by Phoebe Sherman, Founder + CEO & Amanda Hariri, Social Media + Marketing Manager
Craft fair season is here! Maybe it’s been a while since you’ve busted out your signage and folding tables, or maybe you’re new to the whole scene. No stress—we’ve got you covered with these pro tips from GGC founder and craft fair connoisseur Phoebe Sherman on how to absolutely nail your next craft fair.
Before we dive in, let’s review some craft fair basics.
Who Are Craft Fairs For?
Craft fairs were traditionally designed with “makers” (i.e., someone who makes a tangible product) in mind. These days, craft fairs also serve as a fantastic opportunity for food-based and service-based businesses to get their name out in front of a brand new customer base. In fact, at GGC we always encourage service-based businesses to participate in our shows—just make sure you integrate an interactive experience into your booth besides simply telling people about your biz!
How Do I Find Which Craft Fairs to Apply To?
When in doubt, Google it! Specifically, search for craft fairs or maker’s markets in your location. News often travels via word of mouth in the creative community, so you can also ask other craftspeople you admire in your area for the scoop.
Are you based in the Bay Area? Check out this post for a line-up of upcoming craft fairs to attend or apply to this holiday season!
How Do I Apply to a Craft Fair?
Most craft fairs will have an approval process of some sort. You may need to pay an application fee (note: this is often non-refundable) and also pay a separate booth fee upon acceptance. Some fairs will require you to pay the entire booth fee upfront and will refund you if you are not accepted into the event. Each event will have its own process, so be sure to read the application guidelines thoroughly before you submit your application.
What Do Craft Fairs Look for When Accepting Applicants?
While we at GGC cannot speak for every craft fair, this is what we’re looking for when we’re jurying brands for a craft fair:
Clear brand identity
Cohesiveness among products (do your products make sense together?)
Professional, high-quality product photos
Cultural sensitivity (we do not entertain cultural appropriation here)
So, your products and offerings and their presentation are killer—that’s great! We also look for a strong brand presence. Is your mission clear and your imagery consistent? Do you have a strong social media presence and an engaging, user-friendly website? Most importantly, are you authentic and true to your vision? You do not have to have a massive following or critical acclaim to be accepted into a craft fair, but you do need to have a compelling mission, brand identity, and commitment to quality that comes through at every level of your business.
What if I Don’t Get Accepted Into a Craft Fair?
Rejection is part of the journey for every business owner. KEEP TRYING. Craft fairs love to see you grow! They’ll take note of an elevated vision, stronger cohesion, and overall growth in your craft and business.
It’s very possible that you find you’ll never be the right fit for certain events. Our advice? Find the event that is the right fit for YOU. Keep your eyes open to other events in your area that you may have overlooked and be sure to explore beyond your comfort zone!
What if I Don’t Do Well at the Event?
Not every event will attract your target audience, and that’s okay. You may even find that you naturally grow out of events you previously thrived at. To make the most of your time at each craft fair, keep listening to feedback from your audience and take notes! Each market experience is a chance for you to better understand your audience, how to display and price your work, and which items are your best-sellers. Markets are a learning experience!
Alright, now that we’ve covered our essentials, let’s get into Phoebe’s top tricks + tips for a stellar event!
Tips for Before the Event:
Tip #1: Get a Car You Can Fit Everything Into
We understand that getting a new car is not accessible to everyone. Regardless, you want to make sure you can get your items to the event. Do you need to rent a van? Can you borrow your friend’s SUV? Easy transportation is ESSENTIAL, so make this a priority in your planning. Phoebe loves her Honda Fit!
On the packing note: ORGANIZE YOUR STUFF. Invest in a solid set of large containers that stack and label them accordingly.
Tip #2: Get a Wagon
Here’s a riddle: How do you get your items from your house to your car, then from your car to the actual event? Why, a WAGON, of course!
Will a fold-up wagon transport well and make hauling all those containers a breeze? Yes. Are wagons also adorable? Yes. You have no excuse.
