Surviving Craft Shows: Lesson Learned My First Year

Kimberly, creator of Canine Crazies

It’s been a fun, adventurous year of growing, learning and making. Canine Crazies began this little adventure November 2020. As life started opening up from the pandemic, so did opportunities. Although I was nervous, scared and unsure of myself, I decided to take the reigns and dive into in-person craft shows. I learned so much surviving craft shows my first year.

In 2021, I attended 13 different shows!  Each of them so different and I’ve had a blast!

🐾 3/13: Shop My Porch Pop Up

🐾 4/10: Farmstand Makers Market

🐾 5/1: Canyon Grove Artisans’ Market (now Traveling Artisan’s Market)

🐾 5/8: Farmstand Makers Market

🐾 5/30: Mira Mesa Craft Show

🐾 6/5: Pop Up with friends

🐾 6/26: Mira Mesa Craft Show

🐾 7/10: Farmstand Makers Market

🐾 8/21: Barks and Brew

🐾 10/2-10/3: Bates Nut Farm

🐾 11/20: Doggie Street Festival

🐾 12/4: Carlsbad Makers Market Holiday Showcase

🐾 12/12: Kona Kai Holiday Market

As a new business I have to test the waters. It’s how I learn. Trial by fire and throw myself at the wolves. I must say, I’m very proud of myself how far I’ve come. I went from being nervous if people will buy my dog wears only having 1 table to a confident vendor believing in my business. I wanted to share with you the top 5 things I have learned by surviving the craft show world.

5 Lessons Learned Surviving Craft Shows

Once a Scout Mom always a Scout Mom

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Scouts: the best training ground in organization

Preparation is key when you are surviving craft shows. You have to think about all the possibilities. From your display, ensuring you have enough product, food, and even the worst case scenarios (ie: what if my display blows over), I am grateful for the many years as a scout mom, I looked at it like planning for a big camping trip with a gaggle of scouts. The night before I always packed my car. Check lists are my lifeline. Did I forget things? Of course! But the more prepared I was, the easier the event went.

Patience is a Virtue

If you’re going to be selling crafts, you’re going to need patience. Patience with your customers. Patience with yourself. After all, if you’re in sales, you have no guarantees about how well a day is going to go. There are so many variable factors that can go into a show. Amount of customers, weather, location, and even people’s mood that day.

Having patience and reminding myself  my “why?” kept any negative thoughts at bay. Even if I didn’t do as well as I expected, my main mission was to get my name out there. I always made my vendor fee so everything else is just gravy.

Found My Brand Voice

Surviving craft shows can be very overwhelming. There are alot of factors to consider. From payment processing and your display, I have evolved over the last year. It didn’t happen immediately. Every show I learned and invested. My goal was to just get better after every event.

The best advise I received was from a class by Nichole Stevenson Secrets of Selling at Craft Fairs: How to Get In, Make Sales, and Grow Your Business. What resonated with me the most was  a craft show booth is the first window into our business. You need to represent! You want someone to walk in just like they walk in a store. Add your personal touch and brand. However, branding isn’t about the colors and logo but the “feeling” you want to bring to your customers.

When I thought about Canine Crazies I thought about dogs. What feelings do dogs give me? What are things that remind me of dogs? Walks in the park, goofiness and happy. So I decided to focus on those key elements by building a craft booth that looked like a dog park! From a chain linked fence to grass on my collar display. I now only try to select happy bright colors of fabric for dog toys and adorable patters for collars.  I even took it a step further and found a toilet bowl to make people laugh. Really thinking about how my brand “felt” vs “looked” gave me focus. It created engagement and people remembered me. I learned that when I’m confident in my brand, surviving craft shows  became less daunting.

What’s Hot and What’s Not

I’m a data nerd. I can’t help myself. I like to observe and watch. Collect relevant information as it helps me make better decisions. At every show, I observed customers. People didn’t realize but I was watching how they were interacting with my products. From the positive and the negative comments or what simply attracted their eye.

Some people had questions, especially snuffle balls and snuffle mats. I actually am glad I heard concerns too as it helped me improve my designs. Some items such as fleece tug ropes ALWAYS sold no matter how slow the traffic was that day. Reviewing sales numbers ensured my hottest items were always in-stock.. Direct customer feedback was simply invaluable.  In return I increased my sales at every event.

Crafting is Community

The best thing about the crafting community is the people I have met.  The handmade marketplace are passionate people. They take pride in what they make and want to share it with the world. We help each other… may it be babysitting each others booth, helping put up pop up tents or loaning each other things we forget like scissors. Surviving craft shows together is what bonds us.  We thrive on inspiring and supporting each other. After several months of isolation at home, it felt soooo good to reconnect.

I made friends with makers but also my local community. The best part: I met ALOT of dogs. I am blessed that I now I have a pool of people that  if I saw them on the street they would not be a stranger. They are my tribe.  My social life. So thank you to my makers, market managers, hooman customers and most importantly DOGS for giving me a fantastic 2021. You have not only helped me become a better business, you have helped me grow as a person.

What’s in store next year? Although my heart will always adore markets and I won’t be able to resist a good show, bring on online development! I can’t wait to connect beyond my local community and continue to share with you the fun Canine Crazies has to bring.

About the Author
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Dog Mom, traveler, foodie and canine crafter. Kimberly is dedicated to enriching the lives of all dogs. She is inspired by her Two Idiot Balls of Fluff, two snow dogs, Bear and Koda, Kimberly is passionate about sharing with you all the things she learned raising her fur babies.

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