Tuesday, October 20, 2015
Several years ago my son and I decided to become entrepreneurs. We talked a long time about how to go about it. We decided to rent a booth at one of the weekend flea markets in the area. First problem solved.
The next thing we had to figure out was what merchandise we would feature. We were not going to deal with used clothing. It takes up too much room and you have to have the right merchandise. Just not practical.
Household items were a consideration. Things like cooking spoons, salt and pepper shakers, pot holders. Inexpensive items that every house needs. But we could neither one get excited about that.
My son likes electronics and video games. At that time they were big sellers. Maybe we could buy and sell used games and game systems.
The problem with that is that I know nothing about that sort of thing. In order to sell something one must understand it.
I liked the idea of inexpensive but fun merchandise. As we tossed ideas around we talked about fun things for children. Most of the time children are dragged to flea markets and the only thing for them to do there is maybe grab a hot dog and a drink. We had our market.
Now what merchandise? Children love novelty items and little things that do not cost much. Parents do not like to give them a lot to spend because of the short attention span a child has.
We did a lot of research to find what products we would handle. Then we worked hard to find the best prices so we would not have to charge more than absolutely necessary. Then we bought the merchandise and set up shop.
We decided that the used video games and systems was a good idea so we included that in our booth. That was strictly my son's area but i could help a little.
We found several wholesale businesses for inexpensive jewelry. We had necklaces and earrings and a few bracelets. The only rings we carried were mood rings that are supposed to change color according to the way you feel.
There were small science projects that children could do by themselves. I like anything that helps children learn and have a good time.
Coloring books and sticker books were favorites. Parents liked to give permission for those.
Magic tricks are fun. Kids like to fool adults and magic is a skillful way to do that. We had disappearing coin boxes, color changing plastic balls, and books of simple magic tricks. We carried marked cards that are essential to any good magician.
We had a material that you could use to make it look like you pulled fire from the air. And there was the magic gelling beads that when put into a drink would turn it into a solid.
One of my son's favorite novelties is the squirting nickel. You tell your unsuspecting victim that if you look closely at the building on the nickel you can actually see the watering system for the lawn. When the person leans in close for a good look you squeeze the nickel and it squirts them in the face.
We had key chains. Only a few at a time (maybe a few dozen). Then we would find another kind. For instance we might have miniature tools on the key chain then when those were gone we would have trolls dolls.
Penny candy is something I have fond childhood memories about. That was something we did not make nuch money on but I enjoyed having it. We sold other candy that cannot be found everywhere. There are candy bars from the area where I grew up that are not available throughout the country. We had those.
We sold candy necklaces and bracelets and rings. Wax lips, wax pop bottles filled with liquid, jaw breakers, and safety pops. Good sugary treats for all.
We also had astronaut ice cream and other astronaut treats. You can find them all over the place now but at the time they were a novelty.
I like toys for children that make noise. So we had kazoos, slide whistles, and duck calls are noisy. So are tambourines, triangles, and those little ducks you fill with water to make them chirp when you blow into them.
We had to stop carrying stink bombs. It was a shame because they were VERY popular. Unfortunately some of the older children would take them to a nearby store and set them off. And my niece was nearly expelled from school (a nice Catholic school) after someone dared her to set one off there.
But we still carried things like those little poppers that explode when you throw them hard at the ground. There were made of mylar or something similar that you would squeeze and toss. When the "grenade" swelled too much it would burst open making an exploding noise.
Balloons are a staple for any child. They came in bags of 10. And punching balls are not much more than a very sturdy balloon on a sturdy string that returns after being punched. I even found miniature punching balls filled with liquid.
Sticky toys are not appreciated by parents but children love them. Many look like animals and you toss them at the wall. Gravity pulls them down but instead of falling they flip over and over to "walk" down the wall.
I think I like paddle balls more than children do but they still sold eventually. I guess they are like rubber chickens. I find them hilarious but no one else seems to like them.
Clackers are usually in a ball shape. Sometimes there are two held together by a string or plastic arms. The balls are covered in a material that makes an exploding sound every time they bang against each other. Parents hate them but the kids love them.
A small but sturdy half ball of plastic makes a popper. When it is turned inside out and placed on a hard surface it will turn itself right side out and suddenly fly into the air. Jumping beans will jump around when you hold them in your hand.
Rattlesnake eggs are a fun trick. A manilla envelope about the size of a recipe card holds the eggs. You explain that the eggs are very volatile. If you hold them too long in your warm hands they will hatch. Even newly hatched rattlesnakes are poisonous.
Of course someone will want to see them. Again you caution them to be careful not to hatch the eggs as they gently lift the flap of the envelope. When they squeeze the sides to peer inside at the eggs the envelope suddenly rattles! (There is a wire coil that you wound before letting your victims know what you have. When the pressure of the envelope is lessened the coil quickly unwinds making a rattling sound. )
Frogs are fun. Some have hard tails that when pressed will cause them to jump. Others have front legs that are elastic and fastened together. Those you can shoot like rubber bands to make them fly.
But our biggest seller was... wait for it... THE WHOOPIE CUSHION. I want somebody to tell me that they know a child who does not find those noises hilarious. And if they can get a cushion placed under an adult who does not notice it there they will laugh for days.
We got lucky and found a wholesaler who sold them to us for a very low price. In a local store with a toy department they cost almost $4.00 each. We were able to sell the same brand for 50 cents. And we had several different sizes.
I have not listed so many of the fun things we sold. They were all inexpensive; most cost no more than a dollar.
The video games and systems were more expensive of course. My son would test each item brought to us. Because he knows about that sort of thing he knew what they were worth. He would make a fair offer. Most of the time he closed the deal.
Then we resold them. The prices were as low as we could make them while we still made a profit. Sometimes we simply traded for games the customer was tired of.
These were our high end items because they cost more than most of the rest of our merchandise. It was quite successful.
The company that was operating the flea market was having monetary difficulties. Many of the people operating booths there were losing money. A lot of them folded and went home. Eventually only the booths making a profit were the one that sold trading cards and collectible coins and ours.
We had great fun. We met a lot of nice people. We made a little money. Whoopie!