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December 02, 2015

12 Things I Wish I Knew Before my First Craft Fair



Although the craft scene was much different when I first started than it is today, the following “best practices” still apply. It took me many shows to master my display, sales pitch and products so hopefully this list will help get you to peak performance faster than I did ;)


1) Start prepping now

I definitely underestimated how much time it would take to build enough stock for a craft show. Even after I knew, as a habitual procrastinator, going to bed at midnight was considered an early night for me before a craft show. Craft show mornings always come super early so start getting ready now so you’re well prepared and can get a good night’s sleep before the big day. If you're interested in more info on prepping stock, you may like:


2) Everyone is a little nervous

Each vendor has worked extremely hard for this day and everyone is hoping that their hard work is going to pay off. I could never fully relax until I made my first few sales and covering the costs of the event was looking probable. Until that first sale was made, I always questioned internally; what if I don’t sell anything? The more vendors I talked to, the more I realized I wasn’t the only one. Regardless of your products, your business or your reputation, you never really know what each craft sale will bring so it’s important to relax and go with the flow. You may like these articles on calming nerves:


3) Set up takes longer than you think

An hour sounds like a long time but once you factor in unloading the car, unpacking everything and getting the front and back of your table in order, opening time comes pretty quick. It’s really important to have everything ready to go; don’t leave tagging, pricing or sign making for the morning of or you’ll likely be scrambling.


4) Refine your selection

You’re a creative person and we know your talents are endless but don’t use craft fairs to show off how many different items you’re capable of designing and creating. The size of your space will determine how many groupings you can display but for an 8 foot table, a good place to start is with 3 - 5 groupings. A grouping may be a product (i.e. messenger bag, tote and clutch) or it may be a product line using specific design styles, patterns, textures, colors, etc. (i.e. floral prints, geo prints and damask prints). Mock up your table at home and step back to see how your space is feeling. Are there clear groupings the eye is drawn to or does it look overwhelming and cluttered? Keep it simple and let your products tell the shoppers exactly what your business is all about without having to say a word.


5) Prepare an elevator pitch

Think about the selling points of each grouping of products; what’s interesting or unique about them or how they’re made? Who are they great for? You’ll feel a lot more comfortable if you have a line or two you can use while shoppers are at your table. The first few craft shows always feel a little awkward; there isn’t really the room to give shoppers their space while they browse and you’re watching them as they take in your work. I think a “hi” was all I got out at my first show but as time went on I realized it makes me and the shoppers more comfortable if you can have a casual conversation while they shop…staring in silence feels awkward for everyone.


6) Your display should get just as much thought as your products

I would suggest perusing around a craft show or looking online to get an idea of what table displays look like before your first event. I was definitely clueless my first craft show and admittedly put very little thought into my display. It was a small event but everyone had the most creative setups and props and I had a wrinkly tablecloth, a flat display, no branding and a hodgepodge of products. I quickly improved but there are so many craft show resources out there now, you can hit the ground running with your first show. You may like these articles on craft show displays:


7) Don’t forget signage (and registration)

It’s easy to jump into a craft fair without thinking through all the logistics of a business but it’s really important you get all the necessary permits and licenses and that you register your business. The sooner your start getting your business name in shopper’s eyes and ears, the sooner you’ll start building a reputation; and you don’t want to start with one name then realize it’s already been registered by someone else and you can’t use it. You want people to use your business name when they tell their friends where they picked up their awesome new handmade item. If you’re not communicating it at your booth, on your tags and through other marketing material, people will quickly forget what your business is called.


8) It’s not about location

It’s easy to look at the position of your booth and start worrying about whether you’re in a good spot or not. Some booths may seem like they’re in a better place than others but you can find reasons for and against any position; i.e. Right at the front – PRO: first booth shoppers see, CON: shoppers want to look around before committing. But at the end of the day it’s your display, products and attitude that determine your sales, not where your booth is.


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9) Expect the unexpected

It can be the perfect location, with perfect weather and the event may have a rock star organizer…but that doesn’t always mean you’re going to sell out. Each event is different and each day of an event is different. Often the products you think will sell like hotcakes, don’t get picked up but the items you made a few of to test out, will be flying out of there. You can’t always make sense of it and you need to go into each event with an open mind. If you’ve done your research and feel you’ve picked a great event to be a part of, relax, go with the flow and trust that you’re in the right place at the right time.


10) Vendors love tradesies…but you don’t have to say yes

Often the other vendors participating in an event are your target market; they love and appreciate handmade just as much as you do. Instead of purchasing each other’s items, vendors will often ask if you’re interested in a trade; you get one (or more) of their products in exchange for one (or more) of yours. If you’re not interested, you can let them know how much you love their work but that you’re really looking to make some extra cash this craft sale so unfortunately you’re not in a position to make trades. If you are interested, get your trade on! I do like to leave trades until the end of the event so I can be sure I have as much stock as possible for the shoppers but when and how you trade is totally up to you!


11) It’s a tight knit community

Everyone is really connected in the craft community, regardless of how big or small your city or town it. It can feel intimidating walking into a craft show for the first time feeling like everyone knows each other but I assure you, it's one of the friendliest communities out there. Be sure to take the time to walk around the event and introduce yourself (be mindful of their setup time or customers; you don't want to interrupt, but a quick hi goes a long way). Everyone gets to know you really quickly so it’s also important to keep a good reputation. If you have a bad experience at a craft show, remain professional; word will spread really quickly if you’re difficult to work with.


12) You don’t have to say yes to every craft show

They will all seem like opportunities to make money but it’s much more important to choose the right craft fairs than to say yes to every one that comes your way. Take the time to research the event, the organizer, the location, etc. The time it takes you to apply, create product, set up, sell and take down, is time that may be better spent somewhere else in your business if it’s not all done for the right event.




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