what goes into an in-person show
For the first time in two years, we decided to do an in-person show. We participated in the 20th One of a Kind Holiday Show. It was a big decision, as the cost is much more and it's twice as long as most. I usually only participate in a couple shows a year, Revolution Craft Fair and Show of Hands. I knew pretty early on SOH wouldn't be an in person show and while visiting Revolution Brewing we learned they weren't hosting any vendor events this year. Knowing this, I decided to look for other show options. I've considered OOAK for a couple years, and during that one magical month this summer, when COVID rates were dropping and mask mandates disappeared, I reached out to them. They weren't accepting applications at the time but said they'd reach out if any vendors chose not to show. Not too long after, I got an email inviting me to apply. I talked it over with my voice of reason, (aka Mr. Favorite), who asked me not to do the show. His reasoning was I didn't have enough help, have a shop to run too, and based on my past, I'd likely run myself ragged and get sick. I of course, don't know why he'd think that, and my gut was telling me to do it. I had heard only good things from fellow makers so I decided to take the leap and make the investment.
Once I received the acceptance email, I began reaching out to friends, former employees and interns for help. As it turns out, a lot has happened in the last year and many people have completely changed jobs, schedules and locations. I started thinking Mr. Favorite might be right. Thankfully an amazing former intern stepped up, as well as a customer who expressed interest in working with me years ago. Hooray! Next up, booth design.
I spent most of my down time August thru end of October designing and planning my booth. When the booth assignments came out, I had an unexpected pole in my booth, which meant back to the drawing board. If I remember correctly, I went through four different designs of the booth. My focus was to use displays and elements I already had. Although, I did invest in more acrylic card shelves, like the ones in the shop, which I'm hoping to repurpose in the shop when I expand our card wall later this year.
My main goals for the booth were:
-stand out from the crowd
-welcoming and open environment
-easy to shop
-on brand with my storefront
-single cards to be the feature
-accessible but invisible back stock in the booth
-table or shelves to display packs, pencils, coasters, etc.
-a checkout area that hid bags, change, snack, tools, etc.
It was a 10x10 space with three walls to work with. I debated whether to paint my walls or cover them with graphics. Thankfully, Sarah from Bonnie Skincare mentioned that I could pay the show to cover my walls with any colored paper I wanted. The additional cost was worth it! My booth definitely stood-out in a sea of white booths. I even heard customers say, "here's the blue booth we wanted to come back to." First goal, achieved!
Next up, make it easy to shop. The acrylic card shelves made it easy for customers to see our designs at a quick glance. Plus, the cards really stood out against the blue paper I chose for wall covering. In addition, I also had a lot of holiday card packs and gift items to display, with no room to fit them on the wall. I wanted to build or create tables with space underneath to hide our back stock too. After much consideration, I decided to purchase an 8' x 12" board to run across the side wall and a 6" x 24" shelf for the back wall. 12" is slender enough customers could move in and around the booth easily and the 24" shelf on the back wall could hold more items and perfect for holiday card packs. I reused some old type cases to create a facade in front of the shelving, making them look like actual furniture. However, they were hinged together so I could easily move the type cases, with access back stock without disturbing the shelf display. Win-Win! This simple but smart idea helped me achieve standing out in the crowd, creating a welcoming environment, ease of shopping, on brand with my store, accessible to back stock in the booth while hiding it and having areas to display packs, pencils, coasters, etc.
The final goal was to have a checkout area to hold all the bags, snacks, tools and randomness that goes along with doing a four day show. I have an giant old steamer trunk that was given to me bay a circus clown, (true story, ask me about it sometime), that I use in the shop on as a low table. I decided it would make a perfect checkout. It has four drawers on the right side with an open area on the left. It worked perfectly and fit right in with my vintage aesthetic. Plus, I didn't have to buy anything new. I also repurposed some old cloth bins I purchased years ago when Paperboy, (the amazing stationery store) closed. These were the perfect shape and height for holding gift wrap. Another win!
Once I had my booth designed, I got to work staining boards, hinging type cases and making my sign. It was a true DIY sign created with a quilt hoop, logo decal, frosted shower curtain, paper, spray paint and LED light strand. It turned out great! I'm guessing the next sign I make will be a little more refined but for the time and budget I had, I was very resourceful and made it work.
The next hurdle, making sure we had enough product. This is where my helpers shined! I had several people coming in one to days a week just to focus on show product. Folding, scoring, packaging and quality control fell on their shoulders while I printed my days away. I spent my evenings packaging pencils, stationery and coasters. Several makers shared stories of selling out of items after the second day in previous years and I wanted to make sure that didn't happen. I may have over-compensated, especially for a pandemic in-person show but the peace of mind was worth it. Plus, I have a storefront location that always needs restocking. We sold out of a couple items but I doubt anyone even noticed. The majority of the customers were new to me. Another win in my book.
The show was a great success! I loaded in with ease. Set up went well despite the fact my blue walls weren't set up when we arrived. Move-out is always a long process and a lesson in patience but it was also smooth. The best part of the show was seeing maker friends and chatting with customers. I missed you all so much, it's truly amazing how full my heart feels. The maker community are really the finest humans there are. Danielle from Soap Distillery stopped by the first day for a hug, realized it was my first OOAK show and checked in throughout the show to see if I needed a water or restroom break. So. Frickin. Thoughtful. Another HUGE bonus of doing in-person shows - trades with fellow vendors. I got to trade goods with several vendors, including Sophia Reyes for the most amazing sweatshirt. I discovered some new makers and made some really exciting gift purchases. I also made some new friends, it was amazing. The entire weekend filled me with warm fuzzies.
Thanks to all who shopped with us, signed up for our emails and followed us on socials. Thanks to all my maker friends, you guys make me feel like I belong. Thanks to OOAK for creating a show during a pandemic where I felt safe and people showed up ready to buy and creating a show where makers are valued. And a HUGE thanks to Sarah, Tom and Susy. You guys show up for me again and again and there's no possible way I could've done it without you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. We'll see you all next year!