Craft Show 101: Pre-Prep (The Nit & Gritty, The Dirty Details, The Stuff They Don’t Tell You!)

We’ll we are in full production mode now folks! Actually… production mode is coming to completion and we are beginning to feel the calm before the storm. It’s that feeling that makes you wonder surly there is more to do? There has got to be about a dozen more things that we have forgotten, right? But honestly… we’ve really stayed a head of the game this year in prep for our shows and find ourselves coasting into them instead of crashing. And, that my friends feels SOOOO good.

Please know if you find yourself running around like a chicken with your head cut off, we totally understand. We’ve been there. Begging our friends to show up the night before for an impromptu “craft party” (i.e. cover your ass) and we are here to help you take a step back, get re-organized and gain control of your business!

Here’s a few tips we’ve learned in pre-prep that have helped us in the long run.

Pre-Order Product Materials In Advance: This sounds like a no brainier but no seriously, order them 2-3 months out! You never know when you’re going to have to deal with a cotton shortage or a specific vendor that stops carrying a key material you may use in your product. Give yourself time to order the item and send it back in case their is a mistake or the item is not exactly what you were looking for. We’ve ordered tea towels before and had a company send us a totally different item. If you are in a crunch you won’t have the time send items back and wait for your vendor to get it right. Often times businesses will offer a full “refund” but that refund can take 2-3 weeks before it is credited back into your account. If your cash flow is low (and you refuse to charge that credit card!), you may not have the extra money to order another “correct” batch with another vendor while you wait for your refund to come through. Give yourself extra time AND THEN a little bit of additional wiggle room to make sure you have the correct materials. Craft shows are a lot of work and there is nothing worse than getting to a show and not being happy with the quality of your product.

Mark Your Space: Go ahead, do it. On the garage floor, get your kids invovled and some chalk. Mark it to scale and setup your both just like you plan to at the show. This will help you fix any last minute sizing issues that may arise (like needing a 6ft table instead of an 8ft) and make your setup the day of the show quick and easy.

Extra Bits:

  • Consider the weight of your booth displays and how far you have to carry them (upstairs, down a long street, etc).
  • Lighting
  • Extension cords and then a few more extension cords.
  • Extra tools for assembly (we usually take a little tool set… even if you don’t use it, it’s nice to rescue your neighbors when they need a tool ;) ).
  • Craft Essentials: I always take a little jewelry repair kit in case someone wants this charm on this necklace, a stamp of our logo here, extra glue, pins, safety pins, pens, tape (clear and a heavier tape), scissors, hole punch (for tagging), tagging gun, extra tags, etc.

Have a Money Plan: You never want to lose a sale because you are not ready. Have plenty of cash and a backup plan in case your credit card machine for some reason doesn’t work. Since we don’t do that many shows a year we don’t pay the additional monthly charge to have a credit card reader. Instead we use a simple iPhone app called Swipe. The customer uses your iPhone to fill out their credit card information (so you don’t even see or touch it) and then presto done! It will even send your customer (and yourself) a receipt so you can confirm the transaction within minutes. You don’t need any additional gadgets or add-ons for your phone to use this app. It does take a little bit of time and can cause a line if a lot of people are purchasing via credit card at one time but it is totally functional. In our opinion Swipe works great for the minimal investment invovled. The other great thing about using your phone is that it does not require a telephone connection (like a credit card reader) and/or internet (which depending on your location can be questionable).

Lastly, if all else fails we always accept checks and keep an old fashion receipt book. You’ll have the occasional customer that wants a receipt with their cash purchase so this allows you do provide that along with tracking your sales for taxes (cause as much as you say you’ll remember what you sold later YOU WON’T! Save yourself the stress and write it down after every purchase–like you do when running your own garage sale). You never want to lose a sale because you are not ready to handle a certain type of payment. Alleviate potential awkwardness by making the checkout process as smooth as possible. Do your research, take the time to get informed (which makes you look good!) and be prepared for not “if”, but “when” money issues arise.

Establish Brand Touch Points: At a show you have a split second to draw customers in. For us it’s not just important to make sales but to create a relationship with people and generate an excitement about Green Couch Design that lasts long after the show. We create these opportunities by having our business cards in several spots throughout our booth and by handing them out in droves. Take advantage of any goodie bags that your show is giving out and make sure you participate. We also put any product purchased in a bag that has our Green Couch Design brand on it along with coordinating product tags and branding on each individual product. This maybe as small as a 1″ stamp with our logo on it or web address but it’s a way for people to connect to our brand long after their purchase.

