I can’t believe we are on the second week of April already and I have not written anything since my last post in March. Forgive me. Life has been extra busy for me, preparing for the first craft fair that I attended, among other things. I have to admit, joining a craft fair was a lot of work! I love crafting as much as I love chocolate! And if you know me personally that says a lot!
Surprisingly, there had been many days that I just didn’t feel like sitting down and picking up my craft supplies. This hit me as a surprise because I never thought I would feel this way. One thing I learned for sure is that if a hobby you love turns into a chore, it doesn’t matter how much you love doing it, it won’t be fun anymore.
The craft fair was a good experience for me. I learned a few things that I wouldn’t have known if I had not embarked on this journey.
Here’s what my set-up looked like at home the night before the fair. The tables they were providing for the fair were 6 inches longer than our dining table. I thought to myself, if I can have a decent set-up at home before the big day, I would know how I would like my display to look. I loved how my craft display turned out, but I quickly learned that there were some things I need to work on to make it better.
Here’s a list of some of the things I’ve learned from my first craft show experience. I hope you find them helpful in case you are thinking of joining a craft fair for the first time too!
- Prepare your items to sell for the fair way in advance. Learn from my mistake. I’ve been slowly accumulating supplies for my crafts but had never put them together, unless I’m making gifts for someone. It was only in mid-February when I heard back from a local craft fair that they still have tables for vendors for their Spring Fair that I decided to work on my crafts. But then I ended up with severe sinusitis and headaches that went on and off for 3 consecutive weeks. So I crafted for hours on most days in March until the night of the fair to have enough items to sell. Lo and behold I ended up with what people would probably prepare for a year. No kidding! I am well stock for another 3 craft shows or more. And I thought I didn’t have enough so I just kept going. When our girls go to bed at night, I stayed up and crafted. Hence, a sleep deprived momma.
- Decide what you want to showcase and focus on that. I had a hard time doing this. If I could do it over again, I think I would still struggle in this area. If you look at my display, there’s a bunch of everything. It’s like Walmart. Okay maybe not to that extent, but you get what I mean. I think it would help to have a unified theme/category. But as much as I tried drilling this nugget into my head, I still ended up with a multitude of things. I think someone would have to pry some supplies out of my white knuckles before that could happen. It all started with scarves and the memory locket necklace that I wanted to give to my sister. And then it moved on to earrings, to bracelets, to beaded necklaces, hair accessories and then fridge magnets. And I know they will continue to branch out to other things. I just can’t help it! But if you want to keep your sanity intact, and your craft supplies to a minimum, please heed my warning. Let’s say if you want to make jewelry, ask yourself what materials do you want to invest on. Would that be glass beads, acrylic beads, or a combination? Then stick to that. Make a collection of beaded jewelry (necklaces, earrings, bracelets, rings). It still falls under one category or a unified theme. BEADS. Or if you want to use BUTTONS, then use this material (whether wooden or acrylic or both) to make your crafts.
- Invest on good tools and materials. When I first bought my jewelry tools, and earring supplies, I wasn’t sure what I was doing. I didn’t take any classes on jewelry making. Sure I watched a dozen videos online to learn how to make earrings, and looked at hundreds of pictures on Google and Pinterest for ideas, but it’s only until I started making my very first pair that I really understood what I have learnt from my research. And it was only when I started experimenting on different brands of tools and different materials that I ended up really pleased with my finished products. I started with silver plated materials. Eventually, I invested a little bit more on buying 925 silver for my supplies. It takes me the same amount of time to make a pair of earrings using either metals. But with 925 silver I know my items will last longer so I can sell it for a little bit more. Right now, I am still making silver plated earrings just to use up all the ones I already bought.
- Research the fair you’d like to participate in. This I failed to do. When an opportunity arise for me to join a craft show, I took it without asking further questions like “Have you done this before?”, “What were the previous years like?”. I would have known better what to expect if I have done this. I just found out during the fair that it was their first Spring Craft and Vendor Sale. In the past they have always done their fair in the summer and according to them the previous year was so packed they had to change their floor plan for the spring event. Sadly, that was not the case for the Spring Sale. It was slow for everyone. I felt bad for those who didn’t even make enough to pay for their space. I was disappointed and I could see that others who were newbies like me were discouraged. I think we all learnt something new that day so it wasn’t all for nothing. My husband who has been very supportive of me and my crafting tried boosting my morale for saying I had the best display. Bless his heart!
- Pick the table closest to the door, or the table by the walls. When I first came in to the site, I saw my name on the table next to the table by the door. It was a corner table. My feeling at the time was neutral. I was just excited to set-up so I didn’t care where my table was. I was happy to see that a gal from our church was also participating in the same event. She has the first table in the center aisle. She asked if we can sit beside each other and was hoping she will be moved to the corner with me, but they moved me next to her instead. When people started showing up for the sale, I noticed that a couple of them went from table to table from entrance to exit without stopping by the tables in the center aisle. I thought that was odd, but I didn’t pay much attention to that. Then, I saw a friend of mine and her husband leaving the site without stopping by to see me, so I ran after them. I found out that they were actually going to the next room to see if there were more vendors there because they didn’t see me at all. They completely missed the whole center aisle which has 4 tables!!! I mentioned this to the gal sitting on the table beside me and she noticed the same thing too. Perhaps if the 4 tables in the aisle were facing back to back with the 2 tables facing the entrance, the customers would have a better view of the tables in the middle of the room. I wished I have mentioned this to the facilitator right away. Maybe they would have done something about it, or not. Who knows? When I finally did, it was already late in the game. She did say that last summer they had it set it up that way. But because they were jammed pack then, the floor plan made it more difficult for people to move around. So they made their changes for the Spring Sale. In other words, it was a trial run. We were guinea pigs! If only I stayed where I was originally placed, I might have made better sales because I was the first table for fashion accessories. Also, my set-up would have worked better for me. Lesson learned, the center aisle is not where people go first. It’s actually the last! Ouch! I should have known this being a buyer myself. But I was so focused on selling, I forgot to put myself into their shoes. Never again! (I hope!). And I hope you’ll learn from my mistake too!
