The festival season is in full swing for another year. Many of us realise that this can be a lucrative business opportunity, but it is also a lot of hard work. The question I see being asked, especially among small businesses, is… Is it worth it? So in this article I’m going to take a look at the huge variety of festivals we might consider and the pros and cons of attending.
What Is A Festival?
Stupid question, right? We all know what a festival is. There can be thousands of people, lots of bands and multiple stages. Then there are tents and food stands and portable toilets. There’s Glastonbury and Creamfields and Green Man and Reading & Leeds etc. etc. etc. But there are many many more, and they aren’t all huge events or even music themed events. There are folk and jazz festivals all over the country. There are science fiction and literature festivals. Genre conventions and amateur sports meetings are also common countrywide. What all of these events have in common is that they involve people concentrating themselves into a small area to focus on a single subject. As business people we either don’t care about the subject, or we find a festival/meet/convention that links to our business directly.
If you are a catering business this is an obvious opportunity and you have already thought about this and are probably attending festivals and conventions regularly. I don’t need to talk to you. But for other businesses we have to ask ourselves how we can cut our own niche in whatever event we are thinking of attending. The basic opportunity is that there are crowds of people all in the same space. How do we make ourselves relevant to them?
We’ve all seen the common kinds of businesses that attend events. Clothing stands are always popular especially if your stock links to the event. I’m thinking of steampunk events and historically themed weekends, where specialist clothing businesses can be very popular. I’m sure you’ve also seen jewellery stands at festivals doing very well. But there is room for others. Tarot readers and fortune tellers can be popular and catch the feel of the crowd. So can toy stalls and collectors displays.
Attending a festival as a working business can be expensive, and I don’t just mean the fees paid to the organisers. We will need some sort of stand or trailer. we will need signage. It will take a lot of time and energy to prepare ourselves. You will need to pack and store stock to be sold on the day. If you’re an independent author attending a genre convention to sell your book that may only be two or three boxes and some publicity material. But it may be a whole van of labelled boxes that have to be unloaded in order so you can assemble your stand and then fill stock displays. That needs to be planned.
Once you’ve done this kind of thing a few times the set up starts to become a rhythm that you can flow with. But initially it requires effort on top of the physical lifting and carrying to prepare. That effort can eat into your everyday trading time. The question I ask myself is: will the return be worth the effort? That’s the question you have to ask too.
A Final Festival Thought
I live in a small town in Yorkshire. In July and August of this year there are, within 1 hour’s drive of my house, usually two or three festivals or conventions every weekend and most week days. Pickering War Weekend, Whitby Jazz Festival, Staxtonbury to name a few off the top of my head. The potential for business to grab a slice of this marketplace is there and growing. If you look you will find live events all around you. Now is the time to consider how your business can get involved. More importantly is giving consideration to whether you SHOULD get involved.
By nature I’m an optimist. I always think that I can make the most of an opportunity. But as a business person I always have to ask if the opportunity is real or if it will turn into a cost. I also have to be honest with my answer and my analysis. Only if I’m honest with myself can I make a good decision.