Thursday, April 1, 2010

Craft Fairs Part 1 Brooklyn, here we come!

Exciting news! Paper Pastries and Polly Danger are sharing a booth at Brooklyn Renegade this June. We are so happy to have been chosen to be in this elite group of supreme vendors :) Let the planning begin! For those of you who are thinking about vending at craft fairs, we wanted to outline some important details that both of us think about:

Part 1: How to find fairs

I knew which fair I wanted to do before I even had a business- Renegade! Clearly, it's the cream of the crop. I set my sights on applying to Renegade LA because I didn't want to work my way up to the top - I wanted to start there. I found fairs by reading blogs. Crafters blog about their experiences at fairs. You can try researching crafter's blogs that you admire, or google search "craft fairs" in your area/state.

You might come across a fair that sounds great, but isn't until next summer! Don't be discouraged, get on their mailing list and keep looking. Some "members only" craft fair lists require payment, but I've found that there is plenty of information about great fairs available for free - good fairs aren't kept secret. I receive {the free} Los Angeles Craft Mafia newsletter that has a lot of information about large and small fairs.

You never know how a fair is going to be for your business until you vend there. In my first year of business I said that I'd do as many craft fairs as I could to see where Paper Pastries was most successful. You never know what fits best until you try. I learned the hard way that for my business in particular, most of the smaller fairs are not worth my effort. The same amount of work goes into them but the payoff is rarely worth it.

While larger fairs are expensive (they often require $300-$400 investment months before the event), intimidating, and hard to get in to, the benefits of participating outweigh the drawbacks.

a) Their Advertising
Large craft fairs have the resources and know how to advertise a lot, to the right audience. You may attribute this to experience, but Unique LA, in its second year, had over 10,000 shoppers attend.

b) Their Reputation
Even before advertising, word of mouth begins. Fairs with a reputation for consistently putting on well organized, well attended events are able to expand. Renegade has been able to spread out to many cities including Brooklyn, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Austin. Vending at fairs with a reputation can help your business in many ways. Say you're talking to a prospective store about carrying your line wholesale. They'll ask what kind of responses you've gotten at fairs. If you say, "The shoppers at my church's rummage sale really love my scarfs" that isn't as notable as telling them "I consistently sell out of these scarves at Renegade Chicago."

c) The Crowds
Craft fairs are not successful without shoppers- and at some of the smaller fairs, you're lucky if 40 people come through. Because of a larger show's reputation- people are excited about attending + shopping. Renegade LA was great for me because I got so much positive feedback. It was my first time vending and the first time you show your product to the public is really scary. If I hadn't gotten the confidence from my first couple shows, I doubt I would be able to continue doing craft fairs.

d) The Other Vendors
The larger fairs attract the big name vendors. Due to the large number of applications the fair organizers receive, the fair organizers are able to select a range of great vendors and products. The quality and variety of the other vendors means you will be among the best.

After you've made a reputation for yourself and your business, craft fair organizers may approach you to be in their fairs. Some questions I ask before considering:

a) how long has this fair gone on?
b) how many shoppers came last year and how many are expected to come this year?
c) where and how do you advertise?
d) how much is the booth fee and what does it get me?
e) why do you think this fair would be a good fit for me and my business?
f) how many other vendors sell what I'm selling?

If they can't ,or won't, answer your questions over email, forget about it. "Give me a call and I can answer your questions" should be the only warning you need that this is a "grandma fair."

Polly and I will be posting more about craft fairs soon.

1 comment:

  1. I can't can't wait till Renegade in SF!!! wish i could see you guys in Brooklyn..maybe one day. good luck:)



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