My first festival is over and I'm home and unpacked. Prior to The Clark County Recycled Arts Festival I spent hours pouring over blogs and conversation threads gaining any little bit of knowledge and advice that might be helpful. Now that I'm on the other side I want to share what worked and what didn't.
1) Have another set of hands. (If they offer help....take it!)
Friends and family helped with set up, tear down and giving me breaks. When our car unexpectedly broke down our extra sets of hands jumped in to help me pack up, load up and get home on the last day. Many hands make light work. Also bring: string, pens, paper, scissors, double stick tape, regular tape, duct tape and an assortment of those Command Strips & Hangers- bring those and it's like a small army of helpers in your pocket!
2) Take credit card!
Sign up with Square and bring your iPhone or iPad so you can accept credit card- it’ll totally be worth it. I overheard so many vendors losing business because they didn’t take card. Approximately 75% of my business was in credit card. I used my phone for creating a hotspot and my iPad for taking sales, once it was all set up it was super easy!
3) You can never have enough signage. (...but the RIGHT signage)
I read this in another blog and tried to take it to heart. I had big signs showing pictures of how I create my art but still some people were surprised when they realized I actually cut the bottles, melt them and handcraft each bead before it ever becomes jewelry. The more I reflected on this there must be a balance between a clean display and signage. While I had lots of signs I probably could’ve made the overall display more streamlined so that the signs stood out more clearly. However you interpret your booth- signage is very, very important. People want to browse and see the prices immediately without having to commit to actually picking it up. I had much better luck with my necklaces when the signs were visible right away.
5) Consider electricity early on. (Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.)
I had originally not requested electricity and then later contacted the organizer to change my request. When I finally arrived, I noticed I did not have electricity, but there was shade so I didn't complain! I had to figure out the electricity in another way. My wonderful husband ran off and bought two car batteries, an inverter and a battery charger. This allowed me to plug my cords into the inverter which was attached to the battery. I was able to power 4 strings of lights, 7 lamps and keep all my iDevices charging for about 5 hours and then when the battery died we switched them out and put the dead one on the charger and used the fresh one to power the booth. Bonus: now we have two back up batteries for our car. Several festivals seem to say ‘no generators’ but I think this might be a good go around for that.
6) Booth Layout (It's not important in the ways I thought it would be)
I spent many many sleepless nights laying out my booth and yet when I arrived the orientation was not what I had dreamed up. Traffic was clearly flowing in the opposite direction I had planned on. So I had to quickly flip the orientation of all my tables. I somehow thought that one table here or there would make all the difference in the world about what people purchased....it didn't. What really drew people’s attention were the few larger items that I had brought with me. I designed and built two large tables to the exact dimensions I wanted. Not only are they helpful for loading and lugging but they look awesome too! Additionally people loved my large vintage mirror and my display board that was once a friend's fence door! My takeaway was that a few larger eye catching pieces that highlighted my art overcame the smaller set up/booth layout stuff that I was fretting far too much about.
7) The Big Question: How much do I bring??? How much will I make???
I found one blog where the woman helps you estimate how much product you need to bring. I asked many vendors how THEY decide what to bring. Obviously there are a lot of factors: weather, crowd, your position at the venue, your products desirability and the list goes on… One woman told me to bring 50-150 earrings. Another said she only sells maybe 100 earrings in her whole summer season of festivals- seriously wide disparity. I had planned to make 300 earrings but hearing those numbers I stopped at 175 since I knew I had other stuff to sell as well. I also decided to diversify... a lot. I had necklaces over $100 and some under $20. I had other items (lamps, plates and bookmarks) ranging anywhere from $10 to $65. My earrings were $20-25. The items I sold the most were earrings (I also brought the most of those) but percentage wise I actually sold fairly equal percentages of everything based on what I brought.
I know I'm not answering the question that some people really want to know and that's how much did I make. Here's the best answer I will give...the vendor across from me sold one thing and one thing only: large wooden hanging wine bottle candle lamps for $35. He sold nearly 70 of those and he was busy the....whole....time! He's done this for years and he's found the sweet spot of his customer base, product and price. All around me were several great ladies with nice booths of art or clothing- many of them only sold $100-300 in product. I made right in the middle- which was a fantastic showing for my very first festival. One thing that I also found very interesting and worth mentioning is that I did 75% of my business on Day 1 and only 25% on Day 2. I mentioned this to other vendors and they said that this was common for them as well. Barring unusual weather you should expect 70-80% of your business on the first day of a multiway event.
Last thoughts: several people wanted to order something specific from me. I was glad to have brought a notebook for writing down orders right then. The more fun I was having, the more and I was up and talking and laughing with people, the more people came into my booth. Additionally if you or your business has a FB account it's your friend prior to the event. So many people came out simply because they'd seen my posts.
One thing I wish I had brought was more pieces for the guys. I heard over and over again that the guys come to these festivals to find cool pieces of male/androgynous jewelry that's hard to find anywhere else. I had a few necklaces that could go for the gals or guys and they were sold within the first two hours! I went into this festival thinking mostly about the girls but quickly decided I need to focus on my guys just as much. Lesson learned.
I had an absolute blast meeting so many people and answering questions. My husband said it was crazy to watch me come out of my introverted shell that typically hides away in my studio and watch me meet, greet and talk to so many people- I felt like myself...only better!
Please do let me know if you have any questions!
Thank you to everyone who helped, visited and purchased from us. It was a fantastic first event and extremely successful! See you in White Salmon on the 25th!
Recycling is Beautiful