In preparation for my first craft fair, I read virtually every article and blog post that I could find. There are so many articles available on preparing for your first craft fair that it can be quite overwhelming. And many of them are written by experienced craft fair vendors who might not remember exactly what it was like the first time they participated in a craft fair. In general, I felt very overwhelmed preparing for my first craft fair. There is so much to do beyond preparing your items for sale. This post outlines how I prepared for my first craft fair.
My sister and I decided to participate in our first craft fair together. She is starting a sewing business and I planned to make candles in recycled containers and hand-painted upcycled vases. You can see posts on how I create these items here: candles and vases. We hoped that working together would help to alleviate some of the financial burden and workload in terms of preparing for the sale. It was really nice to have someone to help you out on the day of and to bounce ideas off of leading up to the event.
Twelve weeks out
The first step was to determine which show we wanted to participate in. We ultimately chose one sponsored by my sister’s local high school band. The date of the sale gave us about three months to prepare and they advertised good attendance in previous years. They indicated that their sales in previous years drew around 4,000 shoppers. We knew that we were going to put a lot of time and money into preparing for the sale and we wanted it to be worthwhile.
At the time we decided to participate in the sale, they only had eight-foot tables available (e.g. no larger booth spaces). We thought this was for the best because we did not want to spend the money or time creating additional displays to fill a larger booth for our first craft fair. In addition, our items aren’t too large so we didn’t need a ton of display space. Once we settled on the sale, we immediately booked our spot. This particular sale charged $85 for one eight-foot table for a two-day sale.
We began making items to sell at the sale immediately. For me, that meant repeated trips to local thrift and second-hand stores to collect vases to paint and containers in which to put candles. I also- as mentioned above- began my research for craft fair preparation.
Ten weeks out
Once we had decided which craft fair we were going to attend, I spent a good deal of time preparing logistically. For me, the first step was to register my business as an LLC. This process required only about 30 minutes and a $95 application fee (I live in Ohio). Once I was registered, I applied for an EIN which is a federal I.D. number for your business that is used for tax purposes. This was a fairly quick and free process. I received my EIN number immediately upon completing the application.
Once these two items had been completed, I was able to apply for a business bank account. I created an account with the online bank Novo. They sent me a debit card to use for my account. Having a separate bank account for my business will make it much easier to keep track of expenses and income. I also applied for a sales tax certificate through the state of Ohio so that I could legally charge sales tax in my state.
Next, I created a Square account and ordered a free credit card reader to use at the show. Both the Square and PayPal readers were highly rated by users in my research. I also set up Venmo and PayPal accounts for my business so that I could offer buyers numerous ways to pay for their purchases at the show.
Six to eight weeks out
After spending the first month collecting the materials needed for my craft fair items, I focused the next month or so on making the items. Because both of these items are quite time consuming, I dedicated two entire weekends to each project. And of course, it always takes longer than you expect. As usual, there were mistakes and things that didn’t turn out quite as I had pictured. I would say in total, I spent about one third of my time actually creating the items that I intended to sell. The rest was spent on legal and financial preparation, display making, and acquiring the second-hand items that I use to make my goods for sale.
I also ordered business cards. It was important to have them for the sale so I ordered them well in advance. I was very happy with the cards I ordered from Vistaprint and displayed them at the sale. Use this link to get 20% off of your first order plus free shipping.
Four weeks out
At this point, I felt I needed to dedicate some time to branding and our display. I had read numerous articles emphasizing the importance of a professional looking display, so I sketched out a general idea of how I wanted the display to look and then set about making it happen. I first purchased a standard white table cloth that would fit our eight-foot table. Luckily, I found a beautiful vintage crochet lace curtain that we used over the white table cloth to add interest and texture. I purchased four apple crates and my sister purchased a tiered riser to add additional height to our display.
While thrift shopping, I also purchased a jewelry stand, baskets, and wine glasses. I had supplies left over from previous projects to make wine charms and headbands, so I went ahead and finished those products. I thought it made sense to use up the supplies I had and to have some items at lower price points. So, I created the wine charms and headbands to include in the sale. I placed the wine charms in the thrifted baskets and the headbands on the jewelry stand.
