Lessons I Learnt From Running Market Stalls


During my three-month break to “figure out” my next career move, I decided to run market stalls on the weekends selling handcrafted terrariums. It wasn’t all smooth-sailing as it required a lot of physical effort, energy and time to get up super early in the morning, set up the stall and spend all day trying to sell the products. Nevertheless, I’ve learnt some valuable lessons on business – especially that it’s not about products, but all about customer experience.

Of course, the primary purpose of running a market stall is to sell, more or less, products; whether they are homemade or made in China. Surprisingly enough, people don’t necessarily go to the markets to buy products, but to buy experiences; experiences that make a positive difference both physically and emotionally.

Many stallholders tend to spend most of their time on product display, decoration and improvement even when their potential customers are constantly walking past and showing initial interest. It’s easy to ignore the customers, sit back, check the phone or fix the table. It’s so easy to complain that people are neither buying nor recognising their amazing products, when in fact, customers just need that extra bit of excitement, engagement and experience to connect with other human beings including the stallholders, which naturally makes them want to find more about their products as a result. Not the other way around.

Every market stall where my terrariums were almost sold out, was when I didn’t even have time to check my phone or time because I was literally too busy talking to people who spent their precious time at my stall; whether they bought anything or not. Most of my customers who bought my terrarium didn’t need a terrarium. They just walked past my stall, stopped to have a chit chat about anything – the weather, what they were doing on the weekend, where they lived and worked, etc. All I did was to smile, make eye contact and say hi. That is all. From there, sales came through naturally, without me having to tell them 100 reasons why they should buy my terrarium.

Everyone has a story to tell. As business owners, stallholders, marketers and entrepreneurs, we must learn to listen to our customers and their stories, be fully present and connect with them in a meaningful way. A sense of connection is what we, as human beings, all seek to experience, and is one of the main reasons behind why we are inclined to buy certain products more than others, too.