Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Reflections from my first craft fair

Finally, the post you've all been waiting for. :) 

Just to give some background for those who might not have been on this blog before, I took part in my very first craft fair as a vendor two Saturdays ago (4/21/2012), at the Milpitas Christian School. I was excited to be asked (the organizer also sells on Etsy and found me there), and thought it would be a good way to venture into selling at fairs without a lot of risk since there was no booth fee per se. We just had to donate 10% of our sales from the fair to the school. 

Although this arrangement sounded fair to me, I hesitated quite a bit before sending in my vendor application form. My main worry was that I wouldn't have time to create enough items for the fair. On the other hand, I felt that if I didn't take the plunge I would never do it. After two weeks of dilly dallying and going back and forth, I sent in my application and threw myself feverishly into getting ready for the fair.

I spent hours on Ravelry and thumbing through stitch dictionaries to find easy but compelling patterns to make. I went through my yarn stash and pulled out yarns I thought would work. I went a little yarn crazy on Ravelry and bought some more yarn from my fellow Ravelrers. 

I also spent a lot of time designing photobooks to use as a design portfolio, and went to pick those up from Walgreens on the Tuesday before the fair, with my poor little boy in tow. 
Photobook from Walgreens.  ©LivedStories
I was up till 2am almost every night for the 2 weeks prior to the show, knitting and conducting research. I took a one-week vacation from work to rest up and prepare for the fair. I was really, really into it. I even got my friends Zeina Newman (my usual model) and LivedStories (my photographer) in on the action, and they helped me by punching holes in my hang tags, putting stickers on my paper bags, and lining the paper bags with lime green tissue paper. 
Paper bags lined with lime green tissue paper. ©LivedStories
All done! All the paper bags with stickers and tissue paper. ©LivedStories.
I gave myself a "stop knitting" deadline for the Wednesday prior to the fair (4/18). However as I wrote in that week's blog post, I was still knitting by Friday morning. On Friday evening, a few hours before the fair, I finally realized that I had to give up on finishing two more scarves by morning. I had already packed all the extra items - tablecloth, pins, banner, change, money bag etc., so I decided to set up my item inventory on the Square Register app on my iPad (more on that in the next post).

My process was a little convoluted. After the painful process of itemizing my inventory just a month ago for tax time, I wanted to make sure that I listed each item, what material went into it, what the actual costs were, and what the markup was in a Google doc. With this done, I would then calculate what the price of each item would be, and then put that in the item listing on the Square Register app. I would then put the price on a little sticker label on the hangtag, and attach the hangtag with a piece of yarn and a safety pin to the particular item. This is how they looked after this whole process was done.
Hangtag with price sticker, attached with a piece of yarn and a safety pin. ©LivedStories
Scarves showing hangtags with price sticker. ©LivedStories
It looked like a long night. However, with some K-pop (Korean pop music) playing in the background, I got myself into a nice groove and was zooming along nicely when the internet went off. At 1am. I had to be at the fair by 8:30am to set up. And the internet was off. 

I couldn't believe it. I turned the modem off and on, plugged and unplugged the router...everything I thought would work, short of waking my husband up. It didn't come back on. So, with about 1/3 of my inventory left to be labeled and included in the inventory, I finally gave up around 2am and went to bed. In hindsight, I should have called Comcast, but I'm sure you realize I wasn't thinking straight by then. :) I woke up 4.5hrs later, at 6:30am, to finish off the labeling/itemizing/packing. By the time I finished packing, got my food together, took a shower and all that jazz, it was past 9am. The fair was starting at 10:30am. Yikes! I still had to go pick up the paper bags from LivedStories, and I hadn't even mapped where the Milpitas Christian School was actually located. By the time I got there, it was 10am, and I had exactly 30 minutes to set up my stall. 

It was ALMOST a nightmare! First, another vendor had mistakenly taken my spot, and I had to gently prod her to move. I was fine with taking her spot instead, but because of the screens I was using to display my scarves, I needed a wall behind me. Luckily, she was easygoing and had no problem moving. As I began to set up, I heard an announcement over the PA system that guests were starting to arrive. I was near panicking. I tried to put my banner up but the pushpins I brought weren't working. I tried to use safety pins but the pins were not strong enough and the banner was heavy enough to pull the tablecloth down or rip it (it was plastic)! Oh gosh! What to do? 

