Finding a Craft Show

Originally prepared for The Saponifier by Anne-Marie Faiola and was published in Volume 2, Issue 3.

Now that you’ve created a beautiful batch of soaps, how do you share them and sell them to the public? Craft shows are an excellent place to start. Here are some tips for making your craft show experience a success, by Anne-Marie Faiola, soap making guru and owner of Bramble Berry Soap Making Supplies:

Where do I find Craft Shows?

First, how do you find a craft show? There are many ways to do this. The easiest is to find a publication in your area, generally at a craft store, that lists all the shows in your state for the entire year. These publications come out in January or February and are available all year. There are also various magazines that have shows listed but often, these magazines list larger shows where the fees may be daunting to a soaper. A method that has served me well is simply to call the local Chamber of Commerces in surrounding cities and they will generally have a listing of upcoming shows, or better yet, they’ll be sponsoring a few themselves. You can also attend some local craft shows and find out from the crafters at the show where they’ll be next, or which shows have done well for them in the past.

Narrowing your choices

Once you’ve figured out where the shows are, it’s important to weed some of them out. The easiest way to do this is by the entry fee. There are three ways craft shows charge:

(1) Straight commission – the promoter will take anywhere from 10 to 35% of your total sales. This is often advantageous for soapers as we generally have lower sales than artisans with large, more expensive items.

(2) Straight fee – the promoter charges a booth fee, ranging from $10 to $1,500. This method is okay as long as your fee doesn’t go over about $250. There are only so many bars of soap you can sell in two or three days, and there is a limit to how much inventory you can afford to make prior to the show. In my opinion, anything above $250 is pretty risky.

(3) Combination of commission and fee – this is by far the scariest in my opinion; if the fee is expensive to begin with. If you have to pay $150 to get in and only sell what you would normally sell at a show priced at $150 (about $700 or $800), and then you have to pay a 25% commission, your profit can get slim. I personally like straight commission shows (no initial outlay of money to get into) but they are difficult to find.

soap making instructions and recipes

Selecting the right Craft Show

Now that you’ve narrowed down the field, it’s time to start asking questions. A few to ask are:

(1) How many people attended? In general, 1 to 3% of the total attending population will buy something at your booth. In all probability, only 1/3 to 1/2 of the total in attendance will even venture by or into your booth. So, at a show that has 40,000 attending, that’s 400 (low end) to 1200 (high end) that will purchase your goods. Of course, please remember that this is a best case scenario but this will give you a starting point to figure out if the fee is too high for the show.

(2) How many vendors are there? Bigger shows have upwards to 500 vendors, smaller ones are about 15 to 25. The more vendors, the bigger the fee. But, if there are more vendors, in general, more customers will show up also, so take that into consideration.

(3) How many soapers will be there? Out of every 30 vendors, one soaper is pretty standard. If you start to get 4 or 5 out of 100, the market gets tough. That’s not to say that you won’t do well if there are more soapers, but in general, the less competition, the better.

(4) Has the show grown substantially over the last year? If it has, don’t do the show. More than 35% growth from the previous year is, as a rule of thumb, too fast a rate of growth. Normally, the amount of attendees doesn’t vary substantially from one year to the next; thus, the total amount of dollars spent is about the same year to year but now, with 35% more vendors, that amount will be spread more thinly, leaving less money for each of the vendors.

(5) How many vendors are returning? If there aren’t any vendors returning, don’t do the show. There’s a reason that the return rate is low. Normally, a great show can expect 65% return rate or so and a decent show will get about 50% returning. Try to go for the well established, long term shows.

There are other factors to consider: Will you stay in a motel? How far do you have to drive? Do you have to provide your own tent or tables? Will you have to eat out or are there accommodations for you to cook in? Will you have to pay for your showers? All these little expenses add up. The more money you spend getting to and staying at a show, the more money you’ll need to make.

soap making instructions and recipes

How much product do I bring to the show?

So, now the big question: how much product do I bring? If you follow the 1% to 3% rule (1% to 3% of the total attendance will buy a product at your booth), simply do the math, and figure it out.

There is another way to figure out the amount you should expect to make. The “7x” rule: you can expect to make 7 to 10 times your entry fee. Multiply the entry fee times 7 for the low amount, and times 10 for the high number. So, if a show costs $100 to get in, I’ll bring $1000 worth of product, but hope to sell about $700. Don’t be discouraged if your shows don’t do the “7x” rule. I know my first shows didn’t! I barely made my booth fee back! Over time, as you get your ‘spiel’ down, and become more comfortable selling, your sales will get higher.

soap making instructions and recipes

Other Craft Show Necessities ~
A few basic necessities you need to bring to your show:

coffee beans (for clearing out noses)
table cloth, sheet
change ($100 is good)
soap pins (if you have signs to stick in them)
ice cube soap/samples
business cards
coffee/ water/ pop to drink
food! craft show food can get expensive
web site promo material (“Buy our stuff at!”)
signs (“Bars of soap are 5 ounces”)
wounded and ugly soap (everyone loves a bargain!)soap dishes
order forms
credit card processing (if applicable)
promo material – “This is where we will be next – We do baskets, etc.”)
receipt book
books, cards, stuff to do
wet wipes
price tags
soap for washrooms with note: “If you like this soap, buy it at Booth #121”
bath bomb samples (they make fun demonstrations)

Obviously, there are other things that you will want to bring but this is a good basic starter list. So, now, take a deep breath and jump in to the craft show market with both feet! You’ll love the extra dollars you bring home and all that profit in your pocket. Plus, the repeat customers throughout the year will make all the long hours worth your while.