It's funny really that the bulk of my business these days is printing personalised stickers for people because the only reason that happened is because I figured out how to print labels for my jars. Having got over the complexities of printing on circular labels for the lids, I found that there was a market for this sort of thing from people who didn't have the time, inclination or knowledge to figure out how to do it themselves. And from jam labels thing expanded to a all sorts of circular stickers for all sorts of purposes.
When I first started making labels for my jams and chutneys they were very basic and contained little more than "Hazel's Homegrown" and the name of the preserve in the jar (often hand written). This was fine for making sure I knew what I had in my food cupboard or for giving them away as Christmas presents to my family. But when it comes to selling to the public, not only does the attractiveness and professional look of a label help to sell the preserve, but it has to contain, by law, certain information. This is the case whether you are selling at a church coffee morning or a farmers market. Even so, the required information is not too arduous to sort out: the name of the preserve and the weight. It is also advisable to include a list of ingredients in descending order, allergens and a best before date. And that's it - as long as you are standing there next to your preserves when they are being sold, ready and willing to answer any questions the customer may have. This is called direct selling. If you pass on your stuff to a third party to sell then this is called indirect selling and the labeling information becomes a bit more complicated. If this is something that you need to know I suggest you see my trading standard information page and contact your local trading standard.
The other thing people seem not to realise is that if you are selling to the public - yes, even at that church coffee morning - then you need to be registered with environmental health. This isn't as terrifying or tricky as you might imagine and well worth sorting out if you want to go beyond giving your preserves away to friends and family. Have a look at my environmental health page for more information.
On Wednesday this week I went along to a Pre-Christmas shopping evening at my daughter's school to sell my preserves and recipe books. Earlier that morning I had finished labeling the last of my jars, then loaded them into 3 sturdy, stackable lidded plastic boxes. I couldn't possibly shift all of my stock in one go so I had to select 3 or 4 jars of each flavour. Along with these boxes I have a 4th box that I think of as my "shop box". This contains vinyl table clothes to cover the table when I get there, business cards for the enquiring public, paper carrier bags (pre-labelled with my shop details), miniature blackboard price tags, and a pen (I always need a pen!). Then there is a basket full of jute gift bags, my fantastic ex-Usborne Book display stand and finally my folding trundle trolley for transporting the stuff from my car to the table when I arrive at the venue. The very last thing to be loaded into my car is always my money box which I always keep stocked with a £25 float because that is one less thing to have to organise on the day.
I turned up half an hour before the event was supposed to start, unloaded my car, moved the car from the unloading position to a parking space, spread the table clothes onto the table and unpacked the preserves onto the table. Then I erected the book stand to display my recipe books and stickers. Finally, I made sure my price labels were somewhere nice and visible.
And then the customers arrive. Some of them glance briefly at my stall and move onto the next. Some say something like, "Oh, we have jam at home," and keep on walking. Others come up all excited and get even more excited when the see the lovely selection of jams on offer. "Oh," the say, "it's so hard to choose!". Then there are others who stop and chat and ask questions such as, "do you make all these yourself?" "Yes," I reply, "from the fruit and vegetables I grow." They look impressed. And so they should...
Firstly, I grow the fruit and vegetables, then I hand make them into jams and chutneys with all natural ingredients using skills that not everyone has. Then I make and print all my own labels and stick them on by hand. I have been to the bother of being checked by environmental health and trading standards. And I have got off my bum for the event, packed boxes, heaved them into the car, moved them from the car and sorted them out into an attractive display. And now all that is there for the customer to buy for a price that doesn't really do it justice.
So thank you to all those people who have stopped long enough to appreciate even a little of the work that has gone into it, or even just realised when they eat it that it tastes better than the stuff you buy from the supermarket. And pah! to anyone who sticks their nose in the air and whips pass my stall saying, "Oh we have jams at home." Well, so you might, but you won't have Hazel's Homegrown jam at home and that's something you're missing out on!