Indie Craft Parade 2016 Recap

What a weekend. The 7th annual Indie Craft Parade took place this past weekend, and it was, as always, one of the best weekends of the whole year. This festival of all things handmade takes place every September, and it’s extremely competitive to get a spot as a vendor, but it’s a total blast once you’re in.

It’s also a LOT of hard work. I spend every minute of the summer preparing for this show, and when the weekend is over and the dust has settled, it feels like I’ve just accomplished something big, something that’s been months in the making. Today, as I write this, everything is sore: my face (from smiling non-stop for 3 days), my feet (from standing for the better part of 18 hours), my back (from load in load out), and my brain (from keeping track of sales and trying my best to remember names), but I’m beaming with joy. I met so many wonderful customers and fellow artists, and I got to share my work with 7,000 people. There’s something really thrilling about that!

This year was another record breaker, and I’m so thankful for everyone who came by my booth. I absolutely love to see people coming over to shop who are wearing jewelry they purchased from me years ago.

I did lots of shopping as well, and these are my 2016 purchases. 

1. Bird cup from   Moonbird Pottery   2. Necklaces from   Twenty Two West   3. Ceramic ring cone from   Paper&Clay   4. Screen print on wood from  Bone and Ink • Drawings by Jennifer Janeiro Allen  5. Painted ornament from  Origin Tale  6. Print from  METHANE STUDIOS  7. Metal bunny bowl from  January Jewelry  8. Large woven wall hanging from  WARP & WEFT  9. Angry cukes, Little Rock Caviar, and Drunken Tomatoes from  Doux South  10. Bible verse cards & holder from  Thimblepress  11. Push-pop Confetti from  Thimblepress

1. Bird cup from Moonbird Pottery
2. Necklaces from Twenty Two West
3. Ceramic ring cone from Paper&Clay
4. Screen print on wood from Bone and Ink • Drawings by Jennifer Janeiro Allen
5. Painted ornament from Origin Tale
6. Print from METHANE STUDIOS
7. Metal bunny bowl from January Jewelry
8. Large woven wall hanging from WARP & WEFT
9. Angry cukes, Little Rock Caviar, and Drunken Tomatoes from Doux South
10. Bible verse cards & holder from Thimblepress
11. Push-pop Confetti from Thimblepress

As in years past, I’m sharing some show stats, mostly because this event is fun to track from year to year. I sold less items than I did last year, but I earned more, and I also noticed I didn’t do as well on Sunday as I usually do, but I did almost double my usual sales during the Friday night VIP gala. You just never know how things will shake out!

In addition to stats, I thought I’d share a few practical tips and tricks that have worked well for me over the years. These things might be useful to anyone considering doing a craft show, or even the craft show veterans out there.

  1. If you’re going to sit down at any point during the show, bring a director’s chair or taller stool so you’re still able to chat with customers and handle transactions without being hidden behind your display. It will feel more natural to talk to customers when you’re eye level with them, even if you’re going to sit. I know some pros say you should never sit (or eat, or be on your phone, etc.) but let’s get real here - you will probably need to do all three at some point!

  2. If you know you’re going to be standing for the majority of the show (either because you’re in the “never sit down camp” or because it’s going to be a busy show and sitting isn't an option) bring one of those comfort mats to stand on. Half the time I’m standing barefoot on one of those things and it really helps keep my legs from tiring out over the course of the show (and nobody can see it anyway!).

  3. You can never have too many business cards, bags, or dollar bills on hand at a show. Every stinkin year, I think I have more than enough for Indie Craft Parade, and I’m wrong. This year I packed over 400 bags, nearly double what I packed the year before, and darn it, I still ran out. I also took 100 bucks worth of one dollar bills and ran out by the end of the day Saturday. Be prepared, or better yet, be beyond prepared! I have never run out of business cards as of yet (thankfully) but I have seen plenty of vendors who did, and I just hate to see them losing potential follow-up business because their customers have no way of finding them after the show.

  4. Pack lots of food and water. If a show is really busy, you may not be able to leave your booth for a meal, and only a handful of shows offer lunch deliveries. Also - when you’re thinking through what food to pack, I find it a lot easier to eat things with a fork (no sandwiches or pizza, etc.), so you can sneak in a quick bite here and there, then get back to your customers after minimal chewing without having to worry about leaving to wash your hands, food in teeth situations, or having to take a long break to eat something big & messy in one shot.

