How I went from the corporate world to craft shows!
After my husband and I got laid off from our jobs back in 2007, I decided I wanted to start a home business.
At the time, craft fairs were all the rage so I decided to start a small home business selling things I crafted at home.
I lived in Japan for several years and really loved (and still do) all things Kawaii. Kawaii means cute in Japanese and it’s a genre of super,
Long story short, I ended up selling forest-themed sleeping masks, cheeky screen printed linen lunch bags, and other Kawaii and Japanese inspired things which I sewed in my living room.
Looking back, it was kind of an insane idea because up until that point in my life, my creative side was dormant, mostly ignored while I raised a family and pursued a very conventional career path based mostly on my Economics degree: finance, analytics and marketing.
- I didn’t have an art background.
- I didn’t know how to sew!
- I knew nothing about starting a DIY, handmade craft business.
- I was starting from scratch and learning on the way. I taught myself how to do everything using a combination of sewing books, Japanese craft magazines, Youtube, and trolling other crafters.
I taught myself how to take photos of my products.
The most challenging thing for me to photograph was my forest themed
My First Craft Fair
I started selling my handmade goods as a side hustle on a website that I paid someone to create and eventually began selling on
It was a lot of work but I made my own hours. What I really wanted was to get out there and mingle with other crafters and potential customers. Crafts fairs and shows seemed like the logical next step.
The DIY and craft movement was really picking up steam at the time, especially in the San Francisco bay area, where we lived.
For months, leading up to my first craft fair in San Francisco, I agonized over what to bring, how to set up my booth and other logistics.
It all ended up being more complicated than I anticipated so I created multiple craft fair checklists, which helped me stay organized.
Craft Show Checklist: List Of Essential Things You Don’t Want To Forget
This craft fair checklist is not an exhaustive list. It’s a starting point for you to build upon. It contains the things which I think are essential for craft show vendor booths (at minimum).
Let’s dig in.
Legal permission to sell your crafts:
1) Sellers Permit:
Each country has its own laws, but in the US, a seller’s permit or wholesale certificate gives you the right to sell your goods legally online and at craft shows.
If your only planning on selling your handmade goods during certain seasons, such as Christmas, you may be able to obtain a temporary seller’s permit.
Some craft shows require you have one before even applying so make sure you bring it with you.
Bring cash and coins in different denominations and a box or a utility apron to hold the money.
The last thing you want is for someone to hand you a twenty and not be able to give them change for their purchase.
Tip: Price your items using round dollar amounts. This makes giving change much easier. Instead of charging 19.50, charge 19.00 or 20.00
3) Credit Card Reader:
When I did my craft fair shows, I had to use a credit card imprinter and credit card slips. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, that’s ok. It’s super old school.
These days you can use your smartphone and a credit card reader to accept every major credit card instantly.
Signage, Marketing & Promotional Material
4) Business cards:
Lots of people at craft fairs like to peruse and check things out without buying anything. Once they pass your booth, they may forget to come back. Passing out business cards with your business name and website address means customers can purchase your crafts online at a later date. If you don’t have an online presence, think about starting up a store on Etsy.com.
5) Other promotional Material:
In addition to your business cards, you could bring additional promotional material. Coupons to pass out for future purchases online, branded postcards, Chotchkies, etc.
I had bookmarks printed with my logo on one side and images of different products on the other side. I gave them out and included one with every purchase and used a company called “Moo Cards”.
Design your own business cards using premium quality paper. Use your own photos or images of your products to create square, round or mini business cards. Stickers too.
6) Paper Weight or display for promotional material
In case it gets windy, make sure to bring something to hold your business cards and promotional material down. A rock or paperweight would work just fine.
7) Banner or Large sign with your brand name
I found a printer on
SETUP & DISPLAY
8) A Canopy Tent
I highly recommend getting a tent for outdoor craft fairs to protect you from the sun and rain.
100 Square feet of shade - Straight leg design has a 10 foot by 10 foot footprint and 10'x10' Coverage at the top.
9) Weights for your tent: If you live in a windy area.
Look for at least 15 pounds for each leg. 20 is the recommended weight. We used old burlap rice sacks and filled them up with pebbles. Alternatively, you could fill buckets up with sand. Or, you could go to the thrift store and get some old weights and tie them to your tent legs.
10) Display tables:
I used two card tables and placed them side by side. They were easy to fold and easily fit in my car.
11) Table cover:
You can use anything you like, such as sheets, drapes, table cloths or whatever else you can get your hands on.
I found a bunch of adorable table clothes at the thrift store for under 10 dollars. Make sure the table cloth is long enough to reach the ground on all sides. I hid many of my things and extra inventory under the tables out of sight.
12) A way to label your products and or list prices
You could individually price each item or group items together by price.
13) Displays to showcase your work.
Displays are expensive. I re-purposed some stuff I had laying around like an old suitcase, which I added foldable legs to which did double duty storing my crafts. I just folded it up at the end of the day and loaded them into my car.
I repurposed a leaning bookshelf by painting it red. I hung things from the top of my tent using a laundry dryer I found at Ikea.
You can get as creative as you want without having to spend a ton of money.
Something I wish I had done was invest in some good risers to display certain things. I’ve seen other crafters do this and think it really helps showcase work a little better.
14) Chairs or Stools:
I like using foldable chairs, and folding director chairs which I highly recommend. The folding wood chair we brought was really uncomfortable to sit in.
These are things that will make running your booth go much smoother. Things that I didn’t bring to my first craft show but wish I had.
15) Paper and or notebook
Comes in handy to take notes, doodle or sign people up to your email list.
18) Merchandise bags or gift wrapping paper
Don’t forget to put a business card or other promotional material in each
19) Scotch tape and Duct tape.
Duct tape is great at fixing things in a pinch.
20) Rubbish bags
21) Camera or smartphone for photos.
Take photos and video which you can also use for promotional purposes later.
22. Baby wipes
Don’t forget to have a system to carry everything like large plastic bins, tupperware, a small Suitcase, or whatever works.
Things to bring for you:
25) Water and snacks
The last thing you want is the get “Hangry” or dehydrated.
26) A helper so you can get a potty break or buy lunch.
Alternatively, you could ask another crafter at the fair to watch your stuff while you’re gone.
27) Extra crafts or work to keep busy:
Bring some crafts you can work on to pass the time during slow times.
28) Inventory checklist of everything you plan on bringing to the craft show.
Don’t forget to bring extra inventory.
Other miscellaneous things to bring
29) A small dolly or something to shuttle stuff to and from your car.
Mirror for customers if they need to try things like necklaces, hats, clothing etc.
Update: I don’t sell crafts anymore:
I still do some crafting on the side in my spare time for myself but I no longer sell my crafts online or at craft shows. I stopped once we moved to France because it didn’t suit the lifestyle I wanted to live. I wanted to travel more. A crafting business requires a more stationary life with lots of space for materials and inventory.
Lately, I’ve been working on graphics in illustrator and photoshop and started creating printables, with a French twist.
Digital products still allow me to explore my creative side. It’s also something that I can do from anywhere in the world with my laptop and my graphic tablet.