It’s that time of year! Applications for spring and summer craft shows are popping up all over the place. While I don’t consider myself a craft show expert, I have participated in 10+ shows over the years. I personally love craft shows because it’s pretty darn cool to see people’s reactions to your products and walk away with something you made. I also often get inspiration for new products from customer feedback. Or I get to see firsthand which products aren't working. The instant cash is great too. So before you hit those applications, here are some things to think about:
1. Does the show fit your brand?
When you’re first starting out, you might want to apply for every show out there. I get it, you want to get your name out there. But let’s say you make some shirts that say “SPICY AF” or something like that. That church craft show crowd probably isn’t going to be buying it.
I typically apply to shows that are geared towards indie brands, or are labeled handmade markets or festivals, because that's where I feel my product fits in best. I have never applied to those high school or church shows only because I don’t feel like my products would go over well.* I have attended many of these types of shows as a customer and I feel like a lot of the stuff I see is just… very… shall I say crafty? So do some research. See if you can find out what types of crowds are at the show you’re looking at. Attend a bunch of shows as a customer to get a feel for the atmosphere. Decide if it’s worth your time. I belong to a local craft show Facebook group. People are usually pretty honest on those things!
*There is nothing wrong with these types of shows, and I might try one out someday!
2. Is the show juried or a first-come, first-serve sign up?
If it’s a juried show, you most likely need to have photos of your work posted online somehow, whether that’s an Etsy shop or your own website. So make sure you have some decent photos and product descriptions ready to go. Many applications also ask for a brief artist statement, so I suggest preparing one ahead of time that you can tweak from time to time.
3. Do you have time to prepare enough inventory and still keep your sanity?
A craft show is not something you can just throw together overnight. You might be thinking “oh this show is 6 months away, I have plenty of time to get my act together”. But trust me, these things will creep up on you very quickly. If your handmade business isn’t your full time gig, you have to be able to carve out time to get that inventory made. For me, that means working nights and weekends. I am guilty of not giving myself enough time to prepare, then I end up having to lock myself away to work, then I get stressed out, cranky, miss out on fun stuff etc. So, my advice is to make sure you have a pretty clear calendar leading up to the show, especially a month beforehand, and get to work as soon as you find out you got accepted!
4. Will you be able to make back the booth fee?
Booth fees tend to vary from show to show. Some shows look like they would be awesome to participate in but their booth fees are super high. If you sell a pricy item, maybe you would only need one sale to cover the booth fee. But for someone like me who sells $12 towels, I need to feel fairly certain that the show is a good fit. I don’t want to lose money on the deal. I usually apply to shows with fees under $100-$150, if possible.
Remember, if you don’t get accepted into a show, don’t get discouraged. I get turned away from juried shows all the time haha! Just keep on applying!