It's almost the end of the year and before I start fresh in 2019, I wanted share one aspect of my creative business that I am proud of this year: craft shows.
Selling my maps at craft shows during the holiday season is a chance for me to not only make some income for my business, but most importantly, gage what customers like and get instant feedback through the face-to-face interactions. Over the past four years, I've been participating in my local holiday craft fairs and I've learned that the work load doesn't get less each year, it's always a lot of work and sleepless nights leading up to the shows, but it does get easier. In this post, I will share some juicy numbers, what worked/didn't work this year and tips/lessons learned. As markets and craft fairs are becoming a main source of income for many small creative businesses, I hope this helps!
I participated in two shows this year. SF Etsy's Holiday Emporium 2018 and SJ Made's Holiday Craft Fair 2018. For four years in a row, I have participated in SF Etsy's Holiday Emporium. It's a craft show with around 230 vendors located in San Francisco near Pier 39. It's like Etsy in-real-life. I love the SF Etsy team because they offer previous vendors a guaranteed spot before they open applications to the public. Most shows require you to completely apply again and it doesn't guarantee that you would get in the second time. The second show is SJ Made's Holiday Craft Fair, this was my first time at this market and I was a bit nervous because I didn't have any idea of what the turnout would be like or what customers were going to walk through, but having done a few of their summer markets, I had a feeling it could be really good. Both shows being really big shows with 200+ vendors and both falling close to major holiday dates, I had to be prepare for two great shows in terms of booth display, inventory, and logistics.
The first thing I think about is always the booth design (I could talk about my sketches, my thought process and designs in another blog post if anyone is interested) and the last thing I think about is the results: income and how to implement the ideas and requests received from customers for next year.
This post is hugely inspired by Seniman Calligraphy's blog post, she recently shared her numbers and experience and I thought that was so inspiring and insightful to those who are curious about numbers (since we don't talk about it too much) and to those who are seriously thinking about selling their craft at a show in 2019.
T H E R E S U L T S :
SF Etsy: 6th Annual Indie Holiday Emporium When: Thanksgiving weekend, Sat & Sun Nov. 24 & 25, 2018 Where: Pier 35, San Francisco
Info: 200+ vendors, music, food, free entrance
Booth Fee (10x10): $395
Booth Display Materials: $142.84
Total Expenses: $1593.02
Gross Sales from Square November 24, 2018: $1058 | 33 sales
Gross Sales from Square November 24, 2018: $1117 | 36 sales
San Francisco 11
Lake Tahoe 9
San Jose 3
Framed Maps, Canvas Maps, Postcards 28
When: December 15th and 16th, 2018
Where: San Jose Craft Holiday Fair - South Hall
435 South Market Street, San Jose, California 95113
Info: 250+ vendors, DIY workshops, Food, Music, free entrance
Booth Fee: $459
Booth Setup: $142.84
Food: $91.64 (Breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and paid food for my helpers)
Total Expenses: $1755.55
Gross Sales from Square December 15: $1580 | 40 sales
Gross Sales from Square December 16: $1430 | 39 sales
San Jose 45
San Francisco 8
Lake Tahoe 9
Post Cards 4
Greeting Card 1
Framed Maps, Canvas Maps, Postcards 22
The Lessons and Findings
W H A T W O R K E D :
New Product - I introduced a new product and printed two of my maps on canvas with a magnetic wood frame and people loved it! I really love how it looks too and I'm glad people took a liking to it. A lot of the times, people ask me to print my maps on shirts, mugs, tea napkins, and other merchandise and I feel hesitant because I'm not sure if I want to put my maps on just anything. I'm just worried it will spin the little branding of my company that I have in a direction that doesn't align with what I envision. But, hey, maybe I'm wrong and people will love it.
Marketing Signs - I made a few marketing signs that helped me get IG followers and city recommendations
"Follow me on IG and get a free post card!" - I put this sign up on the second day of the San Jose show since I noticed people really love my post cards.
"Didn't get your city? Write down your city & email" - I had a fish bowl, paper, and a pen for people who didn't see their city in their shop.
+100 new followers
+40 new emails and city requests
Efficient Booth Setup - My new booth setup allowed me to have more room in the back of the setup to package the customers' purchases nicely without them seeing all the busy work.
Helpers! I had a helper for each day of the show. I wouldn't be able to handle my shop without a helper. I could potentially lose customers if I don't have a helper to either pack orders, help answer questions, take payment, and restock the front inventory.
Packaging is Everything - What I love personally is a well packaged purchase. I make sure it's presentable and represents my brand. Each map/purchase is placed in a sleeve kraft bag and sealed with a Traveling Calligrapher sticker making sure my card is inside. I want my customers feel like they are opening up something valuable! Like opening presents, the presentation really helps elevate the experience of buying something new.
W H A T D I D N ' T W O R K :
Taking risks is a part of owning a small creative business. It's scary to take risks because it means throwing your hard earned money out into the unknown, not knowing if it would come back and if people will even like what you make. However, sometimes the products you least expect will thrive, thrives in a surprising way.
I spent around $500 for new notebooks. I personally love notebooks, I use it for so many aspects of my life that I wanted to design some myself. Over the 2 holiday shows, no one purchased any. I'm a little bit disappointed inside my sensitive soul, but I also know that it could be so many reasons. I think it's because (1) it's not as appealing as I thought it would be (the quality of the print or the designs) and (2) it didn't really fit well with the inventory that I had. I lost $500 initially, but I feel like I can use the 150 journals that I printed for something else in the future, so it's not all a waste.
Spending too much on my booth setup. Even though I love my booth setup this year and I try to make my booth stand out a little more every year, I feel like I spend too much time and money upgrading it almost every year. I want to just make a booth design that I can use over and over again in the future with just minor tweaks.
Lastly, I think I might spend too much on food. I feel like I should pack snacks and food ahead of time and not eat out during or after the show, but I also feel like rewarding myself with all the hard work that my helpers and I put in.
Another thing to note is that a lot of the inventory that I had prepared for the two shows weren't sold, as I planned. The left over inventory will be used for my future shows hopefully making my expenses less for next time.
F I N A L R E S U L T S:
Total revenue for the two shows is around: $1835.45
Etsy orders + custom orders after the show from the people who came by the booth: $350
Around 300 business cards were passed out
+100 followers on IG (thanks to my freebie sign)
+40 emails and city requests
The total revenue doesn't seem like much based on the expenses, labor, and sleepless nights I spent, BUT, I feel like these shows are a huge benefit to my company because I get to put my face and name out there, showcase and sell my art, talk to my customers, get inspiration to create what my customers want for the future, and feel more connected to my art and the people who like my art.
Is anyone interested in selling their art at craft fairs next year? Is there anything I didn't cover that you're interested in learning about? Feel free to comment below!