What I Learned from my First Craft Show Season
My first craft show season has come to a close. I feel completely exhausted, relieved, inspired, and excited to begin again in the fall. This spring season was a huge eye opener for me. I tried to have little-to-no expectations going into my first craft show season, just so that I wouldn’t feel disappointed or let down in any way. That didn’t exactly pan out, of course, because I am a dreamer, and when I think of my products, I daydream about who’s buying it, where it’s going in their house. I imagine them cuddling up with one of my blankets, or lighting one of my candles and serving their guests on one of my trays. It’s hard not to dream up those little vignettes of your ideal client’s life.
But on the other side of the coin from all the daydreams and romance is a lot of hard work. It’s schlepping, planning, putting out A LOT of dough, and working late nights and weekends to prep. However, when push came to shove, I just winged most of the shows. I definitely think that most of what I learn/will continue to learn will just come with time and experience, trial and error, seeing what works and what doesn’t. That’s the long haul, but I’m in it for the long haul. Gotta risk it to get the biscuit, my friends.
I wanted to take a moment and summarize my first show experience, not only for myself, but for everyone who may be wanting to start going down the craft show rabbit hole. There were some highs and some lows, but over all it was a learning curve that I’m grateful to have experienced this spring.
Your Ideal Clients Are Not at Every Show
I’ll be completely transparent – being out in public with my products for the first time was absolutely terrifying. I had anxiety all week before my first show, didn’t sleep a wink the night before, and felt perpetually nauseous the morning of. It was not only the idea of physically watching people engage with my work, but also the fear of the wrong customer reacting to my work, and how that would affect me. I knew that there would be some people who were enthusiastic about my stuff, and some people not as much – and that’s ok! I took great care to try and prepare myself for that. But what I didn’t prepare for was my responses to people’s questions, criticisms, and exclamations whom of which are not my tribe/clientele. I’ve only done two different craft shows, and the clientele of each have been drastically different. I am queued up to do a few different markets this fall, so hopefully by the end of that run I’ll be able to know which markets will work best for me and my product, and discover where my tribe is hanging out.
Pricing is Crucial
While I took great care to price my items intentionally to cover my costs, overhead, and have a small profit margin, people love even numbers at a craft show. It’s so simple for someone to whip out $5, $10, and $20 bills for the things that they love! I definitely am going to be thinking more in advance for fall about items I can use this structure for so that it’s easier on the customers who are not paying by card!
Educate Your Customers
This is definitely something I need to improve upon. Lack of education = a missed opportunity for engagement, conversation, and sales. I am an awkward person, so this is something I’ll definitely need to practice in the mirror for beforehand like a weirdo, but I’d rather do that than miss the opportunity to share valuable information about my products and brand with someone!
I’ll give you an example. This past spring, I brought a huge basket exploding with beautiful wool dryer balls for sale. I assumed (wrongly, I might add) that everyone knew what dryer balls were and what they did. Since I assumed that it was obvious what it was, I wasn’t prepared for people to ask me about them. I wasn’t prepared to tell someone why they are an excellent household essential, can reduce your drying time by 30% therefore saving you money on your electric bill, and also that a set of 6 will be a lifetime purchase that will eliminate having to buy dryer sheets ever again. I’m sure I lost so many opportunities by not having an explanation prepared! Don’t make the same mistake. We all make things that can bring value to someone’s life, right? Let them know why!
Know Your Products Inside and Out
I can’t repeat this enough. There were so many times that I fumbled over my words because I forgot the dimensions of my blankets, and other useful info that people will definitely want to know! I recommend (for myself as well) to make a little cheat sheet containing all those little details, in case someone asks! There was one woman who wanted to buy one of my blankets, and I gave her the wrong dimensions. She didn’t buy it because she didn’t think that it would fit over her queen sized bed. When I got home and double checked the dimensions, I realized it would have fit. And she probably would have bought it. I was hitting myself over the head for days about that. But hey, I probably wouldn’t have learned that lesson unless I learned it the hard way.
Find a Way to Bring Them Back
Give them a coupon code to come back and shop online. Do a give away in exchange for their email address. Have some business cards in multiple spots all around your booth. I have a basket of free match boxes right at the front of my booth that have my logo and website on them. I’ll tell you, after every show, the basket was empty. People were picking them up every other minute! I have to shout out to my boyfriend, Jon, for that idea. He loves collecting matches from bars and restaurants all over Philly, and he was like. “Hey, you sell candles, why not have some free matches for your customers so that they can use them in their home?” Genius.