Our final feature in our 3 part series about entering the handmade craft show scene. In the first post, I shared my experiences as an exhibitor just starting at Craftin’ Outlaws, fair long before I became the organizer. Our second second article shared the stories of 3 makers, who are also lending their talents to our Emerging Outlaw program. This final post we get insight from a current and past poster designer. Our 2018 featured designer Yao not only crafted this years artwork started out her creative career with us back in 2008. While Addie, of Mute & Gold, has been a longtime vendor and designed our 2017 poster and has been working the local craft show scene.
These two talented makers share more about their craft fair journey and give some tips for what makers should keep in mind as we get into the busy holiday fair season.
All applications, including our Emerging Outlaw applications, close on at the end of this month, July 31st.. Read more about the application process and apply today.
Q. What do you recall from your first craft show/art festival?
Addie: My first craft show was the Columbus Flea in 2007, when it was still in the Fireproof building parking lot on High Street. I had a super small card table that I borrowed (thanks Olivera!) and shared a booth with a friend who sold vintage clothes. I didn’t have a car, so I packed up everything in my back pack and in tote bags and carried it (including the card table) from my apartment on 12th and Summit to High Street then took a bus to the Flea. I’ve done many shows since then with a car, but still try to pack everything as tightly and small as possible.
Yao: One of the first steps I took, and certainly the first event that I committed myself to, was the holiday Craftin Outlaws show back in 2012 when it was still at the the Gateway Film Center. I remember being nervous, totally a wreck in term of how professional people will perceive my business as, or what people will be interested in buying. However, within all of the self doubt and trepidation, I was also extremely excited. I intentionally committed myself to this show before I left my corporate job because I wanted a goal to work towards after leaving a cushioned job. I didn’t want to spend days sitting on the couch, questioning my motives and why I made this risky move. Looking back 5 1/2 years later, I think it was smart to make the most of that first wave of energy and excitement and put it towards a project like my first craft show! I also remember being very surprised at what people gravitated to and they did not. I was certain that I was going to be known as the “Psyanky egg” artist with a modern twist. I had all these images in my head of being in magazine spreads with millions of psyanky eggs all around me! (traditional Ukranian hand-dyed eggs) I was very naive in thinking I could define my business from the beginning. At the end of that first show, I learned the important lesson of staying open-minded about products and how a business will always be evolving. I have found that being willing to change and try new things is a very big part of sustaining a business long-term.
Q. What advice would you have to someone just starting out in the craft show/art festival circuit?
Addie: Just jump in and do it. You don’t have to have your branding perfect or be 100% happy with the quality of your products or talent (because let’s be real, no one is). You will learn and grow and change, and that’s ok. Sell some stuff, take notes on what to do/what not to do at the next show, invest your profit into better quality stuff and keep the cycle going.
Yao: Make sure you have a good understanding of what your profit margin is and why you are charging what you charge for your products. I wish I had made a spreadsheet from the very beginning of what all of my costs were for producing a product. Knowledge is powerful, and in the case of knowing my bottom line, I was able to confidently talk to customers about my products and why they are worth every penny. Also, knowing that what you are charging is actually, rather than just guessing, profitable for your business will also inform you a lot about what products to focus on or push further. The other advice is to do lots of research and plan your booth ahead of time. Before my first show, I spent about a week mocking up my booth in my office because I wanted to make sure everything had a good flow and I didn’t waste time figuring out the setup at the show. I think presentation is everything, so make sure that your booth design and aesthetic compliments/reflects your products. Make it easy for the customers to buy your work, so have price tags easily accessible. Talk to your customers, there’s a lot of value in a customer hearing how you made your product or what inspired you! Most important of all, don’t put so much pressure on your first show, because no matter how much you plan it, it will never be the perfect presentation! Every show is an opportunity to learn and fine-tune for the next show, your booth will improve with time and experience. Talk with other vendors, I’ve found so much great resources about the types of tents to get, or new craft shows to try out, from just talking and making connections with other entrepreneurs!
Q. What is the one thing someone should never forget when packing for a craft show?
Addie: Obviously don’t forget your products and cash/card reader, but don’t underestimate basic human needs – pack your lunch and bring lots of water. There’s nothing like having a hunger headache or a UTI when you have to talk to people for 8 hours.
Yao: Square reader or credit card reader, and an extra battery for your phone!