It’s important that you take the time to design the placement of your logo on each product and booth display. It’s a fine balance but nobody wants an ugly logo stamped all over their purchase. Make sure it’s subtle and make sure you have a nice, clean logo (If you are in question about this then it probably needs looked at! Talk to us. We help build and re-build brands). It’s important to have your brand standards already established before the show so that you are not making spur of the moment decisions based on the booth next to you. Find your brand personality and stick to it!

Example: For the most part we stamp our logo in green because we are “Green” Couch Design. But every once in a while you’ll see our logo stamped in yellow on one of our Yellow Cracked Egg Tea Towels. Since this is a one color print our green logo would clash with the yellow. Instead we print everything on that particular print in yellow to ensure a cohesive color palette. This is just one way that we change up how we display our logo while maintaining continuity among our varying design styles and colors.

Define Your Perceived Value: The first few shows we did we were way to focused on making money. We were in survival mode and let’s pay the bills mode. Now, that is a place we totally understand; but as you will learn, some shows will be really great financially and others will be total flops. The more shows you do you’ll learn how to decipher what shows are worth your time and what are not. But ultimately, what is the end result for you? Outside of financial goals how will you define the show as a “success”. For Cale and I we’ve made a commitment to not participate in shows based off of how much money we make. In our opinion if you live off of craft shows all you end up doing is chasing down the next show in a constant flux of “feast” and “famine”. We’re in this for more than just “survival”. We desire to create a brand that people love and want to be a part of. So with that comes an investment of time. Quality time. We base the success of our shows by how many people actually visit our site after a show. If we get new readers on our blog, Twitter or Facebook page. We’re trying to grow “super fans” that will tell their friends and their friends, friends about how cool our products are. We are aiming for sales beyond sales but all this stems from a genuine connection and approachability. Just like any relationship it takes focused time and some serious TLC.

Secondly, we find value in a show by the opportunities presented to meet potential shop owners and create steady income. The more shops that carry our products the more monthly income we generate. Now, this doesn’t mean we put our products in any store that comes our way. We are still very selective and look for shop owners that we can build a relationship with alongside our customers. We’ve found craft shows to be a great avenue to meet local shop owners that share similar hearts and it allows shops to connect with not only our products but our brand as a whole. Unlike our online shop and/or sending a sample of our product to a store, craft shows allow us to talk through our process with vendors and share more of our heart behind what we create. It’s like bringing someone into your home; “Here, have a look around. Let us know what you think!”

Remember Who You Are: If you can sell your product in August then you can sell it in December without hanging red and green tassel all over it. It seems there is this constant battle of competition when it comes to the holidays. What’s your “new thing”? What’s your Christmas item? What’s your Halloween product? Getting caught up in “what’s next” will only stress you out more as you strive to keep up with a new item on top of producing your existing product line. Let it go! Use that competitive nature to continue producing what’s selling and be the best producer of that item. Once you get a little bit more established and you have created a true market for your brand THEN you can play around with introducing a new product (like our NEW Holiday Prints! ;) ). By staying true to your brand and the raw nature of your products you’ll draw a genuine following of customers that will desire to see your next “thing” whether it’s tied to a specific holiday or not.

And that my friends is it! :) Ok, don’t be overwhelmed… breathe! First off, take a chill pill. You CAN do this! It will all come together. It’s like planning your wedding. You can only do so much prep and then at some point (besides grabbing that extra extension cord) you gotta let it go! Get your pre-prep as far along as you can and when you’ve done all that you can do it’s time to kick back and ENJOY the show!

From the Farm


How was this helpful for you? Do you find yourself getting caught up in “what’s next”? What ways do you plan on attacking your brand and creating brand touch points for your audience? Any other tips you’d like to share?

Our first holiday show is in one WEEK! Hope to see you in Dallas at the Etsy Jingle Bash!


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About meg:

I like curly lines, and the simple joys of life. Good coffee and the perfect souffle.

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High class design in overalls. It's the simple life of a farm through the eyes of a couple of crazy designers. We call ourselves Green Couch Design and we are Bringing Design Home.

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