It All Began With The Craft Fair
In the winter of 2016, I was a vendor a small craft/vendor fair. It was a holiday market and there were at least 30 other small businesses at this event. For most businesses with handmade products, it takes a bit of time to build up inventory for a show. For weeks ahead of time, we’re making product to fill our space and have enough variety for customers to browse through and find the right item for them.
The night before this craft fair arrived I packed up my car with all of my products, displays, bags, and signs and headed off to set up my space. After an hour and a half, my booth was now ready. And, after a long week of preparations and setting up, I headed back home to tuck my children into bed.
After I got the house settled and readied myself for bed, it began to snow outside. The snow continued all throughout the night. In the morning when I headed off to the holiday fair, it certainly was starting to look a lot like Christmas with several inches of snow covering the ground.
The craft fair itself was just a small 3-hour show on a Saturday morning. Holiday music played and the vendors were smiling and displaying all their best goodies for everyone to delight in.
Then, the Christmas bells jingled signifying the start of the show, however …. there were only few patrons that started circulating the isles of the fair.
“That’s ok”, I thought, “this show had a lot of attendance last year. It might just take a bit for people to get out of the house this morning with the snow on the ground”. After that first hour though, there had only been a total of 15 or so people that came through the doors.
The vendors faces changed from excited to one of discouragement. And with not much new traffic coming through the doors in that next hour, vendors began to abandon their posts and roam the aisles to talk to other vendors. The conversations went something like this: “Did you do this show last year? I thought there would be a better turnout. I heard about another event today that probably has a lot of people attending it”, and so on.
I called my husband and encouraged him to get our four young children dressed and for them to head over to the craft fair. We decided that we wanted to support these businesses and that this would be a good way for our children to buy gifts for each other and even some of our other family members. When they arrived the children delighted as they stopped by each booth to discover the treasures within.
I, too, then abandoned my post to help my children in their holiday shopping. Here were a few of the items my children bought for each other: string art, homemade Christmas play dough, a snow globe, a winter crochet headband, a fishing game, and more. They also bought presents for their grandmas: earrings, a custom bracelet, a Christmas potholder towel, and a crochet coffee mug holder.
While I was now shopping during the last hour of the show, I noticed vendors starting to check their phones looking for a way to pass the time. My husband commented under his breath, “Was it like this all day?”. With a head nod and raised eyebrows, I let him know it was.
The fair ended and we said our thank you’s and goodbyes to our new friends. When we got in the car my husband looked at me and told me he felt for the vendors. We know the work that goes into preparing for a show, and even the time that takes away from our families and loved ones. This is a part of the small business world, successful shows, and unsuccessful ones.
I know that the organizers of this fair had done a lot of promotion for the show, and in previous years there was a much bigger crowd. This fair flop wasn’t their fault. The snow had made it difficult for people to get out in the morning and another event turned up that competed for that same local attention. Even the biggest or best-organized craft shows/markets can’t prepare for inclement weather or conflicting situations.
Diversifying The Selling Portfolio
I love markets and craft fairs. There’s something unique that happens when customers connect directly with the person that made their item. It is hard to describe the feeling inside as the owner, when you see someone delight in something you’ve made. There is also great value in selling at markets/craft fairs. I can do a lot of sales in one day. I also get direct feedback on my products or new ideas for future ones.
There is value in diversifying your selling portfolio. This show flop wasn’t too big of a deal for me because I also sell online. Since 2012 I’ve been selling online through my own website, and since 2013 I’ve been selling on Amazon.com.
Even though I sell online it doesn’t mean I don’t still sell at markets/fairs, and just because I sell at markets/fairs doesn’t mean I do not sell online. I’ve diversified my selling portfolio because each “location” attracts a different crowd. And, selling online does not require as much effort/time and I don’t even need to find childcare. 🙂 However, I know of many vendors that have all of their “eggs” only in the craft fair basket.
Online Local Market
With my husband being a web developer and my knowledge of selling online and to the local community, we thought we could do more to help our community. A way to connect local businesses and local customers outside of one-time shopping events, and we created the Cedar Rapids Marketplace, an online marketplace website for our local community in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
The Cedar Rapids Marketplace was created to make it easier for local businesses to get their products or services out there to our local community without much risk or investment (time and money) on their end. We wanted to help businesses tell their stories and share their products.
We also wanted our community to be able to shop from local businesses without having to head out to every local store, craft fair, or market. We wanted a way for those that are dedicated online shoppers to find a way to support local businesses with just a few clicks of their mouse.
ShopWhereILive.com Was Born in 2018
After a year and a half of building, testing, and improving the Cedar Rapids Marketplace we joined the Iowa Startup Accelerator in order to take our local marketplace platform to more cities, and Shop Where I Live was born.
What is even more exciting for us is that it is more than just the original craft products we started with. We now work with retail business owners, service providers, independent distributors and more. We helping many businesses in communities all over sell their handmade items, retail products, services, events, and more, online together.
ShopWherILive.com- Where Main Street Meets the Internet!