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What I Learned Selling Sublimated Products at a Holiday Craft Fair

By Meghan Rodenhouse

One of my jobs at Sawgrass is to help empower creative entrepreneurs. When it comes to selling, I do most of my business online, but I know many Sawgrass users sell at local fairs and markets.

I wanted to be able to provide the best advice that I could for users, so I set out to learn more about how to sell in person. I paid $15 and signed up for a local craft show last December.

The show I signed up for was a local holiday craft fair that was being held in a field next to my neighborhood. By the time I found out about the show, I only had two weeks to prepare. The Thanksgiving holiday also fell between when I signed up and when the show happened.

Before the Fair

Preparing for the Show

I created a fake company that was unrelated to the Sawgrass name. I wanted to conduct an experiment to see what would sell faster: pre-made designs or photographs. I turned to my co-worker, Alex, who is responsible for making me look good on camera every day! Alex was nice enough to sublimate some of his own photographs onto ChromaLuxe panels for me.

Next, I opened CreativeStudio. The event was a holiday fair, so I tried to stick with holiday creations. Using premium and free designs from CreativeStudio, I created unique mugs, ornaments, pet tags, signs and more. Since there was no electricity at the show everything had to be done ahead of time and nothing could be fully personalized.

Setting Prices

About three days before the show I finalized my designs and finished pressing my items. When looking into pricing each item I considered how much I paid for the substrate and how much time and effort went into creating the design and pressing it.

All of the proceeds raised at every booth at this fair went to the Charleston Animal Society, which also played a factor in my pricing decision making. I wanted to have prices that reflected the work I put into each item, but were also low enough that people would be encouraged to buy the items and donate their money.

Accepting Payments

One of the hardest issues I had was figuring out how to accept donations because I don’t have a credit card reader and many people don’t carry cash in 2019. I made my PayPal and Venmo accounts available to customers so I could easily transfer money over to the organization at the end of the day.

I also brought a makeshift cash box filled with $100 in change of my own money. At the end of the fair, I would make sure that my $100 was still accounted for so I didn’t lose any money and all of the correct donations went to the charity.

Setting Up at the Fair

Be sure to check the rules and guidelines for your fair or market ahead of time, because for this fair I had to provide my own table, chairs, and tablecloth. My husband’s work was nice enough to let me borrow those items.

I also made sure I had lots of parchment paper and boxes to safely pack my products for transportation to the fair.

The morning of the fair, all vendors were allowed to arrive at 6AM, two hours before the event started. When I arrived at the site, all vendors were randomly given stall locations where we could set up. I was done setting up about an hour before the show started. I took time to help the vendors around me set up their tables while we waited for shoppers to arrive.

Day of the Fair: Lessons Learned

Clearly Display Pricing

Most people who approached my booth were blown away by the beautiful pictures taken by my co-worker, Alex, but no one wanted to buy one. I couldn’t figure out why, until a woman told me that the items looked too expensive. The prices were on the back of each item which ultimately left people to have to guess the price. Many were intimidated by the look and didn’t bother asking the true price.

When it comes to set up and pricing, I learned it’s best to over explain. A vendor stationed next to me told me that pricing signs made from chalkboards or dry erase boards are best. These signs allow your prices to be seen for each item and are easy to customize. Plus, they’re fairly inexpensive and last a long time.

Personalize as Much as Possible

I did my best to try to make my designs customized without specific names or pictures since there was no electricity at the fair and I couldn’t personalize on the spot. This was a neighborhood market, so I created ornaments with the neighborhood name on it and not only did these sell out, but I also had orders to make more!

I also created dog tags that said “Best Present Ever” and “Naughty.” These are sayings I thought would resonate with every pet owner. It worked, as these were my best-selling items at the show!

To promote my new business, I created business cards from small metal plates. As other vendors walked the show, this was the item that caught their eye the most because they thought these unique cards were a great way to stand out and be remembered. Several vendors took my card and asked if I could make a version for them.

Use Social Media Before, During and After the Fair

This was the first time our neighborhood had put on a craft fair and it wasn’t well. All of us vendors pooled together to send out Facebook alerts to different community groups, which helped improve traffic. I learned that it’s important to be your own best advocate. If you’re doing any event you should also advertise within your own groups and circles to help generate interest.

I posted the customized ornament in our neighborhood Facebook group to try to draw people to the craft fair. This post created a lot of interest! Though many people said they were unable to make the show, they still wanted the neighborhood-themed ornament.

After the show I posted pictures of all my remaining products along with descriptions and prices. Within hours I’d sold out of the ornaments and had additional orders for personalized versions. I also had more orders for personalized pet tags.

Use All Your Space – Not Just Your Table

Although we were only allowed one six-foot table, that doesn’t mean your space is limited! I had an entire six foot by six foot box to sell in. Other vendors brought crates, rolling hanger racks and more to help display their items. This allowed them to bring more inventory and was more appealing to shoppers.

I also learned that next time I do a show (and there will be a next time) I should bring a tent, such as the type people use for sporting events or the beach. These tents not only draw attention, but they shield you and your items from the sun. As many people know, UV rays can cause sublimated items to fade. Though a short amount of time won’t do much damage, it’s always best to stay cautious.

Learn From Others

Finally, I saw this event as a way to market myself and sublimation. The craft fair gave me the opportunity to learn from others and make connections with other crafters. Once I took my work online, a different group of people were able to see what I could do. That online presence gave me a platform to take my already customized designs and personalize them.

What I took away

Don’t be afraid to try something new! Although you may not make a lot of money, you can’t put a price on learning. Every leap you take gives you knowledge and makes you a better business owner.

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