Tuesday, July 2, 2013

toronto food fest 2013 - vendor edition


The lovely Ashley from SmashCake was kind (and brave) enough to let me help out at her booth at the recent Toronto Food Fest. After doing the rounds at the event as a blogger/eater at the mediapreview hour, I slipped behind the table to join Ashley and Greg and saw what life was like as a vendor at a food event.

Although Ashley explained that most events start off a little slowly for her (people tend to save dessert for closer to the end), we were consistently busy from start to finish.


Ashley’s menu consisted of 3 different products, each with different flavours. Once I wrapped my head around the products on offer and their prices, my main job was to get the items that were needed as Ashley took the orders. Between the three of us, we managed to keep things going smoothly all day long.

Considering I was handling food for 5 hours straight, I’m proud to report I only tipped over ONE cupcake the whole day.


Ashley told me that one of the hardest things as an event vendor is judging how much product to bring (some vendors sold out halfway through and the SmashCake Frozen Red Velvet Strawberry Cheesecake Sandwiches were all gone pretty early). Attendance at events depends on so many factors (how well the event was promoted, entry fee, what other vendors are selling, the weather, etc) so it’s hard to estimate how many people will show up and buy. Instead of focusing on a specific number of products to sell, Ashley decides how much profit she (realistically) wants to earn at the event and then makes enough product to make that amount.

Ashley putting the finishing touches on her cupcake display
After speaking to a couple of other vendors, I realized that the prep leading up to the event is the stressful, crazy, "why-am-I-doing-this?" part. The event itself, even though it can be chaotic and crazy, is relatively easy and fun. Ashley also loves chatting with the customers. Since most people pretty much eat the products as soon as they're paid for, she was getting instant feedback, which Ashley liked, since two of the cheesecake sandwiches were new flavours (something else these pop-up events let vendors do – try out new products on a food-loving audience).

Something that I really saw behind the booth (but already kind of knew) was that vendors like SmashCake (and Me.N.u. Food Truck, All Mine Caramels and countless others I’ve met in the past year of blogging) live and breathe their business. A lot of the vendors you see at these food events are small, entrepreneurial ventures, so the owners are constantly thinking about and working to improve their business. They have to do it all – come up with new taste inventions, create them, test them, market their business, work the events, do all their own paperwork, etc. This is their livelihood and their life. You can’t possibly be doing this if you didn’t love it.

Oh, and another thing that's pretty cool about these guys? They're competitors, but they're also each others' best supporters. Vendors were visiting each other's booths, meeting for the first time or saying hi to old friends, sharing ideas and advice, trying each other's foods and generally bonding. The camaraderie that these vendors share is pretty awesome. 

Double chocolate pretzel cookies
Shannon of All Mine Caramels jokingly asked me when she’d see me at an event with my own booth. Actually, she may have been semi-serious, but I laughed. As a food blogger, I usually only see the fun side of their life – the sales, the recognition, the events - but there is so much more going on behind the scenes. I’m grateful for all these amazing food entrepreneurs – but I don’t think I’ll be joining their ranks anytime soon – I’m much happier on the “eating” side of things.

A very special thank you to Ashley (and Greg!) for letting me be part of the Smash Crew for a day. I had a lot of fun and learned a lot. If you ever need a Crew member for a future event, give me a shout!  As Ashley knows, I work for cupcakes. LOL.

p.s. I just had to include this photo because it’s hilarious. Shannon was visiting the booth near the end of the day and dropped her cupcake – almost exactly re-creating the SmashCake logo in real life. 

3 comments:

  1. Hey Stephanie, I love this post! It must have been pretty neat to go 'behind the scenes'.

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  2. The double chocolate pretzel cookies look great!

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  3. Oh, this sounds like quite the experience!

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