Craft Shows and getting ready

This started out as multi-page opinion on craft fairs and how they don’t always go as planned. But I forgot to hit save. Sigh. Perhaps another lesson on how no matter how much you plan and prepare, try to be ready, cover all the details, sometimes things don’t go as planned.

Running a small business, especially an online one, doesn’t give you much ‘face to face’ with your customers. So participating in seasonal craft shows can be a great way to see what’s popular, what your customers might like, and what they might not like. You can collect data on your prices, maybe, and if a particular show is a good fit for your product. You can try new designs, or scents, or styles. And perhaps the best part, you can interact with your customers, and hear first hand how they like your product.

Craft shows are a flash version of a pop up shop. For one day, or maybe two, you can style a space, and craft a couple tables to have them look like you would imagine your in person shop would look. And then when four pm rolls around, you pack it all up and head home. And maybe try it again the next weekend.

Before you set up ‘shop’ though, there are many, many details that need to be planned out. Or in my case, written down, sometimes multiple times, just to clear the space in my mind for other thoughts and ideas. I am a big fan of notebooks, and planners, and lists. Lists I have down to a science and I love a good notebook, preferably an A5 size. Planners are a work in progress. Let’s just say I have not achieved planner peace yet.

However you take stock of everything that’s needed to set up a booth at a craft show, you’ll want to start months in advance. Look at other examples of booth setups, for your product and others. Check out You Tube and definitely go to shows, if you can do so. Attending in person will also give you a sense of the venue and the other vendors that may be there, and their wares. Is your product a good fit? Is the show well attended? Do you see people walking around with bags, and buying or are they mostly looking? Was the show well advertised? Is there an entry fee or lunch, or parking? Some things you can control, and some you can’t. But the more information you have ahead of time, the better educated you can be about your decision to sign up.

Presuming you’ve made your decision and will be participating in a show sometime in the future, I’ll go back to my lists and what you might need to get things sorted out.

What do I need?

Well, I suspect you’ll get a different answer from everyone you ask, but here’s what’s on my lists:

Tables (1-3) - depending on your space

Chair (1-2) - sometimes they’re provided. Don’t carry what you don’t have to!

Tablecloths - Good to hide boxes under and give your tables a more polished set up (don’t forget to de-wrinkle!)

Product - packed in a way that’s safe to transport. Trust me when I say, this is important and can be very costly if you happen to drop something in a poorly packed box!

Price tags or signs - people don’t want to guess. If they have to guess, they’ll walk away. This can be as simple as a table tent card stock, or tags on each product. Just make sure your prices are easy to see and easy to read.

Sign - whether it’s your name or a business name, it’s good to have a banner, or sign, to show everyone who you are and what you sell.

Business cards, flyers or post cards - people don’t always buy at the show. The card gives them a way to find you later. Yes they can take a picture too.

Cash box, card reader and float - be able to provide change, process cards and have somewhere safe to stash your cash. I’ll do another write up card readers but for now, note that it’s a really good idea to have one.

Bags, wrapping, tissue, boxes - whatever works for your product. This is also your chance to add a business card or thank you card, a discount code or an invite to an upcoming show int with the purchase. It’s also marketing for you as your bag (with your logo on it of course), walks the show with them. Don’t forget to keep it environmentally friendly and if you must go plastic, make sure it’s recycled and/or compostable!

Other set up props - how much? That’s up to you. Some people go all out and haul in what looks like a complete wood frame to set up their shop. Some people don’t set up much more than their product and table cloth. I’m somewhere in between.

Your phone - take a picture! Of your booth of your products, of anything you want to remember for next time. Did something work well, (or not work) for setup? Take a picture to help you remember for next time.

Bring a buddy - setup and take down are so much faster when you have help! And neighbors might help with a washroom break, but you’ll feel less rushed knowing your space is in good hands while you get that coffee, or take that potty break!

Optional but nice to have:

Curtain backdrop - not required but a nice way to frame your space and keep the focus on your product and not those of thee booth behind you! These can be expensive, but you can usually find similar ones to these on amazon. I have one that I use for photo backdrops, and it works for a booth backdrop as well.

Curtains - I went for the least expensive I could find, which was sheer white ones. I’ve got five panels on my backdrop, but I’m probably going to add a couple more.

Product display props - depending on your product, you may not need much in the way of staging, but it’s a good idea to do what you can to bring your items up to or close to eye level. Even boxes covered with a tablecloth can serve as a riser if needed. Just make sure you won’t need anything from the box during the show! Props can be found anywhere. Shop your home first. Try Value Village or Goodwill. Many items can be painted or re-purposed to display your product. Keep in mind you will be carrying these items in and out for set up and take down, so think “light and stable.” Think seasonal if that’s relevant and choose colors that support your theme and/or style.

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