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Fall Festival at Quarry Lake (September 2012)

Location: Greenspring, MD

Day of the Week: Sunday

Weather: Warm with a Breeze

Organization: Before the event, there was some information about load-in, maps, etc.  There was almost no visible advertisement on the part of the promoters, however.  They also spelled my business name wrong in all of the literature, even after I corrected them.

Crowd: A bit smaller than advertised.  Still, I had enough customers.

Crowd Make-Up: Mostly families, primarily Jewish.

Booth Fee: $110 for a 10′ x 10′ space

The show was a success, but I don’t know if I’ll do it again.  On the one hand, I more than broke even.  Not by a lot, but by enough, barely.  At the last show I did with Harris Promotions (in Pikesville), everyone lost money and it was a total waste of time and energy.  This show was at least financially worth it.

On the other hand, there are a ton of other shows during September, some of whom might be more well-run or more worth my time.  Next year, I may branch out.  I want to keep working with these customers; I just don’t want to keep working with this promotion group.

Honestly, I feel bad that the Jewish community of Baltimore is being offered such crappy craft fairs.  Both of the shows I’ve done in predominantly Jewish neighborhoods have been run by this same promotion group.  I don’t know if it is because the event organizers make assumptions about the kinds of products people in that community want, but they don’t recruit very many talented or interesting vendors.  I only saw a handful of other crafters there; most of the booths were staffed by big companies advertising services.  There were at least five different kinds of tub-replacement services, five different chiropractors, two or three urgent care clinics, several banks, and lots and lots of free junk.   Craft fairs aren’t much fun if all there is to do is make your way down the line and fill a bag with free lanyards and stress balls that will just clutter up your house later.  All day, my customers either complained that I didn’t have free stuff too or complained that there weren’t any other real artisans there.  It was kind of surreal.

I really just can’t get over the fact that they got my name wrong in so many different, frustrating ways.  When they sent out the list of vendors, I couldn’t find myself on it.  I finally realized that they had written me down as “Baltimore Bubble Cards.”  Now I can see confusing “Bumble” and “Bubble” (people do it all the time), but if they read my application enough to know that I was selling soap, why did they think I was selling cards?  I emailed to ask the promoter to fix the error, explaining that the word was “Bumble” because of the use of beeswax, honey, etc. in the products.  On the day of the event, they had clearly had time to fix it because then it read “Baltimore Bubble Crafts.”   So they changed it to “crafts,” but still didn’t fix the most important word in the name!

I get it; “Baltimore Bubble Crafts” makes a lot of sense … if soap was all that I do.  But I also quilt and sew, and I want to leave myself room to grow.  So nothing against bubbles, but it’s just not me.

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First Sunday Arts Fest (May 2012)

Location: Annapolis, MD

Day of the Week: Sunday

Weather: Overcast in the morning, Sunny in the afternoon.  Chilly in the shade.

Organization: Excellent.  Lots of information before the event and fantastic volunteers to help during the event.

Crowd Size: Big crowd in the main area, smaller crowds in Whitmore Park and City Gate.  

Crowd Make Up: Lots of families and Lots of dog owners.  Some browsers, but mostly shoppers.

Booth Fee: $50 for 10′ x 10′ in City Gate.

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What a relief to get to sleep in a bit!  This was the latest fair I’ve done so far.  Set-up didn’t even start until 10am!  How luxurious!  Annapolis is only a half hour from my house, so it really didn’t take long to get there and get set up.

I did have some trouble finding City Gate because there were so many little sections of the festival, but the volunteers were very helpful in finding my spot, setting up, and parking my truck.  The volunteer in City Gate even helped me take down my tent.

It was pretty chilly in the shade at City Gate, but I’m sure once we get into the full swing of summer, it will feel wonderful.  We didn’t have a huge crowd since we were off to the side, but it was steady enough.  We basically got what we paid for.  Our booth fees were about half of the booth fees in the main section and since soap has a pretty small profit margin, we have to be a pretty big operation to make those big booth fees worth it.

As always, I met lots of nice vendors and even saw a couple of repeat customers from the Flea Market series.  Several customers even knew about Neem oil , which was a surprise.  Since most soap makers avoid its horrible smell, I don’t think most people have heard of it.  The folks I met who had were either of Indian descent or were in the skincare industry themselves.

The new Lemongrass Ginger lotion bars were a big hit.  They were probably the most universally liked.  I sold out of several products for the first time too!  It was, all in all, a very exciting day.

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Dublin Country Fair (May 2012)

Location: Street, MD 

Day of the Week: Saturday

Weather: Sunny with a slight chance of showers.  Hot enough to ruin one of my solid lotions.

Organization: Excellent.  Plenty of information before the event and plenty of help during the event.

