Crafty Blogs

Saturday, 17 August 2013

The summer of markets, and all I learned along the way

Over the last month I've taken my first steps into the world of craft markets. It's a world that's completely new to me, and although it hasn't made me a millionaire just yet the process has been incredibly useful.

The first market I signed up for wasn't a craft market at all but an 'enterprise fair', an event organised to promote young business in the Shropshire area. The event was called 'Enterprise Rocks' and was organised by Young Britain who provide support for young entrepreneurs.

The stall was free and I knew the event would be well attended by people in the business community so it seemed like a great networking opportunity. In the weeks before the event I hand sewed a banner, got business cards and put together several things to help make a good display including bunting, a cake stand, cups and saucers and a pretty floral table cloth.

I also had to rush to organise lots of practical aspects of stall-holding. I dug out my old cash box, raised a cash float and chose some red tissue paper for gift wrapping. Finally we were ready to go.  'Enterprise Rocks' was due to take place on the first morning of the summer holidays, but even so my husband agreed to come along and help me set up, which was a big relief because I was very nervous!
We set up early in the morning. On site all the stalls were in mini marquees, which served as great protection from the weather.
Stalls being set up at 'Enterprise Rocks'
All ready to start selling!

As you can see I used the cake stand to display small items like my cupcake purses and miniroll purses and a teacup for my teeny tiny bag charms. Everyone who came to look really loved my range of items, and I made plenty of sales to my fellow stall holders! Even better I got lots of feedback and gave out dozens of business cards.
It was publicised as 'the business version of Glastonbury' which, in the event , was an overstatement. People seemed to have had trouble finding the venue (which was out of town and not well sign-posted enough) and most people I met were there to network rather than to shop. But having a deadline to work towards to get my products ready for sale was really useful to me, and the whole experience convinced me that I was ready to attend more craft fairs.
After 'Enterprise Rocks' I signed up with The Nation of Creation who hold craft fairs in Wellington and Ellesmere. The Wellington venue, Belmont Community Hall, was an easy distance from home for me and the stall booking fee seemed very reasonable, so I was excited to get started! Thanks to 'Enterprise Rocks' I was almost ready to attend my first real craft fair. My only preparation this time was the purchase of a second cake stand ( a bargain I couldn't resist!) and the requirement to provide my own public liability insurance forced me to get my act in gear and get insured for the rest of the year.
The atmosphere at Wellington was relaxed and friendly, with lots of other crafters and artists keen to talk and take a look. It was great to meet other maker/designers and even better to find out than no one else was making anything quite like my cake bags! Once again I sold a few items to other stall-holders and some small pieces to locals. Over all though the event seemed very quiet, and for a couple of hours I wasn't sure whether I would make enough sales to break even after the stall fee. Thankfully a few last-minute sales made the trip worthwhile, but I was left feeling a little despondent, and wondering whether I had done something wrong! After all some other stalls seemed to have done very well from the day, while I'd only just managed to get by.
The Lucky Ladybird at Wellington
The new cake stand complete with the first of my chocolate cupcake purses

After we packed up, cashed up and went home I settled down to read a very useful book that I'd been reading 'Crafts and Craft Shows, How to Make Money' by Philip Kadubec.

When I began to read I had a real 'light-bulb' moment and I suddenly understood why the day hadn't gone my way. In chapter 5 'Selecting Your Shows' Philip Kadubec says that different craft items of different values are not necessarily suited to stand side-by side at the same craft fairs. Some crafters make expensive items while other make cheap items. A craft show can be well attended, but if the local people don't have much to spend then all you will get are some encouraging remarks and not a lot to show from it. Equally if you make non-luxury items and try to sell them in a privileged area you might find yourself looked-over. In other words "investigate the general economic conditions of the area in which you intend to do a show" (page 65) and match your product to the area. It's something I'd never thought about before, but it dawned on me that all I had been able to sell in Wellington were the cheaper items, and more than one person had mentioned not being able to 'splash out' on something fancy like a handbag. The experience taught me that I hadn't done anything wrong except in choosing which fair to attend and, although I would consider travelling to Wellington nearer to Christmas, in future I might be better off travelling further afield to somewhere a little wealthier.
Technically the summer isn't over yet, the leaves are still green on the trees, but the school holidays are nearly over and in the crafting world it's time to start thinking about Christmas. I'm now working out how to put together gift packs and special items for the holiday season, and my experiences this summer should also help me to get ready for Christmas markets. I'm no longer nervous about setting up a stall, I'm happy with setting up a display and with all my practical set-up too. I also feel better prepared to chose the right market for my products, and that might be the most important lesson of all.
Many thanks for reading, and especial thanks to Philip Kadubec for his wise words.
Love and luck,

1 comment:

  1. Your blog post really made sense to me. I recently did my first craft fair and I've been wondering the same thing. I didn't even break even and do a lot better online. I think I'm ready for my next one though as I've been focussing on making smaller, cheaper items that I had given up on. They don't sell so well online as postage costs kill it. It seems that we are both learning the same lesson.

    Looking forward to your next post. xx