Posted: Thu 17th Jan 2013
Fresh spring mornings and balmy summer weekends might seem a world away, but for small food businesses, planning for success at seasonal food festivals starts now, writes Bruce (left). Competition for stand space can be intense at the more popular events. Also, if you are in a crowded market placeÂ - selling home-made sausages, sayÂ - then you'll need to be especially quick to book a pitch as many festivals limit the number of similar producers they'll allow to take part.
Organisers at the well-established Abergavenny Food Festival, which takes place in September in Monmouthshire, Wales, only accept applications for space between January and March - many months ahead of the event. So, with around 35,000 people attending and walking past your produce, it pays to get your application in early. Many food festivals have enewsletters that provide updates of upcoming deadlines, special events planned for the event, celebrity chef demonstrations and book signings or competitions
When submitting your application for a pitch or stand, offer as much information as possible and, if practical, provide samples. For example, photographs of your stand at another festival will also catch the interest of the organiser. Your marketing push promoting your presence at a festival starts with your application form. Consider when an event is being held, too - for instance, you'll be more likely to get accepted at a Christmas festival if you can offer food and drink with a seasonal twist.
For start-up companies, funding a three-day trip to festival can be off-putting. In Shropshire, Ludlow Food Festival offers a limited number of grants to young people aged 16-25 wishing to start a career in the food industry and see the festival as a great way to kick-start their business, or take it to the next level. To qualify for this grant, you'll need to live in the Ludlow and Welsh Marches area, but your local festival may have similar opportunities.
Before you get carried away with filling you diary with events, try and work out what you can offer festival organisers and goers, which fit your business plan - and do your sums. Check how much it costs for a space and check for hidden costs: hire of tables, electricity, parking, and so on, before signing up for events. Some festivals combine food with other kinds of produce or goods, such as the Cambridge Food Garden and Produce Festival or the Bristol Home & Food Festival. Perhaps you could share a stand with a friend offering a complementary, non-food product which will help keep costs down and attract interest from festival goers. A useful food listings website can be found at Love British Food. Otherwise, check with your local regional food promotion group such as Deliciously Yorkshire, Hampshire Fare or Heart of England Fine Foods for the West Midlands. Get those applications in now!
Cook Wrap Sell by Bruce McMichael has everything you need to know to run a successful small food business from your kitchen. It's available as a downloadable ebook or a print book from the Enterprise Nation shop. [product id="56584"] Photo Credit: Loozrboy via Compfight cc