4 Tips for Vending with Square From Conventions and Festivals
Black Enterprise Magazine September/October 2018 Issue

(Image: File)

As a newcomer at the Omega Psi Phi National Convention, Karla Spencer-George learned a lot from other vendors who had been in the business for years.  But when she pulled out her Square credit card reader they were all impressed with her ability to quickly process transactions using the device on her Droid phone.

“They wished they were using it over the traditional processing machine,” says Spencer-George, who enjoyed a 12-year career as an electrical engineer at Lockheed Martin before starting Liberation Clothing & Gifts, LLC in February 2010.

LSG sells merchandise that promotes Black history and culture, including T-shirts, documentaries, books, calendars and paintings.  While the business is mostly online, Spencer-George also sells her wares at black-run events such as the national and regional conventions of Black sororities and fraternities, Black History month fairs, science fairs, Juneteenth celebrations, and natural hair symposiums.

Spencer-George decided to use Square at events because it was quicker and less expensive than the credit card processing machine.  At any event, credit card payments can make up 35% to 65% of the products she sells.  She found out that although the Square device itself was only $10, she could redeem that money back after she set up her account. It also helped that there were no recurring monthly fees.

In addition, Square allowed her to ring up repeat Square customers without retyping their emails or phone numbers to send them their receipts. She was also impressed with the plug-and-play feature of the Square software.

“You just connect the device to your phone or iPad and swipe,” says Spencer-George, who also studied computer science in college. “I also see the fact that the transactions are paperless as a bonus to me and the environment.”

Now a veteran vendor, Spencer-George will be hosting her own convention: The inaugural Midwest Black History Expo on February 23, 2013 at the St. Paul River Centre. If you’re planning to use Square at an event, follow Spencer-George’s tips below to ensure that you don’t miss out on a sale:

Complete advance on-site testing

It is vital that my credit card payment processor works without fail.  Whether your event is at an outside fair, or the underground lower level of an exhibit hall, you must go to the event site and complete a test Square transaction before the event.  If you can’t go to the event site in advance, call your Internet service provider to discuss coverage in that area.  Also, if the venue offers secure Internet for merchant transactions, consider purchasing it.

Keep no single point of failure

To avoid being a victim of Murphy’s Law, use two mobile devices with the Square software.  That way, if one device dies, you have another one. I use both a Droid phone and an iPad.  I use a wireless hot spot separate from my Droid phone for the iPad.  This will help the charge of the Droid phone last longer.  Finally, I bring a laptop to use the old-fashioned merchant account if all else fails.

Charge all devices

Since you may not have access to power at your event, don’t forget to charge all of your devices the night before. I charge a Droid phone, iPad, laptop, wireless hot spot, and a portable wireless charger before every event.

Use a stylus

Invest in a stylist for touch-screen devices.  Have your customer use the touch-screen stylus to sign for their transaction instead of their finger.  Using the stylus is more professional and is easier for your customer to write with.


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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, SocialWayne.com chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining BlackEnterprise.com as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and BlackEnterprise.com helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.

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