Craft show newbie

It has been a while since I’ve posted a pattern or photos because it has been a busy month and a half preparing for my first of two craft shows. I love attending artisan fairs and the One of a Kind shows in Toronto and thought that maybe in a few years time I would be able to sell in a show in addition to my Etsy store. Etsy is great but I think for newbies it’s tough to get noticed especially with crocheted items. As the holiday season started gearing up, I felt like I had missed the boat on the craft-show season and was disappointed because cold-weather accessories obviously have a seasonal shelf life and selling in the spring isn’t very practical. What I didn’t realize was just how many craft shows there are in this city and how accessible they are to first-time sellers.

I applied to a few shows in early October thinking that I wouldn’t hear back but would be content with having applied. I also had technically missed the deadline for most shows (note: many craft shows will have early to mid-September deadlines for shows in November). I was quite impatient about the whole process because it was my first time applying so I applied to 10 or so. Within two weeks I had heard back from all of them and was accepted into all but two as they already had crocheted crafts being sold and didn’t need any more sellers. The shows I applied to didn’t require photos of my table set up (which I didn’t have anyway) and only asked for a blurb about my products and a few photos. I was really surprised and excited and decided to participate in two that had reasonable entry fees ($100 or less for a table) and seemed well organized (either a returning show or the organizers showed a lot of interest and had professional-looking communication materials).

The excitement soon turned to stress as preparing for a show is a big task. Figuring out how much stock is necessary is really difficult when you’ve never sold at a show before. I also didn’t have a table set up or business cards or a way to take credit card payments or any display materials. This has all some how come together in the past six weeks. I read quite a few blog entries on ‘how to prepare for your first show,’ searched Pinterest for table set up ideas and went shopping with a friend who has a good eye for decorating who helped me pick out some display items all with a similar look and feel. I’ll share some photos of the show and my set up and blog about the experience when it’s all done, but for now, here are the top ten things that I’ve learned so far in this process that may be helpful if you’re in a similar situation:

  1. Be prepared to spend some $$$. From registration fees to display expenses to printing of business cards and tags, there is a lot that you may need to purchase to be prepared. The good thing is that your display items will likely be a one-time expense and you can use the same things for other shows. The bad thing is you will probably put a lot of money into purchasing yarn/other materials that you aren’t guaranteed to get back.
  2. Determine what to sell and how much of it. Figuring out what is enough stock is tough, especially when you’ve signed yourself up for two shows, one week apart, and haven’t ever sold at a show before (yikes!). I settled on four types of accessories that I would sell and focused the materials I had on those. I think I have approximately 150 small items to sell which is more than I expected to have at this point although a lot of time and energy went into it.
  3. Recruit help. Whether it’s your partner, family or friends, it’s so helpful to have people on board who will assist with loading and unloading on the day of the show, sewing buttons on to items, helping glue together display items, or just spreading the word about the show to others!
  4. Order a Square reader. The reader will allow you to take Mastercard and Visa payments at your show and is free to order. There is a 3.5% fee per transaction which isn’t great but I figured that I’d rather absorb that fee and make a sale. I would think most people would come to craft shows with cash but I rarely have cash on me so I understand that some people might not.
  5. Ask questions to the organizers. Don’t hesitate to email the organizers and ask about the set up of your booth, how much space you have, if you have access to an electrical outlet or WiFi, how many people you can have working at your table, etc. From my experience as an event planner, the organizers will likely be running around on the day of the event and won’t have a lot of time to answer all of your questions when there are many other vendors at the show.
  6. Be patient. If you are applying to shows, don’t expect to hear back immediately. Give it a week or two and then take a few extra days if you can to decide which shows are best suited to your product. I said yes to one show as I thought I wouldn’t be accepted to others and ended up having to cancel as the fee was too high and I didn’t think I’d have enough stock for two bigger shows. It would have been best to wait and weigh my options before committing to anything.
  7. Consider your table display. I decided that even if i didn’t end up selling anything that at least my table will look pretty. I purchased items from Target, Homesense, Marshall’s and Michael’s that all have the same cottage-y, rustic look that had to fit two criteria – they had to be in the same colour palette and I have to be able to use them in my apartment after. I figure the show is a great opportunity to take photos for future show opportunities that require booth display pics to enter, and also to share photos of my items through social media.
  8. Set realistic goals. I have no idea how this first show is going to go but I think it’s important to set realistic goals like selling 10 items or selling enough to cover the cost of the show or breaking even on materials. Don’t expect to blow everyone else out of the water and sell out in the first couple of hours. Worse comes to worse, you end up with a lot of leftover stock that can be used as Christmas presents!
  9. Think ahead to post-show sales. Even if you don’t sell a lot in the show, I look at it as a great opportunity to hand out business cards and to market for future sales online. Make sure to have business cards and include them in bags and a sign with your social media handles and accounts. People may be interested in what shows you are participating in next Christmas season.
  10. Have fun. That may be cheesy but it’s really pointless to take on all of this work if you don’t have a good time with it. It would be terrible to end up not meeting your goals and looking back on the experience as stressful and frustrating. Work hard to feel like you have things under control and prepared so that on the day you can be pleasant with shoppers and enjoy the experience.

Here are some of the photos I’ve taken of the display items that I’ve purchased and the stock I’ve prepared.

Thanks for visiting!

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