Monday, September 14, 2009

From Craft Faire to Craft Business-PART ONE

How to enter the craft faire market depends on what you’re selling and where you live.


What I want to share is some general information that I have distilled from over 40 years-yes FORTY I did my first outdoor art faire in 1969-of selling my goods at everything from street shows to major convention center shows across the USA.


There are many kinds of shows and you will probably want to start small-it can be remarkably expensive to do a craft faire, even a local one and there are many considerations like displays, weather and how well your product will stand being exposed to sunlight etc.

Visit as many shows in your area as you can, talk to artists that are showing work that is similar to yours-NEVER ask a jeweler or a potter about how shows are-for some reason they either do very well or terribly and are not a good gauge of how other types of art may be accepted.

There is usually an entry fee for shows I have paid as little as $10.00 and on occasion several thousand dollars-it usually depends on the length of the show, the advertising budget and the projected attendance-also you may be required to pay a percentage of your sales to the promoter-I do not do shows with the exception of upper end home boutiques where I don’t collect my own money for sales (there are shows with central cashiers and you get paid after the fact but how do you know what sold and what was shoplifted at such a venue?).

You need to consider how much you will invest in doing the show, do you need any kind of a business or vendors license and even if insurance is required-often fairs will ask you to carry liability insurance which is available through special event companies.

Once you have carefully considered the expense of doing the show you need to project how much you can potentially make from doing the event-my formula (and it’s a pretty good one) is this: for every 100 people attending 10 will look at your work and one or two will buy something.

Some books on the topic claim the standard is 4 to 5 percent of the attendees will buy something from you-I have been to shows where 20 plus percent bought and others where 1 percent bought so I go by my formula pretty religiously.

I would categorize shows as follows:

• Home or Church Boutiques
• Local park or street fairs sponsored by the city or a civic group
• Local shows in malls or parks sponsored by a small promoter
• Art Association shows
• Regional professional art shows
• Art Festivals produced by professional promoters
Craft and art show circuits in convention enters
• Holiday shows, County Fairs and other seasonal professional shows

2. COST versus SALES

OK so let’s make up a fictitious show and see how we will manage to make it profitable:

A local show is taking place in the park, it’s the 5th year running and you know it gets a good crowd; it also happens before Mothers Day and Easter and seldom rains on that weekend.

The park where it takes place is shady so a canopy is not needed just displays, chairs and products.

OH, some shows provide canopies but not many-my first easy up cost five hundred bucks-at one point I had 6 of them.

The entry fee is $50.00 for a 2 day show plus a $25.00 fee to the city for a vendor license there is no commission.

The show rules state that you cannot use card tables, all boxes must be stored under your display tables and no display can be higher than 6 feet-you have 10 feet wide by 10 feet deep in which to show your product and there is NO electricity.

Also tables must be covered to the ground with cloths and folding chairs are permitted but not lawn type chairs they must be directors chairs or other canvas type chairs with a professional look (OH YES they do get this technical).

$75.00 plus how much for your display materials?

That will depend on what and how much you are showing.
You will need tables or display panels of some kind and you will have to be able to set up quickly-often shows must be set up by a specific time and taken down and reset the next day, again by a specific time-how will you get your displays and your products to the show?

Will you need to rent or borrow a van or small truck? More expense, what about business cards? Pricing materials (if you use stickers make sure they are easily removable by YOU not the customers).

The first show you do will NOT be the most expensive-the BIGGEST show you do will be, but the first show will cost some money so set a budget and stick by it-I would say three 4 foot folding tables, sheets to use as covers (buy new ones in neutral colours at a discount store), some 52 inch square table toppers so your tables don’t look like they are covered with sheets-3 of those, one per table and 2 chairs, you will also need a sales book to write receipts get the carbonless kind, price tags and a tool kit of pens, tape, staplers etc, anything you MAY need-and your carefully packed merchandise.

Let’s say that all this costs another $150.00 for the displays (it’s a reusable investment) and another $200.00 for your merchandise, don’t forget the $75.00 we already spent to do the show.

$425.00 and that doesn’t include food and unforeseen expenses so let’s add $75.00 for those things-so were in $500.00 to do this show.

Now you have to price your items-remember you will not make a profit until you have made back the $500.00 it’s costing to do the show-you may want to prorate the cost of the displays over 10 shows that takes some of the pressure off so we need to clear $290.00 to make back the costs.

That’s $290.00 AFTER deducting the cost of making your items-if a decorated cigar box costs you 10.00 in supplies anything over that amount is your profit so selling them for $17.50 makes you $75.00 if you sell all 10, the $100.00 cost must be returned to expenses you only count your PROFIT toward the cost of the show.

SOME ARTISTS DISAGREE WITH ME ABOUT THIS (as do some accountants) because they say I am charging myself twice but if you spend $175.00 and you make $175.00 you are in the hole for the cost of your supplies so you can only count the amount OVER the costs.

You need to have items in a variety of prices ranges-always make sure you have clever little irresistible items that sell for less than $5.00 and even more that sell for less than $10.00.

As you learn your business you can edge up your prices.

My most famous item was known as Music Box in a Bag-you can find it on my portfolio under Country Folk Art-I put a 13 note music box movement in a bag with a bow and the winder stuck out through the back-$1.75 for the music box, 17 cents for the bag and maybe 50 cents for ribbon. (I started selling these in 1979).

I sold them first for $5.00-put the music box in the bag, hot glue the bag top shut insert winder cover glue with bow-I could do about 4 dozen an hour for which I paid myself $10.00-I valued each finished item at $2.50 and sold them for $5.00, then $6.00 by the time I stopped selling them I was getting from $10.00 to $12.50 per bag, I had cut the cost to $2.00 and could turn out 12 dozen (that would be a gross) per hour AND the bags were hand painted.

I still valued them at $2.50 because I had added 2 employees to help produce them but my profits had soared from $120.00 for 48 items to $360.00 for 48 items and I went from selling out 6 or 8 dozen per show to selling over 6 to 8 GROSS per show-but the shows at the end cost more and ran more days so it’s not quite a spectacular as it sounds-the point is find a great product and exploit it just make sure it’s original.

That was MY ten dollar winner.

Here's something scary to think about while you wait for part 2-when I wanted to do $20,000.00 at a show I figured I needed $30 to $40 thousand in stock so the booth wouldn't look picked over by the end of the show AND I usually did a 3 show circuit, 3 days per show at $1,500.00 entry plus electrial for a double booth (10 by 20 feet) that required a huge van and a huge wells cargo trailer loaded to the roofs plus luggage, a full time partner on the road and we drove from California to the east coast and did the shows in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania because we could make more money on the east coast-it usually took the better part of 6 weeks but I made about 20 to 25 thousand per show and as much as 50 thousand a show at Christmas-that meant I was carrying a quarter million dollars in stock (at retail) besides my elaborate displays, lights I did it I will never know-and I sold seasonal merchandise and usually did at least 2 if not 3 trips to the east coast a year plus a 17 day county fair where I had to build a building to house my booth and a week long Christmas spectacular in Vegas with 5 booths of Holiday decor the first week in December.

I also had 3 to 6 people working for me at home and often supplemented my goods with other crafters items (I charged them a commission to sell) OR I would buy hand made items while we were in the east and sell them back here at home-Amish and Mennenite items were great to fill in and use for saleable display pieces.

The answer to your question is 7 days a week from morning till often 1 or 2 am for about 6 or 8 weeks then hit the road for 6 weeks then come home and start over-I also would make things in motel rooms and even in the car while we drove-those music boxes were often put together in the motel rooms where we stayed between shows...6 months working to make the items and the other 6 to sell them.

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