How to Find Vendor Shows

L Peacock

If you have ever researched craft / vendor fairs, whether you are planning to attend or vend, you know how backbreaking and frustrating it can be to find a good one! The internet seems to be the only resource, but it's also inundated with phony and lame events. Learn how to dig up a treasure trove of events, and how to decipher the good from the... meh. 

Back in the olden days (AKA not actually that long ago), you could put an advertisement in the newspaper and receive and outpouring of inquiries regarding your classified ad. Unfortunately, many of us now can't remember the last time we picked up a newspaper or magazine. In the interest of going green, almost all resources regarding your local goings-on can be found online - from big events, to who got arrested for too many unpaid parking tickets. Where do you start digging through the pile for what's relevant to you? 

I will take you on a timeline of my starting points, and where they took me. 

1. Search Google for "vendor events" in your state.

It seems too simple, I know, but you might be surprised to find that there could be a decent, well-kept event calendar which hosts and sponsors are using to advertise. My state actually has two informative and thorough websites dedicated to outlining worthwhile events in our area. However, these are obviously geared primarily toward the attendees, and not so much vendors. I did find my first craft fair this way, though. 

2. Search Facebook for vendor / crafter groups. 

This one can be a bit more complicated, but is the most fruitful, in my opinion. 
Things to watch out for: 
- READ each group's guidelines and rules before requesting to join. Some are ONLY crafters, or only for DS reps. Many will ban you for posting your link or attempting to sell in the group. 
- BEWARE of scams!! People to love to set up camp in these groups and advertise for "online vendor events," or request money for phony events. PLEASE research all events and make sure there are reputable organizations supporting them (for example, well known community figures, schools, churches, causes, etc). DO NOT give money to anyone you don't know, or in a way that you can't trace (such as wire transfer). They may try to intimidate you into paying to "hold" your spot. Your safety is most important. 
- Ask questions about events before committing, such as "How many times has this event been held?" "What was the turnout last year?" "How many attendees will you be expecting?" "How many tickets will you be selling?" "How are you advertising the event?" "How you will you be allocating money gathered from table fees?" I have attended events that cost me money. Asking questions is not rude. Most craft fairs are for a good cause, such as fundraising, but they don't always consider the needs of the vendors supporting them. You need to make a profit, as well. 
- Research the facebook group itself. How long has it been around? How many members? Do the posts seem to be mostly meaningful, or are there a lot of parroted MLM catchphrases and buzzwords? What is the group policy on weeding out the untruthful or spammy posts, and is it being enforced? 

3. Ask around! 
How to make the best of a slow vendor situation? Get chummy! Check out other vendors, make a purchase if you have some extra bucks, and get to know people. Chances are that if you are within an hour of home, you will probably be seeing these people at A LOT of upcoming shows. So, be polite and perhaps you will get insight into the wealth of information and experience around you! If there was a past event that you were considering, but didn't attend, perhaps someone there did, and you can ask them what it was like. You can also ask if they had attended THIS event in prior years. They also might be willing to share their connections (which facebook groups they use, organizations they're affiliated with, etc) if they like your product and spirit and want to work with you again in the future. Nothing feels better than setting up shop at a new and scary place - and then seeing a familiar face! You also might get an in-person scoop on an exclusive spot opening up in an upcoming fair, which will be gone before the news ever hits facebook. Take advantage! 

4. Start your own event! 
Believe it or not, you don't have to have any experience or credentials to become your own freelance event planner! It would help greatly, however, if you've at least attended a few other fairs or events first, so that you know what to expect and what your fellow vendors will expect. Work at home sales reps and small business owners LOVE having fresh, new outlets to display their products and broaden their audience. Don't be surprised if you are suddenly overwhelmed with the response at your tentative vendor show! For this reason, you should do much of the planning before poking at interest inquiries on social media. Get as many details set in stone as you can, before putting a deposit on any venues or spaces. You will know, as a seller, what big points people will need to know about before being able to commit to an event. 
- What is the event for? (fundraiser, benefit, holiday, just because?) 
- What are the fees? (be sure to include if they must bring their own tables, fees for electric, indoor / outdoor spaces etc) 
- How many vendors can the space accommodate? 
- What is the parking situation? 
- Accessibility of the building? Many vendors have big displays to lug in, plus you want to accommodate guests of all walks of life. 
- How will you be advertising? 
- What are you using the vendor fees for? 
- Other considerations (how many of each vendor type, do they need to donate raffle item, what sorts of games / food will be available to draw guests in and keep everyone entertained. 

I have been to some bigger events that barely made me back my table fee, and I have been to some church basement shows with 20 vendors that were a TON on fun and rocked on the sales front! Anything can be a blast if you make it one. Not happy with other events in your area? Sometimes you have got to do things yourself. 

What was your favorite craft fair that you've ever attended? What made it your favorite? How far did you travel to get there? What could you do to make that experience for others? As sellers, we sometimes get so wrapped up in the pressure to at LEAST break even, that we can lose the sparkle that makes events fun - especially in the holiday season when you are attending show after show, setting up, breaking down, setting up, breaking down. We all have to work together to make every show a success, from promoting, to the raffle items we donate. 

Do you have any great craft fair stories? Leave a comment below! 

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