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Open For Business- My Experience & Tips for a Successful Open House

Monday, November 23, 2009

After hosting a very fun, exciting, & successful Open House event this weekend, I thought I'd share my experience because I would really encourage everyone making handmade to try something like this! (no need for tips? scroll down for the pics :) Also, let me just say that I am so thankful to everyone who came & supported me on this...I feel like I put myself out there & it was just an amazing experience to see my friends-old & new- come & share this with me!

Things That Were Successful (though folks in attendance can add comments if they like ;)
  • Studio - After much reorganizing, I used my actual sewing room to display my goods- guests seemed to really enjoy seeing this room- I heard a lot of "oh, wow, so this is where you do everything!" and answered questions about my process- which was so exciting to share. Having my fabric on display also helped people think about different items to order - I loved seeing my guests start talking about fabric to each other!
  • Catalog - I created a mini-book that featured some of my best work & variety - I am so proud of this! I would encourage others to make one too (what a great thing to share & show off!) but really it was rewarding for me just to see my stuff on paper like that. I was like, wow!, I did all this. This would be a great thing to show folks who missed the Open House but wanted to come.
  • Order Forms - Seems obvious but I nearly missed this one. This allowed people to buy multiples of items, change fabric, or order what I'd run out of.
  • Mood - I invited mostly moms & held my event on a Saturday night so I really wanted it to feel like a 'night out.' I had music, drinks, food, sparkly lights...I thought a lot about my "audience" & what kind of event they would like....I know it's hard for moms to get away so I wanted to make it worth it!
  • Display - I'm super proud of my branch tree display which I used to show off my new felt ornaments- I tried to think of something that would show how great they looked when hung from a tree to give people an idea.
  • Raffle - this was a good icebreaker & allowed me to share more of the handmade world & Etsy since I gave away soaps & crayons from two other Etsy shops (Kitty Baby Love & Sun Basil Garden)
  • Reveal - I held back from sharing items on my blog or Etsy so that people would get a chance to see some very new items....this added to a little excitement & interest I think because it might've been like "Oh, I saw this on your site. And that. This too."
  • Timing: I really analyzed this one. Ha. I picked a date that was good for gift buying...
  • Invites: well the invites themselves coulda (and shoulda) been snazzier than just an email, I did invite neighbors & people I didn't know very well...this was a wonderful way of showing the neighborhood just what I'm up to at 4am with the lights on & I think I made a few new friends!

What I Would Do Differently: I'm such a reflectionist (new word?) and always looking for ways to improve....here's my list- I'm sure it will keep growing!
  • Check -Out: Not sure what I was thinking here. I had bags & my calculator ready but I missed some important things here: paper to assist in adding up items, tissue paper & ribbon to wrap up purchases (which is my online signature!), and, uh, including my business cards. eeks. just hadn't thought this step through....
  • Display: Since this was a great time for people to buy gifts, I wish I would have displayed or talked more about gift ideas (my raffle did this a bit, but not enough). I could've showed my wash cloth sets with a bar of handmade soap....
  • Details: well, I planned this in two weeks so I'll cut myself some slack but in the future I would a) plan in farther in advance (like July!) b) think of the little things-> I really wanted to do include a small "thank-you" item (such as fabric covered magnets) but ran out of time, add my name & shop info to the bags, etc.....
  • Discount: Next time I'm including an incentive for re-order, like 10% off your next purchase on a lovely card with my info...because, well, just because.
  • Delegate: Many thanks to my hubby & my brother's girlfriend who really pitched in to help me... I did end up asking them for help but I think I definitely could've asked earlier & doled out the tasks better to prevent panic & me puttingmy make-up on only 5 minutes before people showed up.
  • Photos: I wish, oh how I wish I would've taken photos of the actual event instead of just before & after. This might've been a task I could delegate (and pay in goods :)

New Items: these little birdies were a hit

Fabric display- give em something to talk about ;)

Sharing my actual 'space.'




My catalog- good conversation piece & method of sharing just what it is I do!

Giveaway: crayons from Kitty Baby Love & soap from Sun Basil Garden.

Living room on display. Hopefully there was 'mood' here.....

My branch tree which is a gazillion times more charming in person.....

Studio table proudly but sadly, AFTER the event so it's a bit sparse....

Laying my items out for displayIn hindsight, this table needed a little bit more of ...something...Food Table: the pumpkin cookies were a hit!Apparently this was exhausting for everyone involved...

8 comments :

live a colorful life said...

Congratulations on your open house. I wish I could have been there! We held our fourth annual open house with our fused glass items this weekend, two days. I love your catalog idea. I think we have learned something every single year. Keeping it fresh is hard to do year after year. But we definitely came up with some new ideas for how we'll change it up next year. I better write them down now, or I'll probably forget. Anyway, thanks for sharing.

Lrc said...

Great job! Me and my mom want to have an open house later this year...wonderful set up and I agree that the catalog is a wonderful idea. I liked the set up a lot and the idea of thinking of your audience is thoughtful and smart. Thanks for sharing the experience and your reflections.

Me said...

It sounds like it was a success! Congratulations and good job on all of your hard work!! Love, R

Always Inspire said...

Congratulations on the open house success and thanks for the tips! Love the pictures, you created a fabulous atmosphere. I loved the catalogue, such a great idea!
Cheers,
Julie

brooklynechaos said...

This is an awesome idea. My fundraiser in 03 wasn't even close to being as cool looking as your open house. I think you did okay with what you had. Lessons learned to make next time even better. I'm sure people understood that this was your first open house. Thanks for sharing your points with us.

Heather said...

What a great open house! I have been planning one for after the holidays and you gave me some great pointers...thank you!

K13 said...

What an exciting event. Congratulations!! Sounds like it went really well for you. I love your products - especially that little card case! I'm just getting into sewing and now I "need" to make one of those for myself.

Elena said...

Great job and great tips! I've got my first show coming up in 3 weeks, yikes! I've been trying to put together a portfolio (as opposed to a take-away catalog) and I guess I've been overthinking it! I like how simple yours looks, and it allows the items to stand out on their own. That way people can order from the portfolio if I'm sold out of something.
What program did you use?