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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

First Time Craft Fair

This year I decided to sign up for my first (few) craft fairs.  It seemed like a good way to supplement our student income. I didn't get rich, but I did earn enough to pay for Christmas presents, and some of our medical bills. Woot Woot!

It was super overwhelming to think of signing up for a craft fair.  Not only did I have to decide what I wanted to sell, but I had to figure out which shows to sign up for, how to create a brand identity, how to come up with a backdrop and display items, how to price my items, etc.,  and all within a short amount of time, and without breaking the bank.

My three craft fairs this year in no way make me an expert, but I'm glad that I did all three, and I learned a little from each one.  I'll share a few of the things that I did to prepare for them.  Maybe later I'll talk more about the experience.

I signed up for my first craft fair with about one month to prepare.  Not really much time to come up with everything.  Luckily I started sewing immediately.  I set goals for myself, and tried to work on a variety of projects each week, that way, I didn't burn myself out of making the same thing all day long. I did assembly line style as much as possible, and would cut all my scarfs, prep all of my appliques, or set all my snaps at the same time. I made sure that I thought about branding and display as I went.  If I got really sick of sewing, I'd set off to put a fresh coat of paint on my bracelet display, or redesign my business cards.

One of the hardest things about preparing was to decide what items to make.  I wanted to make items that I thought would sell well, but I also wanted to make sure that I would be able to pay myself an hourly wage for making them.  Spending an hour and a half sewing a pair of baby booties that I could only sell for $10, was not worth it.  I also had to take into account the cost of materials.  Even if I could make it relatively quickly, and sell it for $20, if I wasn't at least doubling my expenses, then it wasn't worth it either. Having sold some items at a local craft bazaar, I had a bit of an idea of what would sell, and what I could sell it for.  That really helped a lot. I still don't pay myself what I deserve, but our community is a bit on the thrifty side.  Half the people that go to craft fairs are there to glean ideas, not to spend money.  So they had to be reasonable enough to get them to cough up the change. I was charging $20 for a super hero cape.  I know that a lot of people thought that was a bit pricey, but in all honesty, they'd be hard pressed to make it for that much if they had to buy all of the supplies themselves.

I love to sew, and sew a lot of different things.  Because I don't have an online store, I haven't really decided what I like to sew most.  I want to sew everything.  It was hard to decide what my market was. I still haven't figured it out, and it might change next year.  Mostly women's accessories, but I like sewing and crafting for kids too.  I love to work with leather, so I have plenty of leather cuffs, card cases, keychains, bands etc.  I tried to tie things together as much as I could.  The second and third shows I ended up adding scarf pins into the collection.  They related too, and added too items that I was already selling.

I know that a lot of people mark their prices down for craft fairs, but I actually marked mine up a bit.  I figured that I had to account for the fact that I had a booth fee to cover, display items to pay for, and I was putting in all of the work hours, and manning my booth the day of the craft fair.

I also found that if I offered reduced prices for buying more than one of an item, I sold more.  I had multiple people buy 5+ scarves.

I didn't put price tags on my items, I created small printed cards that listed prices.  It saved me a lot of time.  I was also able to adjust my prices according to prior sells. For the card display, I bought a pack of styrofoam balls at the dollar store, cut them in half, and cut a slit in the top of the ball for the card to slide into.  Booyah, saved me from having to buy a million different tiny frames or easels.  Not fancy, but inexpensive, and it wasn't too distracting.

I really wanted to make sure that I could take credit cards at the craft fair.  Mobile payment options make it super simple to accept credit cards, and most of them have really reasonable fees.  Square, Paypal, and Intuit, all offer mobile card readers for your smart phone.  Most charge 2.7-2.75% per transaction.  Not bad.  I turned to facebook to ask my friends what they recommended.  I heard positive things about each option, but ended up selecting the square (because it matched my phone better).  It worked well for the most part.  The reader can be a little finicky at times, but the interface is really user friendly.  I was able to upload my logo to my account, and after each transaction I can text or email a receipt to my customer.  Awesome.