- Proper display positioning. I know there is a better terminology for this, but I couldn’t think of it right now so for a lack of a better word, we’ll just stick to that. What do I mean by this? When you set up your display, make sure that customers can see your items in all angles. In my original table, I only had a partial blind spot. My shutter arrangement, as pretty as they were, covered a portion of my display. But being the 2nd table from the entrance, I think I could still easily get away with it. But when I got moved to the center aisle, I had blind spot in all angles. That was a HUGE mistake on my part! If the buyers can see what you’re selling in all directions, the more likely they will stop by to check you out, specially if you have something interesting to offer. I have to admit, my set-up was better suited for a store window display. I need to come up with something more practical for a craft show. (I will welcome any suggestions from anyone specially those who had experience in this area. Please comment below!). So if you are a newbie like me, think of how you can effectively display your items for everyone to see.
- Make sure your buyers can see/read your tag price clearly. I used coloured sticker dots to price my items. I had a ledger on the top of the shutter that says the price of corresponding colours. I’ve seen people do this in stores. But it didn’t work well for me. You see I didn’t want to tarnish or cheapen the look of my items so instead of putting the dots in front of the packaging for everyone to see, I put it in the back. However, this works okay in stores because customers feel free to look at products closely and inspect them without a salesperson standing in front of them. If prices are not very clear, you’ll lose interest of potential customers who don’t like to ask questions or engage in a conversation. I need a better system of pricing my items. One that maintains the clean look of my packaging, but still with a tag price that is clear and easy to read, Any suggestions?
- Invest on a good quality paper for business cards. When I first made my business cards, I used the 65 lb cardstock paper I bought at Walmart. Unfortunately, I find them too flimsy. And because I am using my business cards as my earring cards, I needed something thicker. Vista print was having a 50% discount on their business cards last month so I took advantage of that. I created my own design and have them printed them for me (I only paid $7.99 for 500 pieces! Sweeeet!) and in 2 days, I got my professional looking business cards. I can’t beat that price even if I print my own! The paper alone can easily cost me $10 or more and then I have to use my printer ink and then cut the cards into the right size. It sure saved me a lot of work! However, if you wish to print your own business cards, I would suggest that you stick to the 80 lb cardstock paper or heavier.
- Packaging techniques. If you can use your business cards to package your items, you can save some in your packaging cost. Also, if you do it this way, even if you forget to hand them out to your customers, they would still have your information.
- Flexible price. Make sure that you offer your customers more than just one set price (if possible). Let say for example your item is $5. As an added option you can say, if they buy 3 they can get it for $12. With this strategy, you get to sell more (hopefully!) and save a little bit on packaging as you are only using 1 bag for these 2 items. However, this may not always work depending on what items you sell and how they are packaged.
- Invest on a cash box if you can. I didn’t, since this was my first craft fair and I wished to not spend anymore than I had been. I have looked around and they can be pretty pricey! If you can get them for cheap in a second hand store or you know someone that owns one who will be willing to lend it to you, you’re good! A cash box can be so handy especially if you need to leave your station for a little bit. Just make sure you keep it in a safe place (like under the table) and not in plain sight to tempt someone to steal all your hard work! Since I didn’t have a cash box, I used a chocolate tin can and used ziplock bags for my change that I labeled with a Sharpie. I just used a rubber band to keep the lid close and then put my “cash box” stashed under the table together with the rest of my personal stuff.
- Bring food and water. The more you can avoid leaving your booth/table, the better, especially if you are on your own. You just never know when a sale can happen. It could be while you’re in line waiting to pay for your sandwich! So be prepared to stay in your station unless nature calls!
- Socialize with other sellers. If you are an introvert like me who doesn’t like small talk, perhaps engaging in a conversation with your competitors about the weather can be daunting. But think of it this way, these people are also potential buyers. In fact, I had some of them buy some items from me, and I (or should I say my husband) bought some from them as well. You are in a community with them, and you need to support each other. Also, if there’s anything you can help them with, however small that would be, don’t hesitate. However, if you wish not to chat, or to get too involved with them, at least give them a friendly smile.
- Pack everything the night before. I don’t like rushing getting out the door. When I do, I tend to forget things. So before I went to bed (even though it was really really late again!), I packed everything I needed to bring.
- Bring a calculator. If you don’t trust yourself to do quick math in your head, I would suggest you bring a solar calculator. I know cellphones have calculators but if for some reason you forgot to charge your phone and your table is not close to an outlet, you might find yourself short changing your customers or yourself.
- Bring crafts to make, or a book to read. Nobody wants a slow day on a craft sale especially if it’s just a one day event. You want your day to be busy making sales as much as possible! But if you do happen to have a “slow day”, there’s nothing worse than watching the second hand move with every tick, tock. It will just make the day seem longer, and the excitement you felt while you were setting up will quickly turn into drudgery. I was glad that the site had access to wifi. So when I wasn’t making sales, or chatting with a friend, I was working on posting photos of my items on social media.
- Take photos of your crafts and post them online. Facebook is free and so are other online social platforms out there. But when you join a craft show, your space is not. So when you end up not selling all your items in the fairs you go to, why not sell them online? We are more connected to the rest of the world now, even more than you think. So take advantage of what is already at your fingertips.
I think I can go on and on with all the things I have learned that day. But I don’t want to bore you anymore than I already had, so we’ll stop at 17.