Tuesday, December 31, 2013

First Craft Show Experience

Earlier this month I participated in my very first craft show.

I spent so much time preparing. I pretty much neglected everything else. The blog. The antique booth. Cleaning the house. Showering. Ok, I jest. I showered. But everything else was pushed to the back burner while I prepared.

Paint and varnish! Order business cards! Buy a receipt book! Get the Square set up to work on my phone! Figure out how to display everything! Put price tags on everything! Pack everything!

It took a lot more work than I expected to prepare, especially since it was a fairly small craft show.

And it went horribly.

Please excuse the horrible phone pictures!

Everyone around me was selling things left and right. 

I sold 4 bowls. 4 of the smallest bowls I had too.

But that's not what bothered me.

What really bugged me was that this "craft" show had about 25-30 vendors, and probably 5 of them were selling things they had actually made.

I was literally surrounded by resellers. Mary Kay in front of me. 31 to my right. Manufactured oils and vinegars to my left. Scentsy, Avon, Advocare, Origami Owl, and so on. Not that there is anything wrong with those brands. I just don't think they belong at a craft show. A craft show.

How am I, a small maker of handmade goods, supposed to compete with these mass-produced products? Quick answer - I can't. Those other products are rolling off production lines at super speeds. I spend hours finishing one bowl. Everything they make is perfect and without flaws (read: machine-made). Mine are handmade, and yes, have an errant dot or two. When placed side-by-side like they were at this show, nobody wanted to even look at the handmade products. 

It was really disheartening, but I learned a good lesson.

I should have done more research.

A friend of mine talked me into this show. She makes awesome scarves and they sell wonderfully wherever she goes. She was convinced I would do great too, so I took her advice and signed up without really reading the fine print.

I should have paid attention to the vendors who have participated at this show in the past. Had I seen all of the resellers, I would have run the other direction.

But I didn't.

I jumped in with really high expectations, only to be crushed in the end. Crying-on-the-ride-home crushed. 

But I picked myself up. I reactivated everything in my Etsy shop right when I left the show and moved on, realizing that craft shows like that are not my target market. And when I heard a "cha-ching" from my phone that same afternoon indicating an Etsy sale, I knew I had found my place. Etsy's the way to go for me.

Thanks for reading through and listening to my little rant! I felt the need to explain why posts have been scarce lately, with all of the preparation and the catching up that followed. But now I'm back on track!

The New Year's coming and the posts are scheduled!

Happy New Year everyone! Hope 2014 is a wonderful year for all of you!


  1. I feel your pain there, few of us write in detail about the crushing failures when selling our own work. It happens to ALL of us! And it's hard if not impossible to see the value of it when you scrambled and spent hours of your life and lost sleep and were stressed for days only to not make what you expected. But in time you'll see you learned so many lessons from that show. How to display items better, what to sell, to offer more impulse buys to keep your sales numbers up, etc.

    Your product/display is awesome and I'm sure with your dedicated attitude that you'll continue to improve. I'll have to tell the tale of my first year selling at an art market while working full time. I put out straight CRAP to sell and probably didn't even break even with start-up costs but I met so many people and did so much that moved me in the right direction. I don't think I'd be working from home now if I didn't do it. Good luck to you into the new year. I think your bowls are gorgeous.

  2. Thank you so much for your sweet reply Van! I know someday (but not quite yet!) I'll be able to appreciate it for the lessons I learned. :) If I do another, I'll be pickier in my selection of which show to do for sure, and hopefully it will do better!

  3. Hi! I had a similar experience as you at my first craft show (and only). I spent weeks preparing and spending all my time creating inventory and stressing out so much about everything. I only sold a few items and it was SO not worth all the stress and time spent on it. I do so much better on Etsy and my time and effort is better spent making my shop better and adding new items to etsy. PLUS I can do it from the comfort of my home in my sweat pants!

    I'm really sorry you had a bad experience but it sounds like you've got the right attitude in realizing that maybe that's not the right venue for you. I love your work and wish you all the luck in the future!


  4. Tia - you sound exactly like me! (I'm in pajama pants though, not sweat pants!) I completely agree with you about time and effort being better spent on Etsy - better experience all around!

    Thanks so much for wishing me luck! Hope you have continued success as well!


Thank you for your comments! I appreciate your kind words and always try to reply!

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