Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Rust and Ruin...On the Road! : A Guide To Shows and Markets

Whew! June has passed us by with only one little blog post. Here's why...we're freakin' busy! In the online retail world, summer is a bit of a dud. Everybody's out and doing. No one is inside shopping. So to compensate, I highly recommend getting involved in any and every show you can get your hands on.

After a couple months of doing shows every weekend, here are my tips for those of you thinking about doing one yourself or for anyone interested in a behind the scenes sneak peek of what we put ourselves through!

  • Places : Finding venues. First thing we gotta do is find where we're going to haul this stuff to sell. 

    • First, obvi, Google is your friend. This will not tell you if shows are any good. Check out reviews. The smaller ones might not be online but if they're not, do you want to be in them? 
    • Check out your local area tourism sites. They are usually going to have their finger on the pulse of the larger and more established shows.
    • Network with other artists. Find out what shows they are doing. This is the best way to not only find shows but also get first hand information on how they have gone in the past.
    • If you are on Etsy, explore there. You should be part of local teams. They all will have a thread for people to list local show info. Check out www.etsy.com/local where you will find shows that other Etsy users in your area are participating in.

  • Promote :  Do not assume that the venue will do all the promoting for the event. Create your own buzz! If they do great promoting, share their promotions and promote other vendors.

  • Product : Have enough product. Have more than enough product. People like selection and you can't sell what you don't have.

  • Practice : One thing I did the first several shows is practice. I set my whole booth up in my garage. This helped me gauge how much product I needed to fill the space. It helped me decide how I wanted to set things up so I wasn't trying to do it that day on the fly. And I had pictures to post for social media. If you are using a tent, you will absolutely want to try it out before the day of. Those things are fun anyway but I opened my brand new tent to find it was missing some pieces. Better to find out a couple days early than the day of the show!

  • Price : While you have everything out, price it. I am bad about this so this is to myself. It is the last thing I do. Not everyone feels comfortable asking about a price or you might be too busy the day of to catch everyone with a question.

  • Prepare : Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance. (Thanks Dad) I am all for positive thinking but while you're thinking positively, plan for everything, including the worst.
    • Office Type Supplies : Tape, paper, pens, scissors, bags, packing supplies for delicate items.
    • Tools : A few small tools doesn't hurt. Assess what tools your tent might need, including a mallet for anchoring those tent spikes really well.
    • Promotional Materials : Whether it be business cards or flyers, make sure you have plenty of it.
    • Outdoor Shows : Sunscreen, bug spray, and water. And the big outdoor buzz kill, rain. If you don't have one of those fancy tents with the sides, Home Depot sells these super cheap clear plastic drop cloths that are great for keeping in your emergency show preparedness kit to throw over a table or clip on the sides of your tent.

  • Pack : The danger of doing shows is that every time an item leaves the safety of your home, it is at risk for being ruined. Take the time to pack everything carefully. Also, pack in things that can do double duty. I pack everything in vintage suitcases which I can then sell or use in my displays.

  • Performance : Here it is. The day you've been working so hard towards. You're probably so tired, you're over it. Don't mess it up. No pressure...
    • Smile, have fun. Smiling should be your favorite and fun is contagious. Not everyone will smile back. Ain't nothin but a thang.
    • Engage everyone that comes in your booth. Most of us appreciate being noticed and like to know who we're buying from. Some people don't and may even go so far as to pretend they didn't hear you. Gaze in silent amusement. Customer interaction is the best part of doing a show. I promise, they will remind you why you are doing what you do.
    • Make sure everyone takes a business card. Put one in every bag, in every hand. Make it rain a business card confetti on that mofo.
    • Steel yourself for that inevitable delightful person that walks into your booth and says "Do people really buy this junk?". Every. Show. Maybe it's because I actually sell stuff that might be considered junk but you know what I mean. Someone will say something less than nice. And when they do smile, take a moment to imagine yourself doing some amazing ninja move culminating in a drop kick to their head, and simply say, "Yes, they do". 
    • Stay positive. I hope every show you do is amazing. But chances are, there may be some you would consider duds. Turn your downsides into upsides. Show day is not just about that day's sales, it's about future sales. It's about building relationships, networking, and promoting.
  • Post show : Pat yourself on the back, you did it! Once you get over the exhaustion, take some time to reflect. Would you do the show again? What would you do differently? What product did you need more of? What could you have used but didn't have? You now have great insight to make your next show even better!
So there you have it. It's draining just writing it down. Now you know why I am looking forward to Fall! Just kidding. I truly love getting the opportunity to do these shows. Nothing compares to a day of sharing the passion of what you do with other people and hearing what they're passionate about! 

This in no way is an exhaustive list and I am in no way an expert. And sometimes, I don't even follow my own advice. So naughty. I welcome additional tips in the comments!

Check Maliasmark on Facebook for a list of where you can find me every weekend to see me in action!


  1. This is awesome Malia. Thank you for putting this together. Its a great resource for your fellow crafters!