Crafts and Fairs

Austin-Expo-Booth

Well, the recent Austin Pet Expo I attended is over.  I have been reluctant to attend a big event like this, and I think I now remember why – they are a lot, and I mean a lot, of work!  It was a fun event and I handed out dozens of business cards and met lots of pets and their owners.  I think the best thing about any in-person event is getting to meet folks directly and talk about your products/business.  And you get really great feedback.  People tell you what they do – and don’t – like, and why.  I consider all input good and informative, letting it serve as a basis for possible product refinement and new creations.  One thing I saw at the event was people carrying their small breed dogs in slings, so when I find time that may very well be my next new design!  My best seller at the expo was my new pet idBandanas, which I will be writing more about soon.

One really neat thing I finally was able to use at the pet expo was my Shopify card reader.  I used it on my iPad (after first testing it at home), and it worked beautifully.  Honestly it worked so well that I think I could just sell things from anywhere, just like you see in the commercials.  Perhaps I should carry it, along with my new pet bandanas, in my purse.  Hmmm…

I also know that I don’t want to do a really large event like this again.  I think something much smaller, and even closer to home, would work much better for me.  I would be interested in attending a fair that only requires a 6′ folding table and a couple of chairs, along with a limited number of my smaller products  like bandanas, toys, blankets, and crate mats.  I don’t want to think that all my preparation work and extra things I had to purchase or create for this event will be wasted by not having another event, I just want to keep it smaller and more manageable.  I am certain that there will be at least one local fall craft fair that will suit me perfectly!

That being said, my other decision since the Expo ended is to put my crafts back on Etsy. Etsy admittedly has the greatest global marketplace, and has been the best overall venue for me.  It worked for me prior to blogging, social media, and attending any craft events, and that’s really saying something.  I do still hope that in time my new shop website will replace my Etsy shop, but for now products will be listed in both locations.  I will be spending time the next couple of weeks getting everything re-listed on Etsy, with product descriptions that match those on my new site.  Fall has always been an especially busy time for me as a crafter, and I know that September is sneaking up quickly.

The best comment I received at the Austin Pet Expo-

Your creations take pet products to a whole ‘nother level!

Glad you think so!

 

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Craft Fairs

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Antique Booth at the 2012 Country Living Fair in Austin, Texas

I am delighted to announce that I have signed up to be an exhibitor at the 2014 Austin Pet Expo event.  The 2013 expo is held this year on Saturday, August 3rd.  As this event was already full I got a head start on next year!  I will also be attending the expo in Austin in two weeks, and taking lots of photos, so if you are in the area I hope to see you there.

Even though it’s a full year away, I am excited because this is the first fair I’ve signed up to attend, although I am thinking I need to go to a couple of smaller venues prior to next summer just to gain experience.  Here are two things you probably don’t know about me: 1) I have professionally recruited through my work at The University of Texas at career fairs, and 2) over 10 years ago I had an antique business and rented space at a “brick and mortar” location.  These unique experiences will give me a head start on retail/craft fairs.  From my UT experience I know about setting up/taking down booth spaces, and how to relate to people.  From my antique business I also know about how to best display products that you sell.

In fact, I know that a craft type fair is hard WORK.  I will need to put some real effort into designing and organizing my space to attract customers.  I will have to pack my car with everything I need for the day, spend the day on my feet, and then pack the car again after the fair is over for the ride home.  Selling online is very different than selling directly to people.   One of the things I love most about direct selling is the ability to meet your potential customers and talk with them, find out what works for them and what doesn’t.  Honestly I think I will come away from this experience with more great ideas for product changes or new products.  A wonderful, wonderful benefit!  And of course folks will have their pets with them, and that always makes me happy!

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Beautiful Shelties at the 2012 Dogtoberfest in Austin

And I have to admit I absolutely LOVE the thought of creating a space (in this case a 10′ x 10′ space) to sell my pet products.  My mind is already in creative gear, and I even set up a new Pinterest “Fair and Craft Shows Display” board to have a place to pin any great ideas I see online.  I also have to work on my product branding for this fair, and learn how to use a point-of-sale credit card device on my smart phone.

Just this morning I read an interview on the Jane’s Apple blog of Etsy artist Allison, creator of Sweater Doll.  In it she was asked to share her number one tip for selling handmade online.  I found her answer quite eye-opening.  Here it is in its entirety:

“Make REAL relationships in your local community. Don’t depend on online networking. Even the guy who invented coffee cup jackets can sustain an online business now only because he walked into cafes and created a business with real people first. Get out there – wear your own handmade jewelry, clothes, and accessories, give your own handmade creations as gifts, give your items to charities regularly, ask shops if they can use your items in their window displays, teach classes at local libraries or craft shops. Most people do not buy handmade online sight unseen. iPads? Sure. Handmade clothing, not nearly as much. People want to see, hold, revel in goods. Handmade goods are a relationship not just a commodity. My dolls sell a little online, but they become magnetic when someone picks one up! But the online shop keeps me available to people outside of my area which is a real blessing. Selling handmade online is usually part of a business, not the whole business.”

All I can say is WOW.  Really gives those of us who are online sellers a LOT to think about!  Do you have any thoughts or tips for setting up a display booth, or just getting organized for a craft fair.  If so I would love to hear your ideas!