Craftspeople are Super Heroes
Being in craft business over 26 years has allowed us to meet some wonderful craftspeople and artists, many who have become friends that we love to see each year. I’m constantly amazed with the ingenuity of these people for a number of reasons. First, and most noticeable, are the products they create and display on their table or booth. Every show has a number of traditional products including pottery, woodworking, fabric and textiles, baking and jewelry. I love to see the different variations and personal touches the artists put on these types of products. I also enjoy scanning the show aisles for non-traditional crafts as well, the creations are mind boggling and these are the artists that keep shows exciting and fresh.
But consider the work each crafter has to accomplish before they stand in front of their booth at opening time, ready to bare their souls to offer their products for sale to the public. It starts with an idea or concept, maybe it was a hobby but now you have to scale it up to produce enough for a show, and potentially wholesale to stores. Then carving out time from your busy schedule to produce the craft after sourcing raw materials at a reasonable cost and quantity. We know from personal experience the decision to price items is a huge challenge and one that takes ages to perfect. Is the price too high that no one will buy it? What do I charge for my time? How do I factor in fixed costs, overhead, variable costs? Ugh. Sometimes, it just comes down to what will the market bear –how much will people pay. We have learned over many years to increase efficiently and reduce costs to keep our products reasonably priced and had to discontinue some items that can’t be produced within certain profit margins. Once a product is produced, decisions on marketing and display come next. What packaging do you require? Does this color scheme look better than another? What about a logo? How will I promote my brand? Do I need labeling to conform to government analysis and standards (i.e. Food items)? Lights for my booth, signs, how will I display the products – shelves, riser boxed, business cards, pricing labels and signs? All these things can make or break your sales opportunities. Talk about stressor in your life!
The things I notice most, and Roberta thinks I am weird because of this, are the business, engineering and logistics side of crafts shows. Each show requires an outlay, up front, of cash to reserve your booth. Along with that come transportation costs, accommodations if travelling away from home, food, and marketing and after sales items (business cards, bags, tissue, etc.) and a cash float. Depending on the show this can add up to many thousands of dollars. It’s a huge risk! Then you have to consider what your display looks like, can it fit in your vehicle, can you assemble and disassemble yourself (or need help) in the allotted set up time, what tools do I need to put it together, what if I forget the drill (may have happened to us a few times!), how will I keep warm while the big bay door are open all day during set up? Two of our sons have studied Engineering in university and I have suggested they come to craft shows to look for inspiration in design, form and function in displays, as craftspeople are naturally working through these challenges on a daily basis.
The logistics of travelling to any show include getting your product, and display, there intact, and ready to set up and sell. We learned early on to invest in containers that would keep our products safe and secure, stack together well and allow us to see inside. I have seen too many accidents where boxes fell open, or fell over, ruining product that artists spent hours making, thereby reducing potential sales (and optimism) before the show even starts. We have also invested in a display that is easy to set up, durable and looks great with our product. The lighting aspect is still an issue and takes too much time to set up, but is an integral part of making Roberta Originals “pop” in our booth. After 26 years, we think we have found a solution, thankfully!
The morning of the show you must decide what to wear! Can I wear my new shoes? Will my feet be warm, will I be warm, too warm? Don’t want that. Maybe dress in layers, bring a sweater, what about lunch, snacks, water? Phew! Finally, it’s 11:55AM and the show is about open at noon. You stand at your booth, ready to welcome your first customer. All the lights are on, float is in the till, credit card machine is connected and ready, phone charger plugged in, bags arranged, tissue cut. All the decisions you agonized over for months are made and implemented, and you have picked out your outfit, put on your brave face, and are ready for this!
The last and most important piece of advice I can give you is this. Turn to your husband and ask “Is there spinach in my teeth?”