Thursday, June 4

Success at the Handmade Mart!

The view from the stage of happy little vendor tents under the Handmade Mart banner.
Well, it was a week ago, but I figured I may as well post some tips and lessons learned from participating in the Handmade Mart in Silver Spring, Maryland last weekend. Sort of a wrap-up, if you will.

Lesson #1: Take better pictures of the booth BEFORE people trek in. It's awfully hard at a busy show to get a picture of the space without someone in it. (Not that I'm complaining about the constant foot traffic, by any means.)
There's me! Totally oblivious to the camera, as ushe.

Lesson #2: Bring watermelon. Luckily, one of my booth neighbors, Meghan of Oh Ginger, had this one down pat and was willing to share.

Lesson #3: A tent is a damn good idea. I was able to borrow one from a friend, but if that can't be an option all the time, it'd be worth it to invest in one. No sunburn OR heatstroke. Sweet.

Lesson #4: Bring change. I know this sounds obvious, but I woke up at 5:15 that morning in a cold sweat, realizing I had totally neglected to get any change. I sent Dan (who took all these lovely photos) to Starbucks to buy something with a $20 and get me through the early-early morning, and then again to get more ones and fives. (Maybe lesson #4 should really be, "Write a checklist now for supplies to bring with me because checklists written the day before are going to forget something.")

Lesson #5: Position the goods in their natural environment. This one comes from the lovely Sara at Girls Can Tell, who put up a post last month about booth displays, wondering why we put things on tabletops when everyone else is putting things on tabletops. (Obviously this does not apply to everyone, but for the sake of generality, bear with me.) I really wanted a small rolltop desk that I could file all the lovely stationery-y stuff in, but what found me was this table from my old housemate when we were vacating the premises in early May. The conversation went something like this:

Him: [shoves desk to curbside trash pick up]
Me: OMG, you're not tossing that, are you?
Him: Why, you want it?
Me: YES. [saves]

It looks much nicer here than in my old alley, doesn't it? It's also got handy drawers for hiding things -- when they're not open to showcase stuff, like the top one. Future incarnations of this desk may be painted the same blue as the interior of my new apartment, but time was a factor.
The desk area of the booth display. See also: lesson #1.
Lesson #6: Wander more. Dan very kindly kept offering to let me look around and visit with fellow crafty folks, but I felt guilty leaving my booth for longer than it took to dash to a bathroom. I need to get over that; I only got to chat with Becky of thischickadee (or Miss Chickadee, as we call her in my house) and tina seamonster very briefly while on my way to check in; the only reason I got to talk to Meghan and Pang (of Pretty Little Fings) as much as I did was because they were my booth neighbors.

Lesson #7: Sell some of the better vintage maps that are still in good condition. (Want one? Email me or comment and I'll see what I can do on any requests for specific areas. I have lots of Asia, for sure.) They were definitely a hit and a nice draw to get people over to the booth. Next time we'll think it through a bit better and use some clothesline to hold 'em up. (Another nice draw was the vintage, sadly-not-working typewriter on the desk. "Look kids! A mouseless, monitorless computer!")

This was actually my first outdoor show, and I think I definitely got lucky weather-wise and location-wise for my first such experience. Thanks to all the friends and new faces who came out and chatted me up about my little shop!


Sebastian said...

Yay, I'm glad it was a success :) But give clickable, blow-upable pictures next time...!

I wish I peddled a 'solid' commodity -- it's prohibitively expensive for me to print and frame photos, unless I'm incredibly confident about selling them (not to mention, I have to sell framed prints at an even higher price to recoup my costs...!)

Some kind of market does sound like fun though, I shall look into them!

Melissa of {craftgasm} said...

Sebastian, I'm not sure why one of the pictures lets you click through to the larger version, but the bottom two don't. There doesn't seem to be an option when uploading the photos that I neglected to select, nor did re-uploading the bottom two change anything (which I just tried a minute ago). Very strange. I looked through the rest of the blog, and some of the images I've uploaded let you click through, and some don't. If you know of a fix, please let me know!

I think you get a tangible sense of accomplishment when selling your stuff face to face that isn't comparable to selling online. I'm trying to get Dan to sell some of his photography at craft fairs, as well. You can always think of the initial investment of prints and mats as potential birthday and Christmas presents if for whatever reason they don't sell at a show or street fair. Just keep track of what you gave to whom. ;) Are there any sort of regulations if you just set up shop on a sidewalk in a tourist area of London or something? I see people in DC and NYC do that sort of thing all the time; no idea if they have proper vending licenses or not, though.

mim said...

Your tips for sales are right on. I rarely do outdoor shows, or any shows, for that matter, after several years of doing them. I will, however, do a street fair in my neighborhood to benefit Art180 (local non-prof. arts org) I will remember CHANGE!! That's always something I panic about, too. I'm made a big note for my 'fridge.' thanks for the reminder.