Get started on this one right now and you could be making money from it in just a few months – I’m talking about the event organising business

You probably know the sort of thing I mean: Car boot sales. Antiques and collectors fairs. Country events. Computer fairs. Crafts fairs. To name just a few.

In this blueprint I’m going to look at what the very best types of events are to get involved in. And how you could organise and run them in your area this summer.

How to get started in event organising

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not for a minute suggesting you start out by organising something to rival the Great Yorkshire Show or the Chelsea Flower Show.

One of the great things about this opportunity is that once you have a basic idea, you can downsize or upsize it according to the level of commitment you want. Start with a local event having just, say, a dozen stalls. If it goes well you can capitalise on your idea, grow it organically and make it much bigger in the future.

This can be a home-based business. Also, because most events are held at weekends and bank holidays (or occasionally weekday evenings) you can run it part-time, around a job or other business.

You won’t need any premises, or any stock, or any knowledge of the products involved at all because you’ll simply be organising events, promoting them and selling space to traders with stock to sell.

You will need a flair for organisation. There’ll be quite a bit of ringing and running around to do to make sure your events run smoothly.

Will you need much investment capital? I don’t think you’ll need much for the actual events. You can finance them by taking deposits in advance from stallholders. But you will need some money for advertising and marketing. (I’ll run through the best methods for advertising on a budget later.)

Case histories

Before I went ahead with this blueprint, I did some delving to discover just how big the potential for this business is. And, as you’ll see, it’s BIG. Here are just a few examples of entrepreneurs I found who operate what seem to be very successful event organising businesses right now:

The Boot Group: Organise giant car boot sales across Essex and Suffolk. Just look at the number of cars at their main event, each paying up to £14 each! You could organise something similar in ANY part of the country. Website:

• IACF, International Antiques & Collectors Fairs: Organise antiques and collectors fairs at six different venues. So OK, some of these events are so BIG they’re famous internationally. But what’s to stop you doing something similar but smaller in your local town or village hall? Website:

• UK Grand Sales: This is a type of event you might want to get into organising if you think car-booting is a bit grungy! This company operate upmarket fashion sales at various venues. Not only do they sell space to traders but they charge people £9 a time to come in… and people seem happy to pay it! Website:

• British Computer Fairs: These people organise successful computer fairs almost every week. In fact, more than one a week. At a time when everybody is looking for good value computers, laptops, MP3 players and other electronics I reckon they’ll be doing very well indeed. Does your local sports centre have a hall up for rent? Website:

So let’s get on with looking at how you could get involved in the event-organising business…

What types of events can you organise?

As you’ll have gathered, I really do think there’s massive potential here. There are so many different types of events you could organise. But here are a few thoughts that might point you towards events that are going to be most successful:

• It needs to be something popular: So OK, you might be passionate about early Japanese art or whatever, and might fancy organising an event for that. But your event won’t be a success if your theme is so obscure not many other people are interested in it.

• It needs to be something where there are a lot of potential stallholders: That is, businesses selling relevant goods who will be willing to pay to attend your events, preferably small businesses actively looking for more events to attend to sell their goods and services.

• A kind of event that is already held: It doesn’t pay to be too different. If there are already events in existence like the one you’re planning this will show you that

1. People want to attend events of that type, and 2. Stallholders want to attend them.

This is exactly why things like car boot and collectors fairs are so popular. They work on both levels.

Tip: Be a copycat if you like. Look for events that are successfully held in other areas but not in yours and organise something similar locally.

Keep things simple. Avoid things that will involve a lot of logistical problems – more tips on this coming up.

Some ideas for events you could organise

There are really no limits here. But here are a few ideas for tried-and-trusted events you might like to run the rule over:

• Fashion sales. But not the cheap-and-cheerful clothes you’d find at a regular market. Niche fashions. Designer clothes. Children’s designer gear. Baby clothes and goods. Sportswear. Leather clothing. Business suits.

• Book sales. Old books. New books. Collectable and rare books.

• Audio and video sales. Good value CDs and DVDs. Or old vinyl records. Specialist music. Good value games.

• Food. Farmers markets. Locally produced foodstuffs sourced from local farmers and suppliers. Or maybe organic food. Gourmet food events to appeal to keen “foodies”. Or maybe a wine sale.

Antiques. This one is tried and tested. A general antiques fair, or specialise in something like glassware, silver, china, pottery, furniture, postcards and paper ephemera.

Collectors fairs. Another tried and tested one for things that aren’t antiques. General or specialist, e.g. stamps, coins, paintings, prints and photographs, militaria, furniture.

