Thursday, August 23, 2012

Preparing for First Craft Show: Craft Show 101

In February,  the opportunity came up for a group of Etsy shop owners to get together and have a craft fair, ETSY Artist of Indiana – Brown County Show.  Going into the show, I knew craft shows are a lot of work and always a crap shoot.   

Work: making and collecting inventory, designing an enticing space, collecting the uninventory (“must-haves”) stuff and then the schlepping to and sitting at the show.

The crap shoot: Is it my kind of crowd? Are they buying? Are my prices right? Are they too many others selling what I’m selling? How’s my works' quality by comparison? My display?

Knowing the two above key items, I researched, and researched and researched on how to have a successful craft show.  I have done so much research; I overlooked the most important step…. INVENTORY!! – That’s another story.
In all my many months of research (and not sewing), I came across an article from Brandy Agerbeck, at I liked this article so much; I wanted to share the key points.


·         If youre not doing one-of-a-kind items, make multiples of a set of designs (i.e. six copies of the green one, six copies of the blue). Keep a clear record of your inventory so you can track what sells best.

·         Manage your own energy as you manage your inventory. Set yourself up with a product making schedule that has you doing a chunk of work every week up to that first show, hopefully avoid that terrible crunch week right before.

·         If youre worried you have too little inventory, think about how you can best display your work so it doesnt look sparse. Ive seen folks do very enticing displays of jewelry hung on a few branches, or potters who can arrange a few pieces on blocks at different levels and a handful of pieces look fantastic.

·         Consider having items at different price points. Especially with the holidays, organized shoppers have a price ranges for coworkers thats different than their price range for parents. Having some low price items may temp impulse shoppers.

DISPLAYS - Showing Your Wares at Their Best

Displays can be easily overlooked in the stress of your first show, but they are vital! Think of your display in these easy steps:

·         Know your booth size. Most outdoor shows give you a 10x10. Double check with the organizers to see your foot print”.

·         Figure out how you’ll set up your tables. Think of how to draw people in with the placement. Consider how your setup will flow with your neighbors (yes, hard to know until you get there).

·         Cover your tables. Think of the best colors and texture to show off your wares.

·         Containers to hold your wares.

·         Think of levels. Laying your work out on a flat table works, and it also evokes garage sales. Think of stands, bowls, blocks to put your work on. Can you make some items vertical? Some hanging? Some sitting on the ground? A great way to learn is to go to other shows and see what others are doing.

·         Items that support your brand: banners, business cards, postcards, giveaway items, price tags, packaging. All of these details make an impression and help people remember you. Think of consistent colors and design across items.

·         Lighting. Few shows give you outlets for lighting, but consider bringing lights with you to spotlight your work.

·         Be adaptable. Bring extra containers to adapt your display. Pack for weather contingencies. 

Cost of Doing Business “MUST HAVES” for every craft show:

¨  Inventory! -  Make sure everything is tagged and priced. Photographing your inventory to recreate popular items later.

¨  Tables - Rent or buy? Renting tables is a good way to avoid the hassle of carrying and navigating around heavy tables.  However, buying outright will save cost per craft show.

¨  Tent - Tents are a big expense, but if you're joining the show circuit, it is a given. EZ-UP brand tents are super. Some shows dictate white tents only.

¨  Banners   - It helps orient people.

¨  Twine - for hanging banners.

¨  Tablecloths - Most tables look shabby, so tablecloths are a must. Fabric is best for the table tops. Choose colors that best highlight your wares.

¨  Chairs - Chairs are good during a slow time, a very comfortable for your helper, or a friend who stops by.

¨  Tape - Duct tape, masking, scotch and clear packing tape.

¨  Bulldog Clips - Great for hanging banners, clipping down tablecloths.

¨  Snacks, Beverages & Cooler - You won’t know your eating options –or- how much time you’ll have to eat. Bring less messy drinks and nibbles with you.

¨  Aprons   - Preferred over a cash box, to have what you need at your fingertips;  for holding change, buttons, pens, receipt books.

¨  Cash - plenty of singles, fives and tens. If someone hands you a big bill, you can ask if they have anything smaller. Avoid a mid- show currency exchange run!

¨  Receipt Books - the duplicate copy kind.

¨  Ball Point Pens and Markers - for impromptu signs and writing receipts.

¨  Paperwork  - Get the proper business, tax or vendors permits or numbers in order, and give yourself time to do so.

¨  Garbage bags - Be sure to clean up your mess!

¨  Bags for purchases - Not many folks need one (ask first), but it's good to have around.

¨  Other packing materials - if you have fragile stuff

¨  Extra price tags

¨  Calculator

¨  Scissors

¨  Radio - Don't be a nuisance, but some quiet music can move the day along.

¨  Mailing List Sign-Up Encourage folks to sign up. - Shows are about onsite sales, but they are also good for future sales and marketing.

¨  Customer Bait - Buttons, Business Cards and/or Postcards. Make sure they have your logo, contact info, URL and hopefully a product photo on them. Bring loads to give away. If people walk out of your booth without a purchase, make sure they have something in their hand with your name on it.

¨  Friends to help It is so good to have a friend to help. Both for the grunt work of setting up and taking down, but also for the company to make the day go faster. Feed your booth helpers, give them free stuff. Granted, you could pay them, but you can't guarantee that you'll make money that day, so someone willing to work for stuff or out of friendship is the best!

Remember, enjoy the show! Its the best way to learn from other vendors, get real feedback on your work, get questions, custom orders, hopefully lots of sales. Keep on open mind and a smile on your face.

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