Monday, December 28, 2015

Best of NC : Craft Show 101: Choosing an Event That Is Right For You

This week, we're running the best posts from this past year.  Enjoy!

The fall and holiday craft fair season is upon us.  With all of the events out there, how do you know which ones are right for you? Here are some suggestions and considerations to hopefully make the selection process a bit easier.

1. Who is coordinating it and how is it being promoted? 
Check with other vendor friends. There are some promoters to be avoided at all costs and others that are top notch.

2. How long has the show been in existence? 
Not always, but often, first time or very new events lack the visibility and promotional reach of more established events, while established shows have a following of loyal visitors.

3. What are the fees? 
While it is difficult to predict what you will make, fees should be 10 percent or less of what your gross sales are for the show. (Don’t forget to include your travel expenses, all of the coffee purchased along the way, lodging costs, time, etc.)

4. How many days is the event?
If more than one, are the premises secure for you to leave your booth set up? Do you have the required set-up materials?  Will you have enough inventory, packaging, business cards, etc.? It is stressful having to come home after a long day and try to crank out more product, so make sure you have enough stock going in.

5. Location, location, location. 
Where is it? Is the venue visible and accessible? What is the commute like? If it is a two day show, will you have to find lodgings? If so, factor this fee into your show cost. Don’t rule out a great show because you’ll have to stay over; see if you can find another vendor friend who will split hotel costs.

6. Is the show indoors or outdoors? 
Are fees refundable if the weather is poor? Is electricity available? Is there adequate lighting? If you will be vending alone, are booth sitters available? If you are at an indoor event, always be prepared by bringing lighting (unless you have seen the venue). You may not need it, but if you are stuck in a dark corner, lighting will help you shine (sorry! I couldn’t resist) and improve your visibility to customers.

7. Did a promoter stalk you and beg you to do the show because they love your items and “others who have sold products like yours have done well”?
Proceed with caution. Remember that another’s definition of “well” may be different than yours. Ask questions, get numbers. The crafter who occasionally sells products may have a different expectation than a maker who crafts for a living.  Plus, promoters often embellish their events just a little.

8. Visit and observe the show in person and on line. 
There is no substitution for firsthand experience. Are the vendors all handcrafters? Are the items high quality? Are the displays professional? Is there ample parking? Is there a variety of vendors and categories? Are there many customers and are they buying/carrying bags with purchases? Talk with vendors for a realistic perspective. Check out the show’s website and social media links if they are available.

9. Is the show juried?  (Meaning, do they choose from applicants, or is everyone allowed in)
How are artists selected? Are there multiple jury dates? A carefully curated show is worth the time spent gathering pictures and writing an artist statement. Juried shows usually (but not always!) mean better quality items, and customers who are serious about buying handmade. However, this does not mean that shows that are small or not juried are without merit.

10. Are all of the items handcrafted? 
Does the show require that the artisan who made the item be present? Shows where new, direct sales items are permitted (think Tupperware, Lia Sophia, 31 Bags) tend to be less profitable for crafters/artists. Check the show’s definition of handcrafted; must all items be made by the vendor? (For example, if you make glass beads and the show permits others who purchase and string cheaper, imported glass beads, it may be difficult to compete. Don’t rely on the customer to know the difference.)

11. Is your craft a good fit for the show?
What is the price range of the items? Are your items and your price points a match for the show? Your items may not sell if you have the high-ticket item in a lower price point show. Likewise, if you are not a fine artist, you may be bypassed at shows dedicated to fine art.

12. Are there limits in each category?
Ask the promoter how many vendors in each category they will accept. While competition is a good thing, it is to no one’s advantage if there are too many vendors in one (your) particular category.

Hopefully this is a helpful guide to those of you looking into new craft shows.  Stay tuned for Part 2: How to apply to a Craft Show (so you will get in).

No stranger to dirt and getting dirty, Nancy Butler is a farmer, mother of three, and a Master Gardener. The owner of Lyric Hill Farm, Nancy creates all natural, eco-friendly luxuries for bath, body and home which are designed to pamper and clean. Her goat milk soaps and detergents are made from her own fresh, raw goat milk (from her herd of French Alpine dairy goats) and organically grown herbs and botanicals, and a carefully curated blend of 100 % natural, sustainably grown, fair trade ingredients. When she is not chasing escaped livestock or doing farm chores, you'll often find her knitting linen washcloths to go with her soap. Her farm and farm store are open year round to visitors.
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