Monday, December 10, 2007


"A joyful heart is more easily made perfect than one that is cast down." (St. Philip Neri)

I have exciting news to report: My first craft fair was extremely successful. In fact, I pretty much sold out of most of my merchandise and grossed more than three times my goal! My purses were a hit. On the first day, I sold about a third of my inventory (I had brought 30) in the first two hours. Several people, including volunteers and other crafters, bought two or three. It was so exciting!

In addition to revenue, it was so great to get the positive feedback on them. So many people commented they were cute and that the idea was clever. In fact, the most common question was "How did you think of that?" I credited the Internet with the idea for purses out of recycled sweaters, but admitted that the idea of using ties for handles was mine and born out of necessity for a strong but inexpensive material for handles. By the end of the second day, I had only 2 regular purses left, and a few "team" ones (Packers didn't sell; neither did Badgers.) I got special orders for three more team purses: U of I, Purdue, and another White Sox one. (See Bears and Notre Dame ones hanging below, at left.)

I know some of you are hoping for tips on how to be successful in selling at fairs, but with only one under my belt, I'm hardly an expert. I think I learned a lot, though, both from my experience and from the super-friendly other crafters I met. I'll try to sum it up:
  1. Know your venue. This was a parish fair whose most popular booth was the White Elephant table with stuff selling for a quarter. So super high-end stuff isn't the best here. My purses were popular with women and some men shopping for women; teens bought my flower pins; and one woman cleaned me out of my ornaments. But I noticed that the average shopper was a teen from the parish or a kid with $20 from Dad to buy a gift for Mom. I'll have more kid-friendly items next year.
  2. Have a unique product. I think my purses sold because they were something people had never seen before. People seem impressed by the creativity of the idea.
  3. The price must be right. I sold my purses for $30, which is a little low, but I did that knowing that the fair wasn't super high-end. I think the price was right for the shoppers who needed a gift for a sister or grab bag.
  4. Have things at different price points. I had pins for $3 (2 for $5) and ornaments for $8. I sold out of the pins the first day and had to make some more that night! I didn't sell one ornament the first day, so I assumed the price was too high. But I had put all this time into hand sewing them and knew I could give them as gifts, so I wasn't willing to go bargain basement on them. I marked them down to $6 and sold them all the second day.
  5. It's all in the display. Just laying your stuff on a table won't highlight it well. I wanted to do a good display without investing too much. I brought a coat rack from home and hung purses on that so some would be at eye level. I put a cork board on an easel and pinned my pins to it. And of course I bought the feather tree to spotlight my ornaments. I printed out my logo for a sign on foam core board, made business cards with my logo, and stickers that I put on little white shopping bags (bought with 40 percent off coupon at Michaels.) It all added to the professional look.
  6. Be friendly and flexible--but smart. I loved chatting with people and explaining how I made my stuff, and happily described how they could do it themselves, knowing full well that most won't. I also shared some knitting pointers with some people. I took checks, though not credit cards (I was asked twice if I did), but then most of the shoppers were parishioners so I felt pretty safe doing that. (I also highlighted on my sign that I was a parishioner!) I also took an IOU from a woman with whom I had served on a parish committee. And I took a few special orders, and set things aside for people who asked. I didn't get burned once, although I know other people have and therefore have stricter rules about that kind of stuff.
  7. Bring snacks, something to do, and have fun! I ate from the concession stand to support the parish fundraiser, but after two days of donuts, sloppy joes and nachoes, I was craving something healthier! I also had some time to knit during slow periods on Saturday. One last tip: Try to restrain yourself from buying too much from other booths and eating away at your profits. I got some nice scented lotion, two pair of earrings, some stuff from the White Elephant table (will take pictures and share later this week) and a hand-carved pair of knitting needles. I only spent about $40, which is pretty good.
Sorry for the bad lighting; I was shooting into the window. But you get the gist of my booth, signage, etc. Although I did really well, I'm not planning on doing a bunch of shows next year. I want to still keep this a hobby that I enjoy, not a business. And given the amount of time I put in on each purse, I'd make more money on freelance writing and editing jobs. But it was fun to make a little spare money to support my own crafting habit and, like I said, to get the positive feedback on my work. I think I'll try to do this show again next year and plan some different items to go with my purses. That will keep it interesting for me and my customers!


Di said...

Congratulations! It sounds like the weekend went very well!!

Anonymous said...

Great job, Heidi, The booth looks great. Wish I had been there.

Love, Mom

Christy said...

Congrats on your success!Here's to many more!!

Lucy said...

Congratulations on the awesome sales, sounds like overall it was a huge success.

I think your right about having something unique and knowing your customer base. Sometimes you go to shows and its the same stuff in every other booth. The variety of price points and display is also a huge piece as well I would assume. Thanks for sharing your tips!

Katie ( said...

Yay! Sounds like a great weekend. And thanks for the tips--I've always thought it looked like fun to do craft shows, but I've never found time to build up the inventory. :)

Rebecca said...

Congrats! I'm so happy for you. I know that wonderful feeling you get when people compliment you on your clever wares. :) Your booth looks great!

Felicia said...

Congratulations on your show :)

Victoria said...

That's really cool - congratulations on the sucess. So funny you knew full well they wouldn't make stuff themselves! Loving your quotes, as usual.

catieann said...

hi heidi
great job on your craft fair! that is a great thing for your first event. i hope your christmas is relaxed and blessed with joy.