We came, we saw, we so did not conquer. But we had a great time, the weather was lovely and we learned a thing or two about being a vendor at a music festival. Namely, you have to be aware of your audience, the weather, the season, upcoming holidays as well as provide good quality goods that are presented in a pleasing manner. And, to quote another vendor, “You gotta give them inexpensive stuff too.” In other words, you want to present a sampling of your finer things that you have available but you will probably only sell your less expensive items at these types of events. And you really should present items that fit in with the theme of the event such as musical related pendants, peace sign items, etc. Since, this event was held in March with warm weather, in southern Florida most of the attendees were over 65, interested in jamming with other musicians and had a laid-back kind of attitude. Our recycled bottle cap earrings received rave reviews. However, the hottest item at this event was the colorful light-weight, sleeveless dresses that our next door neighbor was selling. She didn’t make them, of course, but is a reseller and buys direct from a New York wholesaler. Kind of a bummer when you think about it because almost all the other vendors make and sell their own products and she ending up doing almost as well as the food vendors 🙁 We do wish this lady well as this is how she pays her bills and she works almost every single weekend.
Anyway, back to the point, we did learn quite a lot. Namely, it takes at least 5 hours to set-up for a show and only an hour and a half to break down. If you want to attempt any kind of craft show, festival or whatever event you will need to ask the coordinator when you can set up, when you need to tear down and is there any special license or other fees you will need to pay in the county and/or state you will be working in at the time. Most big events will allow the vendors to come in a day early to set-up their tents, displays and a few will offer security if you would like to go ahead and put in your merchandise. You will also need to find out if you are going to be on dirt, grass, asphalt or concrete to plan on how you need to weigh down your canopy and keep you and your goods clean, dry and cool. Most commercial canopies are supposed to be “water-proof” but the sidewalls may not be. How you choose to weigh down your tent will be determined by the time of ground that it is sitting on. If it is dirt and grass you can use stakes but asphalt and concrete you will need weight bags. At this event we were on grass and the coordinator had a bunch of volunteers to help vendors set-up but for some reason, none were available for taking down? Our canopy came with 4 sidewalls (water resistant and not waterproof) as well as weight plates with holes to drive in stakes. To be on the safe side we used two filled gallon water bottles on each leg as well as two spikes. Since our second event will be on asphalt we may have to invest in those leg weights. We did notice that some vendors used cement blocks hung down from the top support beams and fastened to each leg.
Reading lots of articles on the web about craft shows and how you display your items we tried the handmade option for a couple of things. One, was to print out a jewelry bust on cardboard. To anchor these down we had a friend drill holes into scrap pieces of wood, I wrapped each one with a wood looking contact paper and screwed in wooden dowels and then punched a hole into the top of the bust cut-out and finally, strung it onto the dowel. This kept the cardboard display from blowing away but got damp overnight so we may have to laminate them in the future. We also created risers using think cardboard display boards and taped them together. To finish it off we put the wooden looking contact paper all down the steps and on the sides. Since, it was my first time doing this and I didn’t have a lot of space it didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped but it served it’s purpose. We may try that again for the next show if I can find a better cutting tool and a bigger table. Mom, really wants to get my brother to make us a light-weight wooden riser with hinges to that we can fold it down flat for storage. Both of these ideas I got off Pinterest.com. You should look them up for more ideas.
A few things to mention in closing: You will need a professionally created sign to hang either in front of your tent or in the back; you will need tables, folding tables are easier to store and transport; you will need to have at least $50 to $100 in small bills to make change; credit card acceptance only works if you can get internet service and electricity at the event; schedule your events at least a month to six months in advance as some shows will fill up faster than others; ask all your questions of the event coordinator before you commit to a show because you don’t want to get a bad reputation with any of them; and finally, remember to have fun!
The expenses involved in starting out being craft vendors at craft shows, festivals and the like can get a little extreme. But if you plan ahead, like 6 months or, and obtain what you need little by little the expense will be spread out and not be so overwhelming. Making lists helps keep your organize. And don’t forget to keep good records of what you spend as well as what you make to help you determine if this is what you would really like to do.