Taking in a craft show for perspective

Thanks to Linda who came out to brunch and had her pass out for the Signatures Craft Show that is happening at the Ottawa Convention Centre, I decided to join her for a $7 walkabout – good chance to chat while checking out the show.

I have had booths at a variety of shows over the years, from small craft shows in churches and community centres up to a full weekend booth at the National Women’s Show.
A few years back, after realizing my accounting skills were something I was choosing to ignore, I finally paid attention and realized that I would never make back the money invested in participating in these events. Not the way I work. More on that shortly….

I walked through the rows of gorgeous items today and was full of respect for these artisans. The workmanship goes beyond the actual products into the booth design, display elements, choice of booth staff, attitude and atmosphere. I know, I’ve been there.

They say, “You have to spend money to make money”. At some point, you have to see if you are actually making money or not. And the costs for being a part of this type of event, requires a lot of on site sales or preorders to ensure a reasonable ROI ( return on investment ).

Statement of the obvious, I know.

And yet, I forgot for years that my strength is custom work. I kept dabbling every few years in some sort of “ready-to-wear” type item, hoping it would sell itself on its own virtues. I have fabulous ideas, don’t get me wrong, and I make them very well.

What I really do well, is pick apart a client’s brain to find out what they want, and then make it happen for them. Whether it’s creating original pieces, providing intense bridal alterations or deep design renovations, as long as it is pretty and sparkly, I enjoy making someone’s vision come to life.

What I do not do fabulously well, is marketing and/or sales. I am “understated” at self promotion. I have reasonably informative websites, I have done a few fun videos, blog posts, and do my best to get ads up in local spots where I hope to get the word out.

Which all sounds like some good choices, but spending money to be at trade shows was a serious money pit for me, and it took me a while to realize it just wasn’t me.

I’ll not say never again, but for now, I don’t miss it at all.

The early arrival, the clamouring from a loading area to the display area, only to find that you though you would be able to art up suddenly won’t work and a trip to the nearest store is required, not missed at all.

Spending hours watching people avoid eye contact because they just want to look at your booth, but not be forced to talk to you, because they then would either have to explain why they are not stopping or buying, you can have it.

And I don’t miss the conversations that start with me explaining the fabulous virtues of whatever I am flogging at the moment only to end with, “yeah, my friend, sister, aunt, 2nd cousin twice removed sews/ does Bellydance/ eats bonbons and that’s why I don’t need to support your business…” .

That’s not actually how it goes, but I wanted to see if you were paying attention…

And so, full respect to all of you folk who work the trade shows in whatever capacity! I apologize that I don’t have the disposable income to buy your awesome stuff, but since I also am an artisan, I know you understand.

BTW- I look forward to seeing you all as you pop by the Ottawa Browncoats’ Booth at the May 10-13 Ottawa ComicCon! Good thing Linda will be there to do the selling part!!
Last year’s poster by Don McMillan: