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Craft Show Tips from Kitty Baby Love

Friday, June 04, 2010

{{so excited to have Sara from Kitty Baby Love as our guest blogger today! She & her husband create beautifully fantastic products that I've purchased again & again. She's not only a lovely person but also, clearly, a smart business owner - I am so inspired by her success & motivation!}}

Ben and I have been doing craft shows starting with last year's Renegade Craft Fair in San Francisco. Currently we are members of Portland Saturday Market, the largest ongoing outdoor handmade event in North America. To date we have done over 30 days of craft vendoring (that's over 300 hours!). I don't think we are professionals by any means, however here are 5 simple tips from us about vendoring:

1. Make a connection. Sure you want to make that sale, but your first intention should be to reach out to another human being- person to person. That is the difference between buying a 'made in China' item from Walmart and buying directly from the maker at a fair. Sometimes the people we chat with at the market don't purchase from us that day, but will blog about us, give us leads on retailers, or are organizers of other craft events. We've been featured on the 1037litefm.radio.com , The Oregonian, and TV from people who we started chatting with and didn't realize were reporters. You never know what your connection will lead to- that includes other vendors!

2.Create your identity. Do you have a favorite store? Personally I love walking around Anthropologie. They always have creative store windows and a handmade element to their displays. Contrarily, shopping at Safeway is a nightmare for us because of all the screaming clashing colors, horrible signage and bright lights. You want your customer to feel at ease when looking at your display. Think of it as inviting someone into your home. Things don't have to be extravagant, but tidy and as though you put some thought into it.

We use canvas walls with our kitty head logo painted in yellow on our back wall. It looks great when the sun shines through the backside and gives our booth a warm glow. We also leave plenty of business cards out for people to take and the name of our business in large letters across our table. If you make a popular item (like jewelry or sewn bags), making an environment for your booth is particularly important. It will help your potential customer remember you from the sea of other vendors who sell similar items.
3. Partner up! Ben and I did our first show at Renengade with a sleepy 3 month old baby. Mikah continues to participate regularly in our craft fairs with us. I recommend having a newer baby in a fabric wrap, like the Moby. You'll be dealing with a lot of people and it helps to keep your little one as covered as possible. People love touching babies and if you don't have the guts to tell people to back off, having your little one wrapped up tightly against you will definitely serve a boundary marker- not to mention provide use of both hands!

When Mikah was at a crawling stage, we used a portable playpen. That came in handy if we were busy with and needed both our hands. Ideally you'd have someone at home with the baby- but maybe you have low funds for baby sitting, not a lot of friends who are free, relocated to a new city, and 100+ miles from the nearest relative.. who knows. Here are some things that Ben and I will do:

a: Ben vendors by himself while I stay at home with Mikah
b: Ben and Mikah come to help me setup in the morning, leave, then come back to help me break down.
c: On warm and sunny days we will take 'shifts,' one of us strolls around the nearby park and market with Mikah while the other works in the booth

I'm pretty short (5'3") and can have a difficult time setting up our pop-up tent and putting up canvas walls alone. That's where Ben comes in. He is also handy for getting food and water when I need it. Even if you pack a home lunch and can physically setup and breakdown alone, I'd still recommend getting a partner so you can also take bathroom breaks. It just makes everything easier and less stressful.

4. Keep open.  Maybe you're having a really bad day, woke up on the wrong side of the bed, or someone just completely put you off. Take a deep breath, hold it, and let it go. That's right, exhale it out. People are a lot more sensitive to emotional environments than you think. I was once having a horrible day but tried to smile my way through it. I made not one sale. Ben comes along and sees that i'm looking a little rough around the edges and offers to switch for a few hours. I warn him that it's a slow day, but when I come back, I see that he's sold like 5 items. Ben was definitely not in a great mood, but felt calm and confident.

If you're not in a cheery mood, you don't have to force it, but do try to keep an open mind and open heart. Welcome people to your booth, give them the option to just browse and not buy. Or just strike a conversation about your process for a particular product they're eyeing... not to sell it to them, but just to inform. People are turned on by genuineness.
5. Signage.  Use them. I find that sometimes a customer will run away after mentioning a service (like giftwrapping) that we offer. Sometimes people just want to look and not be bothered. For those people, offer them plenty to look at, including clear prices on your items, business cards, images of the product in action, payment options (if you take credit), etc. People love to stand in front of our booth and read how our Kitty Egg Crayons are "great for little hands and last 8 crayons long." We have samples out for people to try (people love being able to handle and use the item!), and sometimes when new customers arrive at our table, the other customer will even educate them about our product from what they read at our booth. What better referral than from another customer!

Above all remember to breathe and have fun! You've worked hard to make your products, package them, and get everything ready for presentation. Now is the time for you to stretch your feathers out and let everyone see what a pretty bird you are. Enjoy the day and even if you don't make a sale, you never know what may lay down the road. Give yourself some credit for just putting yourself out there- not everyone can do that!