  5. Be prepared for 60 through 90 degree temperatures, because both are possible and you have no way of knowing which. I’ve done shows where the AC was so extreme my fingers went numb and I shivered the whole time, and I’ve also had shows where I was a sweaty mess when the AC wasn’t at it’s best, so dress & pack for both extremes, no matter what time of year it is.

  6. Rethink your packaging for busy shows (or prepare it ahead of time). Unless you sell really high end or fragile items, I’d say the simpler the better. I always feel really awkward when I’ve made a purchase and I have to stand there while the artist makes fancy ribbon curls. I know not everyone agrees on this, but I wanted to put it on this list as something to encourage you to think through ahead of time.

  7. Bring back up devices for accepting credit card payments, extra battery backup, and all the chargers in the world. You don’t want any technology mishap to shut you down.

  8. Pay attention to the questions your customers ask (or keep a list, if that helps), because you’ll catch on to some repeat questions after a while which is a clue you may have something that needs to be addressed. For example, when I first started selling my Curious Cameo pendants, people were always asking if I had longer chains. I never even thought of that until people kept asking about them, so now I keep extra chains if people would like to upgrade to a longer one. Easy solution!

  9. HAVE A SIGN.

  10. Consider taking custom orders during the show. For the longest time, people would ask for a custom item and I’d give them a business card and send them to my Etsy shop, and never hear from them again. Now, I offer to take their order right then and there, and I’ll even apply any show specials I have going on, so that I’m not leaving this possible future order up to chance. I also make things easy by bringing a color chart to the show so customers can see all the available options and choose exactly what they want.

Indie Craft Parade 2015

The 6th annual Indie Craft Parade was this past weekend, and as always, it didn't disappoint. Far from it! This highly competitive, well-organized regional craft fair showcases 80 artists and brings out 6-7,000 attendees in Greenville every September. I was pleased to participate once again this year, and just as in years past, it was one of my best shows ever. How does that keep happening? This particular craft show is just THAT good!

My Indie Craft Parade 2015 booth setup

I saw so many familiar faces, people who have been coming to my booth year after year. I always enjoy seeing "vintage" Once Again Sam jewelry in the crowd, pieces I made several years ago, still being enjoyed. That's probably the coolest part of the weekend - having happy customers come back again and again.

This is a big weekend for my business, so I spend a good chunk of the summer preparing for it. I'm proud to say, this was the first Indie Craft Parade when I didn't run out of bags or dollar bills. In previous years, I vastly underestimated how many shoppers would come through, so I'd double up on supplies the following year, and of course the number of customer would double up too, so I still had the same problem. Not this year! I took $150 in singles, and over 500  paper bags (which I hand stamped one by one) and it seems I finally have a feel for just how to prepare for this show. It only took me 5 years to get it right! 

Here's the rundown of my weekend in numbers, just as I shared last year, plus a peek inside my shopping bag at my fabulous finds. I always enjoy supporting other artists, and at a show like this one, you truly have to restrain yourself! There is so much talent, so many gift ideas, so many splurges to consider. In the end, I brought home items from 12 other artists. 

My 2015 Indie Craft Parade purchases will full artist list below:

1. Origami flowers by Paperform

2. Mixed media block art by Heather Murphy

3. Ceramic bowl by Daniel Bare

4. Paper wall art by Paperform

5. Lip balm by Hello Soap

6. Weaving on woodblock by Twenty Two West

7. Mixed media assemblage by Jon Andrews

8. Wood block paintings by Sunny Mullarkey Studio

9. Brass stud earrings & ring by Melting Sun Apparel

10. Print by Elizabeth Foster

11. Painted wood sign by Olive + Grey

12. Handbag by Hawks & Doves

The Makers Summit: 3rd Annual Kick in the Butt

Earlier this month I attended a 2-day conference for creatives called The Makers Summit, put on my Indie Craft Parade. This was the 3rd annual gathering, and I wouldn’t miss it for anything. People from all over the country come to Greenville, SC, to be a part of this event. There's workshops to attend, the chance to meet one-on-one with industry experts, hear keynote speakers share their story, and get to know other makers.