• Crafts and hobby fairs. Paintings, prints, sketches, sculpture, wood and metal craft, candles, leather goods, textiles, models, ceramics. • Computer fairs. PCs, laptops, printers and all kinds of peripherals. Good value software and consumables. Computer repair services. Or how about expanding this basic proven idea into mobile phones, sat navs, MP3 players, digital cameras and other kinds of electronics? Used or new.

Autojumble. Parts and accessories for cars and bikes. Especially classics and older models that are hard to find.

• Car boot sales. A classic opportunity. Bear in mind that anyone can run a car boot sale. But the successful, commercial ones tend to be very well organised and very well promoted.

• Photography sales. Digital and optical cameras and equipment.

• Sports goods and equipment. Golf sales are held everywhere, and maybe the market is a bit saturated. So how about doing the same for other sports… football, cricket, tennis or…?

• Country events. Something that will appeal to the hunting, shooting, fishing and riding set.

Try a test project. If you have an idea for a type of event that you think would be popular, well attended and attract enough traders then think about organising just one small event to test your idea out.

Finding a good venue for your event

The next step is to find somewhere to hold your event. Try and get it right first time if you can. But this is one of the good things I can see about event organising: Events are a “portable” biz. opp. If your event doesn’t work out in one place you can “roll it up” and try it somewhere else without too much hassle. And once you’ve found a successful format you can duplicate it in several different venues. (All the event organisers I looked at do this, by the way.)

First and foremost you need somewhere busy enough. This is very important. The location needs to be in a fairly busy area where you can cash in on passing trade. This will keep your advertising budget down to a minimum.

If you’re organising your event for a Sunday (which is when many events seem to be held) remember that most town and city centres are a lot quieter than they are during the week. Suburban areas on the other hand tend to be busy.

Tip. Look for locations where you can “hijack” customers from an existing busy business or attraction! For example, somewhere on the road to a busy supermarket or shopping centre. Or somewhere next to a busy garden centre, stately home or theme park.

You could even be really cheeky and put your event near to an existing, similar event. There’s no reason why people won’t do two antiques fairs or whatever at the same time.

Outdoors or indoors? I think it would make sense to look for somewhere that is partly or fully undercover if possible. This will mean that you’ll be able to continue your events past the end of the summer. (Indoor events will actually get more customers in bad weather – not fewer – as people look for things they can do inside when it’s raining.) You can also attract sellers who are selling better, more upmarket things in an indoor venue – because they know their designer clothes or whatever won’t be soaked in a summer downpour.

Make sure there’s enough stall space to accommodate any future expansion. It’s also good if they have catering facilities (more about this shortly). Ideally, there should be free parking either at the venue or nearby.

Have a look around at the different types of venues in your area. Also match it to the type of event you’re holding. Here are some types of venues that you could look at: Indoor market halls. Covered car parks. Villages halls. Community centres. Town halls. Civic centres. School halls. Sports and leisure centres. Barns, in rural areas. Racecourses. Auction rooms and centres. Agricultural showgrounds. Conference and exhibition centres. Function rooms in hotels and pubs.

Tip. People are attracted to prestige venues. It helps give your event a touch of glamour. If your type of event is right for it then booking a function room at a four-star hotel or a top football club, for example, could be a great idea!

Renting a venue for your event

Once you’ve got some venues in mind contact the owners to find out about renting some space.

It’s actually a good time to be in the position of needing to rent a venue. Most venues are keen to attract more events and more income. And remember this – it’s much better for them to have space rented out at a low rent than for it to stand empty and earning nothing.

Be very realistic about what rent you are willing to pay. You need to keep your own costs fairly tight so that you can afford to charge your traders or stallholders reasonable rents. Then they can afford to sell their goods at competitive prices. That will help your event get known.

Shortlist a few venues and play one off against the other. Don’t agree to pay the rent they first ask for. They’ll expect you to negotiate for the best possible price. About £50-£100 to rent a small venue for a few hours is about right.

Useful. Aim to go for a venue that can provide stands, stalls or at least tables in with the price… and which also has staff who can set them up for you on the morning of the event. This will save a lot of hassle compared to having to provide them separately and set the room up yourself.

Rules and regulations

Unfortunately, red tape rears its ugly head with this opportunity. But don’t worry, it’s not that complicated and there are loopholes you can make use of.

Could your event be considered a market?