Wanda, one of the organizers of the fair, came to my rescue! She brought sturdier pushpins so my awesome banner could be put up. It was touch and go there for a moment, I tell you. :)
There's the banner!! ©LivedStories.
Erin of Bobbin's Nest Studio was another angel of mine that day. She drove all the way to Milpitas to hand deliver her body form which she was lending to me for the craft fair. Can you believe that? Please show her some love by purchasing some yarn from the Bobbin's Nest Studio online store. They are having a sale this week!! 
The body form from Erin in use at the fair. ©LivedStories
So now I was all set up and ready for the customers. Whew!.....nothing. A couple of people here, one person there, a nice and chatty old man here, a mother with a few toddlers who liked the pompoms there. It was SLOW. It didn't help that it was 90 degrees outside. I also think that the ads that were run for the fair (on Craigslist and in the San Jose Mercury News) probably didn't reach that many people. As such there weren't many patrons at the fair. 

I thought the lack of patrons was both good and bad. Good because for my first fair, I feared I would be overwhelmed by crowds and would lose my bearings or money or some of my inventory in the madness. As such I was grateful for the slow traffic. Bad because, (as I'm sure you've all guessed), the lack of patrons means we didn't sell much. I actually sold 3 items (2 fingerless mitts and a lace scarf), and got 2 custom order requests. 
A customer examining one of the fingerless mitts before purchasing. ©LivedStories
The two mitts I sold. ©NiseyKnits
The scarf I sold. ©LivedStories
Would I do this fair again? Or any other craft fair again? Probably. I enjoyed chatting with people, and showing them how beautiful and cool knitted items can be. Plus, now that I've got all the stock items made (banner, scarf stand, photobooks, hangtags, etc.), I think the next one would go a little more smoothly, right? :)

I have to say a big thank you to my friends Gina C., Claudine F., and LivedStories (with her little baby) who came to keep me company and encourage me during the fair. I was pleasantly surprised and very happy to see them all. And thank you to Zeina Newman, Mary B. and Josie L. These ladies wanted to be there to help but couldn't because of prior engagements.

Stay tuned for the next post, where I'll share where I got the decorative/display items for my stand, so you can also prep for your own craft fair!


10 comments:

  1. I am so proud of you. Everything looked great, and really classy. I wish I could have been there, but being on a different continent did not help.

    JKQ.

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    1. Thank you!!! I hope we get to have another Skype date soon! :)

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  2. For your first craft fair, I think this was a success. Like developing our skills at knitting, all this takes time and you did such a great and thoughtful job! I think every craft fair gets more looker than buyers but you're still building your name and reputation which will only get more and more solid! Congratulations.

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  3. I thought everything looked great! I had no idea the troubles you went through on the actual day of - you pulled it off great. Yes, it does get easier. You will get a system and you will decide which craft fairs are worth it for you, or if it is even worth it at all. I have been selling Avon for years and used to go to these kind of events and also flea markets. Stopped doing it for a while because I decided it wasn't worth my time being there all day. But, I am doing the DeAnza Flea Market this Saturday because I have alot of product to move. I have a friend going with me, so hopefully we will enjoy the day together AND move alot of product at the same time.

    Even if you don't make much sales, if you get new customers and potential customers interested, it may be worth it. I think your product will sell better in the winter. Definitely consider doing these in October/November for Christmas sales. Yes, stick to the ones where the booth fee is minimal. Keep track of expenses for tax time!!

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    1. Thanks Gina! And thank you for suggesting Darren and for visiting me at the fair! You are too sweet! :)

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  4. Very nice article. I got dizzy reading as you described the ordeal working thru the night preparing. Very nice pics too.

    love,
    Papa K

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  5. Congrats Denise! I've always admired your passion and dedication, not only for knitting, but for everything you set your heart on. Don't be discouraged, the after-effects are sure to come, and they will as a big surprise! You have lovely people around you and that's a blessing! Keep smiling, you are already a winner!

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