As far as brand identity.  I probably spent the least amount of money on this.  I really wanted to print a vinyl sign, have nice double sided business cards, and personalized bags, but let's be honest.  I wouldn't turn a profit if I'd done that.  I had to keep telling myself that it could wait until next year.  I printed my own single sided business cards on my epson printer.  I also found the cheapest blank labels I could find, address labels, added my logo and name, and used them to secure small brown paper bags.  Not fancy, but it worked. I ended up finding a cute wood frame at Michael's.  I painted it with some paint I had on hand, which serendipitously matched the green in my logo.  I then printed an 8.5x11 sheet of paper, spray mounted it to foam core, and mounted it to the back of the frame.  It made it ultra light weight, and I was able to hang it from my pvc pipe backdrop.

My backdrop was the biggest expense.  I designed and constructed it by myself, booyah.  PVC pipe and I are now buddy buddy, actually my pvc pipe cutters and I are now buddy buddy.  My duck cloth ($3/yd), and table linens ($1-$3/yd) were bought at my local home fabric store.  I purchased it before I'd done the math for my awning.  I didn't have one inch to spare of fabric width.  I was pretty fortunate that it turned out as well as it did. I was really wishing I remembered more from geometry when I was trying to figure out the length of my hypotenuse edge.

 I felt a little ridiculous setting up my awning.  It was by far the most involved backdrop at any craft fair. but I have a teeny tiny corolla.  Everything had to be able to break down to small parts and pieces, and by the end I was able to get it put together pretty quickly.  I was super pleased when I had a couple of girls ask to have their picture taken in front of my booth-what a compliment.

My scarf display was made out of curtain rods, and broken cupboard doors.  My dad and I were able to turn them into cubes that we could move indepently.  It gave some nice height to the diplay.  I also found this jewelry tree thing at the thrift store.  I purchased it for $2.95, it worked well at storing extra scarves.

My ring display was made out of a random wood shop project from the thrift store.  It has two side pieces with dowels running perpendicular to them, all the way down the length of the sides.  I used some scrap bat to add some more volume between the dowels, and to keep the rings secure.

I made the bracelet display myself.  It is pretty ghetto, and really needs to be replaced.  It worked though.

See my display board on Pinterest for more ideas.

Check out my Bloggy Blog Blog Business board for more info on craft fairs, pricing, etc.

One of the biggest lessons that I learned from these few craft fairs is that I couldn't do it alone.  I hate that.  I love being independent.  But I love even more that I had friends and family that were willing to support me.  My mom and mother in law watched my boys multiple times.  I had a good friend that came and sat with me at my first show, and watched my boys during the second.  Two of my sister in laws got up early to help my set up my booth, and then came to help me take it down.  I love my friends and family.  I'm learning that I need them, more than I know.


Kristie said...

Love your cuffs. And those scarfs are so cute!
Thanks for sharing what you learned. I admit I am more in the see what I could make part of the craft fair part, but sometimes it is just worth it to buy it. There are a few things from this summers craft fair that I wish I had purchased. Kicking myself for sure!

Emily said...

Your display was seriously the best one there!!!! :) All of your hard work totally paid off. Love this post with lots of details and what you learned and how you did it's. :)

Betty Minnes said...

It looks like you had a lovely display with a lot of beautiful things. I really like the black and white polka dot scarf. It is sad that people don't seem to put enough value on handmade things. You never really get paid for your time.

Shine said...

I am beyond impressed! Not only are you amazingly talented sewing, but wow! I think your display was perfect and adorable!

cre8ivesky said...

I'm so excited to have found your blog! I kicked myself for not buying some CTR cuffs for my boys from you in Rigby and looked for you specifically at Bonneville with no luck. Your booth was the most well done of any that I saw at any fair by far! I've enjoyed browsing around your blog- hope to stay in touch!

Jack warner said...

Usually I never comment on blogs but your article is so convincing that I never stop myself to say something about it. You’re doing a great job Man,Keep it up.

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