where to go next?

*warning* long-winded post musing on craft business outlook below, reader beware!

(all photos from girl on the rocks)
I’ve been grappling for the last year or so about where I really see myself fitting into the craft business world. I have visions of the products I want to produce and I how I think everyone should love them, but I have been hesitant to really put in the work to go the extra distance and create a true promoted business. The path I have taken so far is to half-heartedly embrace the idea. I’ve produced a few things that I’m really excited about, but I haven’t spent much time marketing or polishing up an image that I can promote them on. The reality is that the business-y side of things doesn’t really interest me. I like creating and designing, but I’m not as excited about promoting or bookkeeping. I guess I viewed the Bazaar Bizarre 2008 as a bit of a test. If people seemed to like my items and buy them maybe it makes sense to put a little effort in on the business side and try this world out for a bit.

I thought I made a good faith effort, at least with the bags, wallets and chickens I made. I’ve been busy with work and traveling but it feels like I spent all of my spare moments sewing. I made a coat rack full of bags, each of which I thought was awesome. I put in the effort to sew bike inner tube edging on many of the bags (it is really difficult but is such a nice durable material). I made stacks of wallets and card holders out of a range of colors from vinyl banners. I sewed with salvaged high-tech sailcloth–a material I don’t see around in the craft world much but which is familiar to me because of my sailing background. I was hopeful and a little expectant, but my sales were rather dismal. Tweed Chickens did well (which is great) but I sold only two wallets (and both were to friends).

What went wrong? I have a few observations and a lot of questions. First, a lot of other people at the Baz Biz were selling wallets and bags, so I had direct competition. I though my display looked nice (but I may be wrong?) and people noticed the wallets. A lot of shoppers picked them up to examine them, but returned them to the table. People were especially drawn to the sailcloth ones – they look unusual. I suppose this shopping season is probably slower than last year and people might be choosing what they buy very carefully. Still, the other booths seemed to be making sales and I wasn’t. The only info I provided about the materials was “recycled wallets.” Do I need to provide more of a storyline for the materials I use? Were my prices wrong (either too high or too low)? My prices were in the same range as wallets at other tables, and the bags were difficult to compare since I don’t really think there were other bags like them.

Now I need to decide where to head next. Do I bail out now and abandon this whole project? Should I ramp up the effort and try again given the lackluster response last weekend? I know there is a lot more I could do, but given the response so far should I just give up now?

I’m trying to look at the situation objectively and not whine too much about it. I do feel like it is time to make some decisions though. Does anyone have some insight? Did anyone see my table set up and have comments or suggestions for how it could be done better?

1 Response to “where to go next?”

  1. 1 collectedorange

    I’m sorry it didn’t go well–I feel for you. Here are a few hopefully useful insights: Your set up looks nice in the pics, the bags and wallets, etc. are well done and appealing, but the Bizarre Bazaar is a tough venue. I remember finding it difficult to navigate last year, just in the way it was set up. Also, as you noted, some of your items probably fell victim to the zeitgeist of the event. When you’re at home sewing, it feels very original, but in a room of bay area crafters, similar themes emerge. Last year, the abundance of owl-themed products made me not want any.

    The other issue I found was that there were plenty of things I would love to buy for myself, but there wasn’t so much on offer for the other folks I needed to shop for, like the parent and in-law set. Some of the stuff just doesn’t translate well to other present-buying demographics. So maybe in a more plush year, I’d go out on a limb and buy something a little more unusual at the Biz. Baz. and then back it up with a “safety” gift like a book, but not so much this year.

    It’s hard to compare with other shops because you really don’t know what’s going on–are they only selling to friends? do they have a following? are their colors catchier? who knows?

    As for marketing and promotion, I don’t know, I don’t enjoy this part either. I can’t imagine it making much of a difference unless your blog was so popular that it could draw hundreds of folks to your in-person event, and getting from where we both are to there seems like a lot of work.

    That said, I don’t think everyone needs to be a craft mogul. For me it’s nice to have another venue like etsy to put energy when I feel like making things that don’t have obvious recipients in my life. It’s nice to follow creative impulses through especially when so many of us spend our lives in front of a computer, working with our hands is such a welcome change of pace. So, it can be just that, something you do when you feel like it.

    I’ve seen some blogs pick up the pace by giving away something handmade–maybe you’d get linked to elsewhere and it would drum up some business?

    Good luck. I’d try to push through the holidays and then re-assess afterward.