HOW TO KICK-BOOTY AT A CRAFT SHOW.

Call it a craft show, a fair, a festival, a bazaar — whatever the name, it boils down to one thing: A gathering of vendors in a central location to sell their wares to the general public. Typically hosted by churches and community venues or organizations, craft shows are a great way to get your name in front of an entirely new audience, and make a number of profitable connections.

The first thing to know about craft shows is that there is no such thing as a guarantee of success. One year, a particular show can be brimming with traffic, vendors can sell out, and everyone involved is over the moon with success. The next year, there may be no shoppers, no sales, and everyone could leave with a bad taste in their mouths.

Participating in craft shows is more about cultivating your audience than selling your products. Handing out business cards, interacting with shoppers, introducing new customers to your business — these should be your primary concerns. Even though it sounds counter-intuitive, making money is secondary.

Will craft shows work for you & your business?

Undoubtedly, craft shows are meant for product-based businesses. If you’re an artist, a crafter, or a direct sales rep for a major cosmetics company, you’re practically obligated to participate in shows. Service-based businesses have a harder time because, in general, there is nothing for shoppers to pick up and examine. However, there are ways to make your service-based business a viable vendor.

Make a product.

It may be easier said than done, but it can be done. Consider the type of services you offer. Can the tools or materials you use be gathered together in a gift basket or a DIY kit? Do you offer a service like graphic design, which could mean products such as digital prints? Or, could you offer a mini-session right there in the middle of the show to demonstrate your expertise?

Make it visual.

If your services don’t lend themselves well to product-making, highlight satisfied clients or exemplary circumstances. Before and after shots are a great way to do this. Make good use of your space to display your sign, and create a space that invites inquiry and conversation.


If you’re thinking about breaking into the craft show circuit, following are a few ways to make for a smooth transition.

Choosing your first show.

There are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to choosing to participate in an event. What should you look for in a show?

How long has the show been around?

New shows are great to get your name out there, but if you’ve never participated in an event before, choose one that’s been around for a while and is known to draw traffic. An established show has worked out the kinks, so you only have to worry about you.

How much is the booth fee?

The main financial goal of a craft show is to sell enough product to make up your booth fee (more on this later). Don’t jump in with a show that has a $100+ fee. Making that back can be daunting when you’re a craft show newbie.

What do other vendors say?

If possible, reach out to vendors that have participated in the past, specifically vendors who sell items similar to yours. They are your best resource to learn how the show is run, what the traffic pattern is like, and the level of success you can anticipate.

Setting up shop.

No pressure, but there is nothing more important than how your booth space is set up to display your products. No matter how amazing your product is, no one is going to look at it if it’s just laid out on a table.

Color.

Specifically bright, eye-catching color. Choose one or two colors that complement your brand, and use those as the foundation of your color palette. Fill it out with neutrals, and add pops of color throughout the space. If your products themselves are super colorful, place them against neutral table covers or backdrops to limit visual competition.

Height.

Height in your display equals visual interest. Visual interest equals actual interest. Putting your products all on the same level of display gives customers’ eyes nowhere to go. Adding height lets their eyes roam over all of your offerings, ensuring everything gets attention.

Branding.

In addition to your color palette, identify your space as uniquely yours through signage and promotion. You must have business cards with your business name and contact information on hand to give out, and placed strategically throughout your space. Take your branding to the next level by purchasing a custom banner featuring your business name or logo.

Other Tips for success.

I can’t guarantee you’ll hit a home run your first time out, but these suggestions make it more likely you get on base.

Interact with everyone. Say “hi” to every person that stops by, walks by, or makes eye contact. No one wants to shop with someone who seems aloof and impersonal.

Moderate your expectations. Confidence is great, but if you go into a craft show expecting to sell out, you’ll be disappointed. As mentioned previously, the primary financial goal of a craft show is to recoup your booth fee. If you keep your expectations reasonable, you’ll experience less stress, and be satisfied by show’s end.

Do your research. Prior to applying to participate, find out as much information as you can about a craft show. Most have Facebook pages or dedicated websites where you can find the who, what, where, and when you need to know.

Jumping into participating in craft shows, fairs, festivals, and other events takes some planning and prep work, but the boost to your business is definitely worth the effort.


Laura Stinson is the force behind Designed by Laura, a one-woman art and design studio, providing awesomely custom WordPress websites and identity design packages for creative, nerdy entrepreneurs and business owners. Laura participates regularly in craft shows and knows a thing or two about getting the most out of an event. She took her craft show experiences and designed Vendiary, the only planner specifically for vendors participating in craft shows, fairs, and festivals. Check it out at vendiary.com.