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Get ready for a Craft Show

Updated: May 22, 2022



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We are getting ready for a Craft Show this week. I thought it would be an awesome time to walk through how we apply to shows, get ready for them, and show our products.

Magnolia & Willows has been presenting our products at Craft Shows, County Fairs and Pop-Up events for about a year now. We’ve had successes and failures along the way. We’ll share them here so you can learn from our mistakes and maybe be encouraged to try a show yourself.


Our first Craft show was an utter failure! It was so bad; I swore I’d never go to another one. Imagine it’s July in Mississippi and we pay $25 to go to the park for a first annual craft show (during Covid!) with a breastfeeding infant and Grandpa. 😂 The show wasn’t advertised, so not many people came, everyone was avoiding people due to Covid, and it was about 97 degrees. Candles were melting, I carried my baby and all the products and set up. I stayed for 6 hrs. and never made a sale. Talk about discouraged. I just kept thinking ” What is wrong with my products?” “ Was it me they didn’t like?” “ Was my display terrible?” “Maybe I should lower my prices?”


If you’ve been there, you know. It almost feels like someone doesn’t like you personally. it feels like you are disliked, don’t matter or are worthless. It can be very upsetting.

Try not to feel bad about you, your products or your set up. It is a learning curve for sure.


The second show we did was totally different. A friend asked me if I was going to Grundy County Corn Festival and I said “No Way!” Well she talked me into it and I went and sold out of most of my items!

Since then I’ve learned many things and been to many shows. I want to share them with you.


Here are important things to consider when looking at shows.


  • Is this a well known festival or show? The mistake I made with our first show was that it was brand new and not well advertised so not many customers showed up.


  • Are your target customers going to this show? This one may take some trying shows to see, but sometimes it’s obvious. If you sell designer handbags for $1,000 the local flea market will probably be a tough crowd. If you love rustic decoration and make signs, the inner city might not be interested in antiqued farm signs. Think about the show location and venue to get an idea of crowd.


  • Consider fees. Vendor fees can range from free to $1,000’s to your set up booth. Make sure you have inventory and prices that can make the entry fee worthwhile.


  • This one is advice. Many shows are judged. Which means a panel of judges accept the vendor and allow them to enter. Check fine print because some will keep your entry fee even if you are denied. Don't take it personally if you get a sad denial letter. It could be that they already have enough of your niche shops. You wouldn’t want to go to a show with a hundred booths filled with what you sell (you won’t make much money, trust me)


So now you have an idea about a show, now what? Find their application online and submit that puppy. Try to submit as early as possible. That way if many of your niche businesses apply you are already approved or if application is denied you can make other plans.

Craft Fairs are usually going to ask for pictures of your products, link to your websites and social media, they want to check you out! They will also require an entry fee when you apply. I have the most luck with smaller entry fees $25-$60 and they have been my best shows. When I paid $100 or more, every show was terrible.




So, you’ve been approved and have the date circled on your planner. Yeah for you! Now it’s time to put some work in.

Here's some lists to help guide you.


- Check each product for quality, labels, and price tags.

(Alternatively, you can group products on table and place a price plaque near them.)


We sell fine candles. Our product preparation is to look for drips on candle, check candle top isn’t discolored or scratched, and make sure the labels are affixed and in good condition.


If you sell other items you’ll still want to do a quality check before you box them for a show. It’s not cool to arrive at show and realize you can’t sell a piece because it’s missing a label or is somehow damaged.


Displays

- Pack tables, table cloths, shopping bags, business cards, payment plaque, pen, scissors, cloth for wiping things, trays and a canopy.


Absolutely set your display up in your home prior to going to show.

you want to make sure to take a picture when it’s done so you can refer to picture when you get to show. Shows usually give you about 2 hrs. to set up, but between parking and the crowd of other vendors 2 hrs. goes fast!


