Tales from My First Craft Show

Hi Everybody! This is Angela, Assistant Admin for Handmade is Better. As we head into the Holidays lots of us are preparing for craft shows, markets or holiday boutiques. Some of us for the very first time! I had the “pleasure” of working my first market this past weekend, so Kendra asked I write a post for others prepping for their first market as well. Here we go!

 

tales-from-my-first-craft-show

 

Technically this wasn’t my first time selling in person, as I had done a few home parties prior with what I considered relative success. By nature though, I’m highly introverted, so I never tried to seek out markets to sell at until a friend of mine notified me of a Holiday Boutique for her son’s High School that was in need of vendors.

The entry fee was fair enough, $50 plus a $15 gift certificate/item to be raffled at the event. It is a large school with almost 3,000 students, so I was optimistic about the traffic thru the event. Plus I had a full month between the time my application was accepted and the day of the event to prepare promotional materials, work on displays and most importantly MAKE!

Preparations

Table Displays – Pinterest is a GOLDMINE of inspiration for show displays! Do yourself a favor and search for specific displays so your head doesn’t start to spin with options. I make jewelry, so an example of something I searched for was “craft show earring displays”. (From there I went onto necklace and bracelet displays as well.)

You’ll want to make sure to use vertical space as much as possible. Try and find at least one display that’s high enough to be seen at eye level. This will make your booth more visible to people from further away.

Earring Display Ideas from Pinterest
Earring Display Ideas from Pinterest

Item Stock – The average price point in my shop is $60. Being this was supposed to be a holiday boutique, I knew I wanted some lower priced items people could by multiples of and not “break the bank”. They were slightly lower quality than I would carry in my shop (plated vs. filled or solid), but for gifts most people don’t pay attention to that.

In my Pinterest searches for displays, they also showed pins for craft show advice. This article in particular was FULL of useful information. One piece of which was how much stock to bring to a market. If your average price is $15 or less, try to bring close to 400 items. If it’s over $100 then 50 pieces should be fine. Between those numbers shoot for 150 to 250 items.

Signage – You can get a 4′ sign from Vistaprint or Overnight Prints pretty quick to hang at the front of your table. For me, I lined the front edge of the table with business cards and had a framed 5×7 frame with my business name.

Display Test Run – If you don’t have a table at home the same size as the one you’ll be provided, just tape off the dimensions on your floor. Do a test display set up at home BEFORE your market where you aren’t rushed to get things arranged. This will give you an idea of how full your table looks, as well as what looks good where.

You can keep a little flexibility to move things around depending on where your table is located in the venue. For me, I have a couple of very flashy/eye-catching pieces, so I made sure to position them on the side people would be entering from so they would be more likely to see it.

Once you have your test set up complete TAKE A PICTURE. This will be one less thing to worry about when you’re getting set up for the market.

Also, PRACTICE YOUR CASH WRAP. What’s your process after someone purchases something? Go thru the packaging process a couple times so it will be one less thing you’ll have to think about in the midst of your market.

Day of the Market

Packing Up – I’m a procrastinator, so I knew I’d be rushing around the morning of trying to get things packed up. I tried as much as possible to get things grouped together so I wouldn’t have to wander around the house in a rush picking up the odds and ends I might need. I even made sure to put my box of business cards right next to my purse the night before so I wouldn’t forget them. (A plan that failed miserably as that was the ONE THING I forgot. Lucky for me, the market was less than 5 miles from my house, so my husband was able to drop them off right before the doors officially opened.)

Kendra is working on a more complete list, but some items you might need are:

  • Table Cover / Decorations
  • Business Cards / Email Sign up Box
  • Item Displays (extras just in case)
  • Merchandise
  • Packaging for Purchased Items
  • Appropriately sized Bag (if multiple items are purchased)
  • Price Tags
  • Scissors / Tape / Tools (if you use them to make minor adjustments)
  • Paper for Notes / Order Form / Contact Info for Custom Orders
  • Credit Card Reader AND Small Bills (to make change)
  • Water / Snacks
  • Paper Copy of your Seller’s Permit / Resale Cert / Licenses / Insurnace
  • PENS

Setting Up – How do you get all your stuff from your car to your table? I used the super-professional method of a suitcase with lots of Target shopping bags. Some of my other more seasoned vendors used collapsable wagons to lug things in. This would have come in handy for me as the ONE BAG I dropped was of course my bag with my shadow box displays. (Fortunately I brought extra displays “just in case”)

Pricing –  People don’t want to hunt to find prices of things. The night before I tried to price things as much as possible. (I just used a simply 1/2″ punch and a sheet of address labels. I debated about printing prices, but I felt like handwriting the prices out would make my items feel more “handmade”.)

