This weekend I participated in a local arts festival. It was something I had been looking forward to for a few weeks. I haven’t done many fairs or festivals. Jewelry is historically the section that fills up the quickest, so I’ve been rejected a bunch of times, and the one farmers market I was able to get into was not very lucrative. In fact, the whole market was kind of a flop and so it closed. But I’ve been looking for a new way to get my super cool rock star jewelry in front of a new audience, so I applied to sell at this local fest.
And, instead of waiting until the last day to register like I usually do, I turned my app in right away and lo and behold, it was accepted. Yay!
Lesson 1: Act early.
Unfortunately, the organizer forgot to notify me that I had been accepted. I was bummed, assuming that I had been rejected once again, but I decided to follow up just to be sure and to ask if perhaps there was a wait list. That is how I found out, five weeks before the event, that I had in fact been accepted.
Lesson 2: Follow up.
My expectations were high. I’d heard legends about makers who didn’t bring enough product and sold completely out halfway through a fair. Another more realistic statistic I’d heard somewhere said that most vendors sell about 30% of their stock on hand. So I set two goals for myself: One, to design three new products I could make quickly and sell at a lower price point; and two, make 100 of these new pieces. That’s a lot of pieces. And if you know anything about me, you know I am all about quality. I wasn’t going to slap something together and put my name on it. Hell no. So I tweaked my process slightly to make it a little quicker but still high quality, and I designed a necklace that could be made much faster than stringing strands of beads or labor intensive cuff bracelets, and this is what I created.
I then used my “Big Project Planner” to reverse engineer my goal. I set a schedule for making the jewelry, designing and creating the display and the packaging, developing a marketing strategy, and planning the logistics. Boom. Mission accomplished.
Lesson 3: Have a detailed plan of action and work it.
Unfortunately, the festival was not financially successful. I sold nowhere near 30% of my pieces. Closer to 3% if we’re keeping it real. It wasn’t just me, but the other sellers I spoke to also had pitiful sales. My neighbor, who was selling gorgeous handbags and accessories, told me that the previous two times she had participated in the market, the hand-made marketplace was on the main drag with the food vendors and music stages. This time, we were off in an adjacent alley that didn’t get as much foot traffic. Also, we were literally across from the trash cans, and homeless people kept coming by and rooting through the bins for recyclables. On top of that, in my opinion, the publicity for the festival focused mainly on the Craft Beer Block & selling tickets to that versus the handmade marketplace.
Lesson 4: You can control some things, but not everything.
Friday night, I was super pumped. I set a goal and totally rocked it. Saturday, I was devastated. I had high hopes and they were crushed. Sunday, I woke up feeling invigorated to put everything I learned the previous day into an action plan. Besides the lessons highlighted above, I learned some pretty major stuff. I have a much deeper insight into my ideal customers’ perspective. I also learned that many women prefer to wear shorter necklaces, would probably buy earrings, and are most likely to spend $5-$10 at a festival like this one.
Lesson 5: There is always a lesson to be learned.
Although I would have very much loved to have sold out of jewelry, or even sold 30% of the pieces on hand, I don’t consider my experience a failure. I am still proud of reaching my production goal. I am super happy that the display I imagined turned out so well in real life. I connected with some really cool makers, and I am taking away a wealth of knowledge that I can use to make my next experience better and more successful.
[Tweet “My mantra, courtesy of @TonyRobbins: “There is no such thing as failure. There are only results.””]