I am tired and happy after a successful sale at Heritage Days in Westernville, NY. It was a Revolutionary War reenactment open to the public and the customers were fantastic. Both the reenactors and the public were genuinely interested in what I was doing and how it related to the time period, and they asked intelligent, considerate questions. This means so much to me as I start out and I can't wait to do it again.
No pictures yet because I didn't take any pictures and Joe doesn't use the camera. OK, he has used it before but I've never been able to use any of the pictures he's taken. A friend has promised to email me what she took but she is very busy and I won't hold my breath.
I did learn a few things that I would like to record for next time.
Don't torch outside. Whether it is sunny or overcast, the flame is invisible in natural sunlight and can burn you badly if you misjudge where it is. My fingers will eventually heal but I have deep 2nd degree burns on the first 2 fingers of my left hand where I actually stuck them into the flame because it was windy and I couldn't see where it was. The worst part was that I was demonstrating in front of a couple young kids and didn't want to alarm them so I couldn't vent the string of profanity I would have at home. I just casually poured the water from my quenching jar onto my hand and carried on torching.
Set up your shop at home in a space similar to the space you will be using at the show. This way you can tell if it is going to look bare or cluttered. You can also see if your display ideas will be practical.
Have all your merchandise priced before you leave home. This way you don't have to remember prices for all your different items when you're busy. It also prevents underpricing and bartering. I had nothing labeled and a dozen people hit me at once while I was setting up.
Have everything ready to roll before the show opens. This way merchandise isn't placed in the wrong place. I was using a very simple system where everything in one bowl was one price, everything on another rack was another and it worked well once it was set up, but I couldn't leave even for a moment because Joe didn't know which items went in which bowls and customers love to pick things up and handle them before they buy them and can't be expected to remember where they got them.
No freebies. A little kid had been hanging around my booth all weekend and had her eye on a particular bead, one of a pair. One of them sold but not the other, so I finally relented and let her take it, since it didn't take long to make and was made of cheap glass. She immediately left to get her brother, who selected a similar item. I had no problem letting him have one because he had bought 2 or 3 beads at regular price earlier. I did have a problem when she came back and asked for one for her cousin. I have sucker written all over me in letters kids have no trouble reading.
Plan ahead for promoting yourself. Have a closed in area (buying an EZ-up with sides is on the agenda while I still have my profits) and a nice-looking sign, business cards and mini portfolios available. I had a handout that was very useful but wound up using Joe's cards, which was less professional than I could have hoped for. The handout doesn't fit in a wallet and not everyone cares about the craft and history.
Have plenty of packaging material and findings. I had a couple sales that I wouldn't have had otherwise because I was able to make earrings right there. I also brought the findings and some ribbon to tie beads together as an afterthought and was glad I did. I sold several beads at a time to some people and it was helpful to have them strung together. I would have liked to have small plastic or paper bags to make a bulkier and less easy to lose package. Also, next time, cloth gift bags. What does it take, a yard or 2 of calico and drawstring. These I have in abundance. Time to make them less so, but I can't bear spending $4-5 for only a dozen bags.
Bring more fish. When I first started making beads, I made about 50 of them. I brought home 8. Kids love them and parents are even bigger suckers than I am when it comes to spending a buck or 2 on their child's whim. I even custom made a few of them at the site because customers wanted colors I didn't have. I even made a couple penguins and a frog. This won't be an option at the next show, but knowing what to expect is a huge plus.
Have a receipt pad with carbons. Not for the customers' sake, but mine. The only way I now have to calculate sales tax is to take my total sales and do the backwards math to figure out what the sales tax should have been. My calculations won't be tough, because I did fairly well in math, but I should have planned ahead for this as well. If the IRS audits me I'm up a creek.
Remember the reason you are there. I was there to have fun first, sell stuff second, and promote the craft and historical knowlege third. I think I managed all 3 and this is what made this a successful event in my book. I have another show scheduled in August and this one is just a craft fair, so goal 1 will be sales. I plan on rereading this post prior to the show to remind myself of what I have learned.