Amby Barnes from The Knit Owl rounds out our Craft Fair Series with information on various types of craft fairs and markets. There are a wide variety of venues to explore and there are lots of factors to consider when looking for the perfect match for your handmade items. So far we’ve looked at preparation, display + packaging and tips for interacting with customers. Tomorrow we’ll share some additional resources. Let us know if you have a great pinboard devoted to display or booth set-up, if you have a post or two with info on what works for you in a craft fair setting, if you have photos from your past craft fair experiences, etc. (Email firstname.lastname@example.org today, or leave a comment below!) We also want to hear your thoughts on today’s post about types of fairs/markets and your own considerations about cost/location/potential customer base/etc.
Amby has had lots of success selling her brooches, hair accessories and hand crocheted (and knit!) scarves. Learn more about The Knit Owl on their Facebook page, and check out Amby’s “Countdown to a Craft Show” for a humorous look at the excitement involved in preparing for the big day.
When I first started The Knit Owl in 2007 I couldn’t wait to setup at my first craft show. The “handmade movement” was still new, but I lucked out when a friend decided to start Indie Emporium, an indie craft show. I knew nothing about craft shows, but it turned out to be a success! I made a profit, got local press about my business and was picked up in my first brick and mortar! I’ve done many types of shows since, both successful and not. It took me a few tries to learn my market. My highest priced items are cowls and scarves, so I stick to fall/winter shows. However, someone who sells jewelry might do well year round. I think in general sales are better for everyone the closer it is to the holidays. Some tips when deciding whether or not to try a show out: How are well are they promoting the show? Is this the show’s first year? What type of people will it attract? After you consider these things you can decide if the booth fee seems reasonable.
This is me at my first show, Indie Emporium. Luckily, I’ve learned a lot since then!
While you may find other opportunities to set up a table and sell your wares, here is a breakdown of the most common types of craft shows.
Indie Craft Shows: Usually the “hippest” of all craft shows, they attract people who are big supporters of handmade businesses. Customers will stand in line for hours to snag a swag bag. They know all about Etsy and will be the first ones to like your fan page on Facebook! This is my favorite type of show and my most profitable. However, even if I don’t reach my sales goal it doesn’t matter, because I always have a blast, make new friends and network with other handmade business owners. I leave feeling inspired and excited to work harder on my business.
A lot of shows give away swag bags to the first 50 or 100 people in the door and encourage the vendors to donate promotional items to fill them. This is a great way to advertise your business and gives the shoppers something to remember you by even after they go home.
You will probably have the option of getting a table or booth. Depending on what you sell, a table might be plenty of space and it costs less. If a show is in its first few years it will typically cost between $50-100, whereas more established shows will run $200-500. Shows that have built a large following and draw a huge crowd (a.k.a. lots of eager shoppers) are more difficult to get into, but definitely worth it! They are usually juried, which means they are picky about who they allow in and have a limited amount of space. Don’t underestimate a newer show though as they can be profitable too.
Sunshine and Carousels Display
Passive Juice Motel Display
Outdoor Festivals: Think small-town art show, music festival or farmers market. These are fun so long as the weather cooperates. I have taken a tent down in a thunderstorm and seen other people’s booths get blown over by crazy wind! You’ll need a tent. (I recommend researching ways to secure it.) The cost is usually $150 and up for a 2-3 day show. You can ask a few crafty friends if they want to split a space if you’re unsure of how well you’ll do. If the hours are long it’s nice to work shifts. Pay attention to what type of people might attend and decide if it’s a good market for your product. I setup at a Reggaefest a few years ago and made tie dye shirts; those are not something I normally make, but I knew it would attract people to our tent.
Some crafty friends and I shared a booth a few years ago at an outdoor show.
School or Church Craft Shows: When I first started doing shows I was so eager and excited. I signed up for five school craft shows my first year! They’re usually on the cheaper side $50-150 and draw a decent crowd. However, I began to realize they used the word “craft” rather loosely. When you’re exhausted from staying up the night before putting finishing touches on your hand knit scarves and you look around only to realize you’re surrounded by Pampered Chef, Tupperware and Avon, you might get a little frustrated. My products never sold well at this type of show and I pretty much avoid them now. Despite all of that you may find this to be your market. The booth fees benefit the school or church and there are usually tons of them around the holidays. If it’s a total bust consider it good practice.
If you have a bad show, don’t give up! You never know who picked up your business card. Instead, use it as a learning experience and think about how you can do better next time. It’s intimidating to put your product out in front of you and watch people’s reactions. I have packed my product up at the end of a long day completely disappointed. It happens and you live and learn! As much fun as craft shows are it’s possible to do too many in a season. I try to limit myself to two or three a year. They’re a lot of fun, but require a lot of time and prep! Good luck!
This is my booth from this year’s Indie Emporium!