Y’all know my first love apart from God and family and sewing and eating chips and salsa (apparently I have a lot of first loves…) is a good ol’ vintage market or craft show. I love going to them just as much as participating in them. Over the years I’ve gone big and I’ve also just gone home. When I say I’ll not put forth the effort to do another one again, I’m usually lying because sooner or later I’ll get the bug and forget all about the hours of planning, arranging, crafting, toting, packing, hauling, re-arranging, fluffing and then doing it all in reverse order to come home again (hopefully with fewer goods than I started with…)
In fact this post has been ruminating since last fall’s foray of crafty events that I participated in (I guess it was a long time coming because I was still busy recovering!) But in light of the start of show season, I thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned along the way. This is by no means an end all be all guide to doing shows because I’m always honing my skills and asking God for insights. And since where two or more are gathered there’s always good stuff happening, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this too, lovely reader…!
So without further ado, here we go.
1. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback and accept it gracefully. Maybe the fancy name for this is market research… maybe the simpler way to go about it is to ask if your customer is looking for a particular color, size or feature in your work. Or if they are mulling over a purchase ask what would help them out in making their decisions– one customer from last year mentioned she wished one of my bags had a closure snap at the top. Being that I had some at home, I was only too happy to add one and deliver it to her a few days after the show (it just so happened she was a neighbor) but I was able to close the sale and tuck away some valuable information to work off of in future designs. An even better way to implement this is to ask your closest and dearest or maybe your most honest (!) friends for feedback on your wares or services waaaay before you make your debut – you may be surprised to hear what people are looking for and have the perfect solution to fill that need.
2. Be genuine. People will spot a fake a mile away so believe in what you’re creating and be genuinely interested in your customer. If you come by my booth with a cute haircut, an awesome pocketbook or beautiful turquoise ring, you will get complimented and not just because I want you to buy from me. I believe God wants us to connect with people and sometimes compliments are a great way to open conversation. Truth be told, it matters less that you bought from me more that you left my booth feeling uplifted.
3. Know thy neighbor. At one show last year space was tight and after surveying our area and our backdoor neighbor who we were bound to bump into many times throughout the day we went ahead and introduced ourselves to her asking for grace if we happened to step on her toes later. Literally. This common little courtesy led to some great conversations about sourcing supplies and sharing leads for other shows… which leads me to the next tip…
4. Don’t be afraid to share. We may think we have cornered the market on our little platform but really there’s nothing you can’t find on the internet these days- instructions, supplies, DIY videos, you name it, there’s not much that’s secret anymore. But it’s through the sharing of information that we learn and refine our skills and hone our craft. There may be other people with similar things to yours, but we shouldn’t look at them competition. There’s room for all of us and it is truly more blessed to give than to receive so don’t be afraid to be generous with your fellow crafters and vendors. At our last show, we got into a great crafty conversation about ways to make a beaded bracelet convert easily into a necklace. You never know what may spark a new idea.
5. Team up. Back in the day, I went lone wolf to most of my shows. Sure, I may have had help to haul my wares in and set up, but during the actual selling day, I usually tended the booth by myself. Last year, I brought on my best girl to meet the day with me and not only did it give me an opportunity to go to the bathroom or grab a bite to eat while still having my space secured, it also gave me time with her. Even if you can’t bring another friend or family member along, maybe refer to #3 and make a new friend- because there’s nothing like someone having your back at these things.
6. Be a Square. Or take advantage of some other form of credit card payment option like Square such as Paypal. Sometimes your customers may forget to bring their cash to the show and having the option to swipe their debit or credit card is a saving grace when they see the oh-so cute apron that would be perfect for their sister-in-laws housewarming but they spent their last $$ on that BBQ sandwhich because nobody likes shopping on an empty stomach…! This option was so appealing in fact that after I made it available last year my sales almost doubled from a previous show. I wouldn’t have believed it had I not witnessed it with my own eyes. Even with a nominal fee per swipe, it’s still well worth it.
7. A picture’s worth a thousand words. Those guidelines that Stacey and Clinton often pushed for creating a snazzy wardrobe – color, texture, pattern and shine! – can apply to your booth layout as well. Take a picture of each set up (practice beforehand at home if you have the space and time) and really study how your table flows. Remember height is free! Use risers, shelves or crates when you can to elevate your treasures creating interest. A good picture is also helpful to have on hand for juried shows where you’re requested to send in examples of your work or for that friend or family member you brought (remember #5?) to help you set up easily and effortlessly. I can’t tell you how stressful it is to go into a show and not really have a plan for how to lay out everything so trust me on this one even if you do nothing else outlined here…! Of course every show will be different but once you have a basic plan it’s easy to tweak and tailor your approach. Also make sure to reevaluate during the day, filling in blank spots and making sure things still look pleasing from the front.
Above all, the best tip I can share is to relax and remember this is supposed to be fun! Be present and flexible and remember how much you love this job and be thankful. Praise God for the opportunity. No matter what sold or didn’t sell, you gained experience and exposure for your business and most importantly you connected with other folks and hopefully made a few smile in the process. Practice makes progress and there’s more than enough success to go around for everyone. Now go forth and shine at your next show.
[Editor’s note: It dawned on me when I finished this post how applicable to everyday life most of these tips could be…. love it when God reworks one purpose for another…!]