Wow, what an experience! If you look back to my New Year's resolutions, you'll see that something I wanted to do in 2010 was participate in a craft fair. Last Friday and Saturday, I did just that!!
My mom and I worked 8-10 hour days for 5 days straight to finish up with the production of all the product I hoped to sell. We set up the booth (handmade by my handy husband) in the living room and tried out all different ideas. On Thanksgiving day, we rested as much as we could and enjoyed a feast with friends (I supplied the apple pie and pumpkin roll). Then on Friday, we were up at 6 and out the door by 7 to head to the Fort Collins Senior Center. We used photos Mom had taken with her iPhone to set everything up correctly, and posted the last of the pricing signs right at 10:00, as the doors to the public opened.
Here are two photos of how all my product could mostly fit into two Rubbermaid tubs(!), and the clunker truck we borrowed to get all of the "set" to the stage.
Across the aisle from me was another first-timer, Rachel, who makes colorful headbands from lycra. (Visit her shop at www.thesportygirl.com.) She and I cheered each other along the way, and worked to manifest more people on day 2 as well as a younger crowd (Friday provided many 60+ers and we figure both of our audiences are younger than that). Other vendors around my booth sold things like fleece hats with ears, emu oil/soap, knitted coathangers/sweaters/necklaces, and jewelry. While there were other people who sold cards, nobody had anything that looked like mine, which was a relief!
Lessons learned, from this experience as well as tips from more seasoned vendors:
- That you can use a smart phone to do credit card transactions! It seems super easy, and low cost. Might be time for me to upgrade.
- A fair with 90 vendors might be just too big for someone like me, who is asking a lot of money for fine-detail work. Figure that the average customer has a budget, and that they do a once-around the whole fair before spending any cash. What are the chances of them making their way back to me? And justifying to themselves that $5.25 for a card is a wise purchase? If they had fewer choices of where to spend their money, they might be able to find me again, and feel that my product is a good choice if their other choices are limited.
- There are 5 million ways to market a product! What will work and what won't is anybody's guess, but we certainly thought about it a lot, and made adjustments throughout.
- (Not the biggest epiphany:) Very few people (in this crowd) will pay a lot for a card. Even if they LOVE it. I knew this, though.
- People of my mom's generation and older don't want to buy aprons. Aprons mean work, scrubbing, stains, cleaning, whatever. They don't see aprons as a fashion piece or spunky uniform as I do. Some people are astounded that I own something like 10 aprons and use almost all of them for various different tasks in my life.
- I think I should reduce my product to one or two things. Maybe three. Six was too many. Well, maybe.
- The best sellers (again, with this particular population): mini quilts, advent calendars, and cards. Fabric-lined boxes didn't sell at all, and aprons were the second to last. Gift bags weren't too poorly received, though. People liked the concept of them (reducing gift wrapping waste, yearly re-use, etc), but lots of folks knew they could make their own at home.
- There were a lot of people who liked my stuff but the economy is rough right now and it sucks that just now is when I'm trying to stick my foot into the mix!
- To keep trying! Try another fair, another day, a different group of consumers! Adjust my prices, adjust my inventory, stick my neck out. Keep going. This is one of my favorite lessons of the weekend.
- You definitely need a buddy. I was super lucky to have such an enthusiastic partner as my mom. We could each take turns having lunch or breaks or shopping excursions to other booths. And she had so many great ideas that really enhanced the booth. That along with all the grunt work she did to help me finish all my product, I couldn't have done it without her.