If you're a maker or collector looking to sell your crafts at an upcoming fair, or you're considering starting one up in your own community, you'll want to check out these excellent tips shared below by the Hudson River Exchange's Stella Yoon, who runs two markets annually in the summer and late fall in Hudson, New York with pals and co-founders Kate Sterlin and Kate Moore. Since Stella and the Kates (P.S. wouldn't that be a great band name?) are now experts at executing a fair from conception to completion, I asked them to share the story behind HRE, and offer some tips and advice for entrepreneurs. Here's what Stella had to say!
What inspired the Hudson River Exchange (HRE)?
Being creatives ourselves, and knowing so many talented makers in the community, we wanted to create the type of event that we would like to go to and invite all our friends. This part of the Hudson (River) and town has such a rich cultural and mercantile history, from Hudson River School painters to its colonial days as a bustling whaling port town. There are a handful of annual events at the riverfront park, but otherwise it's underutilized. It''s so beautiful here and that park was begging to be used! We just needed to bring all the pieces together.
What does the Hudson River Exchange mean and how would you like to see it grow?
We bounced around lots of different ideas and landed on it based on the location of the market. The word "exchange" in particular got us all really excited about the potential of HRE as a brand and project that could exist beyond the market and even beyond Hudson. Our mission is to not only create market events but other, maybe more unconventional platforms to showcase makers and collectors. Last year we did a "window shop" pop-up during Hudson's annual ArtsWalk, participated as vendors at Basilica's Farm & Flea, and we also hosted a winter holiday market. We have some other projects in the works for 2014 so be on the lookout.
Perfect weather aside, what do you think worked so well for you this weekend?
We're pretty lucky in that Hudson is becoming a destination for food, shopping, and cultural events, so people are willing to travel (see below: "Location, location, location!") After last year's market, there was a list of things we wanted to make happen. Some were organizational details we wanted to execute better and others were based on vendor feedback. We were able to tick those things off the list and we already have a new list going for next year. We plan on keeping the event the last weekend of June going forward. I think we hit a sweet spot with the date and time of year.
Can you share some insider tips for sellers on how to have a successful show?
- Location, location, location!
- Keep an up-to-date list of contacts to let people know about where you'll be and when.
- Have a mailing list sign-up sheet at the booth.
- Social media is such a great tool. It takes some seed planting, especially if people need to plan a trip to make it to a show.
- Keep your branding consistent and simple. Have business cards and tag or label all your products (made or collected). Your business card might even be something you design in a way that you can hole punch and use as hang tags, which is also cost effective for printing!
- If you have stockists, or you're doing other shows, consider printing postcards that you can throw in shopping bags or that people can take from your booth. What's purchased might get gifted, so people can find you if they need more info or want to see what's new. Consider the details because they speak for you once the object has been passed on.
- Shows are a great opportunity to make new contacts and meet peers. If you work solo, it's helpful to hire someone or have a friend man your booth for a block of time so you have time to walk around and see who or what else is there. It's worth it.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start up a fair in their own community?
- Promote. Promote. Promote. Consider all outlets. Hudson is a funny town where posters and sandwich boards REALLY work. We have a local radio station, too. Don't just rely on social media. Word of mouth is tried and true. Start reaching out to press and build a rapport. It's an ongoing process and it takes time, so don't get discouraged. If you don't have much of an ad budget, you'll just have to do more footwork, guerrilla style.
- Budget and then pad it—a lot. There are always expenses that come up that you don't expect, or things need to get expedited and end up costing more. If it gets overwhelming, just remember: it does eventually get easier. Make a list of things you need and see what resources are available to help create a "wish list" of sponsors. Sponsorships are helpful, especially when budgets are tight.
- Are there other existing assets in your community on which you can piggyback and help create a destination or have sponsorships/partnerships? I think it's helpful to have goals for the event but also consider the relevance/audience of the city/town, too.
- Visit other fairs and talk to organizers. Talk to participants or active vendors, especially if you don't have much experience. It's less daunting after talking to people who have done it before. Feel free to email us, too! Each town has it's own particularities, charms, and challenges which is what makes fairs in different places individual and unique. It's great to compare notes and it helps to not have to learn all your lessons alone.
I understand you're doing another market over Thanksgiving weekend. Can you share a few details?
Yes, we're partnering with Basilica Hudson for the second time over Black Friday. We're so honored and excited to be working with them. Last year's event was a huge success. Join our mailing list to get news and updates about applications!