Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A newbies guide to being a vendor, part one

By Shannon McDonald of McDonald Mixed Media

It was a big step to become a vendor this year. 
A wonderful leap as an artist and I would like to share of some tips on starting. I just got my very first SOWA market under my belt and have some tips on preparing for your first show. 

I was scared to take the leap and really push my business. But I knew if I didn't I would regret it.
It is scary but trust in your abilities. Get prepared and organized and go for your dream. You got this!

There are so many shows that you can apply to. One of the biggest ways that I found shows was by getting involved. I applied and became a member of Boston Handmade. Then I joined a ton of Facebook craft/networking groups. Also, I paid for memberships at local non-profits art galleries and organizations.

These groups will become great resources to meet other artist, vendors and find shows.

My OCD went into overdrive getting ready for shows. I wanted to get organized and have a general idea of my start up costs for the summer. So I created some wonderful spreadsheets. Spreadsheets make me happy. They contained lists of materials needed such as a booth, chairs, printing costs, vendor fees ect. Once I had a list ready I started researching costs.  Some material needed to be shipped. However, I also talked to other artists/ vendors to see if they had suggestions to source local materials to cut down on shipping costs.

I was not prepared to spend money on lodging. So for my first year I picked one day shows close to home ( Boston & Providence) For shows that were farther away (Salisbury & Hyannis) I asked friends to put me up. 

Most people might take a conservative approach to their first season. NOT ME! I originally planned on 3 shows. As of right now I have 12 shows booked from June to September. I kind of took on the go big or go home mentality. I will keep you updated on how well this is going to work for me. While applying I was very specific about the type of show I wanted. I was looking for local shows that had a vendor fee under $100 and were juried. Everyone has different criteria. What is yours? Also, don't get discouraged if you don't get in. Instead use it as a tool to refine your presentation and vision of your business!

Step one was to get a booth. I couldn't afford to buy a brand new one. So I asked my fellow BH ladies if they knew of anyone who was not doing any shows or looking to sell theirs. BH'er Leanne Tremblay knew someone and I was able to get a booth with walls, weights and a foam floor for $90.00!!!! Then I asked my friend Britney Harlow who is a designed to make a fabric banner for my booth. We were able to trade and she made a wonderful banner for me and I am making a wonderful piece or artwork for her.
You never know unless you ask or beg politely! 

I asked everyone I could to borrow as many items as I could before investing in them. 
For example I borrowed folding tables from my parents, boss and friends before buying them myself. 

Pinterest became my best friend. I made a secret board so I wouldn't bombard my feed with my obsessive pinning. I started researching booth displays, tables, printers, fabrics...anything and everything. Most were inspirations on how to create my own unique booth. Also, suggestions on packing my car and getting a checklist together. Also, I spoke with my fellow BH members and asked their advice!

Repeat again...Don't Panic. Go to the shows before hand and walk around. See what you like and don't like about it. Talk to vendors and start getting to know them. Things will happen and won't go as planned but if you are organized that can ease some of the anxiety. Trade, borrow, Craigslist items to try and save some costs along the way. Don't forget this is your passion and all your hard work will pay off.

Good Luck!

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