Welcome to the world of Craft Show Vending. You have a Handmade product that you decided to start selling, you’ve read our previous articles, and you’re taking the plunge!
Good for you! Now’s the time to find out if someone other than your family thinks your products are worth buying. The Velvet Zebra is lucky, our family members are utterly unimpressed with our products, but the general public love us.
When you start out, you’re going to feel like a real rookie, but don’t worry because we all started somewhere. One thing you’ll find to be true is that ALL the other vendors were once rookies too, and 98.2% of them are going to be helpful, informative and kind. They’re going to offer suggestions if you ask them, they’ll answer questions you might have regarding the event, and once they get to know you, they’ll share about other shows they do that you might also enjoy.
If you have issues with wind knocking over your displays, they might offer suggestions like how to use clamps, small fishing weights, or build your displays differently.
If you have trouble setting up your canopy, since you’re new at this and all, some of them will come over and help you out. If you realize you needed duct tape, a pair of scissors, some tie-downs or the use of a step stool for ten minutes, don’t be afraid to ask. One or more of them will happily loan/share with you. Seriously, we are one big happy family out there – a little band of gypsies, if you will. You’ll see many of the same people at other shows, and you’ll see this group again if you come back. You’ll get to know your fellow vendors very well and enjoy catching up once a year or more.
You’ll notice we said 98.2%. Just like any gathering of human beings, there is the occasional ass-hat. Don’t worry, they don’t last. They’re usually so grumpy, so territorial or so paranoid, they eventually stop coming. Don’t stress about them.
When you applied to this venue, and were accepted, you most likely received a packet telling you what the hours are, what the rules are, and where your space is. Typically you’re going to occupy a 10 x 10 booth space – but that can vary. You will have chosen or been assigned your size when you applied. The canopies are, in general, 10 x 10 so that is considered a standard. Our advice in this article will refer to that as your booth size.
The first thing you need to do is find your space. You will have likely been given instructions on set up procedures, typically an outdoor show simply tells you when you can set up, and where your space is. Some shows also have a load and unload schedule, if access is limited. You’ll obey these rules and try very hard to ignore the fact that a whole lotta people seemed to have decided they didn’t have to. Don’t sweat it, just follow the rules and smile. Karma will deal with them.
If you’re outside, you need your canopy, so unload and set that puppy up first thing. Stake if you’re allowed, but also use the weights that we flat-out insisted you buy. If that wind kicks up, you WILL regret not using weights. Lots of weights.
For the love of all that’s holy, use weights.
Okay so you’re there. You’re excited. You’re brand new and pumped with anticipation. Take a deep breath and unload your vehicle. Depending on your product and your set up, it’s best to get your canopy up right away so you’ll know your space limitations. Then, if possible, completely unload your vehicle and move your car to the designated parking you will have been told about. You want your customers to park as close to the venue as allowed, but don’t stress over that ONE vendor who feels it is his or her right to park RIGHT THERE and ignore the rules. Karma sees all.
Now you’re unloaded, you’re setting up, you’ve been told the times fo ropen and close but someone wanders by and starts to look at what you’re doing – – our advice, greet them with a smile and invite them to come inside. Tell them you’re still setting up and apologize for the clutter, but never turn away what could be a sale. Are they early? Sure, but they probably had no idea this show was happening, let alone what the hours are. Chances are they just wandered by, maybe taking the dog out for a jog or a tinkle – maybe they won’t buy anything – but again smile, and invite them to look. We can’t tell you how many times we’ve made sales before we were even halfway set up.
If you took our advice in our previous article, your canopy has walls. And if you’re at a 2+ day show, and you don’t want to curse the very ground you’ve been walking on, you’ll have attached those walls during set up. The canopy walls are not a permanent thing, you’ll have to put them up and take them down during set up and tear down – and how they attach depends on your canopy, but trust us when we say you need to attach them straight away, even before you set a single thing up.
If your display is better without the walls down all day, that’s fine, ours is too. You can roll them up and secure them with bungees or ropes or tie-downs, so they’re up high and out of the way. Then when it’s time to close up shop for the night, undo your do, roll them down and zip them up.
You do NOT want to try and attach the walls at the end of a very long day, with your set-up already set up. You’re tired, probably a little sweaty, your tables or displays are now in the way, and people are watching, even if it’s just the other vendors. What you’re doing now – struggling with massive white sheets of water resistant cloth that make a funny noise, flap in the slightest breeze, and don’t fit quite the way they show in the photos, while sweat makes your pants stick to your thighs and heaven forbid some plumber’s butt is happening – is not something you want them to see.
Attach them at the start, you’ll thank us.
As for zipping all four corners together like the picture on the box – it’s almost impossible your first show. You might have to pull the legs in at the bottom – the’ll splay out a little naturally, especially if the ground isn’t perfectly level, and you’ll struggle a bit. Eventually you’ll get it, and the more often you use this contraption, the easier that will get.
Oh, and the bottom is another issue. You’ve got stakes and weights – if you’re using the spiffy, never-do-a-show-without-them weights that sit on the feet of your canopy legs you’ll find the sides can’t go down and around them. Play with the bottom zipper, use a few bungees, whatever it takes to make sure those sides aren’t going to come up in the night, and no one can SEE what’s inside – don’t let your insides poke outside. You’ll get it, just be creative.
We always return the next morning with an hour to spare before opening. You might need that time to roll your side walls back up, unpack or uncover anything you snugged away for the night, check your displays and price tags, get your chairs and your packaging/charging set back up. Then you can sit back, enjoy some coffee and greet those early shoppers taking their dogs out for a tinkle again. Maybe they saw you yesterday and came back with some cash.
Helpful tip: If you’re in a park and it’s popular with dog walkers, have a bowl of water at an outside leg of your canopy – the owners will think you’re sweet and they’ll pause and glance at your product, and might even buy something.
Helpful tip #2: If you’re in a park and it’s popular with dog walkers, and you have a bowl of water at an outside leg of your canopy – just know your table cover, or sidewall if it’s down, will get peed on. Either be vigilant, or accept the inevitable and keep wipes handy.
Again, your choice.
Your canopy is going to get peed on regardless, if it’s up overnight. Just so you know.
Stay tuned for our next Article: Craft Show Facts, Tips and Reality Checks.
We’d love to chat about your experiences, advice or questions – please feel free to leave a comment.