My First Fair

May 03, 2022

This past weekend I went to my first fair. It was both wildly unsuccessful and wildly successful all at the same time. How can that be you ask?
Well, I did not research the fair enough. I knew it was a fundraiser for their pre-school, but I didn't realize how geared towards kids it was going to be. There were tickets for things like pony rides, face painting, and balloon animals that people bought in advance and that was what they were primarily there to do. I was the first vendor past those things and I heard multiple people tell their kids to turn back because they were out of the range of the tickets.
The fair was 4 hours long and in that time I had only 11 customers who came into my tent. Of those 11, a whopping 6 bought something! So from a visitor to buy ratio I did really well. People liked what I was selling, I just didn't have enough customers to make enough sales. There were 10 other vendors there and I think I did the best of all of them except for the woman selling the gourmet ice cream sandwiches. The food trucks ran out of food and that upped her business. I talked to a few of the other vendors who said something similar to what I was thinking - it was more kid oriented than they were expecting, and they usually do better at other places.
All that said I learned a ton!

first fair part 1

First let's talk about the prep. I've been to a lot of fairs but setting up for one is a whole different story. This fair was relatively close to the house, about 40 minutes, but still if I forgot something there wasn't really any going back. Plus, there are things you need to invest in to have. I posted in my Clayshare Prime Facebook group and got a lot of helpful tips. I ended up building my own list of what I needed to bring. I didn't use all of it, but one of the other vendors came and asked me for some tap - and I had it!

Let's start with the big things you need to bring:

  • Pottery and Crochet (whatever you plan on selling)
  • Crates (to use as displays)
  • Plate Stands
  • Mug Stand
  • Sign
  • Tables
  • Tent
  • Chairs (for you to sit down and rest between customers)
  • Necklace Holder

first fair part 1

Then I had a supplies box with things I thought I might need:
  • Price tags
  • Cash (small bills)
  • Bags (for packing things in when people buy stuff)
  • Ribbon
  • Paper for packing (needed if you sell anything breakable)
  • Boxes (for packing things too heavy for a bag
  • Baby Wipes (in case things get sticky)
  • Duct Tape (MacGyver always had it)
  • Zip Ties
  • Backup battery for phone (my phone is the primary thing I was using to take credit cards, I needed it juiced)
  • Phone charger
  • Notebook (for a mailing list)
  • Markers
  • Chalkboard markers (if you have chalkboard signs)
  • Packing Tape
  • Pens (put something on the end so people don't steal them)
  • Diamond core sanding (pottery specific, but I wanted to be able to sand anything I missed)
  • Tissues (outside all day with the pollen)
  • Trash bag (you will create trash! you need a place to put it)
  • Clip board
  • Square reader (or whatever you use to take cc)
  • Sign with Venmo QR Code
  • Mini Chalkboard signs
  • Jewelry bags
  • Business Cards
  • Business Card Holder
  • Jewelry pliers and extra findings
  • Receipt Book (in retrospect I did not need this)
  • Tablecloths (in retrospect the ones for my dining room table were not long enough to hide my boxes)

first fair part 1

Extras to make you comfortable
  • Water (lots and lots of water!!)
  • Snacks
  • Something to do between customers
  • Extra layers (in case it gets cold)
  • Sunscreen!!!!

first fair part 1

I had all of those things boxed up and ready to go 2 days before the fair, yes, I'm that girl - the one who turned in assignments early. There were a few other things that were important setup things.
The most difficult thing for me was pricing. I'm still getting to know the market, but also, I have a hard time thinking about selling my work for really high prices. That might just be a confidence thing that I gain over time. I'm not trying to make a living being an artist, so I think my outlook is a lot different than someone who is. I did set all my prices ahead of time, and labelled them, but I still second guessed myself and changed stuff the morning of. Next time I think I'll feel better with just what I do ahead of time.
What helped me was to lay stuff out on the table, set a price for a type of thing (mugs, dinner plate, etc.) and write it all down. Then I put it all into an Excel spreadsheet and categorized it - plates together, drinking vessels together, etc. There were a few things where I corrected the prices because it didn't make sense. For example, initially I had a pitcher priced lower than my larger mugs. Once I had all of that done then I labelled everything. I used cheap little white stickies, but I think I'm going to do something different next time (more on that later).
While I wanted to have a cash option, I know that most people (including me) don't use cash anymore. Did you know that using Square is free aside from the credit card fees? I did not realize this until a week before and immediately signed up for one. I did decide to upgrade the hardware because having a sliding card reader seems crazy to me. However, for $50 I now have a reader that took all major credit cards PLUS Apple and Google Pay!! I also printed out hte QR code for my Venmo and frames it so that people could easily pay that way. In the end I had 1 cash sale, 2 Square, and 3 Venmo.
I have my logo from my web site and knew that I likely needed business cards. Since I had created my logo on Canva it was really easy to turn that into business cards. I ended up getting 100 business cards for under $20. My sister and I did have a debate as to whether I should have put a QR card onto my business card. I think they're super ugly, but apparently young people are too lazy to type in a web address.
It occurred to me way too late that I needed a sign. I say too late because it does take longer than business cards to get one. However, I do have my Cricut!! I ended up making my own sign with vinyl and a piece of posterboard. I will probably get a professional sign at some point, but I'm really pleased with how this one came out.

first fair part 1

We packed up the car on Friday night so that we could just get in the car and go on Saturday. I saw a post by Lisa Leslie who was also at her first fair and asked Craig for a board to add to what we had packed. Saturday when we got there our spot was on a slight hill which made things interesting. At the time I was annoyed by the placement but being the first vendor past the fair stuff actually turned out really good.
While I had thought through how I was going to set things up, I hadn't actually set it up. It was a whirlwind of activity. Craig could help me with the tent and chairs, but not so much with product placement. I learned a few things doing this. First, I need longer table cloths. The ones for my dining room table were just not long enough to hide the boxes under the table. Second, there were small things like putting tags on my crochet items that I could have, and should have, done at home. Third, I need another table or something to create more space on the tables. Also, the cheapo mug stand that I bought on Amazon was not sturdy and didn't really hold mugs. I need a better option. Get there early! Whenever they say you can get there to setup - get there! I'd rather finish and be sitting around than rushing.

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