Craft Show Season - Tips for Taking Your Jewelry Business On the Road This Summer

Jun 25, 2014

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.

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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!

Bead Happy,

Jennifer


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Comments

on Jun 25, 2014 7:07 AM

1ST let me thank-you for teaching me so much through your e-newsletters (aboutDOTcom years ago!), and through those e-newsletters giving me the courage to turn my hobby into a small business!

I live in Scotland (UK) now and the outdoor markets I go to are usually in wind-blown and terribly dusty conditions. So my niche item - inexpensive birthstone stacker bracelets - are pinned to a fabric draped piece of cardboard by month then the board is covered with cling-wrap to protect the display from the dust. Each bracelet is identified by month on the board and prices clearly noted.

I have the actual sale bracelets already packed into grip-seal bags and filed in a lidded plastic shoe box according to month - my buyer asks for their month(s) and I can hand them the clean bracelet from the box. Judging from my sales, they love how clean things are!

I pack a home printed card in each bag - on one side is the usual business card info included the line 'I do bespoke - contact me via email', and on the other materials and care information. I've got a lot of repeat business from those cards and so far haven't needed to sell online for income during the non-show months.

Janey Cable wrote
on Jun 25, 2014 10:51 AM

Love reading your e-newsletters.  I always find out useful info.

RE: weights for pop up tents, we have five cats at home, so I (with help from my daughter), bring 25 lb. boxes of unopened cat litter and place the boxes on the little metal tabs on each corner post of the tent and that keeps the tent from folding in the winds, without any problems.

Mata wrote
on Jun 25, 2014 11:20 AM

I have been doing outdoor shows now for quite a few years and have found that even weighting the canopy down doesn't always help but it sure is better than chasing after things with every gust of wind. I also have used double sided tape to attach my jewelry stands to the table covers that I use. This kind of venue always presents new challenges no matter how prepared you are but I have gotten used to carrying almost everything with me including scissors, tape, bungie cords and assorted other items along with projects to do in down time. It never hurts to be able to show your customers that you do make the items yourself if possible.

fnuttall wrote
on Jun 25, 2014 11:29 AM

I purchased a collapsible wagon that will carry my tent, tables (fold up), chair, cooler, merchandise etc. it is so easy to unfold and load and then get to my booth area then will fit under the table during the event. I purchased it at Big 5 Sporting goods, but have seen it at Academy sporting goods and Sam's club. They run about $65.00-$90.00 and are worth every penny! The wagon folds up for storage and to ride in the car! Check it out!!

Frannie

Laurie Bart wrote
on Jun 25, 2014 1:54 PM

I too sunburn in the shadows and act as a bug magnet. Carry a bottle of spray-on Bactine, that old childhood favorite. It will kill any itchy bite and help them heal. Use cider vinegar to kill a sunburn. It doesn't heal it but it does take the sting away.

rena1039 wrote
on Jun 28, 2014 5:58 PM

Instead of sand, fill those jugs with water and freeze. You have the weight for the tent, very slight cooling, and then empty the jugs for less weight when packing.

Rena

J Liz wrote
on Jun 28, 2014 7:22 PM

Over the years of selling outdoors, I have found a way to really lighten my load and take my set-up and tear-down time down to 30 minutes to an hour....and I have hundreds of necklaces, earrings, bracelets and other hand-made items. I bought a four foot wide by five foot high display that is used for selling DVDs. It is double-sided, so there are 12 shelves. Then I bought a whole bunch of jewelry display pads and a whole bunch of Velcro. I used the Velcro to display the jewelry and put them onto the shelves, all nicely organized. I can go about 5 or 6 displays deep and the width of the shelves easily fit 3 display pads....at least  45 necklaces per shelf. I just load and unload them from a box with cardboard in between them.

For the hundred of earrings I have, I used pegboard, built a frame around it, added bolts and nuts, and painted it white. The bolts are long enough to hold several pairs of earrings that are bagged and have hang tabs on them. I also bought poster board to go over the bolt heads to hold all of the earrings in place for transport. All I have to do is take the poster board off and set it on one of the shelves and I'm done, The shelves of the DVD display lift off easily, the display folds up, and with the wheels I put on it I can roll it all right over to my vehicle.

on Jun 30, 2014 11:44 PM

If you know there will be water available at the show you can just pack empty gallon jugs for weights and fill them there.  Cuts down on the weight you need to transport.

ctutt wrote
on Jul 1, 2014 12:40 PM

 ALWAYS bring extra bulldog clips [or whatever you call the black metal ones with the little silver openers] - the BIGGEST ONES YOU CAN FIND. And of course DUCT TAPE.  ;-)

on Jul 15, 2014 7:47 PM

Fantastic article, Jennifer! And great feedback, too. I am so happy to be part of this bead community. Pats on the back -- all around!