to market, to market

about a month ago i was invited to participate in a craft fair.  i’m new to the area i’m trying to get my name out there, so, thinking that it would be a good opportunity for exposure,  i decided to go for it despite the fact that i only had about 48 hours to prepare from time i committed to the time of the event.  fortunately, i had a lot of inventory on hand; mostly dresses and onesies, and a few knit items…stuff that i’ve had listed on etsy for a while during the break i took from my shop.  i spent the two days between saying “yes” and setting up my booth in a feverish dash to get all the last little details finished up.  i built a display, ordered new hang tags, labeled my garments, crafted a banner to adorn my booth, finished seams and buttons and tags and other little things that needed to be done to get my merchandise in tip-top shape.  it was a push to get it all done, but by the morning of the show i felt ready and excited.

i arrived at the show and began to set up my booth.  there were only a few other exhibitors there.  i figured i was early.  nope.  it was just a small turnout.  it was a bust.  i tried to remain hopeful throughout the day, but there just weren’t any customers.  i received many compliments on my products and my overall display, but i didn’t have a single sale.   i left the venue feeling discouraged that afternoon, but i also feel that i learned a lot of lessons.

lesson 1: Know Your Venue.  the gal who invited me to participate told  me that it was an “arts and crafts” fair. i didn’t ask specifically what other booths there would be, but she assured me that i would be the only vendor selling kids’ clothing so i didn’t have to worry about competition.  she was right, but not only was there no competition, there was no comparison.  the majority of the other people there were third-party vendors and resellers.  there were a number of people selling goods from multi-level marketing companies (skin care, candles, purses, kitchen utensils…you get the idea), a few people reselling stuff they had purchased elsewhere (swap market-type, made in china, mass-produced goods), and only two other vendors selling actual handmade products.  it was not a craft fair, it was a vendor fair.  it’s easy to let go of disappointment when i realize that i was just not in the right venue to sell my stuff.   which brings me to my next point…

lesson 2: Know Your Market.  the vendor fair was held at a local church.  the customers who came through the fair were mostly elderly ladies.  these ladies were there to buy flameless candles, wrinkle-cream, and spatulas; they were not interested in handcrafted, one-of-a-kind little girl dresses and appliqued onesies.  again, i can’t be disappointed that i didn’t sell anything when i was clearly not among the right customer base.  those who did pass my booth were all very complimentary of my stuff, they just weren’t in the market for what i was selling, and sadly, there were just not that many customers at the fair that day.  there was no market.  this leads me to…

lesson 3: Ask Questions.  i didn’t ask the organizer enough about the event before making a commitment to participate.  in hindsight i wish i had asked her more about who the other participants would be and what were they selling so i would know if my product would be a good fit.  would this be the right venue and market for my goods? i would have asked what sort of crowd were they anticipating and if they had had success with this event in previous years.  i found out by talking with another vendor that the organizers did not publicly advertise the fair before the event – they didn’t post fliers, they didn’t place an ad in the paper, they didn’t put up signs outside the event – so it’s no surprise that there were fewer than 100 total customers during the entire 6 hours of the fair.  i went into the fair with a lot of assumptions based on fairs that i had attended before.  i didn’t ask for clarification on what to expect, so it was a bit of a bummer to realize that it wasn’t what i had hoped it would be and i felt as if i had wasted my time.

lesson 4: Try, Try, Again.  so my first foray into the local craft fair scene was a total bust but i feel confident that i learned a lot of valuable lessons that i can use moving forward.  i’m thinking of it as the dress rehearsal for the real deal.  i got to practice setting up my booth, figured out how to display my products, learned how to use my fancy-dancy iPhone credit card swiper thingy (even if it was only me practicing by charging my own credit card a dollar and then refunding it to myself), and got to experience another milestone on my journey into the world of crafting for profit.  it wasn’t a total waste of time, and i’m already signed up to attend another one in a couple weeks.

so, all in all, my first trip to market was not what i was hoping or expecting.  it was a let down for sure to not sell a single item, but i’m not letting it taint my optimism for craft fairs in the future.  this “bust” definitely helped me determine how i need to plot my course from here on out to reach the right customers and the right venues.  hopefully the next one is a good fit and i’ll have more success.  local Oklahomans can come see me in action on January 26th at the South Moore high school cafeteria at a fair to benefit the Nathan Shinn Foundation.  the rest of you can always visit me on etsy!  until then, happy crafting!


under construction

hey, y’all.  i’ve got some crafty goodness up my sleeve, just itchin’ to find its way out.  for me, a day without crafting something is like a day without breathing, so i’m putting my obsession hobby out here for everyone to see, hopefully find a few folks who are interested in the things i can craft who can push me along in my dream of creating a business doing what i love.  stick with me as i figure this out, you won’t want to miss what i have coming up.