Craft Show Season – Tips for Taking Your Jewelry Business On the Road This Summer
Some of my favorite summer memories involve my jewelry business, and the outdoor fairs, markets, and festivals where I set up my booth and sold my handmade beaded jewelry. I even get a laugh out of remembering my very first outdoor farmer's market — it was June, and it was hot. I was set up in a windy field, down in a lush valley of the Adirondack High Peaks, and I was using a flimsy bug tent instead of a pop-up tent. Every time a big gust of wind came through, I would have to jump up and grab on to the inside of the tent to keep it from blowing away. My supply of cold water was gone an hour into the show. By the time I got home, I was overheated and exhausted, but what a learning experience it was! Not only did I get to connect with dozens of other local artists and artisans for the first time, I also learned a lot about being successful at an outdoor craft show.
So before you grab the family bug tent and head to the great outdoors with your jewelry business, take a look at a few of these tips:
1. Invest in the right equipment. And, yes, this includes a pop-up tent. It was a huge investment for us at the time — we were a young family with a five-month-old baby, and money was tight, but after that first disastrous farmer's market in a bug tent, we somehow came up with the money we needed to buy a good tent for the outdoor shows I would be doing all summer. It was a good investment, since it paid for itself pretty quickly, and there were plenty of times when covered space at a show wasn't available. Before you take your tent out for a show, practice setting it up and breaking it down by yourself in the backyard, since you may not always have a helper!
Remember when I talked about the wind gusts in that big open field? Make sure you include some weights in your setup. Large rocks can be used to weigh down revolving earring displays (just hide the in the center), alligator clips for keeping your table coverings where they belong, and a couple of empty gallon milk jugs filled with sand and tethered to your tent with bungee cords will go a long way to keeping everything where it should be.
I didn't need any convincing after my first farmer's market spent trying to keep my tent from blowing away, but a few months later, another vendor's tent got picked up by a gust of wind and rolled down the lane, straight for my booth! Thankfully, no one was hurt, but after that, I made sure to haul my sand-filled jugs around with me to make sure my tent wasn't the next to be gone with the wind.
2. A good cooler is a must. That first summer that I did outdoor shows was a scorcher, with temperatures routinely climbing into the low 90s. (That's hot for this little corner of upstate New York!) Standing outside in that heat can leave you dehydrated and feeling sick in just a few hours, so I always made sure to bring a bag of ice and at least a gallon of water with me. Even on a cooler day, you can still get dehydrated pretty quickly when you're standing outside and talking with customers for five or six hours, so make sure you drink plenty of water. It was also nice to be able to have cold sandwiches and salads on hand for the all-day shows, because I always worked up an appetite when I got busy!
3. Don't forget the sunscreen and bug repellent, too! I'm probably one of the fairest-skinned people in all of North America, so even when I'm standing under a tent, I'm going to end up getting some kind of sunburn. And the bugs? Oh, yes, I make a tasty snack for them. There's nothing more attractive to a customer than buying jewelry from someone who is red-faced and scratching a million bug bites, right? So, yes, find some good sunscreen and some good bug repellent to keep yourself comfortable while spending the day outdoors at a craft fair or festival.
One of my favorite parts of doing outdoor craft shows, fairs, and festivals is the face-to-face interaction I get with customers. It's a way to let them experience my work in person, a place where they can handle and see the workmanship up close. Of course, any time you make a sale at an outdoor show, you should make sure to include a couple of business cards and contact information to turn customers into repeat customers.
Once the summer season is over, many jewelry businesses will turn to the world of online shopping to continue to bring in income throughout the year. Even if you run a jewelry business that relies mostly on in-person events like craft fairs and art shows, you can boost your income and expand your business by having a strategic online presence where customers can find you and stay in touch throughout the year. If you're looking for information and tips on how you can use things like SEO, Google analytics, and social media to expand your jewelry business, you'll love How to Sell Jewelry Online, a collection of practical, useful columns from the pages of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist Magazine.
Get your copy of How to Sell Jewelry Online and get the information you need to help turn your summertime jewelry business into a year-round venture!
Do you have any tips for doing outdoor craft fairs or art shows? Leave a comment here on the Beading Daily blog and share them with us!