How to sell at a festival when you're a startup

Selling at a festival is a great way to increase the presence of your business. For several days you have the attention of potentially tens of thousands (or in the case of the biggest, a hundred thousand or more) happy revellers, all keen on eating, drinking, and buying souvenirs.

While festival season has only just ended, applications to sell at festivals open in autumn, so now’s the time to be thinking about whether it’s an opportunity that’s right for you. Here are some of the things you need to think about before applying to trade at a festival.

Pitching for stall space

Competition starts before the festival does, as stalls apply for their stall space through the autumn (Glastonbury, for example, opens on 5th October). You’ll need to have your pitch ready, plans for what your stall will look like, and a firm idea of what your stall is all about – rather than first come first served, festivals want businesses trading that fit with the ethos and style of the festival, and which they think will be popular with customers.

Pricing and costs

Before applying to trade at a festival, it’s important to consider your costs. You’ll be paying for your stall space upfront before the festival – at least a couple of hundred pounds, but depending on the festival and location it could run into the tens of thousands. After the festival you’ll generally be charged a percentage of your sales, which could be around 25% or more of your takings.

Additionally you’ll need to factor in other costs, such as vehicle or tent hire if necessary, stock, and possibly extra staff. Are you likely to sell enough to make these fees and costs worthwhile? And as a startup are you able to cover the upfront costs?

When it comes to setting your price points think about what you’re selling, and the price points. People at festivals are often limited by the amount of cash they have on their person (unless you take card). Cheaper souvenirs such as small accessories or flower crowns are often popular, but more expensive items might be a harder sell. If you’re selling food, however, people always need to eat – but with hundreds of other food offerings, why should they choose you? Which brings us to…


Festivals tend to attract a younger crowd, but demographics vary from festival to festival. A higher-priced health food startup might do well at Glastonbury, with an older and more affluent demographic – but at a festival such as Reading Festival, the clientele might be more into chips than quinoa bowls. Equally, your vintage clothes startup might do well at a festival where hipsters dressing up is the order of the game, just as a stall selling fairy wings and bubble wands might be a godsend for families at low-key, child-friendly festivals. Think about where your business fits, and people’s mindsets. Depending on where you are, customers might be reluctant to store an expensive souvenir in a damp tent for a weekend, or they might be saving their money to blow on the pop-up cocktail bar.

Standing out (and being remembered)

Think about how you can engage people and do something a bit different to bring them to your stall. Whether that’s offering some kind of entertainment, an area where people can relax, free samples or more, there are ways to drum up a crowd and hopefully stick in people’s minds. Consider having leaflets or other branding that people can take away, or even small free gifts.


-  Trading hours at a festival can be long, as you don’t want to miss the night-time trade. This means you might need to bring more staff than usual – make sure you won’t have to fork out extra on tickets for them.

-  You don’t want to run out of food or stock, but you don’t want to be carting loads home or having it go to waste.  It’s trial and error really, but think about the targets you’re hoping to meet and plan accordingly. It’s worth having a contingency plan in place too, should you do really well and sell out.

-  Licenses. This will vary from business to business, but you’ll need public liability insurance, and if you’re selling food you’ll need the appropriate licenses.

Case study: Imarni Nails at V Festival

VSU-funded business Imarni Nails have rapidly established themselves as one of the leading nail art salons on the block, with customers including singers FKA Twigs and Lily Allen. This year she set up stall at the V Festival Louder Lounge – we asked a few questions about how it went.

How did you prepare beforehand?

The week before the festival the girls and I prepared by designing festival nail art, including on-trend colours such as black, greys, whites, and minimalist designs, for customers to chose from. We used our favourite nail brands such as MAC and Nails Inc.

How was the experience?

Fun! When we arrived at the festival the music was booming, and everyone was in a great mood. We set up our sleeping tents and our own Imarni Nails tent in the Virgin Louder Lounge. On the Saturday we woke up with the sun shining, looking forward to getting started in the Imarni Nails tent. We were really busy all day doing nails for press and celebs. Nudes and reds turned out to be the most-used colours on the day of the weekend.

Festival life

The facilities at V Festival were great - we were camping in the VIP area so we were lucking enough to have hot showers with complementary Lush products. Food was delicious and we had fun with free cocktails! Overall the Imarni Nails team had a brilliant time at V Festival and would love to do it again next year.

Photo credit: Imarni Nails Instagram