Happy festival season! As Columbus finally gets back outdoors, so come the markets, festivals and more – Sunlight Market, Moonlight Market, ComFest, Independent’s Day, Made Local Marketplace. All showcase the creative talents of Central Ohio’s artisans.
Festivals are a great opportunity for artisans that don’t have their own storefront or primarily sell online to get in front of customers. Tents and tables fill with locally-made goods, ready to be shopped.
Metropreneur asked some local crafters what goes in to setting up that perfect display. Sharing insights are:
- – Megan Green: Craftin’ Outlaws, Midwest Craft Con, Stinkybomb Soap
- – Anne Holman: Anne Holman Jewelry Design
- – Casey Parthemore: Tiny Kitchen Soap Co.
- – Jeanna Fox: Fox Designs Jewelry
From displays, to signage, to what to do if it rains, our crafters have the tips and tricks to how to set up your craft booth.
Height is your friend when it comes to setting up a booth.
“In most cases you are only given a six-foot to eight-foot table space,” Green says. “The best way to utilize this space is to think and work up.”
“Up” applies in several ways.
“Placing your banner up high is the best way for customers to see your shop name,” Green says.
The natural inclination may be to drape it across the front of your table, but as Green notes once customers are shopping, the easy cue to who you are is lost in a sea of legs. Stinky bomb uses a shower curtain emblazoned with their name as their banner adding height and a fun nod to what products are in store.
Up also means adding height to your table display. Parthemore uses a three-tiered display for her soaps and body care products.
“It not only breaks up the space into more real estate for product, but it brings the product up into the customer’s line of sight and reach,” she says. “It’s much easier to catch someone’s eye with something at chest height than just sitting on a standard table.”
Tiny Kitchen Soap Co. sometimes opts to just take the whole operation upwards as well. The bed risers that once helped you gain every ounce of storage space possible in your college dorm room are actually quite handy for putting your craft table at a better height for browsing.
Raising your table not only means better height and more storage but, “If you have delicate or breakable products, it brings them just out of reach of curious kids’ lightning-fast hands,” Parthemore says.
Your Little Storefront
Your booth is like your own little storefront and everything in it, on it or around it should reflect your brand.
Holman says to keep it clean, keep it consistent and most importantly, “Keep it simple.”
Solid colors are going to help your product stand out. Green recommends choosing bold colors for designs and displays if your product is more minimal in color, and the opposite for poppy products.
How you display your product very much depends on what you are selling and is a big chance to infuse some creativity.
“Think outside the box as far as jewelry displays go,” Holman says. “Anyone can buy commercial busts and jewelry displays, but those aren’t the only way to display jewelry.”
She partners unique yet simple displays with larger photographs of her work.
“This is especially important for small items like jewelry,” Holman says.
Fox has found some creative ways to display her jewelry that reinforce her brand.
“All of my items are recycled, so I have recycled items in my display, like record bowls and instrument cases for displaying my music-related jewelry,” she says. “My tie pins are displayed on old ties, flatware is displayed in an old drawer.”
In addition to a shower curtain banner, Green continues her bathroom theme with white plush rugs on tables and bathroom shelving displaying product.
No matter the display method you choose, the crafters have one big recommendation: make sure its durable.
“Choose displays that are easy to pack and won’t look worn or break after a show or two being packed and repacked between shows,” Holman says. “They should be waterproof and relatively unbreakable.”
Speaking of displays…you’ve no doubt seen a display with wood crates and vintage suitcases. While they might look stylish, they actually serve a much more practical purpose.
“Wooden crates not only help you haul and transport your handmade items but are also stackable which can be used to help aid in your height,” Green says. “You can turn them on their sides as a solid surface, use the slats to help clip small items or use the open space to house larger bulk items.”
Vintage suitcases can be used to transport product and build your display.
Displays that do double duty can be especially handy for the crafter that flies solo, like Parthemore.
“My quest is constantly how to get my display more portable, faster and easier to set up / tear down,” she says.
Vintage printing drawers are also popular for vendors with smaller items. Individual cubbies keep products separated with many items available for display. Cover the drawer and it’s ready to move.
There’s always the rabbit hole that is Pinterest for inspiration, but many crafters say their fellow festival-goers are one of the best sources of ideas.
“Attend as many art festivals as you can and look at ways other people have solved similar problems,” Holman says. “Talk to other artists.”
“Don’t be afraid to ask about someone’s display,” she says. “I’m always glad to share how I came up with parts of my setup – especially if you come with a compliment!”
Instagram, Ikea, the Container Store and the hardware store also make the list of inspirational sources.
Now your booth looks great, but there’s one more important element to discuss: y-o-u.
“Be engaging with your customers, greet everybody within earshot and be honestly glad to see them,” Fox says. “Vendors who sit on their phones all day make it look like they don’t want to be there.”
That friendliness should extend to your fellow artisans and festival organizers.
Fox likes to make friends with neighboring booths – they might be nice enough to watch your table if you need to step away for a minute or know of other great events you should attend.
Finally, “Thank the organizers of events that you are chosen to be a part of and never, ever tear down early,” Fox says.
Behind the Scenes
A successful festival day is a lot more a great product display and a swarm of customers. Success can have a lot do with all the other stuff you bring, which for this group of crafters includes everything from snacks, to zip ties, to weights.
First the obvious.
“Bring plenty of change, and extra credit card swiping devices,” Holman says.
If you are wondering if you should accept credit cards, Parthemore says the answer is yes.
“So many people don’t carry cash, and you’ll miss out on sales if you don’t accept credit cards,” she says. “Square, Shopify, PayPal, and Etsy all have swipers – most will send you one for free, although the new chip readers cost more – and smartphone apps.”
Green doubles up on tool boxes – one to fix products and another for your booth. She says the product tool box should help you make quick adjustments for customers or get damaged merchandise back on the sales floor – think scissors, sewing kit, etc. Your booth tool kit should include power strips, extension cords, just about any kind of tape you can think of, zip ties and rope.
This is Ohio and if you’re on the outdoor festival circuit, the weather will likely go terribly, terribly wrong at some point. Light rain jacket, umbrella, “Extra plastic/tarps are handy in case you need to throw it over your products in the event of sudden downpour,” Holman says. “The worst is when you can’t get your tent zipped up because the wind is so strong…or a zipper breaks.”
Showers also mean anything touching the ground gets wet.
“Store things in plastic bins – always – and keep this in mind when you plan your display fixtures,” she adds.
Parthemore adds a couple of obvious things to the packing list – business cards and bags, boxes and tissue paper to wrap up your sales – but can’t stress enough the importance of weights for your tent. Nobody needs a tent flying through the air.
In addition to a great attitude, Fox says don’t forget the snacks and water. M&M’s, almonds and Cheezits are always in her arsenal, but adds a subtle reminder to not make it greasy – you’ll be touching your products all day and can’t always step away when it’s convenient for you.
Now that you have all this info, Green has one last bit of advice. Make a checklist and practice!
“Spending the time the the night and weeks before testing it out, whether in your living room or backyard is also helpful,” she says. “Most events give you two to three hours to set up. You need to know how to set it all up and take it all down in a timely manner.”
Stinky Bomb photos via Megan Green, Anne Holman photo via Anne Holman, Fox Designs Jewelry & Tiny Kitchen Soap Co. via Lillian Dent for Columbus Underground.