Lessons Learned at our First Craft Show
I like the anonymity of selling on-line. I get to wear my pajamas and not comb my hair and my business ticks along but…….I would like to reach a more local audience. Our products are the kind you need to touch and feel (and smell). A picture cannot do justice to the nuances of colors in the wool or in the wood. You can’t experience the weight of something made of wood or the softness of the wool as you run your hand over it through a picture. I can try to show how large something is by putting something next to it to compare it to but once you put it in your hands you just know.
So…….craft show! I’ve been really hesitant to venture into this venue of selling. I was worried that I might fail and failing with people watching is a little unnerving. I had so many questions and concerns. So much work! Too much to plan! But alas reason won over fear and I set off on a new adventure with Mark in tow.
We decided last year that we were going to attempt ONE craft show. We went to the venue and checked it out during the Fall craft show and I once again questioned my resolve! There were hundreds and hundreds of people. I felt swamped and all I did was walk around and get a sense of the place but we pressed on and signed up for a booth strategically located by the food and not far from the bathroom.
With five months to plan and get ready all should go off without a hitch! We both began stockpiling our wares. He made bowls, bandsaw boxes, pet dishes, salt and pepper mills and hunting calls. I washed, combed and dyed wool. I spun my fingers to the bone and started weaving. We had a lot of unique items to show and sell.
We received our paperwork and I read and reread all the rules and suggestions. We made booth displays and planned out a layout to showcase our products. We enlisted help from our wonderful family – daughter Lee and son-in-law Jon. We washed the trailer and added our logo. We put our logo everywhere. I worked to unify the booth with theme and color. I made stickers and signs and business cards and sticky notes. I measured and set up and thought about and dreamed about then panicked about the set up. So with all this thought and planning I should have had everything in order right?
So this is what I learned:
Lesson 1: There will always be new lessons to learn.
Lesson 2: You can plan and do dry runs and have everything ready but if you misread how large the tables are going to be you’re screwed before you even begin!
I “thought” the paperwork said that there would be one six foot table in the booth and we chose to have another six foot table added but when we got to our ten by ten square booth there were two EIGHT foot tables eclipsing the space. Shouldn’t be a problem more space to put stuff!!! Wrong….. Big problem!!! I had ordered tailored six foot tablecloths so no table coverings to unify the space. Then we noticed that Mark’s wheelchair and my chair and Lee’s chair and Jon took up about another eight feet of space. I suddenly became quite claustrophobic as the trailer was getting unloaded and all of our stuff started piling up. Lee and I quickly moved one table out but that left us with only eight feet of table and no way to use the layout that we had to carefully planned. Fortunately I had brought a four foot table that I had planned to use to put all the extras like calculator, money, bags, wrapping materials and so on. We quickly shifted gears and folded the tablecloths to make them cover the one table and used the four foot table (which had a matching tablecloth). Voila! Booth set up! Crisis averted!
Lesson 3: You can never avert all crisis’.
Too many people, too small a booth. Fortunately for us Lee was more than willing to not come and help on the day of the show and Jon left once Mark and I had our rhythm going. Love them both for being willing to change their plans for us! Our booth was still very cramped and small feeling. I felt hemmed in sitting behind my overly high tablescape. We readjusted and move out chairs and as our booth neighbor began to sell and move his things closer together we began to move ours further apart.
Lesson 4: No matter how nice your layout looks it may not work.
Day one we had a very hard time getting anyone to come into our booth. I had one table across the front and one down the side but everyone walked past just looking at the front side of the table. I had even put the colorful items high and in the back of the booth and had a bin full of free items inside with a sign that said FREE but very few takers. At the end of day one I moved things around and lowered my layout but I did not rearrange the table placement. Day two fared slightly better but we still had trouble getting people to come into the booth and look around.
Lesson 5: Bring something to do!
I remember reading about this when researching how to have a successful craft show so I brought a small electric spinning wheel with me just in case we were slow and I needed something to do. Well we were in deed slow and I really needed something to do so after a couple of hours I broke out the machine and fired it up and started spinning…….and the kids started coming! And with kids you get parents. I can’t say that this increased our sales but it did get more people to come inside the booth. Day two I brought my regular spinning wheel and while the show did not have many children that day I did have a lot of adults who came to watch me spin! And I met some spinners who were so excited to find fiber to buy!
Lesson 6: Get to know the other vendors!
Some of our best sales were to the other vendors. Because the show was so slow for everyone there was time to go around and check everyone out! I made some great contacts and Mark has several new friends!
Lesson 7: Well lesson 7 is I’m going to do this again in the fall.
I’m going to be in the same booth with the same eight foot table (for which I’m going to get the right sized tablecloth). I’m going to open the booth and not have something blocking the front so people can walk into to see what we have to offer and I’m going to spin, spin, spin.