When creating the table usually less is more. You want something clean with a solid color tablecloth. This helps your products stick out.

look around home for some boxes, shelves or stands. A 3 dimensional display will draw a customers eye way better than a flat table.


We usually put a Box under the tablecloth in back and place products on box. This adds height to the table and makes the products easier to see from a distance.

We also group like products together in trays.


You will see many expensive displays at the craft show, do not get discouraged it is important to build a customer base of people who love your products, then invest in high quality table products.


Weve seen enclosed trailers fully decorated that are just wheeled into show and customers walk through. Awesome idea, but when you're starting out it’s too expensive.

Make sure you invest in your product lines and skills before going buck wild with gold trays, 5-foot-tall signs or trailers❤️.

A list of basic beauties for a show


- Tables

(venues charge for rental)

We love this one and everyone is always jealous of it, durable, lightweight and cheap.



-Tablecloths

9 times out of 10 your product will look best on a solid color tablecloth. Choose a color that matches your branding and try to pick a darker color to hide stains from customers, dirt roads ect.


- Trays People seems to like groups of items. I think when you see a row or set of similar things it looks complete and pleasing. And it makes you want to choose the best one.

so if there are 15 keychains I really feel like people instinctively want to pick one- the best one.

You can place like items in a tray, basket or even on a color piece of paper with a nice price sign or sign that explains the product.


Amazon has tons of basket and tray options, but it might be easy to find some already in your home and at your local thrift store or Hobby Lobby.


Inventory

- I always do an inventory before I box products. That way I can come home and do a second inventory and see what I sold.


Canopy/Awning

- I waited too long to buy a canopy. I thought it was an extra expense that was not in my budget and guess what happened? I had products melting from the sun, discolored and my poor face was sunburnt a few times. Canopies not only keep you and your products cool and safe, they will also provide comfort for your customers. Most every craft fair sell booths that are 10” by 10”. Grab a canopy in the same size. Amazon has one on sale for 40% right now. The $90 is well worth the safety, protection and comfort.



Chairs

So, I don’t bring chairs. I fully aim to drink about 15 cups of coffee and go to these shows amped and milling around. I want to greet people, tidy products and make friends with customers and other vendors. But anyone with some common sense brings a chair. Craft fairs are long hot days and you’ll want a place to sit while you eat lunch, or at least a spot to hold your drink. One day I hope to wise up and bring chairs myself.


Food and Snacks

Whoo, I almost forgot! These shows have food vendors who would like to make some money from their products just like you. If you want to purchase food it is surely available at the show. Usually items like hot dogs, soda, water, chips maybe coffee, tacos or ice cream.


I much prefer to bring my own giant reusable water bottle, plenty of granola bars, chips and dried fruit, soda and a sandwich. There’s nothing worse than going to a craft show, making money but realizing you spent $20 on snacks, $60 on other vendors merchandise you just had to have.

Your products lol!

Don't laugh, but it's so easy to forget stuff on the way to shows including some or all of the products you plan to sell. Thats why a list like this is a life saver.

I set my table up a few days before show, make the inventory list and pack everything.

That gives me a few days to look in studio and make sure I didn't miss something.


Signs, Payment Sign, Business cards

Don't forget these important items. We bring little chalkboard signs that explain our products with prices, a plaque that tells customers how to pay and I always take tons of business cards.

The customers you are meeting may want to buy in the future or add you on social media. Check out my business card post here.


Payment Plaque Personalized - This one is available on Etsy, but it's easy to make your own personalized sign.


Change of Cash

Nothing kills a sale faster than the vendor not having change. I usually bring $100, Three $20's, two $10's, two $5's and ten $1's.


I have a list of inventory and write my start amount on top of page.

When I get home, I count the money in my pocket and on my Cash App, square, PayPal or Venmo. I then take an end of day inventory and match my money together. If I started with $100 and 5 candles worth $10 each, and I end with $60 and 5 candles, then it's easy to see I lost $40 somewhere. That is just an example.


