Holiday craft shows are upon us, and Draw That Pig recently survived our first one of the season this past weekend. I have been a vendor at the Galleria at Scranton Prep (my alma mater!) for the past four years. This two-day event is a decent size show, with over 70 vendors, who offer direct sales and handmade goods. Both a giant basket raffle and breakfast with Santa on Sunday morning draw large crowds to this event. I’m counting this show a success for me this year. I didn’t make quite as much money as last year (only by about $40), and Saturday was the better day for me. But, overall, a success! YAY! 🙂
My craft show experience includes four years as a vendor, and, although I am constantly learning and tweaking my process, I feel that I have enough practical knowledge to share my unconventional list of five things you don’t often think to bring to your craft shows.
- Patience A general definition of patience is the capacity to accept or tolerate an annoyance without getting angry or upset. Well. Then. If you have ever done a craft show, you will realize that plenty of patience is necessary! Some annoyances you might encounter at a craft show include slow foot traffic — therefore, slow sales. How about a less-than-ideal booth location? (Like in the far corner basement of a four-floor craft show? Been there.) Or, the greatest annoyance to me, a fellow vendor who is encroaching upon your booth space. Picture this. You have painstakingly designed your booth set-up to cover the designated ten foot by ten foot space you paid for, without an inch to spare. Then you arrive at the show to find your vendor neighbor creeping into your spot. Or with their large display obnoxiously overhanging in your area. Or, the floors aren’t demarcated with tape. Whoa. That is practically inviting a riot. Breathe, and exercise patience. Set up your display, and be polite. Be assertive if you need to be. But be kind. And be patient.
- Confidence The different facets of this self-assurance quality can certainly be a challenge. So. You’re telling me that I should not only outwardly note the awesomeness of my handcrafted work, but that I should also interact with self-confidence among potential buying customers? Yikes. And me, an introvert and all. Well, I have survived and am here to tell you that it can be done! The key is calmly communicating the value of your work without seeming overly salesy. How does one do this? By being honest and genuine. By caring about your customers, listening to them, and really trying to help solve their problems. Know your product and be prepared to inform your customer about it. Know your customer and be prepared to speak directly to her heart. Smile. Make eye contact. And stand/sit up straight. You can do this!
- An open mind “Be curious, not judgemental” urges Walt Whitman. In his poetry collection Leaves of Grass, Whitman celebrates his philosophy of life and humanity. I adore this quote, and it speaks to me in important ways. Actually, I have been thinking about these words, and how they might apply to surviving a craft show. Believe me when I tell you there will be people who will be curious about your work. They will approach your booth. Take in the sights. Touch an item here, and there. They are admiring, wondering and thinking. And then comes a statement which may surprise you. “Geez, I bet these Santa pillowcases would make great gift sacks!” And then your creative brain explodes with new marketing and application ideas for your pillowcases. Great stuff! Thank you, oh, thank you person who visited my booth and offered me a fresh perspective! Had I not been open-minded to this new opinion regarding my pillowcases, I would forever believe they were only meant for pillows!
- Thick skin This one is not easy. For, who in the world wants to be criticized or somehow degraded for their heart-and-soul craft? Not I. Ah, but it will happen. And you (and I) must learn to not be so easily insulted, and learn ways to protect ourselves from the emotional hurt that ensues. Some insults, for example: “Did you really make this?” (seriously?) “Can you lower the price? That is way too expensive.” (for real?) And, my favorite: “(click — takes a picture) “I can make that myself.” (go away, already) Call upon your inner strength, breath deeply, and be gracious. Not rude. You certainly know the value of your work, and it is your job to convey that value to your right customer. These people are obviously not your right people. But they still deserve your kindness. Stay classy, my lady.
- Forgiveness This is a big one. Huge. You see, above all, be kind to yourself. Grant yourself that favor you deserve even if you “failed.” Maybe you had a disappointing show, or you weren’t presenting at your best, or your display fell apart, or torrential rains drenched you and everything in your booth (been there). Be kind, and fair, and loving to yourself. Be open and accepting of your circumstances, process your thoughts at your own pace, and move on. Guilt-free. Yes. You are allowed to do this. Failure, any way you perceive it, is unavoidable. In fact, it is necessary. For, how can we achieve if we have not failed? How can we feel compassion if we ourselves have not experienced pain? And how, my dear ones, can we reach for the stars, or draw that pig, if we ourselves have not experienced the setbacks that owning our own businesses so plentifully offers us? So forgive yourself, recognize the lessons, and gracefully move forward. ❤