great quality products, you will be supporting local business owners who not only have their money invested, they have their heart and soul as well.