Committing to your first craft show is an exciting and sometimes scary experience. It means that you have reached a point in your business where you have a steady number of designs and can create enough inventory to meet the demands of possibly tens of thousands of attendees in a single weekend. It also means that while you are working on building your audience and brand, you have created a cohesive enough vision and product line that craft show jurors and organizers have decided that YOU belong in their show and your presence will help it be a big success.
I’ve been doing crafts shows for a few years now, and looking back, I realize that in the beginning, I pretty much dove right in. While that is great for enthusiasm, there are a few things I wish I had known my first time around to make the most of the experience. To help you make the most of your first craft show experience I pulled together my top 5 tips to help get you started with a bang.
- Research the Show. I know when we are first starting out it seems like a miracle to get accepted into any show at all. It is usually when we have been around the block a few times that we start getting really selective about which shows we do. For those of us who are a bit more seasoned, this selectivity usually has to do with audience, price point, venue, dates, and show organization. When starting out it helps to try a few different kinds of shows to see where you best fit. Street festivals, established traveling shows, like Renegade Craft Fair, and local pop up markets are all good events to try out. Each will have it’s own vibe, benefits and downsides, but be sure to take notes and think about what worked for you personally and your brand. Then next year you can start with a strategy and do the shows that worked best for you.
- Have an Inventory Management System. This sounds boring I know, especially when there are so many creative and exciting things to consider about entering into your first craft show experience. That being said, nothing will help your day, or the workdays following the craft show run more smoothly, than having a clear and organized system to track sales and inventory. I personally like to use Stitch Labs, but your first stab at inventory management can be a lot smaller scale. Even pulling together an excel sheet with all of your products and pricing is a great start.
- Less is More. Getting to share all your hard work with the world is exciting! There are many reasons to want to share absolutely everything you have made, but try to put the brakes on a little! Your brand will make the best impression if your work looks truly cohesive. That means pulling together the pieces from your collection that make sense together, grouping things into different categories, or seasons, colors, etc. Whatever cannot fit into a group, either save for another time, or build a separate small collection around it. Truth is, most buyers at shows are simply overloaded with things to look at. Putting out just your best is more then enough and a great way to help keep you organized and not overwhelmed as well!
- Merchandise Like a Champ. Booth display is critically important at craft shows and is a great way to share with the world the mission and vision of your brand. Think of your booth or table as your very own retail store. Customers are going to want to get a comprehensive sense of your brand and really understand what your designs are about. Take some time to plan out what you want to share with customers. Information like your own personal maker story, materials, and process are really important. Finds ways to share this information with customers through your visual display. I always find the simplest displays that let the designs really shine through are the best, but find what rings true to you and start there. There are a lot of great examples out there and organizations like Renegade Craft Fair have Pinterest boards that give lovely examples.
- Press the Flesh. What I did not understand at all when I first started my business was that your fellow vendors will be some of your biggest supporters. With so much to take in and handle at your first craft show, it is still really important to take some time to get out there and meet some of your fellow vendors. Walk around, say hello, introduce yourself and collect business cards. In general, most makers are super nice and love meeting and supporting new vendors. In the end remember that every customer has their own taste and even if you make a very similar item to another vendor, there are enough customers out there for all of us.
When it comes to participating in your first craft show there is a lot to learn! The good news is that the learning curve is fast and furious. The more shows you do, the more comfortable you will feel and the stronger your brand presence will become, so get out there!