What I wish I Knew Before My First Craft Show!

Posted by Elissa Carr on

2019 was my first year of craft shows/farmer's markets and boy was it a learning curve for me. I had so many successful events, grew my business, and made a ton of great connections that continued to help grow my business.

But, I want to look back and go over things I wish I knew and saw. Going into this I didn't have a mentor, and at the time, as much as I looked up info about first-time craft shows I couldn't find something that pertained to my industry which is candles.

I hope this helps you!


1. Essentials List

Your essentials list is exactly what it sounds like. The things you're going to need to make you look professional and ready for your customers. 

I suggest purchasing a money drawer. You can stash business cards in here that you end up collecting, and you can lock the drawer if need be. This will help you when you need to grab change quickly, too. 

In addition, make certain you have a card reader of sorts. I highly suggest Square as the fees are decent, and they're so easy to use whether you have an Apple product or Android. 
Got that? Next, you'll want something that keeps the record of your products. Even though you can add your products to Square, I still choose to use a good o'l notebook! Because sometimes when checking out it's easier to enter a price versus searching for an item in your item library. Trust me, I've been 5 customers deep before and it's easiest to just type in a total and charge! And while I'm bagging their products I look at an item and put a tally mark under the product name in my notebook.
Obviously pens are a good thing to bring, too. Also, be sure to bring chalk pens...I'll get into reasons why later.
Bags/tissue paper. This is a must! The dollar store is great but also.. I buy in bulk on Amazon as it ends up cheaper.
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Business cards! Avery Labels, Moo, and Vista Print are great online sources for creating business cards. This is a must...it's a great way to sell yourself and product. You'd be amazed at how many people snatch up your card and follow you online and turn into loyal customers.

2. Products  + Variety

This is pretty important. First, think about what products you want to bring. Keep in mind what your target audience is and what your market will allow. For me, not every farmer's market will allow me to bring lip balm, but I make it. So, I bring wax melts and candles instead. What size candles? Generally, everyone nabs up my 8oz but won't touch my 16oz so that's what I do! I listen to the customers even if they don't speak–you can learn a lot by watching what sells and what doesn't.

Be sure to bring a variety, but be forewarned, too much is too much! For candles, I typically bring 6-10 scents and the same for wax melts. This gives a visual of more products, but not SO much that it overwhelms a customer's eyes. It's very easy for them to become 'blinded' in the moment-it happens to me when I shop, too!

 

How much though? There is no right answer. For me, I bring a minimum of a dozen per scent, per size... if it's a bigger show, double that. 

 

3. Display, think it out. Brand it.

Your display is important. It can make or break a sale, it can lure people in or turn them away. You want to display things as neatly as possible. If you're a crocheter/knitter, think about using racks, as draping on tables can be overwhelming. Display things how they may be seen on a person or in-home, make it feel as if they're stepping inside a boutique. How would things be displayed?

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Branding. What is it? Your brand is what someone thinks of when they look at your product. For me, it's my jelly jar and twine, coupled with my kraft label. That's my branding, but more than that it's my table, too. I have burlap table runners and stained crates for my displays. Everything looks very rustic.

Think about the color of your tablecloths. How you're going to make it appeal to a customer's eye and draw them in. Personally, I suggest fitted tablecloths. They look fancier and hide under your table. You can stash extra products, boxes, hand trucks, and all this under their without it ever being seen.

 

Make sure that your pricing is in a clear area. A lot of people do one center pricing unit...I find this leads to people asking prices over and over. So have a clear price next to each product or even on it.

 

4. Research the events.

I learned the hard way to always research events. Facebook has some great groups on it. In my state/region there are two that are dedicated to reviewing venues/events that have gone on before. If it's new... expect it to be slow. Don't rely on the host to do all the marketing. They should do some, but I firmly believe it's also up to the vendors to spread the word.

First-year events are almost always really tough. It's a learning curve for a lot of people.

Don't be afraid to ask the person putting it on questions. How many of each are they bringing in? What kind of vendors are they, as in quality? It's your business and your money–you have a right to know.

 

5. Have a clean tent, it's repping you.

This is important. Whether your indoors or outdoors, all of your dressings should be clean. But in particular, your canopy should look tidy. I know they say don't judge a book by its cover, but people do. Also, a 10x10 canopy is the standard size by which nearly all outdoor markets go by.

Let me say this... get canopy weights. Those stakes aren't enough. 

I've seen way too many tents go tumbling and collapse. I suggest a minimum of 20 lbs per leg...but I even go beyond and do 40lb. One of the markets I do only allows tents 40lb...and it's a good thing because even with those on each leg [a total of 160lb!] the tent is tugged UP by the wind.

 

6. Consider a banner.

Again, Vista Print usually has sales and they have a great template for banners. Whether you're getting a retractable or a hanging one, this takes you to the next level and I highly suggest it! Keep it within your branding...if your colors are Green and Pink, you're not going to get orange and blue. 

 

7. Smile and greet but let them shop.

Generally, you can tell when a customer is going to be receptive to you. But I've had a lot of 'grumpy looking' customers slowly walk by and when I greet them with a 'good morning' or 'good afternoon' they stop, browse, and 90% of the time buy something. Let them know you're there if they have questions. 

If they're avoiding your eye contact- let them be! 

It sounds silly but I always felt awkward starting conversations with them first, but let me tell you...if you seem invested in them, they become invested in your product.

 

 8. Expect the unexpected

What can go wrong sometimes will. So be prepared. Did your display not work? Have a backup plan. Bring extra pins, bungees, and anything you think you'll need backups with. Bring chalk pens so you can change prices or write them down on your signs. I do recommend having the little wooden chalkboard signs as they're life savers!

 

9. Be friendly with your vendors

Use them as connections and likewise. It’s a tight knit community and we have so many connection we didn’t know we had! I've had a lot of stores contact me for my product because of these events or a lot of vendors know an event and one thing leads to another and I'm being requested at high-end events!

 

10. Advertise your events

I cannot stress this enough. I've heard so many people scoff and say they aren't advertising to their customers for another person's event. Well, shame on you. Your customer base is your customer base...How do you know they won't follow you? And if they're really a fan of you, they're going to share the event, and it continues to grow if their friends share, and so on and so forth.

You don't need to pay for advertisement, simply use your social media accounts like Instagram or Facebook. Even your Newsletter if you have one!

 

I sure hope that this article has helped you, and if you have any questions drop them below! I'll try to answer if I can.

 

 

 

**article contains referral links


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