Under the Local Government Act 1982 any person (or landowner) holding a temporary market has to give the local authority not less than 28 days notice of the event and get permission from them. This includes all car boot sales (but may not include events held only indoors). It’s slightly complex as details vary from council to council so have a look on your local council’s website to find out whether your event might be covered by these rules, and who to contact for more information.

Planning permission. Under the Town and Country Planning Order using a piece of land for a market or car boot sale is permitted without the need for planning permission – if it is not held for more than 14 days in any calendar year, i.e. it’s temporary. If you want to make it permanent you will need to apply for planning permission. The council will have to look into issues such as parking, noise pollution and highway safety, and it can be expensive. So, to avoid the need to get planning permission, start with the intention that your event won’t be held for more than 14 days a year. (If you want to hold more than 14 events in a year then hold them in different places.)

Finding traders for your event

The next step is to find people who want to rent a stall at your event.

Honestly, I don’t think this should be too difficult at the moment. As long as you’ve found a popular theme there should be plenty of small businesses who are looking for cost-effective ways of reaching more customers right now. (And cost- effective events certainly are. No high rent, rates, heating, lighting, etc. for them to pay.)

But you will need to be proactive here. Don’t sit about and wait for stallholders to come to you. They might do, but it could take months to build up a decent number of stalls this way. Instead, go and find them, and make an approach by phone, letter or face to face.

Here’s how to find stallholders for your events:

• Look in guides and directories for your chosen theme. Printed ones and online – do a Google search. For example, if you’re doing antiques and collectables, then “Antiques, Collectables, Memorabilia and Hobbies UK” is an online collectables directory with many contacts. Website:

• Look in any magazines for your chosen theme. Approach companies who are advertising in there – they are obviously looking for more customers!

• Look for existing local businesses who might be interested in selling at your event. For example, clothes boutiques, antiques shops, computer shops, delicatessens, book shops, music shops, or fishing tackle shops and equestrian shops for a country fair. Remember, if your event is to be held on a Sunday many of these don’t open their shops on a Sunday. So it could be really interesting to them.

• Be a poacher! This is a bit cheeky, but perfectly legal and won’t cost you much. Go to some existing events in the area, or nearby areas. Take details of the stallholders. Approach them later and ask if they’d like to come to your event. This is really easy for them to do because all they need to do is duplicate their existing stall in a different place.

Here’s a good technique. Get an “anchor tenant”. When you first get started find out who the two or three biggest names in the business in question are. Ring them up and say you’re starting a new event and would like to offer them a cut price or even a free stall. Hopefully they’ll agree. Then you can use the fact they’ll be there to persuade other, minor traders that it is going to be well worth their while attending.

FREE SALES LETTER. To help you here, I’ve had one of our copywriters draft out a sales letter you can send to traders to introduce your event. You can download a copy here.

Tip. Try and be fairly selective about the type of traders you take… without appearing to be too picky that is. There’s a very good reason for this: Better quality traders selling better quality goods will attract better quality buyers with more money to spend. Your traders should be able and willing to pay you more in rent as a result.

What to charge traders to attend

This could be a slightly tricky one. As it depends on exactly what you’re selling, where, and of course how well attended your events are… which you won’t know until you’re up and running.

What I would do when you first start is look for similar events in the area and find out what they charge traders. Pitch your rates at about a third less in the early days, to make your event as attractive as possible to traders. You can always increase your rents in future, as you attract more visitors.

You’ll find that most events charge according to the space occupied, either by the table or perhaps by the square metre for example. There’s no right or wrong way of doing this.

Have a tempting discount structure. You’ll find that many traders may want to try and negotiate a discount. So it’s a good idea to allow for this in your pricing. But try to avoid giving discounts for nothing. A very good approach is to offer a discount if they’re willing to book several weeks/months at a time, and pay some or all of the rent in advance. As well as helping your cash flow it’s well worth trying to book them up for several events as you won’t have to go back to square one and find new stalls every week or month.

Promoting your event

It may well be, after a while, that your event will pull in a fair bit of passing trade. So you won’t have to spend a lot of money on advertising your event to pull customers (and more traders) in.

But initially you really will need to advertise and promote your event to visitors. In fact, this is where most of your start-up capital will need to be spent.

Here are some methods that you can use:

• Press advertising. In the local newspapers and local freesheets. Go into the “What’s On” section if there is one. If it’s a weekend event advertise on Friday or Saturday only – that’s when people are planning their weekends.

If it is an event where there are relevant magazines, such as antiques for example, you can also advertise in those magazines. Many of them have a “Diary” section that is suitable for this. You can find suitable magazines from the Media UK directory.

