Lessons from the First Year of Three Gems

The Three Gems are Jean, Paula, and me! We each love to bead. We loved it so much that we went overboard doing it. Jean initiated the idea the three of us go together and try to sell some at local craft fairs. She came up with our name and registered us for several fairs. Paula jumped in with making displays. Jean even had business cards made for us!

Display at first craft show

Display at first craft show

After doing craft fairs for six months we learned a few things along the way. Also we rode an emotional roller coaster from bad sale days to great sale days. So here’s a quick list of lessons learned in our first craft fair season.

1. Crafters talk among themselves. Yes they talk about fairs, booth fees, and sales. We learned what fairs had good reps and what ones didn’t. We were assured that our slow sales days were generally slow sale days.

2. There are a lot of beading addicts out there in the same boat and had the same idea. As a result there are many jewelry booths at craft fairs. We now ask how many there are. Are they limiting the number of booths with the same craft?

3. Location, Location, Location – where the booth is located in relation to crowd flow. At one very successful sale we were on the turn to the bathrooms – good sales, good traffic flow. Another we were in a room off a room with a winding path to enter/exit. Sales that day for me were horrid just made half my share of the booth fee.

Necklaces displayed at Harbor Market

Three Gem’s at Harbor Market

4. Jewelry displays better on black. Go look in a jewelry store window it’s all displayed on black. Eventually we went to black and sales improved.

5. People want a deal. The $5 treasure chest or $2 hair barrettes were good sellers. At a poor sales shows they were the savers of the fair being the ONLY sales. At good sales shows they were a draw for customers.

6. Price well. See above as to why. I had to start keeping good track of my material cost in the jewelry. I’m not looking to gouge people but I hope that my beading habit can be self-sustaining. I don’t charge for my time, it’s a hobby I do for enjoyment. So as a result I’m not asking more than $20 for any one piece. I won’t price it below materials cost.

Treasure Chest Display

Treasure Chest display

7. There will be a lot of lookers. Part of this is the economy today, that I know. But then again think of how you shop, you look, you handle many things considering them then you buy. At a craft fair, many people do the same thing. They shop. Often they look over every booth before making their first purchase.

8. People don’t buy from displays. Displays attract people but rarely will they buy what’s on display, they buy what’s on the table. It’s almost like they are afraid to disturb the display. So we have to adapt our table to have attractive displays and flat surfaces easily accessible for shoppers.

Fused glass by Jean

Fused glass by Jean

9. Bring my tools. I can’t bring my beads but I can bring my tools to customize jewelry. I can’t make it longer but I can shorten things, remove a bead to shorten earrings, and such. The ability to do so made many sales customizing necklaces for homecoming dances.

10. Know the crowd. Some fairs are more for deal shoppers. They are there for the produce or apples or see the cars and the craft fair is an after thought. Other fairs people come to SHOP they are there to get Christmas gifts. Display wares accordingly.

Paula's jewelry displayed on green satin

Paula’s jewelry

That’s the top three lessons I learned in our first season doing craft fairs. I think next year we’ll be wiser and do some better. I know we need to hang in there for the long haul (years) as the beading/jewelry making fad dies down.

Again thanks for reading! As always you can click on the photos to head over to my flickr account to see larger copies of the images and more photos of the Three Gems or my beading. I’d love to hear from you so be sure to comment here or catch me at Google+, @marylouiseklund, or my e-mails marylouiseeklund at either yahoo or gmail. During the holiday week (Christmas through New Year’s Day) I’m not sure I’ll be able to post regularly but it’s my New Year’s resolution to be here regularly. So feel free to hold me to it!

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