Maker Shows. Craft Fairs. Vendor Markets.
Whatever you want to call them, when you decide you want to sell your creations in person at an event there's a few things that you should know.
All shows have some sort of sign up or application process. Some shows are first come first serve and others are juried. Juried is when the organizers decide who gets to be in the show based on the maker applications. They are usually looking for quality, original goods that fit the vibe of the show they are putting on. They tend to limit the number of makers in a certain category. For example, jewelry spots are usually the hardest to get, as there are a lot of folks in the category.
If you are wanting to get into a juried show, make sure to steer clear from these four application mistakes.
Missing the application deadline. Organizers put a lot of work into planning an event. When they sit down to jury the potential vendors, if you have missed the deadline, the train has left the station and you're not on it. Most shows fall on the same dates/weekends every year. Do your research RIGHT NOW for shows you may be interested in and write down when their applications dates are. Big shows will have their applications open (and closed) about a half year from the show date! When you get started this may be overwhelming, but as you get going you will be happy to be able to plan out so far. Check out our FREE SHOW PLANNING SHEET if you need help organizing.
EXCEPTION. Did you miss the boat on a deadline? Depending on the show, you can ask to be put on the wait list. Not all shows will let you do this. Big shows that turn a lot of makers away don't let late comers on, they have plenty of applicants for the waitlist. But smaller shows may. If a website doesn't state that it's too late, it's okay to send the coordinator a quick, polite inquiry asking about the wait list. If you are on the wait list you can always pass if they contact you and you are no longer available. Worst case scenario, you don't get in but you get on their email list and can try again next year.
REAL LIFE EXAMPLE: For one of the shows I coordinate, I received a lot of emails from folks wanting to get on the wait list. I told them the process and none of them followed through. I had several makers pull out before the show, one five months before the show and another over a month before the show (not all drop outs happen last minute!) I would have been happy to consider some of the makers who inquired, but they didn't follow through.
Being a jack-of-all-crafts and master of none. This one ties into the above. If you sell baby blankets and bibs, but also sometimes sell soap? Make sure you disclose all that you plan to sell. If you only send in pictures of your baby goods and then come with a bunch of soap, that may have been a category the event organizer specifically limited. This not only annoys the organizer, the soap vendors aren't going to be too happy either. Even worse if you were put next to another soap vendor. Shows run better when everyone knows what to expect. Another thing, your secondary product might not fit the vibe of the show.
EXCEPTION: If at the last minute you would like to add in your number two thing, double check with the show organizer first. It's better to get a "no" up front, then to have the coordinator have to confront you after set up that you are not allowed to sell something you spent a lot of time making, hauling and setting up.
REAL LIFE EXAMPLE: If you are one who makes a lot of different things, especially if you make things in categories that tend to be limited, you may have a harder time getting into shows. When jurying some of my shows I have turned away makers with great things. Some instance one maker who would be taking up two spots in two different limited categories (ex. Jewelry and knit). Other instances, I really liked one of their types of items but they also wanted to sell something in a limited category that wasn't up to par as some of the other applicants. I will tend to turn applicants away before I ask them to not bring something. (I did this at my very first show and got a nasty-gram about it after the show. It's just not worth it to me.) And it's pretty much a rule, not an exception that makers who try to sell in multiple categories that don't go well together don't end up making it far. Pick your "thing" and do it well. Be the maker of "that thing." "You know... the guy that sells *fill in the blank*."
Not Thinking Your Pictures Matter. Juried shows require you to provide pictures. These pictures will determine if you get into the show. Show organizers also often use the pictures for show promotion. If you don't already have any, take time to take nice pictures. Pay attention to what's in the background of your pictures. Make sure they are in focus. Make sure they are pleasing to the eye. Photography may not be your "thing", but unfortunately as a small business owner you have to wear a lot of hats. How you communicate your product speaks volumes to show organizers. It's also helpful if you are able to provide pictures of your booth set-up.
EXCEPTION: Hmmmm… I don't know if there is one this time. If you don't have a good picture of your main product and for some reason aren't able to take one before the application is due, you still need to submit a picture. You can let them know that you are planning on taking better pictures asap and will provide better ones for show promotion, if you get in.
REAL LIFE EXAMPLE: I've not included some of my show participants in show advertising because their product pictures weren't good. This only hurt them, as they weren't on shopper's radars before the show. These makers only made it in the show because I had seen their products in person before and knew the quality wasn't represented in the pictures.
Not taking time to read through the information you are provided. Each show is different and some show organizers are just clearer at communicating than others. Take time to read through the information they provide before sending an email with a bunch of questions. Show organizers are busy folks. If you are showing yourself to be really needy, demanding, not able to follow simple instructions or require a lot of hand holding you may be black listing yourself. Show organizers may assume that if you require a lot of work before the jury has even happened, you will be a lot of work for them through out the entire process and event. It's also not the show organizers job to be your small business educator/mentor. There are a lot of resources out there about how to start a business in your state and what is required.
EXCEPTION: Sometimes the crucial information just isn't provided. It's okay to ask a legitimate question that aren't covered in the vendor info. Be polite. It may also help the coordinator realize that they need to edit their info to include something they forgot to add.
REAL LIFE EXAMPLE: I will just say that some vendors are more work than they are worth and every time I give someone the benefit of the doubt they always ended up proving me right. This may seem like we're being a bit bitchy, but we want to give you an inside scoop into the minds of organizers so that you can score that acceptance email!
We hope that our honest advise helps you fill your calendar with all the markets you want this year!