Part 2 of our Emerging Outlaws series shares advice from a few of our internal Outlaws crew. Whether you are just starting out into the craft show scene or if you’ve been around for years one constant is always true, each show is a learning opportunity to improve your craft.
Mallory has been helping behind the scenes with Craftin’ Outlaws over the last few years and shares her insights of what it was like for her when she first launched her handmade business Mallory Hill Designs.
Helping us lead the Emerging Outlaws program are Nancy of Nearing Polymer and Cheryl of Double Clutched. These two have a wide range of talents and knowledge to help guide this new group of up and coming talent.
We asked these Outlaws to reflect back on their experiences when they started selling their products back in the day.
What do you recall from your first craft show/art festival?
Mallory: My first show was Bazaar Bizarre in Cleveland, now just called Cleveland Bazaar. It was about 6 years ago. I remember being nervous and excited and really not knowing what to expect. It was very busy but it turned out to be a great show. I remember someone asking me if I was “the artist” that made everything. Sewing is not always considered art so I was a little surprised by the title but it made me feel very proud of my work and encouraged to keep making. Every compliment really made me happy, even if the customers didn’t end up purchasing anything. When I go to shows now I try to make sure I say something to the artists I appreciate, even if I don’t end up buying – their work, packaging, logo, set up, any details I really notice because I know how much work and thought goes into each of those decisions and I know that those words are encouraging to everyone.
Cheryl: My first show was Hubbard Bazaar at the Hubbard Mastery School in 2015. It happens during the Short North Yard Sale. I remember being extremely excited to sell my items for the first time. I just launched a month before. I was also extremely nervous to be selling to people in person.
Nancy: I don’t actually remember my very first one – I do remember the year I started to be serious about it – when my husband built me table risers and we didn’t test them out before the Columbus Handmade show. My table went over when someone bumped it. Yikes!
What advice would you have to someone just starting out in the craft show or art festival circuit?
Nancy: Displays! What works for you may not actually follow anyone else’s best practices, so go to lots of craft shows and look at other people’s to find ideas that work for you – imagine your merchandise on the displays you see. I personally am a big fan of counter-height displays, but I’ve seen good table-height ones too. Questions to think about: Can you afford the display? Can you carry it and put it up yourself? Is it stable? Does it really showcase your product? Get a square and carry an extra reader Packaging! Have lots of bags and tissue. Pricing – don’t short yourself. It’s terrifying to price your work at what it’s worth, but you don’t do yourself any favors by working cut-rate, either. There are Walmart shoppers, and there are people who care enough to buy handmade. You’ll never get the Walmart people, and the ones who care enough to buy handmade will pay. Build a network. Make friends with other vendors – they’re really your best allies, not your competition.They can give you insights into good and bad shows, advice on your display, and thoughts about your product. They’ll watch your booth for you when you have to pee, and loan you something you forgot. They’re the first to celebrate when you have a good day, and to hug you when it’s bad — they get it. Hang in there – if you’re doing your best work, someone will love it. You don’t always find your customers on your first show, but if you keep at it, you’ll find the shows that work for you.
Cheryl: You don’t have to do any and every show to get your name out there. Practice is good but it pays to research the past year’s festivals advertising and what vendors they’ve accepted. It’s a good way to tell if your product is a good fit for the audience. Also don’t be afraid to reach out to other past vendors to see how they did but remember no 2 vendors are alike. A bad show for one isn’t a bad show for all. Lastly, it’ll take a few shows to realize which ones are a good fit and which ones aren’t.
Mallory: Do your research on shows, if you are able to visit the show before you apply that would be great. Make sure that the other vendors are in your same price range and the target audience is what you are going for. I would be very wary of any show that allows MLM companies or items that aren’t handmade, I’ve done a few of those shows and the shoppers are not looking to spend money on quality, handmade work.
What is the one thing someone should never forget when packing for a craft show?
Cheryl: Your patience. 🙂 It’s easy to get flustered especially if you’re running late or someone isn’t being friendly but stay calm and collected makes for a better day.
Mallory: I feel like there are some business basics – credit card reader, change for cash transactions and business cards. And then there are personal sanity basics – snacks, water, comfortable shoes and clothes, something to keep you busy during slow times besides your phone (something to do with your business if possible, people love to see you in action, not just scrolling Instagram), and a phone charger.
Nancy: A square and change!
Our Emerging Outlaws applications are live for our upcoming event on November 10th in Columbus, Ohio and close July 31st. Visit our website to learn more about applying as an Craftin’ Outlaw. http://www.craftinoutlaws.com