Each year, I’ve gotten something completely different out of the conference. It’s true the workshops and speakers change every time so the experience is never going to be the same, but I think a big reason why my personal takeaway is vastly different year to year is because my business is in a completely different place each time. A lot can happen in between one Makers Summit and the next!

The first year (2013), I was really wanting to improve my Etsy shop, so I signed up for one-on-one sessions with experts related to that, and made big changes in the following weeks to my tags, descriptions, and photos. At the time, I was also toying with creating a personal website where my jewelry, fiber art, interior design, and writing could come together (THIS website, the one you’re reading right now!). Lastly, I was inspired to pitch to a magazine for the first time after hearing Amy Flurry, author of Recipe for Press, speak at the conference. Backstory on my first magazine pitch & feature can be found here:  

Last year (2014), I was focused on re-branding and giving my business a better overall appearance, so by the summertime I was finally ready to take the plunge and get serious about this major overhaul. It was a huge thing to check off my Makers Summit to-do list, and now I can finally say I’ve never been happier with my logo and branding. Backstory on my re-branding can be found here:

This year (2015), I found myself tuning in to advice related specifically to wholesale. I already do a fair amount of wholesale business as it is, but I really need to step it up a notch (several notches, actually). Most of my big goals for this year are for growing my wholesale reach even further, and making that side of my business significantly more professional.

Post Makers Summit To-Do List:

  • Create a printed catalogue to showcase my linesheet

  • Develop SKU’s for all wholesale inventory

  • Launch my own e-commerce website with wholesale section

  • Simplify custom ordering process: color chart, setting options, designs, etc.

  • Exhibit at one tradeshow in the next 12 months (which is way different than a craft show)

So there it is, my official list. Now that it’s posted here, I really have to be accountable! 

The conference was, as it always is, a kick in the butt to take the next major steps of this entrepreneurial journey. My brain is still processing everything I heard. I’m still buzzing with inspiration, even several weeks later.

After the Makers Summit was #thebestcraftpartyever - which is exactly what is sounds like. Click through the album below for a peek at how crafty people get crafty just for fun, when they’re not making things because it’s their job. 

Recap: Indie Craft Parade

Last weekend was the 5th annual Indie Craft Parade here in Greenville, SC. This is a top notch festival of all things handmade, and is always my best show year after year. With a record number of attendees this year, nearly 7,000 people, it’s no wonder it was a huge success for all involved.

A lot goes into preparing for a major show like this. I worked all summer making inventory and still felt like I didn’t have enough by the time September rolled in. The week of the show, I mainly focused on tweaking my table setup, and finalized some new additions to my display to ensure my booth would look it’s best and function well for the crowd of shoppers. I always do a mock up prior to this show (that’s what the dining room is for!) and that, plus carefully packing up what is essentially a miniature store, is a several day-long endeavor. The checklist is never ending!

The day before the show, I got an unexpected opportunity to appear on Studio 62 with Jamarcus Gaston to talk about the festival and my handmade business. This was my first time on TV and I was shaking like a leaf, but I’m thankful for the chance to plug this amazing event as well as share my work. Here’s the video clip

Friday September 12th was the day of set up. All the vendors showed up at assigned times to unload, and the anticipation was there from the get go, long before the VIP Gala kicked off that evening. I did a series of live posts throughout the day Friday to give a behind the scenes look at what all goes on before the doors are open. Click here for photos.

To say the show was a success would be a huge understatement. I’m not just talking record sales or attendance. Everything about the event was extremely well organized, widely publicized, and I felt energized even though I was utterly exhausted by the end of it. Below are some of my stats from the weekend, but I’ll just point out, this show is a complete anomaly - I DO NOT sell almost 800 items at every craft show I do!

Not only did I sell a lot, but I bought a lot too. That’s half the fun, right?      Here’s a peek at my Indie Craft Parade loot from some of the most talented regional artists. I could have bought something from just about every vendor. I had a hard time narrowing it down to these awesome items!

Not only did I sell a lot, but I bought a lot too. That’s half the fun, right?  

Here’s a peek at my Indie Craft Parade loot from some of the most talented regional artists. I could have bought something from just about every vendor. I had a hard time narrowing it down to these awesome items!

