Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Great Day

This past Saturday I participated in a very large craft fair about 45 minutes from my home in Orlando.  The fair, called Great Day in the Country, is sponsored by the Oviedo Woman’s Club, is a juried one-day event that has been held for 35 years, and was attended by over 55,000 people last year.  I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that attendance this year topped last year’s figures.

Great Day proved to be a day of firsts for me:

·   First show of this size.  Prior to last Saturday, I had only participated in shows with perhaps 30 - 50 vendors.  Great Day had over 325 vendors.

·    First outdoor show.

·    First show where I had an actual booth, and was required to bring a canopy, tables, chairs – everything except for the grass under my feet!  I was allocated a 10x12’ space, and could fill it any way I liked.

·    First juried show.

·    First judged show.

·    First time one of my designs won anything.  I received an honorable mention for my “A Fine Vintage” antiqued brass and oxblood necklace.  Needless to say, that was the highlight of my day!

There are several things I learned from this show, and the others I’ve participated in previously.  Thought I’d share some of those lessons learned with you.

1.    Plan ahead.  My decision to look for local shows in which to participate was recent, so I reserved my booth only 11 days before the show.  That just wasn’t enough time to prepare.  Since it was my first outdoor show, I had to invest in a canopy and tables.  I spent several hours researching canopies before I chose an EZ-Up, which I ordered online (and later found at Sam’s Club for $35 less).  I spent another few hours shopping around for tables that would fold in half and eventually settled on two 6-foot tables (from BJ’s) and one 4-foot table (Sam’s Club).  I spent several more hours shopping for vases, plants, shelves, silk flowers, sea glass, and other items that I used to decorate my booth (IKEA and Dollar Tree love me!).  All this planning and shopping was necessary, but it left me with little time to actually make jewelry.  And I ended up more stressed than I would have liked.
2.   Find a way to encourage customers to spend more time in your booth.  My favorite way to do this is with a drawing.  For each show, I designate a piece of jewelry or a gift certificate that I offer as a prize, and have shoppers fill out entry forms with their name and contact information.  I include a check box at the bottom of the form that the shopper marks if they prefer not to receive e-mail newsletters from me.  Most shoppers who pause a few seconds to look at your work will be enticed by the idea of possibly winning some of your work.  I’m convinced that my sales are higher as a result of encouraging shoppers to stay in my booth a little longer.  Which makes the cost of the prize well worth the investment.  The entry forms are also a great way to collect contact information.  I now have a database of shoppers whom I’ll send information about upcoming promotions in my online store.

I gave away a Nativity Story bracelet in my drawing at last Saturday's craft show.

Another trick that encourages shoppers to linger is to offer something free of charge.  I always add a candy basket to my table/booth – shoppers who’ve been on their feet for awhile appreciate the boost.  And it appeases cranky little ones who would rather be anywhere than craft show shopping with mom.  For Great Day, I also gave out 3x3” anti-tarnish zip-top bags that I ordered from Fire Mountain Gems and Beads.  Each bag had a card inside with my business name and contact information.  I think next time, though, I’ll print my business information on clear labels and stick one to each bag.  My thinking is that the label would be less likely to be thrown away than the card.  And who knows, if my business grows large enough, I might be able to order custom printing on the bags someday!
3.   Recruit assistants.  I was very fortunate to have both my 19-year old son, Ryan, and my good friend, Carol, to help me set up and tear down my booth.  Carol has a great eye for decorating, so I turned her loose with the vases, bowls, silk flowers, sea glass, plants, and other props I had brought.  My goal was to turn my booth into a boutique, as Lori Anderson does with her craft show booths.  I think Carol accomplished just that, don’t you?

Carol puts the finishing touches on the booth.

Carol also helped handle customers when it got busy and Ryan kept a smile on his face even when I dragged him from store to store, shopping for tables and props.  OK, I’ll admit he griped a bit when I asked him to help me do a dry run of setting up the canopy in our back yard, but in the long run, he really came through for me.

The most awesome assistants in the whole wide world!

4.   Make your booth look enticing.  I was fortunate to have Carol’s decorator talent for my booth.  I didn’t get much time to visit the other booths during Great Day, but I did manage to glance at enough to know that my booth was one of the most inviting looking.  Many crafters simply raised a canopy, set up a few tables, and dumped their wares on top of them.  They could have offered amazing lampwork for all I know, but my impression was that they didn’t respect their art enough to give it a proper presentation.  Whether it actually was or not, their work looked cheap.  I think Carol created an atmosphere that showcased my work beautifully.

