I just wrapped my very first craft fair earlier this month at Renegade LA, yay! I want to share my thoughts and tips from my experience as an illustrator-maker, including some handy checklists for anyone who is interested in participating in one themselves :)
My lovely friend Christine helping out in the booth!
Renegade is a curated craft and design fair held in many major cities across the US, including LA, SF, CHI and NY. I've gone for several years as a shopper, and it is my favorite maker/craft fair in Los Angeles. They put together a great selection of booths and almost everything there is so cute! It's a mix of things from clothing to furniture to jewelry to home goods, with a few illustrators mixed in too. It's always been on my mini-goals list to take part in Renegade, and I'm happy I can now check that off :)
What did I think of my first craft fair experience? Would I do it again?
It was a great experience, and that is saying a lot considering it was an all-day outdoor event during a 100-degree LA heatwave! Other than the heat, it was what I hoped for:
I definitely want to do more pop-up and marketplace events, but I want to try other ones besides Renegade to see which is the best fit for mimochai. And maybe something indoors...
Yes! In true listicle fashion, here are five tips based on what I learned from my experience.
1. Ask for Help. I put this first because it's the hardest part for me to get over. I initially set out to do this on my own with one person to help at the booth day-of. A few friends offered to help me with prep too and it made the experience much more fun and less exhausting. I was also able to get a lot more done without killing myself quite as much as I would have. Having an extra pair of hands day-of is not absolutely necessary, but it really helps especially if you as the creator are busy talking to visitors and customers.
2. Prep, but Be Flexible. Since this was my first time doing a full booth, I set up a test booth in my place and spent a lot of time figuring that out. Day of, I arrived to see that one neighbor booth had a side wall up and one did not. The one without the wall had a cute setup so I switched around my planned layout to make the most of this. I couldn't have predicted it, and I can imagine similar day-of surprises that make you change your plans. Also, given that Renegade was during a heatwave and my first tabling experience was during a windstorm (wait—is this a sign?), keep unexpected weather in mind!
3. Make Things Clear. One thing that became obvious to me is that at events like this, don't try to be too cute. Price everything and lay out everything clearly. On the first day, I had things set up how I'd like to display them at home, clean and minimal. I made cute little price signs that hung around the booth. However, it wasn't always clear what was inside a certain package, or how much an individual item cost. On Sunday I prioritized making things clear over looking cute (but still cute!), and stuck a price sticker on as many things as possible. This helped a lot, for example I noticed the same item that wasn't selling as well on Saturday sold a lot better on Sunday.
4. Benefits Continue After the Fair. Be sure to make it clear how people can follow you on social media or get in touch with you. After the event I heard from people who said they didn't actually make it into the booth because it happened to be crowded when they came by (there are also times where it's empty), but grabbed a card so they could get in touch. I also received cards from stockists and other market coordinators that I need to reach out to. So besides actual sales, you can extend the benefits from the experience past the weekend.
5. Checklists Are Your Savior. Especially if you're used to e-commerce only, selling retail has its own needs you need to think through. Do you have enough shopping bags? Price tags and signage? Appropriate pens/markers to make last minute signage? Duck tape for emergency fixes? Business cards and flyers for people to take? Checklists helped me keep all of this manageable. Speaking of which....
Here are some handy checklists by others. I referenced lists like these to make my own in a Google Spreadsheet. I also had a separate spreadsheet to plan products and inventory and track fair-specific expenses and income.
I got almost all of my setup from IKEA and Muji (a lot of it I already had), and packaging and tent and misc. supplies from Amazon. Get creative—my card display is an upside-down IKEA drawer with the drawers pulled out!
Oh yeah, I got a banner made at my local print shop! Totally worth it.