I've been organizing craft shows since 2010.
I know my way around the scene, but generally from an organizers standpoint.
One of a Kind hosts nearly 500 sellers at their Spring Show.
It's a huge investment of time and money, but if you're willing to take the risk, the payoff can be huge.
I was fortunate enough to be part of the Etsy Section, which meant I had a smaller footprint to work with, but also that my fee was pretty significantly reduced compared to the average booth fee.
Here are the top few things I learned by being part of One of a Kind.
Emily's Top Survival Tips for BIG CRAFT SHOWS
Tip #1: Ship your shit.
This tip was given to me by my buddy Dan who is a pro at this stuff. Dan spares no expense when doing shows and the result is that he is one of the least stressed out vendors you'll find. Also, his hands are incredibly soft. (Actually I have no idea about that).
Tip #2: Plan your space in advance
Ok, so I didn't exactly do this, but I wish I had. I arrived at the show to find this:
Fortunately, I'm one lucky S.O.B. and I was able to hide my extra boxes (there were 12) behind the curtain. If I'd been located in the middle aisle I'd be S.O.L. Totally different acronym.
Learn from me people. Map this stuff out.
4 ft table. 20 boxes. NBD. #ooakdiaries
@ooak_toronto @etsyca @etsycanada #etsysection #ooakdiaries
Day two at @ooak_toronto #OOAKS15 #ooakdiaries #ooaketsysection I'm here from 10am to 11pm!!
Tip #3: Make friends. And fast.
At some point you will have to pee. Or eat. Or borrow change. If you're anything like me, you'll probably have to do all of the above, all flipping day.
Make friends with your booth neighbours, and you can!
Also, when you're selling the same product for 5 days straight, the sound of your voice can annoy even yourself.
If your neighbour likes you, they will be far less likely to want to murder you.
My booth buddy and I spent so much time together our menstrual cycles actually synced. (TMI?)
So, yeah, we got close.
Tip #4: Nail your pitch
One thing I really noticed was that almost every time I engaged with shoppers, they bought.
It's the same in the shop really.
The more you talk to people, the more likely they are to want to "buy" into you (aka BUY your product). I'm not talking hard sell, I simply mean being friendly. Acknowledge that you appreciate them taking a look at your product, tell them a little something about it, and give them a reason (or several) to purchase.
Keep it short and sweet.
Mine was: "Hey there! These candles are all made with Eco Soy wax, so they're eco-friendly and very long lasting. Soy melts at a low temperature. It pools instead of tunnels so you get to burn the entire candle instead of just the core. Each lasts about 80 hours."
That was generally followed by a "that's a long time" from a shopper and, since they'd engaged right back, they felt compelled to at least give them a sniff.
That was the hook. They had to smell them.
And then, when they couldn't decide on a favourite, I was pretty quick to tell them about my 2 for 1 deal. Which leads to my best tip.
Tip #5: Bundle baby, bundle
When you're doing a show, you have a unique opportunity to be flexible. I always offer an incentive for multiple purchases. Think about it. Each customer is a chance at a sale. You may never see this person again. You've got to maximize the chance to send them packing with as much of your product as possible.
Shoppers often look at craft shows as an opportunity to haggle. Personally, I'm not super comfortable negotiating, so I try to plan for this scenario in advance so I have a place to start without losing anything in a deal.
My candles were $15 each or 2 for $25. Two or more for $12.50 essentially.
This not only encouraged folks to purchase in multiples, but it also proved to be a pretty good hook for friends shopping together and gave me something to talk about when engaging with them.
If someone wanted only one, I was always quick to tell their shopping buddy that if they were interested I could offer them each a candle at the $12.50 price point.
Worked almost every time.
Tip #6: Look at the big picture
To be honest, my overall sales were not as high as I'd hoped. I'm notorious for having huge (some might even say unrealistic) expectations, so that's not too surprising, but what was surprising was all the unexpected opportunities that came my way at OOAK.
I didn't expect to make as many wholesale connections as I did at the show. I was picked up by several retail shops and have already filled five orders in wholesale candle sales upon my return. I may have even sold more after the show than I did while I was in Toronto.
Also, I got a TON of press from being a vendor (including Toronto Life, Life Over Easy, Recreational Decorator, and CHCH) and grew my social media following (find me on Instagram) by about 100 as a result of participating.
Tip #7: Chill
If it's not fun, I'm not into it. Despite the preparation this show entailed¬†(I mentioned we moved right before I took off to Toronto right?) I didn't really let it stress me out. I embraced meeting new people, I laughed off the idiots, and when something happened beyond my control (like having my candles dropped off at the exact opposite end of the show) I just powered through it.
Also, I may have had a few drinks on the job. That helped.
Beernstagram-ing with @jillbogart at @ooak_toronto #OOAKS15 #ooakdiaries 2 hours to go!
That's really my favourite takeaway from the whole experience. Big shows are FUN. I have a whole wad of great new friends and a memory that will last a lifetime because I participated in OOAK.
You don't get those everyday.
If you're thinking about participating in a show, One of a Kind or otherwise, I'd highly encourage you. Just do it.
Maybe I'll do it too.
Until next time OOAK! Hope to see you at Christmas!
Nite nite. @ooak_toronto #ooakdiaries #OOAKS15 #campycandles
ps. Hi Jill. I miss you.