A couple weeks’ ago I started a Wednesday series on the various topics related to getting into the craft show circuit. I’m not sure how many posts this will entail, but I assure you at the end of this series you will have the rudimentary knowledge you’ll need to get yourself out in front of the buying public as a professional crafter.
Finding the Shows
Since you already know I’m from Texas, I’ll also tell you I’m in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. And the SINGLE GREATEST RESOURCE for DFW craft shows is just that: DFWCraftShows.com. I’ve often wondered if other large metropolitan areas have this same kind of resource (if they do, let me know and I’ll be happy to include them in the reference list). Pretty much every craft show in town advertises on DFW Craft Shows. They include the links to the application and the websites for more information.
There are a few national websites for craft shows yet the thing you have to remember is that no one website will give you all the information you are seeking. I use Funky Finds and Craftlister for out of town shows. Sometimes I’ll find local shows not listed on DFW Craft Shows, too. Word of mouth and previous craft shows you’ve visited yourself are also ways to find shows. And in a nod to online sellers, if you’re a member of an etsy team, your team mates will often have done shows themselves and will be great resources. I’ve found several shows this way.
The only problem with finding shows is that you don’t really know if it’s your niche market or not. Book-Inz does really well at church and school functions. It’s not marketing per se, it’s just logical – books and bookmarks go together! However, there are some shows that are duds. And I don’t mean that in a mean way, it’s just how it goes. Organizing a craft show is really hard work. Weather, location, advertising, whatever else is going on that weekend…all those factors can combine to become a perfect storm of a mediocre show. But there’s really no such thing. Because every show you participate in is an opportunity to market your crafts. It may not be what they’re looking for today, but make sure you sell to them just the same. They’ll take your card and look for you later. This, by the way, is a great time to mention business cards and other marketing tools. Get some cards printed up if you don’t already have some. And if you’re going to be in other shows soon, think about little flyers advertising where you’ll be next. Maybe they’ll come find you next time if they didn’t buy from you this time.
And going back to my niche market comment – really think about what you are making and who is your ideal customer. Do you think the craft show you’re applying to will attract that customer? Sometimes you have to scope out the shows as a customer first before you know that you could be a vendor there. I’ve had some stellar shows and some not so stellar shows, but in the end, I handed out some cards and new people were introduced to me and my Book-Inz. Craft show organizers also shop other shows in search of vendors they think will fit in their shows. Which means you could be invited to participate in other shows just by being at another. And the lesson here is ALWAYS HAVE YOUR GAME ON. More on that later.
Booking a smaller show for your first show out of the gate is the best piece of advice I can give you. I booked a large well-known show my first time out and I had NO IDEA what to expect. I didn’t have enough stock, I was almost sold out by noon and had to stay until 5, and I was woefully unprepared for the big crowds. On the other hand, I also learned how to market Book-Inz and what made them attractive, trial by fire! And the next year when Book-Inz returned, repeat customers were so happy to see Book-Inz!
And that brings me to another point: once you’ve participated as a vendor at a particular show, you will then be a returning vendor from here on out. Which means you will be given first preference the next year to return to that show. Book-Inz is booked for the month of November for every year from here on out as long as I decide to return to that venue.
And on that note, I will leave you to Keep Calm and Read On…next week’s topic is Setting Up Your Booth!