1. Ring from  January Jewelry   2. Print from  Chris Koelle   3. Felted Flowers from  Muncle Fred Art    4. Brass Earrings from  Olivia de Soria Jewelry   5. Bone Pendant from  Exterra88   6. Turned Walnut Bowl from Turning South  7. Trivet and Feather Ornament from  Crave Studio   8. Owl Print from  Joe Engel   9. Turned Muddlers from  Slab   10. & 11. Paintings from  Candy Pegram   12. Bowl from  Bean & Bailey   13. Tiny Vases from  April Swhingle   14. Porcupine Pendant from  Spectrum Handcrafted   15. 2015 Calendar from Paperform

1. Ring from January Jewelry

2. Print from Chris Koelle

3. Felted Flowers from Muncle Fred Art 

4. Brass Earrings from Olivia de Soria Jewelry

5. Bone Pendant from Exterra88

6. Turned Walnut Bowl from Turning South

7. Trivet and Feather Ornament from Crave Studio

8. Owl Print from Joe Engel

9. Turned Muddlers from Slab

10. & 11. Paintings from Candy Pegram

12. Bowl from Bean & Bailey

13. Tiny Vases from April Swhingle

14. Porcupine Pendant from Spectrum Handcrafted

15. 2015 Calendar from Paperform

Thanks to everyone who made this event so special!

Thanks to everyone who made this event so special!

Indie Craft Parade: The Milestone That Changed Everything

Indie Craft Parade is a festival of handmade goods held every September in Greenville, SC, that features top makers from all over the southeast. So ... it's just a craft show, right? Well, no. Not really. It's a whole lot more than that. This show changed everything for me.

Once upon a time, in the summer of 2011, I applied to a craft show for the very first time. My Etsy shop Once Again Sam was still fairly new, and trying an event seemed like a reasonable goal for growth. With zero experience, I submitted my application for the “To Wear” category, and hoped my handmade leather jewelry would make the cut. As an after thought, I decided to also apply for the “Fiber Art” category. I had just learned needle felting a few months earlier and thought showing the judges a range of work might help me stand out.

My expectations of being accepted were low. A few hundred people applying for 75 spots = not great odds. The day the jury notifications went out I was bummed my jewelry had been declined, but not shocked. Then, I read the email again and realized my fiber art had been accepted. I believe my exact words were, “What the crap?” I had just learned how to felt, and the photos I used for my fiber art application were some of the only pieces I had ever made. 

That summer, all I did was felt felt felt. Looking back, I can see that having to improve my skills quickly and develop a substantial amount of inventory in only a matter of weeks was a pivotal point for me, a crash course in this obscure craft that helped elevate my techniques in a very short time period. I felted every day for as many hours as I could manage, till it hurt. 

The show went very well, much better than I expected (because I didn’t really know what to expect). I later realized just how well organized the whole thing was, and what a great group of people are behind it all. After that first show, everything changed for Once Again Sam. Countless doors were opened. I began selling in local shops and saw a dramatic increase in my repeat customers. I started taking my handmade work more seriously, as a real business, not just a hobby.  As terrified as I was to stand behind my table and talk to total strangers that first time back in 2011 (hardcore introverts can relate, I'm sure), I got through it somehow, and it paid off in every possible way. The positive response was incredible, I felt overwhelmingly encouraged, and realized I could actually make a good living this way.

Since then, I've been lucky enough to participate in Indie Craft Parade each year, and not just with my Felted Curiosities, but also with my new & improved handmade jewelry (starting in 2012). This show has become one of the major highlights of my year. I use it as a launching pad for new collections, a deadline for improving my booth set up, and a chance to meet other creatives and connect with local customers. I love preparing for this show, I love being there, and I actually feel sad when it's over. There's a sort of a magical, inspirational atmosphere to it all, as funny as that may sound. 

Here's a look back at my last 4 years of Indie Craft Parade application photos. I can definitely see improvement, my earlier work isn't my best now, but it was my best at the time. I still have a lot to learn, a thousand new things I want to try, and I’m sure I’ll cringe years from now at the work I’m most proud of today. It’s the curse of every artist, right? 

This year, my husband’s shop Tree & Laser, will be right next to Once Again Sam at the 5th annual Indie Craft Parade in downtown Greenville, SC. There will be an amazing range of hip hand-crafted goods from regional makers, and you won’t want to miss out. Everything from screen printed t-shirts, to pottery and fine art, and of course, handmade jewelry & felted curiosities brought to you by yours truly. If you’re in the Upstate of SC, come on by!