When I first entered the handmade scene, selling a line of creepy plush creatures, I knew so very little about how to go about selling my work. Etsy had just launched in 2005 but was in no way the household name that its become today. The city I called home, Columbus, Ohio had just started to showcase crafts with Wholly Craft opening their doors and Craftin’ Outlaws holding their first craft show. A new world had unfolded around me and I was so excited from all the handmade buzz it was receiving and wanted to play a part.
It wasn’t until 2007 that I found the courage to apply and to my delight was accepted into Craftin’ Outlaws. I remember saving the date when applications were to open and refreshing my computer screen in anticipation of the online forms going live. Thinking that my eagerness to be one of the first to submit my information would help my chances of getting into the event. I remember fidgeting with my display in my living room trying to make sure everything looked presentable with no clue what to expect for the big day of selling my goods.
Mostly, what I recall from my first craft fair was not being prepared. Be it outside weather, not having bags to place sales into and really having no clue what it meant to be a business. I didn’t know if it was okay to take checks or how to handle credit sales. This was also pre-Square days, which meant I’d have to spend hours after the event manually entering in sales. While the internet was a resource for me the craft scene was still forming and social media was just dawning, so I didn’t know how to stay connected with potential customers after the show ended.
Since that time I moved from plush to soap, Stinkybombs. In all I’ve attended over 50 events from large festivals to small pop markets to shows set up in living rooms. I’ve had shows that grossed over 2k in sales to shows where I didn’t cover my table fee. There have been fairs where all my products got drenched to shows where the fabric came home smelling like curry to shows that nearly sold out and I immediately came back to making more product for the next gig. There are horror stories of not being ready to sell while doors were open because I thought I could handle a new booth display the day of the event. To love stories where you watch a kid come back 4-5 times pining over my products until their parent came over and made their day by purchasing the item they had been admiring all afternoon.
My days of selling handmade goods are almost directly online with the exception of a few local shops. Most of my energy has been replaced with assisting makers by hosting events and showcasing their work instead of my own. It’s with that sense of respect for the hustle involved that I want Outlaws to continue to help those getting off the ground and grow in the way that it once did for me.
Over the next few weeks, we will share stories and tips from some of our Craftin’ Outlaws for the next generation of makers. This fall we will host panels and workshops to help individuals who need a crash course into the festival and fair circuit.
Our Emerging Outlaw applications are now open for those in business from Ohio, operating for 2 years or less. For more details and to apply online please check out the Outlaws website.