Misc essentials

These are random items that May come in handy.

*I don't know why these things are so important but they end up needed.

pens/pencils/markers

tape or glue

scissors

rope/thread or string

cloth or wet wipes


Shopping bags


Make sure you have something for people to carry their products.

It’s hot, probably sweaty at Craft Fairs, last thing people want to do is hold their item and have it potentially damaged from carrying it around a crowded craft fair. Shopping bags from stores that you’ve saved are free, easy and do good job.


But as you advance consider purchasing your own bags from Amazon and affixing a sticker with your logo or stamping your logo on the bag.


We use these bags, add our logo sticker and some decorative ribbon. As people walk around show they are advertising our company!




Arrive at show- How to act

Act natural!!! It is really easy to slip into nervousness wondering what you’ll say or what you should do with your hands. Try to think “I made these great items, some people will want them, some people won’t no pressure”


Nothing kills a sale better than an overeager salesperson. It feels like they are begging you to buy which in turn feels like their product isn’t any good or else why they begging?

Relax, take time to tidy products and feel ready to boast about your awesome items. “This gold Onsie is made by hand and takes me about 4 hrs. to create, I love the detail on the design and it’s a best seller in our Etsy shop”

Some opening like this then I always take a step backwards. It gives the customer the idea that I’m available for questions and I love my work, but I’m not demanding they purchase. I am alluding that this item sells with or without them.


Talk up your work! “These are premium soy and poured by hand in my candle studio. We add the delicate roses to the top as an added surprise “

or “I love what I do. I create art that is hard to find in a store, I can make personalized pieces so you get a piece of art that truly fits you.”


Most important read the room and don’t take anything personally. Some customers will walk up and touch a product and you’ll say "Hi, I’m Shelly" and you can tell they don’t want to be talked to. They don’t care. Save face and simply say “I make these items by hand, if you have any questions lemme know” then walk a few steps away and do something else.


Some people just want to look and shop, and some people were just at the last booth where some salesman of the year badgered them to death. You never know maybe they just had a terrible experience before they came to your booth.


End of Show


So you had an awesome day, whether you sold out or sold little- you won. You put yourself out there, you displayed your products, made friends and new customers and learned a whole hella lot! I’m proud of you and send my congratulation.


Maybe it was a disaster like my first show where nothing sold, maybe it was a miracle and you don’t even have to pack because you are sold out, either way is ok.

When you get home take a minute and make a list of everything that went right and everything that went wrong. It will help you from forgetting things at your next show and give some inspiration for your company.


Hopefully you made friends with the vendors at the show. They love talking about their businesses and can inspire you to purchase an awesome product that you'll cherish. We have fallen in love with soap makers, wreath designers and Artesian honey farmers at previous shows and we reorder to this day.


Other vendors will also tell you where great shows are in area, where terrible shows are, and their booths will give you tons of inspiration. Try not to think of the other vendors as competition, try to imagine a trade show where people go to learn from each other even though they are in the same business.



Here's a quick list of what items were mentioned. I know it is so hard to put yourself and your products out there. It is so easy to feel uncomfortable or decide you're not ready. Maybe your branding isn't good (we can help), or it seems like a waste of time.

I urge you to do it. Put yourself out there, meet people, learn more and grow the business you love. Small businesses are a journey. It takes steps like these walked every day to build a reputable brand that customers crave.


Here's the List


  • Table

  • Tablecloth

  • Products

  • Awing/Canopy

  • Chair

  • Payment sign

  • Boxes/shelves/trays for display

  • Change/Cash

  • Payment sign

  • Shopping bags

  • Business Cards

  • Square reader swipe

  • A grateful attitude

  • Inventory list and starting money amount



Magnolia & Willows has done a few hundred events in multiple states. We love to meet our customers and other vendors and support small businesses.

We hope this post is helpful and inspires others to greatness. If you love our words, please consider subscribing to our website to stay up to date.

www.Magnoliawillows.com










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