Last weekend, I vended at the third annual Friend Fest held by SJMade. I participated in one day of this event last year after my friend offered me her spot when she couldn’t make it. The event is still new, they had double the number of vendors as last year, and I was doing it for twice as long as I did last year. Should I expect to have quadruple the sales? Let’s find out how it went.
This was my first market after I’ve moved into my new studio. Let me tell ya, packing up and wheeling my stuff to the car is so much less horrible than hauling it down two flights of stairs! Who knew?
While shopping for organizational solutions for my new setup, I also picked up a box to carry my pins and earrings to fairs. I have 9 pin and 6 earring designs now, so carrying them around in little plastic baggies was getting messy.
My new friend Christina of The Bao Bae shop asked for a ride down to the fair on Saturday, so I picked her up Saturday morning and got a beautiful view of the ocean! Driving down to San Jose on 280 while chatting with Christina was a nice start to the weekend.
Photo courtesy of Olivia of Ollybits
The event was held at Westgate Center in what used to be a Walmart. When I heard the space used to be a Walmart, I was expecting a big empty warehouse with high ceilings. Turns out it was a Walmart “Neighborhood Market,” aka a grocery store. Clearly the venue had not been intending on renting out for events because it looked like an abandoned grocery store. You could see on the floor where refrigerators used to lay, many poles were scattered about the space with caution tape on them, and pipes came out of the floor or hung freely from the ceiling. Nevertheless, SJMade did a great job with sprucing up the place as much as they could, with cute and clear signage outside and balloons and decorations inside.
I organized a scavenger hunt between my shop and 11 other vendors that I’m friends with for Friend Fest. I designed a stamp card with each of our shop names that customers had to go to each booth to get stamped. Fully-stamped cards could be submitted for a free gift (a cute button) and entered into our grand prize giveaway. This is my first time doing something like this so I honestly wasn’t sure if people would be interested. To my surprise, attendees were very excited about playing the scavenger hunt! Some were maybe a little too excited…
We had only printed 500 stamp cards to give out, not knowing how many attendees the event would have and who would be interested in participating. We ran out of cards early Sunday morning, but soon discovered that some people had printed out their own counterfeit stamp cards! It was all due to a misunderstanding and lack of clarity on SJMade’s website, but apparently people had printed out their own stamp cards at home. There was debate among us vendors if we should allow the homemade cards and we decided to allow it since we had so many buttons left. However, when a group of adults came up to me with 5 printouts each to get stamped, I drew the line. It was flattering that they wanted to play so badly, but definitely unfair to everyone else to bend so many rules. Anyway, it made for a very eventful Sunday and even more excitement for the remaining attendees with real stamp cards that got wind of the drama.
I recently added crewneck sweatshirts of the Snack Time design to my shop and they sold out at this event! I’m not sure if I’ll order more yet because they take up so much storage space, but it’s nice to know that they sold so easily despite being my most expensive item at $60.
I’ve been debating increasing my prices lately, given inflation, the recession, and just the cost of doing business. A recent survey of my peers revealed to me that I was underselling my prints. I had initially set the price at $20 because I produce the prints myself and use average quality paper. However I run a 3 for $48 deal that a lot of people buy, so I end up selling most of my prints for $16, which is well under market rate. I recently upgraded to a richer, pricier paper so I thought my prices should go up too. I was nervous about increasing my print prices, so I decided to use Friend Fest as a test. On Saturday, I would sell them for $25 each and 3 for $60 to see how people would receive them.
I didn’t leave up any price signs for the prints so that customers would have to ask me. This way, I would know who was interested in prints and if it was the price tag that deterred them. Not many people inquired about the prints on Saturday, so I really fought the urge to lower the price to appease the few who did.
The $25 price tag didn’t seem to deter too many people on Saturday, so on Sunday I tried 1 for $25, 2 for $40. I think there’s something about a price under 50 that catches people’s attention. There were way more people asking for the price of the prints on Sunday, but surprisingly I sold 20 prints on both days. On Saturday I made $440 in prints and on Sunday I made $445. At my previous event where I sold prints for $20 each or 3 for $48, I sold 21 prints and made $388. This tells me that the $25 price tag doesn’t deter customers and is only losing me money, so I will be keeping my prints at this price.
I was so caught up in taking video footage for ~content~ that I forgot to take a picture of my full booth! This is my booth almost fully set up, so just imagine the blue backdrop is a few feet higher and has a shirts hanging on each side.
The Foot Traffic
I was not sure what to expect from this event, and I tried to set my expectations low. But I think as I go through all the effort to make inventory, pack it up, drive it down, set up my booth, etc. etc., my expectations slowly increase. After putting in so much effort, it’s very disappointing for a show to not go well. I think I’ve also placed higher expectations for SJMade events after how well I did at the holiday show.
Honestly, this show felt kind of slow to me, but sales-wise it definitely wasn’t. I think after the rush of holiday shows, I’m expecting craft fairs to be non-stop money-making madness where everything sells out. Even though I was a bit disappointed at the lack of chaos, it was nice to have time to sit down every once in a while during the show.
Based on foot traffic, I would’ve thought that Saturday’s sales were much better than Sunday’s. However, Saturday had the illusion of busyness. There were so many people coming into my booth to get a card stamped, but many of them didn’t actually shop at my booth. There were a lot of other fun activities at the event, so it seems that a lot of attendees went to do activities (especially the free ones) rather than shop.
Sunday was less crowded but a majority of the shoppers were there to actually look and shop. Since we ran out of stamp cards, there were fewer people who came up to me just for a stamp before walking away.
Last year, I made $1028.35, so now the big question, did I make quadruple the sales this year?
Here is my overall sales data:
Gross sales: 4730.80
Booth Fee: $225 for a non-corner 8x8 space
Number of Orders: 164
Average Order Value: $26.96
Event Hours: 11AM - 5PM Saturday & Sunday
Other expenses included renting a car and driving down to San Jose twice.
It was definitely slower than recent events, especially when you consider that the event was 12 hours total, but I still had great sales and can’t complain! It’s crazy to me that a “slow” day can still yield $2k for me now. I used to jump up and down at making just the booth fee back. However, the stakes are a bit higher now that I don’t have a six figure tech job to keep me warm at night.
The best thing about this event was meeting some of you who read this blog or follow me on Instagram! Several people told me they like my content and I truly truly appreciated it. I not-so-secretly hate making marketing content, but the blog content and helping other artists has been a joy. It's so great that people are liking it and I hope it's been helpful!
I am so proud of how far I’ve come in the last couple years. Around this time last year, I was just theorizing about business strategies and expanding my product collection. Now I have over 150 products including clothing and accessories! Never did I think I would have the capital to reinvest into my business for big ticket items like that. This makes me so excited for what the future holds for me, which is a feeling I haven’t had in a very long time.
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