I participated in my first craft show last weekend, the Crafting Patch Market in Charlotte, NC. I was very nervous beforehand and stayed up way too late to get every last skein of yarn labeled. It all paid off in a lovely day (no hint of Hurricane Hannah) filled with fantastic people and a real sense of community. Despite being well-prepared by reading everything I could about doing a craft fair, there were still a few things that surprised me:
- A festival provides indispensable feedback on your marketing plan. Online buyers see & buy without disclosing what prompted the purchase. Did they seek me out? Did they stumble upon me? At this festival, several knitters came specifically to see me (thanks to my posting on forums, the blog, etc). Others registered recognition when they read my label. The feeling was indescribable. People recognized Blonde Chicken Boutique as a brand. The thought still makes me all sparkle-y.
- Instant feedback is a drug that I'm afraid I may be addicted to. Sending out yarn to my lovely online customers, feels a bit like sending my squishy friends into the ether. They may show up on Flickr or Ravelry, but mostly I release them into the wild with hopes that they find a good set of needles (or at least a comfy stash to marinate in). Watching a real, live, chatty, interesting person walk away with my yarn is ridiculously satisfying.
- Describing a product is entirely different in person. The long, descriptive prose that is so necessary to sell a tactile item online isn't necessary in person. The customer has the squishy soft item in their hand and can clearly see the colors. This may seem obvious, but after writing web copy for so long, I had to remember it while writing the labels. I also had to scale back on the descriptive talk with most customers. Some people want to know all about the farm where the sheep who grew that wool was raised, but some don't.
- Being friendly is exhausting, but being passionate is exhilerating. After years of waitressing, followed by 2 years managing a retail studio, I was expecting the usual exhaustion of a day filled with smiling at people and describing the product. I was shocked by how different this experience was. Yes, I was tired, but I was exhilarated. Selling someone apple pie is NOTHING like sharing a passion for creating!
- You don't have to (and probably can't) fake enthusiasm. For the first time in my customer service experience, I didn't need to tell myself “be nice”. The fiber artists came in, chatted and I was overwhelmed with happy, smiling words. I nearly hugged someone (everyone). It was ridiculous (but I didn't hug anyone other than my husband, so don't be afraid to come by my next booth!) Describing my process, demonstrating the wheel, chatting fiber, it was all so FUN!
So if you're thinking about doing a craft show, I strongly encourage you try one. Find an inexpensive option (like a small one, or share a booth) and go after it! You may find it shockingly fun!
Edited a year later, to add:
Thanks to my continued great experiences at craft shows, I got a lot of questions about how to make it work. If you want to try this very satisfying experience, I put together a class, How to Rock a Craft Show.
If you’ve been thinking about doing craft shows or you’ve been wanting to them better, check it out!