Doing a show is always a risk because there are a ton of things out of your control-- the weather could be bad, street closures or construction could make getting there difficult, other events that happened to be scheduled that day could compete for attention and so on. But doing a new show makes it even riskier-- will the show promote well? Will they attract quality vendors? Will they consider logistics sufficiently? Last week #ahasmember Stacia Guzzo took the risk of doing a new show in Los Angeles. Here's her story!
Q: Tell us about your shop!
A: Handcrafted Honey Bee creates and sells DIY skin care kits that provide a woman with all of the pre-measured, fresh ingredients she would need to make quality skin care in her own home. We have kits for everything from lip balm to clay masks to deodorant, and none of the kits we wholesale takes more than 20 minutes to make. Most of our kits make several of the same product (our lip balm kit, for example, makes 6-7 lip balms). These products are also customizable with the fragrance, flavor, or essential oil the customer wants.
Q: How did you hear about this show?
A: I was contacted by the show’s organizers shortly after I participated in Artisanal LA’s Holiday Show in December. They invited Handcrafted Honey Bee to participate, and while originally I declined (Artisanal LA’s Spring Show was the same weekend), I changed my mind because they were doing such a fantastic job on social media promoting the show and the vendors. As a business who really tries to cultivate & nourish relationships, I appreciated the way they seemed to really value relationships with and among their vendors. And I was right!
Q: What's the application and jurying process like? What requirements do you have to meet?
A: At this point I have applied to so many shows since then—to be honest it’s a little hard to remember specifics! I do know that they featured each of their jurors on their Instagram page so potential vendors could “meet” them and see their qualifications. Other than that, it was an application similar to that of UNIQUE or Renegade: a few questions about the business, a request for pictures of the product and previous booth setups if possible, and a request for any social media handles. It wasn’t a hard process. I should mention—unlike other shows (like UNIQUE and Renegade), they didn’t require booth payment with the application. We weren’t required to pay until after we were accepted to the show.
Q: What was the atmosphere like?
A: This is a hard one to say decisively, because this was a) their first show and b) it was pouring rain on Saturday, which is typically the strongest day of the show. To see so many qualified vendors was quite a sight; however, several of my customers told me that they felt overwhelmed at the number of vendors there (I believe the count was around 200). And from a vendor perspective, the money was spread out quite a bit across that large number of vendors, which isn’t always ideal. One of the things that I mentioned in my feedback to the organizers was that I think an even tighter curating process with a smaller number of vendors might do better—even though the quality was high for all of the vendors there, bigger isn’t always better (for both the vendor and the customer).
There was a wide assortment of vendors (in fact I profiled a few of my favorite booths on my blog)—everything from handmade bags to ceramics, to wire wrap jewelry to photography. On Sunday, they had a couple of food trucks (although I did hear some customer say they wish that there had been a few more food choices). There was also a wandering magician who showed up on Sunday afternoon.
In addition to perusing the sea of vendors, customers could participate in DIY workshops put on by several vendors (including myself). I think this was one of the areas where they struggled a bit in getting the word out and drawing people in to participate (although in theory it’s a great idea). For example, they had told me to expect between 15-30 participants in my DIY clay mask workshop—a workshop where I taught people to make a small customized clay mask base for free—I only had three participants, and I had to go out and pull two of those in from passers-by. I think they will likely improve on this process in the future, though.
Q: What kind of vendor would do well here or not do well here?
A: I think vendors who create high quality, handmade items would have a market in this show, however I also believe that items under $40 seemed to do best here. Because this initial customer pool was so small and the vendor pool was so large, customers seemed to want to hold onto their money until they saw everything—but often wouldn’t return if you were on the front end of their circuit because there was so much to see. I even had a few customers say that they had a hard time finding us again, even though they were seeking us out, because of the large layout and difficulty figuring out where everyone was located.
Q: What should people considering the show know about it?
A: This is definitely a new show, and as such, I think there is still some work to be done getting the word out to the public. In all honesty, we didn’t make nearly as much as I expected from a curated show—that being said, the rain certainly didn’t help. I think there’s only room to go up for this show as long as the organizers correctly analyze where the weak spots were.
One thing to note: parking is a bear, both for vendors and for attendees. Packing up and loading out was a nightmare for us (although we had a trailer attached to our truck). One customer—a friend of ours who specifically came to see us—said that he drove around for 45 minutes to find a parking spot. So I think limited parking certainly limited the show in terms of the potential customer pool.
Finally, just a side note: we changed our booth layout drastically from day one to day two. It was our experience that, because of the size of this show, we were more likely to have customers come to our booth if we had a layout that invited them into the booth rather that one that allowed them to peruse along the outside of the booth. This isn’t always the case (in fact, it seems to vary from show to show), but I think that inviting our customers to come in gave them a little bit of a rest from seeing so many things at once, so that’s something to keep in mind for a show of this size.
Q: Anything else?
A: The organizers are very committed to the show’s success—and that is something I appreciated very much. We were asked to complete a survey the night the show ended. They also organized a private Facebook group for vendors to exchange ideas, share thoughts about prep and setup, and just connect in general. I thought that was very cool, because once you arrived at the show you already “knew” a few people around you. And while I wouldn’t necessarily consider this first show a smashing success, I also think that the organizers are dedicated to making it better and improving on the weak spots (some things you just can’t anticipate happening until you’re in the thick of the actual experience). I believe this show does have the potential to grow into quite a coveted event if they are able to integrate feedback and figure out how to improve some of the less-than-idea aspects of this past show.
Q: Where can people find your stuff?
What shows have you done recently? What do you do when it rains?