Carol's beautiful "interior" design.

5.   Accept multiple forms of payment.  Even though there were ATM’s available on the show grounds, I’m confident that my sales were higher because I accepted personal checks and credit cards.  There are several inexpensive methods of processing credit card transactions – I’ll share one of them with you in my next blog entry.  If you’re planning to participate in a show and don’t already have a merchant account, open one.
6.   Sharpen your selling skills.  Many years ago, I sold timeshares and was successful thanks to a couple of very good books on selling.  Those lessons have stuck with me, and have become part of my show persona.  If you’re at all uncomfortable or inexperienced at selling, visit your local book shop and pick up a book or two that covers the basics.  For example, instead of asking a customer if they want to buy the pair of earrings they just tried on, ask them if they’d like to wear them now, or if they’d prefer that you wrap them.  Either answer yields a sale for you.

Doesn't she make her new necklace, Elephant Rides, look beautiful?

I have to admit that I’m not familiar with current books on selling.  The books I learned from years ago were written by Zig Ziglar, if that helps you all.
Here are a few more photos of my booth, beginning with the right side, and rotating counter-clockwise:

I’d love to know what lessons you’ve learned while participating in craft shows.  Hope you have a lovely week!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Craft Fair Setup

Last weekend, I participated in the West Orange Women’s Holiday Bazaar (which was organized by my step-mom, Clarice).  My table reservation was last-minute due to a scheduling change, and I was fortunate that Clarice was able to fit me in.

What a beautiful day it turned out to be!  The sky was a clear blue, there was a lovely breeze (my table was in a covered breezeway), and thankfully it wasn’t too hot.  I enjoyed talking with so many new people and marveled at the creativity of the other exhibitors.

The last few days preceding the holiday bazaar were extremely rushed – so rushed that, although I remembered to pack my camera, I completely forgot to take any photos!  Which is very annoying, since I wanted to show you what my table looked like.  I promise to remember next time.

Participation in the holiday bazaar whetted my appetite for another show, so I mailed in my application yesterday (another last-minute thing) for a booth at a much larger event.  A Great Day In the Country, sponsored by the Oveido Woman’s Club, will be held on November 13.  There are 325 booths and last year over 55,000 people attended.  Wow!  That’s WAY larger than any other show I’ve participated in.  So I’m a bit intimidated.  To add fuel to that fire, I’ve never had to bring my own canopy and tables before.

If you’ve got advice, I’d love to hear it!

My booth will be 10 x 12’.  I’ve ordered an EZ Up “commercial” canopy that’s 10 x 10’, has roll-down sides in case it rains, and a small awning that extends a bit at the front of the canopy. 

No, that's not me, this is a stock photo from HutShops, from whom I ordered the canopy.

I’ve been researching online, looking for attractive craft show setups, and found a gorgeous booth that Lori Anderson (a gifted jewelry designer) set up a couple of years ago.

Lori explains in her blog that she likes to create an environment that’s more than just tables, tablecloths and jewelry displays.  Lori builds a boutique in her booth, decorated in rich colors to entice visitors.  I’m quite sure that I won’t be able to pull off such a stunning display, but the “boutique” approach is what I’m striving for.  With that in mind, Clarice and I had fun in our local IKEA last night.  I picked out a few tall, skinny shelf units to add interest at a level other than table height.  (The next three photos are courtesy of the IKEA website.)

I also picked up one of these glass-topped tables:

I love its curvy lines!  I’m thinking of spray painting it a bronzy color, or maybe antique copper – something that will blend well with my ivory table coverings and turquoise underskirts.  I also bought a few clear vases in different shapes and sizes that I’ll fill with silk flowers or greenery.  And I fell in love with this hand-blown glass plant pot:

So my next worry is planning how I’ll arrange everything in the booth.  Here’s my first draft of a layout – what do you think?

Since my canopy is 10x10’, that’s the dimensions I’m working with.  The blue squares are the skinny white shelf units I bought at IKEA.  I picked out a lightweight metal mesh unit on casters that has 3 drawers that I’m thinking of using for a check-out stand.  I’ll store bags, gift boxes, organza bags, extra receipts, and such in the drawers.

I’m already wrapping up a bunch of Clarice’s seashells to use as decorations, and I still need to figure out some sort of curtain for the back and part of the sides of the booth.  Have you got any ideas?  What do you think about my plans so far?  I’d love to hear your suggestions!

Thanks for stopping by.  Have a beadiful day!