Last Saturday I was a vendor at a craft fair. My first craft fair. Not only was “vending” new to me, the venue was completely foreign to me. I had no idea what to expect.
A little less than a month ago, I applied and was accepted to exhibit at “Play” at Mill No 5 in Lowell. A craft fair geared towards children and play. A cool concept and perfect for my dolls. But it was also a first for the “Play” organizers, ie this was their first “Play”. So we were both doing our trial runs, our Beta version so to speak.
Flash forward three weeks. The “Play” people did an amazing job. The space was incredible, a converted mill building, with an amazing unique interior done with found pieces of architecture and old reclaimed storefronts. Read more about Mill No 5 here.
The event was well organized. There was not a moment where I felt panicked or confused what to do or where to go. There were greeters, people to help transport your stuff, outlets, water, food, a vendors’ lounge. I had a cool spot to set up in. A huge shout out to Amelia Tucker for all her skills in putting this together, she totally knew what she was doing.
Me on the other hand, my three weeks were a little less organized than the Play folks. In the days leading up to the event, I was trying to sew stuff at a crazy pace and at the same time apprehensive. Okay, maybe that’s an understatement. I may have said a couple of times, I can’t go, I’m going to be the no show doll lady.
I’m so glad I wasn’t that lady. It was great. Not only did I sell a few things, what I learned was priceless.
- I have to remember it is all about baby steps. baby steps in preparing for that first craft fair. And that first craft fair is a baby step in my business plan.
- There was only three weeks from my acceptance to this venue until the event itself, barely enough time for someone who needs to overdue and rethink everything. But I had to start somewhere. So far, my dolls have only had an internet presence. Preparing for my first craft fair was less about sales and more about starting the process of being a craft fair vendor and having a physical presence.
- Once I committed myself to the fair, I had to really commit, ie, I needed to spend some money. I needed mini cards, a banner, display stuff, bags, a way to take money.
- I needed to have a realistic goal for this fair. My dolls are not impulse buys, so selling lots of stuff was not going to be it. My goal was to see what it was like to be a craft fair vendor. It would be kind of hard not to achieve this goal. Unless, I backed out.
- Although I did one trial run with my new friend the BOA credit card reader. I should have done more. When my first customer handed me his card, I felt panicky. He actually helped me through the process with a, “Oh look, this is when you hand it to me and I sign”.
- Next time I will have a handout about my dolls. Online people can easily read that they are made of natural materials, 100% wool felt, stuffed with wool, and what goes into the craft (and price). But at a fair, you don’t want to scare your browsing customers with all of this unsolicited information. Which brings me to my next lesson.
- Don't eagerly engage with people looking at your booth. People just want to look, if they have a question they will ask. Let them start the conversation. People easily feel accosted and want to get away. My husband is a friendly guy, but shoppers just want to look and don’t necessarily want Mr. Dollmaker as their new friend.
- Do make friends with other vendors. First, it makes the fair more fun. Second, you can learn a lot from their success and failures. I had two great vendors next to me, who both taught me a lot about the process and kept me amused. Shout out to Linsey at Sweetest Hue, who handpaints children's cotton clothes and Derek at SooHoo Studios, who does amazing pottery and is venturing into lamps. I hope to see them both again at another event.
- Have a range of products, but a cohesive brand. I have a cohesive brand, maybe a little too cohesive, I need a bigger range. Next fair I will have a selection of less expensive items.
- Take notes: during and after the fair. I thought of ways I could display differently, prepare better for next time, and expansions of my product range for the next fair, basically how to improve my game for next time. I am glad I (Siri) wrote this all down during the fair, because I'm not sure I would have remembered everything the next day.
I achieved my goal and decided I do like craft fairs, but I will need to research the right ones. Play was a great one.