I've been on this letterpress greeting card adventure since 2005. It has evolved in so many ways. I've grown it from a hobby to a full-time business. It's absolutely amazing and mind-boggling to think about. One of the biggest changes through the years was branching out to wholesale. When I began my journey I had the intention of designing and printing stationery as an outlet for my creativity and to supplement my retail gig income. It was fun and I loved learning the craft of letterpress printing. Part of the plan was to participate in craft fairs and sell my goods at the retail store I worked in. This plan worked great for several years. In 2010 I stopped doing fairs. Instead I focused on wholesale trade shows, etsy and my website. It was a big shift but a necessary one. This year I decided to get back to my roots and apply to three fairs: Show of Hands, Renegade Holiday Craft Fair and Revolution Craft Show. I'm happy to report I participated in all three. I wanted to share my overall experience with each.
Show of Hands was the first, taking place November 20-22, 2015. This year it took place at Architectural Artifacts, a huge antique warehouse filled with the most magical finds. There was a kick off party on Friday night followed by two full days of shopping. Begyle Brewing was selling craft beer (always a bonus) and a couple food trucks were in the courtyard, there was a great band Friday night. Overall it was fun show filled with good, local vendors. Unfortunately, there was a snowstorm, which kept the crowds away on Saturday. On the other hand, this gave us vendors time to shop for presents!
Show highlights: free coffee & tea for vendors, beautifully curated, show promotes every participant on social media, very close to my studio, Laura Berger, my friend, was my booth neighbor, Begyle Brewing, made some new friends, Tom spent the day with me Saturday, had plenty of time to Christmas shop.
Renegade Craft Fair was the second show, taking place December 5-6, 2015. This year it took place at Bridgeport Arts Center, a gorgeous sun filled loft building. I splurged on a double booth and am so glad I did. The crowds were HUGE. It was fantastic. We were busy all day, both days. The extra space gave people time to browse and not just pass by quickly with the flow of traffic. We had customers spending fifteen minutes or more in our booth, shopping and talking with us. The attendees were there to shop and so very complimentary. Honestly, I can't remember a show where everyone was so kind. It was amazing! Not only did we make retail sales, after the show we landed a wholesale account. It was a big success. I'm so impressed with how big Renegade has gotten. It's really an impressive operation.
Show highlights: the sales, the crowd (both in numbers and attitude), the ease of loading and unloading, the openness of the space and the amazing freight elevator, diversity and quantity of vendors, Tom helped both days, got several Christmas presents during the last hour.
Revolution Craft Show was the third show, taking place December 13, 2015. It took place at Revolution Brewery's tap room, an awesome space and in my opinion, the best craft brewery in Chicago. This was a small show with a great crowd. Unlike the other two shows, I worked it alone (except for set up and breakdown). It was tight quarters and honestly, another person would have been tough to navigate around. Luckily my mr. stayed after set up to hang out with friends, which meant he brought me a beer occasionally. It was busy and I would totally do it again.
Show highlights: the space is beautiful, Mad Cow (milk stout) on draft, the crowd, it was only six hours, did some trading with vendors.
The best part of all the shows, was spending time with Tom, my mr., I honestly couldn't have gotten through the shows without him. I'm very grateful to have such a supportive partner. I should mention my mom also helped during Renegade! She was our lunch break relief and took care of our puppy, Scooby-doo while away all day. Thanks mom!
It was a wonderful holiday season! I realized since focusing on wholesale I don't get feedback from the end user. These shows allowed me to talk to the people using my cards and sharing them with their loved ones and friends. It was incredible. People were so kind. When you're your own boss, there isn't a lot of encouragement or accolades. No one is around to tell you "nice job" or "I appreciate what you're doing". These shows became that for me and I am so thankful to have been a part of each one.