Perfecting your application is the first step into getting into your well-attended events time and time again. Here are 3 tips to see those acceptance emails rolling in to your inbox.
When I first started Old Town Suds, I knew practically nothing about craft shows. Markets were a ballgame that I wasn't sure how to enter. In fact, I remember my good friend, Cate, holding my hand as I submitted my first farmers' market application. Now, I am constantly asked where I find my markets. Several people seem to think that I am the google of the area craft shows. After many years of trial and tribulation, here are my top resources for finding craft shows for your handmade business
1 - Ask
Wether you attend craft shows as a shopper or as an artist, always ask the other vendors where their best shows are. By making friends with other vendors and sharing some of my best experiences with they, they return the favor. That is how I've heard about some of my record breaking events. I wouldn't have known about them otherwise.
2 - To the Googles!
Search for key terms in your favorite search engine. I'm always on the lookout for blog posts about "indie craft shows in [city of choice]". Some of the other terms I'll search for are: Craft Mafia [plus a city], Renegade market, best holiday craft fairs [city], and Review of craft market.
3 - Manage My Market
For those of you, like me, who participate in weekly markets, Manage My Market is a great online resource for farmers' markets - especially in the DC area. My best week-to-week farmers' market sales are from a market I found on Manage My Market. I wouldn't have known about it had I not been on the hunt for markets on their site. It is important to note that most farmers' market applications go live in the months of December and January.
I've been attending and working at trade shows for years. Between my parents dragging me along to expos to shop for their businesses to my nearly 10 years in the association industry, I'm constantly working on or attending something. All of this experience helped, and at times, hindered my trade show prep. This was my first time representing my own brand and products. That makes this first Suds trade show unique for me. It was also my first time working on a micro budget. I've designed booths that were triple the size of the my Suds booth that had 1,000 times the budget. Working with a few hundred dollars versus tens of thousands was challenging - to say the least.
Here are my top 3 tips for having the best trade show experience for your creative business.
Invest in good flooring.
When we put in our soap kitchen, our contractor saved the carpet and padding he pulled up. It was a lifesaver for the budget because I didn't have to pay for flooring (it's mandatory to put down some sort of flooring). Standing for days on concrete floors kills your back, knees, feet and well, your entire body. I thought the padding and carpet would help alleviate some of that pain and it did to a certain extent. When I looked at everyone else's flooring choices I saw this foam tile flooring. I didn't know this existed until I saw it in the expo hall. All of the trade show booths I've built have always used carpet because it is more professional in that setting. But for the craft/handmade businesses this foam tile is the best invention ever. I'm upgrading our flooring for our next show. I'll be getting a ton of tiles to use. Plus, I can use them during our craft shows to make standing for hours, days, and weeks easier on my body.
Take this Creative Live Class
I love Megan Auman. Her classes on Creative Live are thoughtful and super helpful. I can't recommend her wholesale class enough. She covers every aspect of the wholesale trade show. I felt super prepared for our event because I had watched her class and was able to implement several of her strategies. I was able to present a level of confidence at the trade show because I knew what the buyers were expecting. I even saved several of the sessions to my MacBook so I could watch them in the evenings after the show had closed. This way I was constantly in the selling mindset and learning how to improve.
Get a Lead Scanner
I was dumbfounded at the sheer lack of people scanning badges. I found out from the show organizers that I was one of TWO people to use the scanner. Yes, it costs money. Yes, it isn't cheap. Yes it gave me nearly 100 stores to EASILY add to my marketing campaigns. I didn't have to try to look up people, remember details or anything of that nature. When I had 10 buyers in my booth all I had to do saw scan their badge, add a few notes in the app if I wanted to, and move to the next buyer. The lead scanner is ALWAYS worth the money. Always. I have a spreadsheet of names, email addresses, physical locations and store names all because I spent a few more dollars and go the scanner. If you are of the mindset that buyers will have business cards and you can just collect them, think again. Buyers never bring enough cards. What are you going to do then? What you do is scan their badge and you have everything you need.