Craft Fairs: A Classroom

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This past weekend, I represented By Grace at our first two day craft fair.  And I must admit-it was a brutal experience. First of all, it reached 100 degrees both days. Yes, triple digits. And when it's hot outside, people don't leave it well enough alone. They keep talking about how hot it is... so even if you could try to convince yourself otherwise, you can't forget that you might actually be melting into a puddle of sweat. The heat also makes it difficult to sell long skirts. Which leads to me to my first life lesson... (1) everyone has an opinion. Our Lavanya and Vimala skirts sell well. We love them. When it's 100 degrees out in LA everyone thinks the fabric is too heavy. And many people want to share this opinion. However, I was not there to defend my product to people who were not going to buy them. Instead I thanked each person for his or her suggestions and encouraged them to check out our website in the coming months for new designs. 

Secondly, Emily was running a pop-up shop at MADI Apparel in KC (check it out we're there all of July), so I was by myself. This means I could not leave my tiny, sweat box of a tent at all. Life lesson: (2) always bring a helper. You do not have to be alone at a craft fair. Enlist a friend, a sister, a boyfriend. Anyone. You will need time to eat, to walk around, to simply go to the bathroom. Sitting next to your merchandise and selling it face-to-face for 10 hours straight is exhausting. Allow yourself to rejuvenate so that you don't appear disgruntled or worn down to your customers. 

The second day of the fair I was beyond burned out. I'd worked both of my other jobs and was really cranky which had a huge impact on my morning, because ultimately (3) products don't sell themselves. If you are a vendor at a craft show or are a salesperson in any capacity, the responsibility of nicely pushing the product is on you.

Which leads to me to the ever important life lesson that you must absolutely, 100 percent (4) believe in your product. If you don't believe in what you're selling, neither will your potential customers. Wholeheartedly embrace what you're selling. Commit to putting that product in the best light. We have a variety of items to choose from. Some people were drawn to our clutches, others to our recycled sari skirts. As a salesperson, it falls on you to make people feel important as individuals so you can pair them with the perfect complimenting goods.

At craft fairs, people are there to buy merchandise, not a cause. There are hundreds of thousands of causes. People won't simply buy your t-shirt because 74% of profits go into an impoverished community. If people are at a craft fair, they're looking to buy something they LOVE. A product with which they connect. Yes, a cause is great, and maybe a potential selling point. But it won't seal the deal. Connect people to the products you're selling. Is someone wearing vibrant colors? Highlight your bold patterns. Is somewhere wearing jeans and a tank? Display your t-shirt and tank collection. Be warm, friendly, and inviting. Be genuine. People always remember how you made them feel. 

Something else I learned is that you don't reap all the rewards of your participation the day of the actual craft fair.  (5) Take the time to market yourself and your brand. It's ok if you don't make a million sales day of. Build relationships with store buyers. Enlighten people on your cause. Make an impression and hope they actually go to the website listed on your promo materials. People have actually emailed and texted me in the days since the fair. That means they went home, and were still thinking about our interaction and what they had seen of By Grace. 

 (6) Hydrate. Always bring enough water for yourself, and if you can, for others. The booth next to mine was selling handmade soy candles. They made more sales than any candle company should have because they set out free ice water for any passerby. People came for free refreshment, and left with a $27 candle set. Brilliant strategy considering the heat that everyone was discussing. 

Things will not go perfectly at the craft fair,  because, well life isn't perfect, so prepare for the unexpected. (7) Always bring tape, scissors, and a whole lot of patience. The second day at the fair, I watched another vendor hit my brand new parked car as I unloaded my goods. Awful. So awful. However, in exchange for me not making her pay to fix my rear bumper, she offered to teach a sewing workshop to impoverished women in the LA area and try to employ one woman in her small business. Not a bad exchange for some dents and scratches in a car bumper. (8) Even in the most unfortunate of circumstances, there is goodness, possibility, and a little bit of humor

So if you're thinking about participating in your next local craft fair, get ready for some very long, exhausting days. But know you'll be rewarded with connections, market research on what potential customers are looking for, a couple stories, and hopefully a couple of sales.

Until next time, 

Kelsey

PS Come see at me at Renegade Craft Fair San Francisco this upcoming weekend. Round 2. Let's do this.