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A Life of Craft Fairs

A Life of Craft Fairs

Vendor Life

This is probably not something that everyone is familiar with – I mean I wasn’t, not really, not before it became my life. I had been to a few of the craft fairs in Downtown Stillwater, growing up, but that was it.

So, here I am, throwing myself into doing these shows – selling my shirts (which is terrifying) – and making this my work over the past year. It is definitely a little bit scary and has been a very new experience/time of learning. This was something I Googled and honestly, found very little help and because of that, I am going to update you but also try and be helpful for the next person who does a Google search about starting out doing events as a vendor and has no clue where to start!

This fall has completely exploded! I did several shows in September and then I had three massive shows back-to-back in October – OSU Homecoming (Walkaround and the home game), Oklahoma City An Affair of the Heart, and Wizard World Comic Con in OKC.

I have this continued voice, constantly in the back of my mind telling me that I need to do more shows, get out there more, shows bring in good money, Etsy is slow and less consistent, do more, do more, do more, and so on. And then I did those three big shows in a row. I quickly learned this is not something I can do alone. Gosh! Talk about exhausting. Overwhelming. Stressful.

Things I have learned:

  • Setting up on your own is difficult
  • Come prepared (duct tape, safety pins, tide-to-go, make-up, change of clothes)
  • When the person behind you is incredibly hateful, don’t let her see you cry. Be the bigger person, be nice, smile and cry when the drapes are in place (silent tears).
  • Find coffee. Bring coffee. Get an I.V. of coffee.
  • No matter how much coffee you drink, at least one of the days you will be sitting there falling completely asleep. And it will most likely be Saturday and Sunday (not just one day) when your husband is there to help you.
  • It is probably worth it to hire help/find free help for set-up day because that is completely draining to have to do alone.
  • I haven’t decided yet if it is worth hiring help, for the rest of the time.
  • Have something to drink so you don’t find yourself accidentally staring at people while they are looking at your stuff. I am so much better at consuming liquids at big shows because I need something to do to keep from appearing ‘hover-y’.
  • Big shows cost a lot but they are worth it because I make the most money at them. You really have to pay and want to be there but it’s worth it. (Spend money to gain money)
  • Going with the previous comment – Blunt Truth Moment: if you do smaller shows and are considering doing the bigger events, like An Affair of The Heart, and never sell anything and hope those will change things. Don’t, unless you are loaded. Yes, you may sell a bit more than normal but I can’t imagine how it would be worth the money to be there. I am all for supporting small businesses/shopping local/helping people doing the same thing BUT there is always a booth nearby, (normally selling very expensive soaps, lotions, facial scrubs, that are homemade, organic, all-natural and cost $40 for 8-ounces of product) and you never see anyone at their booth. If that is you – I love organic, healthy but if you sell very little at little events then big events are most likely going to be a waste of money (for the event and for the cost of goods to have enough inventory to be there).

Some Quality DOs and DON’Ts:

  • DO allow as much time as possible for setting up because it usually takes longer than you think it is going to take.
  • DO ask questions if you have them, it is extremely rare for anyone running the events to come ask if you need anything.
  • DON’T set up completely ready (dressed and makeuped) for the show (if it is a same-day show) because even if it is cold you will get sweaty and no longer be presentable by the end of set up.
  • DON’T get discouraged when you start slowly and it seems like no one is going to come buy your shirts (or whatever you are selling).
  • DO keep on smiling.
  • DON’T hover (I feel this is obvious but still needs stated) be available and friendly but no one enjoys shopping with the employees/owners breathing down their necks.

Now that I have given a little update and a shared some of what I have learned over the past few months…

Here is some info on how to get started!

  1. Have an idea/products to sell.
  2. Come up with your business name.
  3. Once you have a name, make it official. Get your Individual Proprietor or LLC and then get your state sales tax permit.
  4. Start looking for events in your area (Vendor Vibes facebook group is a good starting place (it is a closed group – let me know if you want to be added and I can invite you) or a state-wide festival list – here is Oklahoma’s). It is another good idea to check your town’s events however you find those out – facebook pages, town crier, bulletin board, at churches or schools, etc.
  5. If you are doing a show then they should give you all the information you need. If you just kind of want to make your own space then make sure you go through the proper channels and get the correct licenses (check with your city and find out what you need) and in all cases you will have to get the landowner’s permission.
  6. You have your shows lined up, you have permits (if needed), now what? Well, there are a few things.
  7. Start building up some inventory for shows.
  8. Open a free checking account for your business.
  9. Make a (free) Square account (they will send you a free card swiper). Link it to your business bank account so you can start taking money and sending invoices.
  10. Start Marketing: create a business email (or use your personal one but I don’t suggest that), make a Facebook page, an Instagram account (if you are older and don’t use Instagram then start – the younger groups use it more or just as much as Facebook – just having Facebook isn’t enough anymore), get some business cards made (using an online builder or hire a Graphic Designer – like me), make a website – if you want (not necessary, yet).
  11. Start with a small show so you can start seeing what kind of inventory it looks like you are going to need for events.
  12. Remember, every event is different but this will at least keep you from over-buying loads of inventory for a huge show that your way over guessed for OR way under buying for a huge show that causes you to run out and miss out on loads of sales because you don’t have enough inventory.
  13. Talk to other people doing what you are doing (but not selling the same exact products). In my experience, people talk face-to-face better. If you email/Facebook message them then they seem to not be straightforward and are not helpful but when you ask in person then you can actually manage to get some good insight.

Hopefully, this is a good starting place for you. If there are any questions you have that you would like me to elaborate on, or just want me to answer then leave them in the comments and I will see what I can do!

Cheers!
Carlie

*Post originally posted on my other site, carliejdesign.com, but I am now separating my business site from the blog site, therefore I am moving the posts here. Dec 1, 2017*

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