This past weekend Strawberry Moth hit the road and traveled to Greenville, South Carolina to attend the Indie Craft Parade!
I have done a handful of local markets in Savannah and have always wanted to take on bigger fairs. The goal has always been to grow my business, extend my reach and bring Strawberry Moth to other places in the Southeast. Indie Craft Parade was on the list and so I dove head first into the wild whirl-wind world that is the craft market scene. Weeks were spent in the studio bulking up inventory, designing products to debut, and getting mentally ready for a weekend full of meeting new faces.
I knew going into this adventure that I would learn a ton. I took so much home with me after the show...new customers, new friends, and an even fiercer love for my business and the creative community.
I'd like to share 5 lessons I learned after my first large craft fair in the hopes to help you other awesome crafty people take your talents on the road.
Fight hard for your dreams, no matter what they are, and embrace the fear that comes with any growth. Let it be a beacon, because when you are fearful it means you are only a step away from something wonderful.
1. Find Your Audience
The best part about selling at markets is meeting your customers.
Because I sell solely online and wholesale my products to other business, I miss out on the valuable face to face relationships you can build with your customers.
When guests have stopped at your booth, watch and take note of what each person gravitates towards and categorize that shopper. For example, at Indie Craft Parade I noticed that the majority of the shoppers that bought my products where hip young mothers. Common business knowledge is "know your target customer" and what better way to discover your target customer than face to face.
2. Learn from your Customers
Listen to what your customers have to say about your products. Be open to criticism (it will happen) and use it as a positive tool. I have learned to love critiques (though it has taken me a long time to get to this tranquil place). As makers, we put a piece of ourselves into everything we create. When our work is criticized then we feel like we are being criticized. When I learned to let down the wall of defense, I realized that I could access so much inspiration from my customers. Write down customer suggestions in your handy notebook (see my tool kit list at the bottom of the post) and revisit these suggestions after the show. You never know where your next ideas will come from and people who love your products can be a huge source of inspiration.
3. Hold Strong to your Pricing
Pricing is a challenge I face constantly. When you do what you love for a living it is easy to forget the business side of a creative business. Valuing yourself and your work is extremely important. You will (you definitely will) encounter customers who wrinkle their nose at your pricing. Listen to me when I say "the customer isn't always right." I mean no disrespect in saying that but you can't please everybody. Find your inner strength and answer this simple question "Do you want your business to last?" If your answer is no, then this is just a hobby for you (which is great) and pricing isn't really that important. If your answer is yes, then you need to fight for that thing that you have created and want to keep doing.
I am in this for the long haul, I want to wholesale to other businesses, I want to create a lasting brand...all of these things rely on my pricing structure being strong and healthy. You are always going to meet people who love a bargain and will do anything to get you to lower your price. Our society is built on the quick and the cheap and a majority of the population is spoiled by this. These people are not our customers, which is totally fine because again, you can't please everybody. There is a flourish in the handmade movement and a revolution of well made products...this is our world and this is where we find our customers. In time, this world will only grow and the way it grows is by creative businesses valuing their time, their work, and their pricing structure.
Stay strong and remember why you started.
4. Don't fall trap to self doubt
When you are surrounded by tons of makers that are all talented and seem to be on their "A game" it is hard not to fall prey to self doubt. I had a brief stint of this on my first day at Indie Craft Parade. Remember, you are only human and its natural to feel intimidated by your peers.
It is always my first instinct to be a wallflower. I spend a majority of my time in my studio with my two dog children, who I love dearly but aren't much for conversation. I am an introvert by nature and being in crowds can be stressful. My best advice to tackle being out of your comfort zone is to imagine the scenario you are going into before it happens and ask yourself what you want to get out of it. I knew going into this event that I really wanted to connect with other makers in my creative community. I fought my instinct to cling to the wall and made sure that I talked to everyone I could and really made a point to connect with the other makers. I discovered that not only could I make instant connections (remember creatives are all cut from the same cloth, we have so much in common) but I walked away with some great friendships feeling more inspired and more motivated than I ever have.
Don't let doubt hold you back from anything that you are trying to achieve. Once you tell self doubt to take a hike, you are free to climb as high as you want.
5. Signage is your best friend
This may seem like a "duh" piece of advice, but I assure you it is a lot more complicated than you might think.
Put yourself in the shoes of the shoppers. There are probably over 50 vendors at any craft fair and once you add the element of the large crowd of other people browsing the market, being a customer can be pretty overwhelming. There is so much to see and so many people to not bump into, the tiny details (that you as a vendor worked so hard to put in place) will probably get overlooked.
This is why signage is so so important.
Make your prices clear and legible. More often than not, people don't like to verbally ask about pricing. Remember, there is a lot to see and senses can get overwhelmed. That's why displaying prices is a great way to cater to your customers. Label everything! Every product needs to have a displayed easy to read price. Do you offer wholesale and want retailers to take a wholesale packet? Make a sign for it. Offering Free Shipping on your website for new customers? Make a sign for it.
Labeling and Signage will make your life a million times easier. Remember, sometimes the smallest things can make the biggest difference.
Being organized can be the best thing you can do when tackling any show. Bring a Tool Kit with you to help you avoid all those sticky situations! I packaged all my supplies in an old makeup case and I now vow to take that thing with me where ever I go.
What's In My Market Tool Kit
- Notepad (for jotting down sales and ideas)
- Writing Utensils
- Scotch Tape
- Business Cards (bring extra)
- Promotional Postcards
- Binder Clips
- Safety Pins
- Straight Pins
- Breath Mints (trust me)
- Square Card Reader
- Business Check Book
- Mini Sewing Kit
What's In Your Market Kit?
A huge thank you to all my customers (new and old) and all the amazing makers I met that I now can proudly call friends. It was such an incredible weekend and I was so blown away with the Indie Craft Parade staff and the event they put on! If you want to learn more about the Indie Craft Parade and be in awe of their awesomeness, visit their website here.
I can't wait till next year!
photos: 1, 3, 4, 5, 8 courtesy of Indie Craft Parade