First of all thank you for showing interest in my venture into attending craft fairs. I will start off saying since 2019, I have casually existed as an online only seller. After hearing that I have been doing it wrong the whole time, I made my first jump into the world of craft fairs.
I spent hours in advance watching videos of existing crafters and artists, looking at setups and figuring out pricing models that will work for me. I was still underprepared, but I feel like this may be one of those things you adjust as you work through it. I was sick before my show so a lot of what I had planned got scrapped and will be revisited for future events.
My first show was at The Women's in Business Craft & Vendor fair located at the Courtyards of Andover in Andover, Minnesota on November 4th, 2023. I had actually signed up for it, paid for a booth and then went creepy spy mode to get an idea of what I would be dealing with regarding the space. There was also a craft fair there October 21st after I returned from my vacation, so of course I went to scout it out. I will say, scouting spaces you're interested in being for a show helps ease your mind a bit and gives you an idea of what sort of vendors may also be in attendance. I noticed NO ONE was selling anything remotely similar to what I was so if anything, my products are very unique in the niche I am in.
For anyone curious, the booth fee was $50. I don't believe there was a cost to rent a table, the WiFi was free and they did provide one chair although they allowed us to get a second one. The only things you needed to be able to answer when applying was what you sell, if you needed a table or tablecloth and if you needed electricity. I opted for electricity. I'll get to this later as it was not what I expected haha.
Before the Event & Setup
I had initially planned on preloading the vehicle so my morning would just be a coffee and cash run, but I didn't do this. If I could turn back time, I would have preloaded my car. It would have allowed me more time to double check things, but alas, lesson learned. I was up and showered by 6:30am, caffeinated by 7am and out the door by 7:30am. Setup started at 8am, so of course I was grabbing cash at the local gas station at 7:50am. I would like to note, make sure you have a bunch of 5s. People apparently like to pay with $20 bills and while this was great, they were buying $15 items and thus, I was handing out $5 bills with every cash transaction. If you have lower price point items, I would also go ahead and make sure to have a handful of ones.
I parked in the main parking lot not realizing I could just pull up to the door and unload that way. My daughter was with me and I made a comment to her about how everyone had little wagons and how smart that was. They actually provided carts at this show as well so you didn't need to bring a wagon, not that you shouldn't. It's definitely smart but knowing the other part also matters if you are tight on vehicle space like me. I have a 2016 Subaru WRX and I do not recommend if you're buying a vehicle with craft fairs in mind to get one. Get literally anything larger. The table took up the entire trunk and I was forced to lay down my back seats.
We walked in to scout our spot before doing too much else. We were booth 19 which was located next to a window in the far back side of the building. So this particular venue actually has two parking lots, which I knew from being a complete creeper before. One is located at the back of the building near a second door, basically as far away as possible from where I had opted to park. After bringing one load in, I asked if I could just pull my car up to that second door . This is good information at least for the future if I vend there again. Probably figure out what your load in and out options are for any venues in advance. I feel like I knew this but didn't actually ask questions. Don't be me! At least if you go to shows at Courtyards of Andover, I have provided that answer. If it wasn't clear, this was an indoor event with heat.
At this point, we unloaded the vehicle and I parked my car in the back of the building since it was closest to my booth and the door I wanted to go in and out with my boxes. I brought my own 8 foot table. I didn't have a booth banner to show who I was, I apparently brought a party tablecloth that ripped before the end of the event and I had no tags for my products.
My booth in all its glory.
I do feel like my booth was located in a pretty great spot. Anyone just walking around the outside would come by. The downside is they placed me next to some people raising money for a mission somewhere. They basically had a bunch of books set out in a way you could pay what you want and get any book. You could even just take a book for free. Thankfully their traffic wasn't a big issue, but any parent that may have even looked my way at one point was now buying books for their kids at whatever price they wanted to pay versus my $35 plush.
My daughter commented that her ipad was at 30% and it was not even 10am yet. That was when we realized we had no plug and we needed an extension cord. Easy fix for the future but we didn't realize that we wouldn't have an outlet and were expected to share with the neighbor.
The Event Itself
The morning was slow. I didn't get my first sale until around 11am and then a second transaction not long after, both bought pins and ornaments. Kids had been rushing to my booth and touching the puffer fish all morning, but parents wouldn't budge. The first thing I have figured out is that no parent is willing to pay $35 for a small plush when you can get a larger crochet plush for less about two or three booths away. Seems like $15-$20 may be the sweet spot for this crowd. I will test this theory in December at my next event.
One thing I didn't mention at all was food. This event was catered. My husband and daughter had lunch with me although I ended up talking to a bunch of people way more than eating. I made a total of 4 sales between 11am and 2pm. The show was from 10am to 3pm so my busiest time was right around when I was wanting to eat of course.
Having a second person at the booth was probably the best decision to be honest. I was happy my daughter came to help and even happier when my husband showed up around lunch to eat with us and observe. It's nice even if it's just to have extra eyes for potential theft issues or even a bathroom break. Setup and breakdown was super fast with two people as well.
We live in a cold state that had snow for Halloween, but today the weather was nice. I think people decided to work in their yards since the snow had melted instead of go out and about, which is super fair.
I felt like the event was mostly a steady flow of people minus the early morning and very end of the event itself. There was a LOT of window shopping my booth and very little purchasing. I do not know the reason for this but people were asking questions about my products and how I made them. So if anything, they at least viewed my products as quality enough to ask for my manufacturer (the other booths) or if I made them (the customers).
I loved my booth neighbors as well. The person in front of me was some sort of ink artist. I got her card but I don't have it on me right now. The lady to my right made little gnomes.
Everyone was friendly and I have definitely realized I'm not very good at speaking to everyone walking by and need to work on that in the future. My display needs work as well. The lack of any real branding probably worked against me.
Thank you to those of you who visited me! It meant a lot.
What Worked & What Did Not
The puffer fish were vibrant and drew crowds from the entrance. This worked very well for me. What didn't work was the display itself. Having the baskets stacked on each other wasn't great and people struggled to reach into the baskets to grab the plush. In the future I will have to elevate the other baskets and put them in a row behind the others so they are easier to grab.
My spinning rack was great. It showed off that I had a lot of choices. The downside was it prevented anyone else from looking at things at the same time. I am undecided how to fix this in the future but it is something worth noting. This may just be something I sell and completely change course on in the future. My husband had some really good ideas so I will be exploring those.
Plush prices. As mentioned earlier, I think my costs are just too high for the craft fair crowd. This will be something I need to consider more seriously in the future. The kids want the plush but the costs deterred people from making a purchase.
Overall, I wasn't unhappy. I definitely had unrealistic expectations from the event as a whole so I would not go in nearly as optimistic as I was. I didn't do poorly but I did not make nearly as much as I was thinking I would.
The communication for the event was stellar from start to finish. This includes emails as well as during the setup and breakdown of the event. We had several emails explaining things in detail, emails with questions were responded to very quickly and a big bonus was that a portion of the money from the event was being used to help a new woman owned business. The host was Jackie B Realty Group and if they do more shows, I will be super quick to sign up.
If this is a show you're considering on attending in the future, they do a good job at spreading out anyone with similar products. While there were MLMs, there weren't many. I have definitely been to craft fairs where I questioned why it was even happening at all given how many were in attendance.
The Details (TLDR)
Event: The Women's in Business Craft & Vendor
Date: November 4, 2023
Location: Andover, MN
Hours: 10am-3pm, loading time 8am
Total Vendors: 69
Booth Cost: $50 for a 10x10 space
Total Sales: $165 (this is before all costs are taken out)
Transaction Fees: $3.71
Total Profit: $98.88