If your equipment is bigger, you’ll probably need a different type of cart. Find the Wheely-Wonder (Phoebe-coined) that works for you, but for crying out loud, DO NOT carry your stuff in your hands. You don’t have time for that!
Tip #3: Figure Out Payment Processing
You need to figure out how you’ll be handling payments. You could keep it casual and add your Venmo info to a sign at your booth, but our recommendation is to get a credit card processor. We love Square—it’s free to use, and they will often send you the card reader for free. Do keep in mind that most payment processors will have processing fees, usually around 3%.
On the cash front, don’t forget lots of small bills and a cash box for keeping everything organized and secure.
Tip #4: Display Your Prices
Don’t make your customers ask you for the price of every single item! Make your pricing visible. Will they be listed on small tags on each individual item? Will you display a general menu sign? Think about the clearest way to relay your prices to your market audience, and always double-check that your listed prices match up with what you have in your payment processing system.
Let’s Talk Booth Set-Up:
First, download our free Booth Design Guide.
Next, consider if your event is indoors or outdoors. You may have entirely different setups for each. How big is your booth space?
For outdoor events, you will most likely be required to have a tent with weights (things tend to get windy!). If your space is not large enough to accommodate, consider getting a large umbrella. Measure everything, because space guidelines are strict and there will seldom be any room to negotiate for more space.
Be sure to consider the flow of traffic through your set-up and how that experience will feel for the customer. If you have products that need to really pop, consider creating levels on tables and shelves using risers or product stands. This creates visual interest and ensures your customers won’t miss anything you have on offer.
Don’t neglect the overall vibe of your space! Do you want plants? Crystals? Are you floating around with an iPad, or do you want customers to come up to you like a traditional cashier? No detail is too small here, so really take the time to figure out what makes sense for your brand.
Finally, do you need bags or tissue paper for packaging items up for customers? Consider having a tangible handout to drop in each bag, like a flyer or business card.
Branding + Brand Education:
BUSINESS CARDS ARE NOT DEAD! Make sure every single person who doesn’t purchase from you that day gets a business card for you. It serves as a tangible reminder of your brand and services that won’t get lost in their inbox.
On the branding note, make sure to invest in proper, printed signage. Hanging banners are a great solution for outdoor events with a tent, or you can get a standing pop-up banner.
Finally, make sure to collect emails. This is a great way to continue the relationship with your new audience beyond the event itself. Have a cute and accessible pad of paper ready for people to give you their information!
Tips for During the Event:
Tip #1: Stay Off Your Phone
Be present! You want to be available to talk to the humans visiting YOUR booth! Seriously, put the phone away.
Tip #2: Get Help if Necessary
Decide well in advance of the event if you need help. Can you afford help, or can you enlist the support of a friend?
Tip #3: Secure Your WiFi
Stable WiFi is a must, so figure this out ahead of time. Some fairs provide WiFi sign-ins for free, whereas others will charge you. Whether you create your own hotspot or decide to charge payments offline, make sure that you are prepared.
Tip #4: Bring Snacks
We love our snacks here. If you don’t have snacks, make sure there is a place at the event where you can grab lunch. Stay hydrated!
Tip #5: Have a Plan for Packing Up
When you’re packing up, try to be quick. Have a system in place. You’ll likely be pretty exhausted, so take care of future, tired AF you by creating a packing up plan ahead of time.
Whew! That was a lot, we know. But trust us, this is all necessary information to have for a successful craft fair, and we want you to SUCCEED!
Remember: Screw-ups are inevitable. They just are. No amount of diligent planning can account for real-life mishaps. So be gentle with yourself, and don’t get discouraged if an event doesn’t go exactly as planned. Be grateful for the learning experience, and keep improving.
We’re rooting for you!
Applications are OPEN for GGC’s Indoor Oakland Holiday Craft Fair!
Apply here. There is one scholarship booth available, please be sure to note that you’re applying for the scholarship in your application.
Need more support with craft fair prep?
You can also tune into our podcast episode “Craft Fair Tips” hosted by Phoebe.