Wednesday, July 29, 2009
In the 3rd blog on running your handmade shop as a business as opposed to a hobby, I wanted to talk about how important it is to network at craft fairs, and how to use this information to plan future shows.
When I first began doing shows, I sat behind my table quietly...almost sheepishly, like my creations weren't worthy. Well several shows later, I've learned how much time I wasted at these shows... even though I thought I had a decent show, I missed out on so many opportunities. Opportunities like networking with some of the more experienced sellers, missing chances to sell my services for possible custom work, etc.
In my opinion, networking with other vendors is a huge key to doing a show. Finding out what shows these vendors do every year and more importantly, which shows they do very well at and which shows are over-rated is info worth it's weight in gold (especially the shows that are over-rated!!)
The street teams on Etsy can be very valuable in the show info sharing department. The EtsyNJ team constantly provides show info and I can't stress the importance of being part of a strong team. The info has saved me from having some horrible shows, and steered me to shows I would have never known existed...I currently have stacks of applications on my desk for late summer/autumn and winter shows, along with a semi-full calender of shows I've already been accepted to. I'll turn to my team members for feedback on some of the upcoming shows before mapping out the remainder of my 2009 "show circuit".
A big plus...as soon as you know you've been accepted to shows... create a flyer to let your customers know where they may find you in the future. Not everyone likes to by online yet. Some don't like paying for something they haven't held in their hand, while others don't want to pay for shipping when they can find you at a future show. I have several specific areas where I have a small "following" and I try to let these repeat customers know when I'll be back in the future.
I also make sure to book a few to several shows in these areas throughout the year. If it is a good area, there's no harm in booking a return show 2, 3 4 weeks later. If that's where your business does well, then that's where you need to be! On the other hand, if a show has not lived up to your expectations... well there's no sense in beating a dead horse (or maybe fool me once, shame on you, fool me... I just had to use one of DH cliches...lol)
In my last installment, I also mentioned how finding my niche made my handmade "business" a bit easier on me. While I love creating, sitting at the table, thumbing through a Fire Mountain supply book to purchase beads was always a bit boring. Going to the local craft shop was okay, but also time consuming and it took up so much of my creating time. But turning to something (sea glass) that had been a passion of mine for decades made this venture fun again. And now I have help : )
My hubby is also quite passionate about sea glass. He knows rarities, is very good at evaluating sea glass and he's very good at locating jewelry quality pieces. DH knows what I like to work with, probably knows sea glass values much better than I do and he keeps me fairly well stocked all year long. And that allows me more time to create or take a much needed break from the business when I feel burnt out after several weeks of working, coming home to create and then a long day at shows.
I still select all my silver components, but when it comes to sea glass, DH is my source. Since he shares my passion for sea glass, he has no problem going out on awful weather days to hunt at the beach for some new inventory. He actually looks forward to the possibilities of what might be waiting for him to scoop out of the surf.
Of course, his knowledge is also helpful at my show table. Since eliminating glass bead/semi-precious stone jewelry (which he knew zero about) he can give me long breaks at shows. For the most part, he knows where the sea glass was found and if it's not a local piece, where the piece came from. Creating a niche category has allowed me to spend time with DH at shows and has made him my show partner. He finds the sea glass, drills holes for the few pieces I need drilled and I make the finished product. It works well for both of us.
Our niche jewelry category works in the area we live in. Being near the beach, we have many customers stop at our display to talk sea glass. It is something that people remember from their childhoods, something they want to share with their children and my sea glass jewelry is a way to keep that memory alive.
Of course there are people who see my creations and move onto the next jewelry vendor to buy something, because sea glass means little to them. So in that respect, some people walk away as fast as they came. In the past, that wasn't a problem because I something for everyone with my glass beads jewelry. But focusing on just one medium...sea glass creations... is much easier to me than worrying about what the market is bearing for several types of jewelry.
I've always believed that stagnation is very dangerous selling handmade. I think you always need to create something new, something to catch the eye of your customer. Since I enjoy working with sea glass, I have incorporated some old ideas into some new creations. This new line is still a work-in-progress, but I hope to have a few pictures of my new creations in the next few days.
I hope you have found some useful info in this 3-part blog and to those that have asked me for a couple of suggestions, I hope this has helped. Successful craft shows can be very important to your online sales and your handmade business as a whole. Building a following/repeat customers are what will help you to be successful.
'til next time...