Many people keep their item prices the same when they do an in-person event. Because I think my items are more impulse purchases I tend to take $5 off prices. For this market also, because it was intended to be a “Holiday” show, I offered 10% off 2+ items and 20% off for 4+ items.

I also “included” tax in my purchase. This just means that after my market I need to reduce the item price by 8% (my sales tax rate) to get my item amount and amount of sales tax. All my items are round amounts though, so I didn’t want to worry about making change. (Other vendors were just rounding down to the nearest dollar for their transactions.)

Making Friends – You should be able to have a few minutes before the doors open to say “Hello” to your fellow vendors. My event was only 6 hours, so bathroom breaks weren’t really an issue for me. For longer events you’ll want to make sure you have a good rapport with vendors close to you (especially if you are working alone).

You might also make business connections for future opportunities. Many of the tables near me were clothing vendors, so I was able to get their information to later discuss potential wholesale opportunities. If I wasn’t SO introverted I could have probably SPOKEN to them about it, but that’s something I can work on at my next market.

MARKET TIME!

Smile – I said “Good Morning”, “Hello” or “Good Afternoon” to every person that walked past my table and had a smile plastered on my face the whole time. Unfortunately, my market was VERY slow, so there were less than 100 people that walked through all day.

Make Conversation – The market I was at had only a few handmade sellers. The rest were distributors / resellers of other products. I used this to my advantage and every time someone walked up to my table (I had already smiled and said “Hello” of course) I made sure to mention that I hand make ALL my products. This also made me feel a little better about myself, because at least 30% of the vendors at this event were jewelry.

Handle Rejection – If you haven’t done a market before you need to go into it with mindset that 90%+ of people that stop by to look at your table won’t buy anything. Accept it; don’t take it personally. For me, because there were SO MANY jewelry tables the only customers I got were women who entered near my table and had not yet looked up to see all the other vendors (I’m not joking about this).

Grow Your Mail List/Group – Just because most people won’t buy anything that day doesn’t mean they’ll NEVER buy anything. For each person that approached my table I had business cards all along the front edge, so before they walked away I could say, “Please feel free to take a business card. I do custom orders, so if you see something you like, but would prefer in a different color I’m more than happy to make something special just for you.” You can also have an email or Facebook Group sign up for people as well. (Though, based on the above article I linked, if you have a box for people to drop their emails into, they are more likely to give out that information.)

Completing Transactions – If you’re more together than I am, you’ll have all your items in your Square App or Etsy Shop before the event. I didn’t, but no big deal. With most card readers, you can add items on the fly. I did make sure to take pictures of all my new pieces the day before so I could include them when I created the item. And because you practiced your cash wrap before hand you are prepared to get things packed up with minimal issues, right? WRONG!

I practiced several times, but that still didn’t prevent my hands from shaking trying to fit my jewelry backers into my anti-tarnish bags, not being able to find my larger sized anti-tarnish bags and also forgetting to give the one woman who bought multiple items from me a bag to carry her boxed purchases in. (A few minutes later I realized my blunder and chased her down to give her a bag.)

Cleaning Up

Congratulations! You made it through your first market – now you get to clean everything up! I was lucky my husband stopped by to help carry things out to his car. (I was UNlucky in that our 3 year old son was with him and he had a little tantrum in the parking lot. He threw himself on the ground and I guess injured his bottom, because I ran up to my table wanting me to give “all better” kisses. Which apparently don’t work through clothes, so he proceeded to pull his pants down in the middle of the gym.)

Follow Up

This really didn’t apply to me, but make sure you follow up with anyone who gave you their information or had questions about your items.

 

To summarize, my first market was kind of a complete disaster, but I made it through! Some markets will good, some won’t. As I work more events I’ll be able to get a sense of what works for me, as you will get an idea of what works for your business.

How about you? How was your first market?

 

Click here to find more information about selling at craft shows

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