Right after Thanksgiving I had the amazing opportunity to be a first time vendor at the SF Etsy Indie Holiday Emporium on Pier 35! It was, to say the least, quit an experience. 

The two-day event was amazing, but the process to prepare was a rather difficult road to walk on. I'll explain. It was no one particular person's fault, if anything, it was my fault that I hadn't asked all the questions, even the ones I didn't even know to ask. 

If you've never done a Craft Show and want to there are a few things to ask yourself before you dive in head first.

Do you have the money to invest in a bunch of stuff that you'll use for a long time?

Have a clear image of how you want your booth to be set-up (color scheme, measurements, organizational techniques and ideas) and once you purchase all of the items make sure to do a pre-display before the show so you get an idea of how everything fits on your table and take photos! 

Another fabulous idea is to keep all of your items in one place in your home. If you start separating things, the day before you will quickly find yourself running around the house/apartment looking for all of our booth materials! 

Always remember: not all of your ideas will come to fruition. And that is OK. Especially for your first time. Practice makes perfect and the more shows you do the easier it will get to read the crowd, figure out your booth design, and get into a set-up/break-down rhythm that will seem crazy at first, but will get easier the more shows you do. 

Have an objective (make sure it is a positive one!): What do I mean by this? Most people are craft show vendors because this is their biggest source of income/revenue. Which is awesome, but for most of us this is about getting our name out, meeting our community, and sell sell selling our craft! Preparing for a show (big or small) WILL be stressful to some degree, but make sure you have a clear objective as to WHY you are doing this. Because let's face it, some days when we work on our passion it's gold, and others it feels like we are trying to run in the mud! When you have that objective make sure to remind yourself of why you do what you do when all the stress comes roaring in a few hours before the event. This will help you stay sane. Trust me. 

Stay organized and talk to your friends. First, write all the things and sketch out all the things you need. Make sure you follow up with whoever is hosting the event, and if you are a food vendor, make sure you get the A-OK by all parties so you aren't scrambling to scan your certificates the night before and patiently (not) waiting for your final approval. And only talk to friends that are truly invested in your mission, your idea, and care about you. Most of my friends are amazing people, but they don't understand or know the day-to-day struggle it is to keep your head above water when you work a 9-5 job and maintain a passion on the side. The people I talk to most about my Bake Lab are those that live with me. Rob and Dan are my team of awesome. So when its time to figure out what or how you are selling it's always good to talk to those people instead of the masses or general public. Less opinions can be a good thing. 

If you aren't a good project manager, find one. I'm not and I admit it. For others I can be, but for myself I'm usually a hot mess. It helps to have someone that has these skills work with you on planning, scheming, and perfecting the art of being a craft show vendor. A great example was Rob helped me more than I could have imagined, and not because he's an amazing human, but mainly because his brain works way differently than mine. He was able to break down the amount of cookies I had to bake, how much time I had, the amount of time it would take for me to package everything and how many samples I would need. All things I was too busy and too flustered to think about. All I knew was I had to bake a lot of things. By myself. Somehow. But when you partner with people that have magical powers it can really help you in ways you may not have imagined. 

Which goes into my next suggestions / piece of advice: ask for help. <-- I'm very very bad at taking this piece of advice. But most of us are doing this solo and because of that we genuinely think that asking others for helps either means we need to pay them or it means we are a burden on their social life.  Either way all of those assumptions are false. Ask for help, but make sure you know exactly what you need help in. I can't ask people to bake for me, but I can ask people to put nutrition labels on the cookies. I may not be able to ask people to help me create recipes, but I can ask Rob and Dan to help me build a pvc pipe to hold up my bad ass banner.

You may not know how to delegate, but it's important that you learn because as a Manager, Boss Lady, CEO, or High Priestess to your own company, you'll have people that look to you for guidance. So be transparent in your vision, listen to others, ask for assistance, and be okay with the idea that you'll never stop learning. 

And be okay with not being as prepared as you wanted to be for your first show. I thought 500 cookies was going to be enough for 2 days. Sadly, and happily, it was far from okay. I sold out of all 500 cookies in 4 HOURS of the FIRST DAY! It was amazing and I couldn't have been more happy, but I was not prepared for the second day at the show. What was I going to do? I had never considered I'd sell out, I'd only consider the complete opposite.

What if I failed and I didn't sell anything?! But what I should have been asking myself was, "What if I succeed and run out of cookies!"  

Okay, enough of this preparing nonsense (:P). Let's get down to the real stuff. What is going to happen on the day of the event? I can not stress this enough. If you have a normal size table (6ft x 2.5 ft) you're going to want another person with you at the booth. Maybe even two people. This is super helpful for many reasons!

Regardless if there are volunteers, don't trust them with your product and your money. It's best to have people that you trust with you when you have a crowd of thousands at a craft fair. If you need to pee, you have someone to watch your table. 

Not feeling super energetic? That's okay, your team of people, like mine, were super energetic the entire time! This energy transferred to me and I felt on fire during the 2-day event! My guys were so charismatic and on top of it all that everything flowed and everything came together so beautifully.

And I can not stress this enough, do not, do not, be that vendor that sits behind their table waiting for customers to come to them. They won't. They have no reason to unless your product is super compelling. If you look bored, then it becomes incredibly awkward for the customer to want to approach you or your booth. Be welcoming, offer them something free like samples, or cards, and say hello to everyone that walks by. Ask them questions and be engaging. They will WANT to stop by and say hi and even if they don't purchase anything you never know who they might know or what they do and how that could help you in the future. 

Be excited to be there! Be excited about your product! And be knowledgeable and flexible! Know your product and be able and willing to talk a lot about it to a lot of people. And be flexible in many ways. By this I mean have a lot of pricing options, low range, medium, and high. We all love options! 

Some customers want to spend $1.50 and some are ready to spend $70. So be prepared for both customers! Why limit yourself when you can broaden your horizons!

Lastly, get to know your booth neighbors! This amazing woman who owns Cranberry Crunch Tarts and Pies (pictured above) was my booth neighbor and I was so lucky to have her! When you are surrounded by supporting, helpful, community oriented, and passionate people then all we ever want to do is help one another succeed. 

If you're following your passion then be sure to stay authentic to yourself; listen to others, but sparingly, and get ready for a lot of change.

I can't wait to do another craft show and I can't wait to see what happens next. Taking time to sit in your accomplishments is important and that weekend I sold more than I could have ever imagined. And if you find yourself loving what you do, remember to stop and take some time to reflect on how boss you are! And be sure to take your crew out to dinner or drinks. 

Share your experiences with me in the comments section! I'd love to hear how you follow your passion!

<3 get baking!

Rachel 

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