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Friday, November 22, 2013

Craft Fair Recap and Lessons Learned

This past weekend, I had my first craft fair. I teamed up with some local moms, and we rented out some tables under the name 'Milk Mamas.'  We all met from our local breast-feeding support group so it was a pretty fitting name.  All of our items are hand-crafted and primarily focused on the wee ones.

The craft fair was put on buy the local Junior League chapter. It's the first or second time they've run it so it was a smaller affair. It was in their local Community Outreach building and there was about a dozen vendors total participating.

I was up late every night of the week, frantically churning out burp cloths and lovies. It's been ages since I've participated in a craft fair, and never selling goods like these... I really didn't know what to expect. My Etsy shop has been doing pretty well, considering I do minimal advertising and it's mainly with online mommy groups.  My lovie's are definitely the top seller as I'm usually advertising them on sites specific to the swaddle brands that I use. But would they perform as well in person?

We arrived early and I covered the tables in my pastel table-cloths. I brought them 'just-in-case' but they definitely came in handy to cover up the drab, plastic tables.  We divided up the tables between the 5 of us and arranged our goodies for display. In the future, we could definitely use more space. We all had a lot of great stuff! ILH Designs and her onesies could have taken up two tables alone as she had so many cute designs available! Her friend was selling Norwex cleaning products at the far end of the table, and the other two ladies had some adorable bows, infinity scarves for babies and adults, and felt quiet books. I think that with the combination of all of these items, I can safely say that we were one of the most popular tables at the craft fair.  We all sold a few pieces - not quite as much as we would have liked to do, but with approximately 50 people coming to the fair (one of the vendors counted), I think we made out pretty well.

Once I got home, I also reached out to my local online groups and mentioned my items, and was able to get quite a few more sales directly through my Etsy shop. So in the end, it came out to be a successful day. I made back what I spent on the table, which was really my main concern, I got my name out there, and was able to gauge what people were interested in.

Much to my surprise, the burp cloths were equally as popular as the lovies. Not that I don't think they are a great product as well, but on Etsy, they don't sell nearly as well. I feel that my pricing is very competitive, but I think Etsy is pretty saturated with burp cloth sets.  I'm going to keep at it though, focusing on them at shows like this, but also keeping really cute designs in stock. In just the last week since the fair, I picked up some new prints that are ridiculously cute. I'll list them online after my next craft fair, tomorrow. Yeah, that's right - back-to-back craft fairs. Tis' the season!

One quick craft that I whipped up for the fair were some little name labels for my items. At the time, I was just doing burp cloths and lovies. Again, since the fair, I've been on a bit of a crafting spree and was inspired to come up with a few new things. More on those after this weekend. I stitched these each up in about 30 minutes.  I made a quick little cupcake and plotted out the spacing for the words. I love how they turned out, and tied my two little baskets together. Now I just need to make a couple more for my new goodies.

So overall, what did I learn from this craft fair experience? Sorry, it's about to get a bit wordy, but hopefully you will find this useful.

1. Don't set too many expectations. Try to find out as much as you can about the fair itself so that you can anticipate how many people will come. Who will mostly make up the audience? I knew that this was a fairly new fair, so I didn't expect a huge turn-out, but I definitely had more products than I needed. It's good to have variety, but you also don't want to over-do it and bring too much clutter. Through this all, you can still find that even though you did the research, you just didn't get a lot of customers. While I think you should take a look at what you are selling overall, making sure it is something people are interested in, you also don't want to go in to your first (or even later on) craft fair expecting to be wiped out of everything. Just be realistic about what to expect.

2. Price right. Be competitive, but make sure you're not underestimating yourself and what your time is worth. Etsy has some great resources to help you calculate how much you should be selling your items for in order to make a profit. If you are finding that your goods are priced too high, you need to figure out how you can keep costs down... better vendors to buy your supplies, more time-effective solutions to make them, or maybe it's something you just need to pass on.

3. Adding on to the topic of price, are you really incorporating ALL costs into your goods? We had one person who was not charging extra for custom prints. It doesn't take her much extra time to do, but something that was missing from her calculations was the cost of getting the end product to the customer. At the fair, you hand them their item, the transaction is - in a sense - over. Custom items require a little extra work but they also do not leave the customer standing in front of you with the goods in hand. The items either need to be delivered in person (if local, and willing to meet) or shipped.  This adds gas costs or just shipping and packaging costs. While it can be exciting to get the sale, you also want to be sure that you are not completely eating away at your margins only to find out you're now in the red. Custom orders may require an extra couple of bucks added on... or more depending on what is actually involved.

4. Listen to your customers. What is it that they are looking for? What are they saying about your products (or the products of the person next to you). For our baby items, what I heard the most was that people wanted a good variety of items for boys, girls, AND gender neutral. It seems obvious, but you may need to take a closer look at your items to make sure they are offering a good variety of options for all customers.

5. Little things count. Keep your stuff neat, easy-to-see, and fun. This draws people in and can impress them with your professional appearance. While some people may like the Becky Homecky look, most people want to buy something that is presented well. Again, seems obvious, but you would be amazed at how some people display their items at craft fairs. If your booth is a mess and it's hard to get an idea of what is actually for sale, you probably won't draw many people in.

6. When possible, let people really SEE your product. I left a few lovies out for people to touch and play with because they are so soft. The rest were neatly packaged up, but this way they could see exactly what they would be buying.

7. What's your follow-up plan? Did you make any connections at the craft fair? Anyone you need to reach out to or custom order to begin working on? Do these things in a timely manner, while your memory is still fresh and so is the customers. It's also just good customer service to get back to them when promised (or sooner). In my case, I didn't have custom orders, but I saw my small supply of burp cloths had a big dent. I needed to replenish before the next fair, so I went out to get more supplies. In doing so, I saw new prints that met #4... listening to what they were asking for. Some cute, new, gender neutral prints, and fun designs that I think will be really popular.  I also advertised online, and ended up selling twice as much as what I sold at the fair in person.  I was already in the shop frame of mind, so it only took me a few minutes and got me a few new customers.

8. Finally... BE FRIENDLY! I saw some vendors with a frown on their face for most of the show. One thing I noticed about them... hardly anyone went to their booth.  You don't need to be a cheerleader, but people probably won't want to stop by if someone with a giant scowl is staring you down.

Alright, I think that's it! Did I miss anything? I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences!


  1. Sounds like a neat experience. I didn't know you were selling on etsy. That's cool.

    1. Thanks Stephanie! Yup, it was fun. :) I'm looking forward to doing more of them now that I have some experience under my belt. We will actually be at Waverly Place this weekend and I think a couple of weekends in December. The Etsy shop is a somewhat new thing in the last couple of months.


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