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Oct 31st Webinar: Using Events & Festivals to Build Your Food Business

October 16, 2018

Participating in events can be an important part of building a local food or beverage business - for both new and established brands. This webinar explores how to have a successful strategy for events and festivals. 

Every year there are more festivals, fairs, trade shows, and other events where Vermont food producers get the opportunity to interact with the public. These events help build awareness of your product and increase your customer base. You can’t sign up for all of them, so how do you pick which ones to participate in? And then, how do you prepare for the big day?

During this webinar, we’ll be speaking with Mark Ray, co-owner of Stowe Cider and Whitney Lamy, Board President of the Vermont Specialty Food Association and founder of Castleton Crackers.  We’ll find out what it means to have a successful event.

In this webinar we'll cover:

  • How to choose which events to participate in

  • How the audience affects your event planning

  • Questions to ask and things to know before you commit

  • Planning for the big day

  • Tips on preparing for your first festival

  • Plus...time for your questions

Using Events & Festivals to Build Your Food Business
Recorded: Wednesday, Oct 31st, 12:00 - 1:00pm

 Here are some additional notes and resources on the topic.

Where to Start?


If you have a new food business?  Farmers markets are a great place to start!

Castleton Crackers launched at Rutland winter farmers market - Whitney says it was the best money she spent to launch a brand, meet customers, receive direct feedback on price point, flavor, logistics, packaging, and research.


Look at other vendors, for table designs, take notes, look at sample presentations - at other markets and in-store demos.

Look for events that will expose your company, decide if you're ready to step up to a larger event, like the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival or other larger festivals. 

  • Look for Peer support - specialty food world, for small and new business owner.

  • Think visually - booth set up, scale, the signage behind you, etc. How can you stand out and make your brand known?

  • Started locally - Then built out from there.

  • Be generous: don’t hesitate to give product away to a potential large buyer

  • Brand awareness: Pick events that also draw people from out of state to continue to build brand awareness

  • Be focused: Pick events with a complementary focus. 

How to choose an event


  • Think through what attracts people to your booth - i.e. activity (frisbee, corn hole, disco ball (dancing)

  • Will the event organizer purchase products? Stowe Cider pays for time, travel, and other materials - but if organizers pay for product, that helps the decision-making process.  As opposed to those looking for donations or charging a fee

  • Think about demographics and audience - theme (i.e. Renaissance fest, dress up) or time of year (Thanksgiving). This will also inform which products to bring.

  • First impression - put thought into your display at events,

  • Product match with events - seasonal items, don’t make overwhelming, don’t push something just because it’s new, think about the audience, pick a couple/few solid choices

  • Product communication at different events - lingo or vocabulary for different audiences, pick staff that will work well in a certain venue. Casual vs. industry.

  • In the summer, Stowe Cider gets 4-5 event invites per weekend - They don’t have the staff to do that, so they always have to think quality over quantity.

Stronger together

Partner with another brand - Both Mark and Whitney are big believers in collaborating with other like other brands.   You get more brand exposure, build goodwill among like brands, offer unique pairings, and give people ideas of how to serve your product (cheese, cider, wine, chutneys).

You can connect with others through Vermont Fresh Network and our B2B directory for VFN members, The Vermont Specialty Food Association, Vermont Cider Association, and other product associations.

Pre-event planning

  • Get word out on social media, a few weeks in advance,

  • Send information to local newspapers and the calendar sections for online media.

  • How many attendees determine staff needs.

  • Can everything fit in your vehicle?  

  • How much should you bring? Selling event vs trade show (just sampling) - determines how much inventory to bring.

Use listserves of associations to ask others about event participation - have you been, is it worth it. Here is a video with tips from exhibitors at the Fancy Food Show. NOFA - VT has lots of helpful resources for those interested in Vermont market participation.

Choose your event priorities: Which is your primary?

  • Exposing your brand and building awareness of your product?

  • Consumer Sales?

  • Wholesale Sales?

  • Product taste testing?

Standing in the shoes of the customer at the event will help you think through your planning.  Make sure the staff you hire are enthusiastic about the product. Use people that are upbeat and personable so they will sell your story. After each event, fill out a ”Was it worth it form” form after every event, then dissect it based on sales, or number of connections, educational.

You can find recordings and notes from our past webinars in the "Webinar Resources" category of this blog. These webinars are free for everyone, but we sure don't mind if folks become VFN Members to help support this and other programming designed to strengthen our local food businesses.

Thank you to Flavor Plate for donating their time and effort to the design and co-development of our website.