• Poster advertising. Stick some posters and banners up in the area the week before. Whatever venue you’ve rented should be willing to let you put them on their site for free. Some shops have noticeboards where you can post them for a small charge.

Leaflets. Do a local leaflet drop or handout. Again, for a weekend event this is best done the Friday or Saturday before, no earlier.

• Press release publicity. Send details of your events to your local newspapers, radio and TV stations and the local tourist office or visitor information centre if there is one. Write it up as a press release, giving some interesting information about you and your event. Many of these media will give you a mention by way of a local interest news story.

• Online advertising. Set up a website. Use social media like Facebook and Twitter.

Here’s a book that can help you set up your own website quickly and cheaply:

Your Brilliant Website

And here’s a tip to help make sure your event gets found by people who are searching the Internet for things to do. Buy Google AdWords for it but be sure to include the location in your keywords. This will ensure your website is easily found and should also, in most cases, ensure your keywords are bought at an economical price. (Don’t keyword “Computer Fair” by itself. Not only will it cost a fortune you’ll be advertising to those well out of your area who are not likely to visit your event. Instead keyword “Computer Fair Anytown”, etc.)

Try these 2, powerful, extra profit methods…

Although the main purpose of event organising is to organise events and sell stall space (well, yes, let’s be honest that’s what this business basically is) there are a couple of extra methods you can use to boost your profits considerably. Whether or not you do this is optional, but they are well worth considering:

1. Run your own stalls. That way you’ll not only be making money from stall rentals and (possibly) entry charges but also from selling goods. How to do this: Buy up a stock of relevant products and set up your own stall.

Useful: Secret Source Finder is a great way of finding trade price sources of almost any kind of stock to suit any kind of event.

2. Catering. If you’ve been to any kind of event you’ll know that catering is often a very important part of them. This can range from breakfasts, cream teas, snacks and drinks, hotdogs and burgers to even full meals in some cases. (And here’s what you might not know. Some events make more from the catering than anything else.)

There are two ways you can make money from catering at an event. The first, slightly more complicated way, is to organise catering yourself. Your venue will need to have an equipped, licensed and hygiene-approved kitchen to do this. The second, much easier way, is to let out the catering franchise to experienced mobile caterers.

(Whatever you do, don’t let out the catering at the same rent as your other stalls. It’s always worth a premium. Also, if you’re doing this you would generally impose a condition on other stallholders that they can’t offer catering.)

Running your events

One of the interesting things about event organising is that come the day of the sale the event organiser probably has LESS work to do than the traders.

You’ll probably need to be at the venue early to set the space up, check-in your traders and collect your rent. I suggest you collect your rent before the event, not during or after, just as a safeguard in case a stallholder doesn’t have a particularly good day of trading for some reason.

If your event is more than just a very small one you might find it handy to hire a few part-time helpers. They can help you with setting up, parking, supervising and tidying up afterwards.

Should you charge admission?

This is an interesting point. You’ll find that while some events are free, others actually charge visitors for admission – up to £10 for some specialist events like designer fashion sales for example.

Here’s why they do it: It tends to ensure only more serious buyers, with more money to spend, visit the events and so your traders actually do better as a result. Crazy but true!

I’d suggest you look at whether similar events to yours charge entry fees and, if they do, charge a similar amount or slightly less. This typically starts from 20p for a car boot sale to £1 for an antiques fair.

Apart from anything else, if you attract a few hundred people, then your admission fees could cover your basic running costs.

Profit potential

Lastly, let’s have a look at how much you could make from event organising. This is a bit of a how- long-is-a-piece-of-string question. It really depends on what sort of events you organise and how big they are.

But let’s assume you start off in a fairly small way.

Let’s say you charge your traders £35 a time for a stall. That’s not a lot. A good trader could take several hundred pounds in a day. Now, some big events have upwards of 500 stalls. But let’s say yours is fairly small to start with. Say you signed up 20 traders to start with.

And some of the big events attract thousands of visitors. But again let’s assume a fairly small-scale operation to start with. Let’s say you attract 500, and charge £1 entry each.

From that kind of event you’d gross £1,200 in stall rents and entry fees. From that you’d have to subtract venue rental and advertising costs of course. But you’d still be looking at a net profit of several hundred pounds for just a one day event.

If you decide to run your own stall or do catering on top that would make even more of course. And of course you might be able to run your event every month or even every week.

As always these projections are back-of-an- envelope… but I think you can see the overall numbers behind this business stack up well.

P.S. To help you get started, don’t forget to download your free sample sales letter!