I also decided that I wanted to create a backdrop so that our both would stand out and draw more attention. After doing some research, I created a backdrop using PVC pipe and thrifted curtains (you can read about that project here).
The next step was to create shirts for us to wear at the show. Although my sister and I have different brands, we decided to use the same color scheme so that our booth looked cohesive. I was able to use my Cricut to create coordinating shirts with our business names and logos. I ended up using a blue holographic vinyl on teal shirts. We received many compliments on our shirts at the sale.
Finally, I needed to create a banner to display our business names. I ordered an inexpensive blank 2ft x 5ft banner from Amazon and used my Cricut to create a simple banner. It was definitely the largest project I have ever done on my Cricut and was very time consuming, but I was really happy with how it turned out. We drilled holes in the backdrop frame so that we could hang it up behind us.
Two weeks out
With two weeks out, I directed my focus to pricing and branding. I created branded packaging for the wine charms and branded price tags for all of my other items using my Cricut. For each item, I made sure to include care information (or warning information on candles) as well as my social media accounts. I first attempted to do ‘print and cut’ with my Cricut, but the file was so large that it would not load. Ultimately, I typed up my price tags in Microsoft Word and measured them by hand to make sure that the double-sided printing lined up and then just cut the price tag shape with my Cricut.
Because my items were all so different (I guess that is the consequence of using thrifted materials), I did struggle to find a way to attach the price tags to my items. I was able to use string on many of the vases, but that didn’t work for the candles. For the candles, I purchased some mini clothespins to attach the price tags, but ended up just placing some of the price tags partially under my items on our actual table.
I also created some signs for our table that listed the payment methods accepted and others that had QR codes for PayPal and Venmo which I placed in thrifted frames.
My sister and I also ordered some shopping bags, packing paper, and tissue paper to package purchased items in. We didn’t invest in a custom stamp or stickers for the bags, but might consider doing so if we participate in any future sales. I ultimately just stapled one of my business cards to the bags when someone made a purchase.
In addition to credit card and online payment options, I wanted to make sure to have change for anyone that paid with cash. I stopped at the bank and got $200 worth of change. Since none of my items were more than $30, I got 40 ones, 20 fives, and 6 tens. After looking at several options, I decided to order an inexpensive half-apron in which to keep the change. I also added my logo to the apron.
One week out
With one week until the show, I focused on finishing up any incomplete tasks. There were a few vases and candles that I needed to finish and I made a few more sets of wine charms. I put the price tags on all of my items and packed them up so that they would be secure on the drive down to Columbus. I made sure that I had the Square, PayPal, and Venmo apps downloaded on my iPad, making sure to apply appropriate branding and tax information to each account.
At the last minute, I also created a quick email sign-up sheet so that I could add people to my mailing list for the blog. I had a small clipboard from a previous project that I used to display it on our table.
Because we were traveling to the sale and had to leave right after work on Friday to get to Columbus in time to get our booth set up, everything had to be completed before Thursday so that we could pack up the car. I was mostly ready on Thursday to pack up but felt somewhat panicky that I might have forgotten something.
I put together a tool bag with items that I thought I might need for the fair in hopes that I would have the tools necessary to deal with any forgotten or unforeseen issues. Here is a list of what I packed:
- Twine and string
- Extra price tags
- My iPad and charger
- Square reader
- Snacks and sodas
- Business cards
- Stapler and staples
- Backup battery pack
- Extension cord
- Phone charger
It was a ton of work to prepare for the show. I don’t think I would have been able to get everything done if I had had any less than three months to prepare but keep in mind that I did not have any inventory and work a full-time job. Preparing for future sales will hopefully be less stressful. Much of the preparation done for this first show will not need to be repeated (e.g. the financial and business set up, display creation, etc.) and there are some tasks that aren’t absolutely necessary to complete for a first show.
We were really excited for this first show. If you want to know how it went, you will have to check out my post on what I wish I had done differently at my first craft fair. We definitely learned a lot.
I have also decided to create an Etsy shop so that I can sell my upcycled candles and vases and vintage finds online. Please check out my Jack + Bax Etsy shop to see what I currently have available!
Have you ever been a vendor at a craft fair? What else did you do to prepare? Please comment below with any suggestions or questions you have for me!
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