Show Dog - Expos and Craft Fairs
Since Covid we haven't done any in person events, but can't wait to get back out there. We love participating in pet related events, as well as ones that benefits some of our favorite organizations.
Back in 2014, we participated in 2 pet expos: Phoenix and Tucson. Overall this was such a great learning experience. First of all, you get a chance to connect with a lot of people within the same industry. If you do wholesale, it is a great opportunity to connect with local businesses that might want to carry your product. Another thing I loved about this experience is you really get a good idea of what the customer thinks of your product. Is it eye catching enough that they will come and look at your booth? Does your product look good on all dogs? Did price deter people from purchasing?
There are a lot of things to consider when choosing to do one of these large markets:
1. They are expensive! Make sure you have enough product and demand to sell enough to at least cover the cost of your booth. If you are just starting out, you might be really disappointed.
2. Make the best use of your space. This was a hard one, considering I had a large 10x10 booth and wanted to make it "shoppable" If I did it again, I do not think I would have them walk all the way into the booth. When there was more than one group (including dogs) it would get quite crowded. As you can see when I set up tables instead of having a booth it actually went a lot smoother. I'll speak more on that when I get to smaller events.
3. Invest in big eye catching signs and banners. I bought a large banner and a floor banner that I still use today. It's great to invest in things you use over and over again. But again, an investment.
4. If you make product to order, you have A LOT of prep work to do. Sometimes these expos have 1,000s of people come and you do not want to run out of product or have a bare selection. One thing I did was have some select styles that I carry, or they could pursue our website and choose products that they could order with me at the show (for show prices) and I would ship to them for free. I got a lot of extra orders this way.
5. Have fun with your displays! I did so much research before my first expo, and the really nice, professional looking booth displays were SO expensive and nothing really was what I wanted. The back display I made! It was super easy and inexpensive and added to the handmade feel of my products. For my table displays, make sure to use objects that add some height and contrast. I use a lot of stuff around my house that works great for this.
6. Bring chargers for phones, and make sure you have more than one device excepting payments (and practice payments before you get to the expo). Make sure all prices are clearly shown on or by your products. Make sure you except credit cards, because no one carries cash anymore. Also I learned from these expos that I kept everything in whole dollar amounts (and paid tax myself) then I did not have to deal with carrying around a bunch of change.
Over the next couple of years, I focused more on smaller events, which were honestly less work and more profitable. I did some work for our local humane society which was great to help raise additional money for pet organizations. It is a great way to get your name out with local dog lovers and they love to see you supporting local organizations. What I found more surprising, was I did the best at Markets that were "dog friendly" but were not a pet themed event. These people are there to SHOP! A lot of the times at expos and such, people are just looking for freebees. This is a great way to connect with your local community, and speak to your craft. I even got some wholesale business connections through doing these markets.
For these smaller fairs/markets, I would have a table set up. I would always theme it to the season or event. Before each event I would do a mock set up in my house so I would have a smooth and easy set up. Most of my stuff I could fit in a couple of bins so it was super easy to do by myself. The only problem is I have a lot of different styles and products so I couldn't fit all my inventory on the table. What I would do is, put some styles on the table, so it looked full, but not over crowded. Once I got some ones attention, I could ask what size they were looking for and then bring out my baskets of "back stock" for them to look through. They loved this experience. If i didn't have a style in the size they wanted, I would let them order it and would send it to them within the week. Also with all these events, have some sort of takeaway (I had flyers and coupon cards with treats) I did receive a couple of orders this way or had people contact me for some information or future event.
I can't wait until I am able to get back out there and interact with all our customers!