Crowd Size: Generally small with the exception of a two hour rush.

Crowd Make-up: Lots of families. Plenty of children and quite a few dogs.  

Booth Fee: $30 for 10′ x 10′ outside

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Today was such a fantastic day in its own right, but especially fantastic given last week’s debacle!  This was a very well-organized fair.  When I arrived, there were multiple people to direct me to my booth.  The other vendors were helpful in getting my tent set-up.  Everyone pitched in.  Parking was quite far from my booth, but it was a pleasant day to walk.  The only real downside was that there were port-o-potties.  Ick.  I avoided peeing for the entire day (not hard given that I was sweating from the heat).

My new 10′ x 10′ Commercial E-Z UP Instant shelter with 4 zippered sides
was significantly easier to put up than my first tent (a Shelter Logic).  It was definitely worth splurging on the real thing!  I still asked for help spreading the legs out, but I probably could have done the whole thing by myself, even if it took me longer.  It also came with an awning and a place to affix a banner.  I didn’t use the sidewalls or awning today, but it was nice to have them.  In fact, it probably didn’t rain because I had them.  I used the E-Z Up Instant Shelters Deluxe Weight Bags – Set of 4 and, despite the wind, I felt totally secure about my tent.  They are heavy to lug around, but that’s the whole point–they weigh 40 pounds once you fill them.  I used pea pebbles rather than sand because it’s less messy if it spills, so it may have weighed slightly less than if I had filled it with sand (like they recommend).

I started finally making the displays look the way I want them to this time around.  When people walk into my tent, I want them to feel at home.  I want them to be able to visualize my products in their own bathroom.  So, I went out and got some soft, blue, terry cloth towels to put on the tables like runners, a hurricane vase with blue vase fillers, and various bath products.  I love the way it looked and I can’t wait until the shower caddies and display cases I ordered arrive.  I really think visual layers are important, so I’m looking for more ways to display things vertically.  In the meantime, I put one of the bins under a towel and placed the worker bees on and around it.  The tiered look was really nice and drew people’s eyes.  Check it out!

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Anne Arundel County Spring Craft Fair (April 2012)

Location: Crownsville, MD

Day of the Week: Saturday and Sunday

Weather: Saturday, overcast and rain.  Sunday, sunny.

Organization: Poor.  No communication before the event.  Chaos during the event.  No evidence of advertising.

Crowd Size: Small both days.  Lots of browsers on Sunday.

Crowd Make-Up: Families with kids.  

Booth Fee: $40 for 10′ x 10′ outside

Unlike the AAC Flea Market, which was fabulously well organized, the Spring Craft Fair was a disaster from start to finish.  I never received any confirmation letter and had to email the fair organizers to get any information.

When I arrived, there was no one to greet me or tell me where to set up my booth.  When I found a volunteer to ask, he got on his walkie-talkie and spent 15 minutes being told that I wasn’t on the list, only to discover that there were apparently two different people using two different lists who clearly never communicated with each other!  I felt bad for the volunteer.  Finally, I just asked if I could take the spot in front of the restrooms since that would mean more foot traffic and less time away from the booth when I had to go.

I was told to park anywhere along a certain section and then, less than an hour later, told that I had to move my truck.  The woman running the fair was a fascist about people driving on the midway and spent the entire day harping on the PA system.

There were four soap vendors and two vendors selling soap in addition to their other offerings!  For a crowd this size, one soaper would have been ideal and two would have been doable.  As it was, there were two and a half in each building and one (me) outside.  It was absurd, especially given that at least two of us had explicitly asked how many other soapers would be at the event and were assured “NO MORE THAN TWO.”

It was windy.  It was cold.  It was rainy.  There were no customers and, from what anyone could tell, there had been no real advertising for the event.  Most of the vendors packed up and left by 1pm (hence the issue about driving on the midway).  I stuck it out because I needed to at least make back my booth fee!

So many people ditched, in fact, that I was able to move my booth inside the building.  Lucky thing too — I just barely beat the afternoon deluge!

Sunday was a much more pleasant experience, but I made less than $50.  On Saturday, only the most dedicated shoppers came out in the rain.  Fewer people, but more sales.  The Sunday crowd was bigger, but had a lot more browsers.  The whole weekend was a colossal waste of my time and energy.  I doubt I’ll be going back next year.

On the bright side, I met a number of great vendors!  Since that was the only real thing to do the whole weekend, we all hung out and chatted.  Beth from Simple and Green was a treat and, if I had made a few more sales, I would have bought the recycled plastic produce bag she made!  Gorgeous!  Michalene from Michalene’s Goat Milk Soap was also super nice.  Soapers can be territorial little divas, but it was such a crap day for everyone that we ended up chatting.

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