Sarah Coffey Designs, etsy

5 Craft Shows I Won’t Participate In

Sarah Coffey Designs, etsySo you have all these great ideas and tons of crafts that you have made and you want to sell them at Raleigh craft shows.  I have been a crafter at shows from North Carolina to Maine.  My 12 years of experience has taught me a thing or two.  People always ask me how I choose my shows.  It can be difficult, especially if you are just starting out or you moved to a new area.  I have a few rules I follow when choosing a show.

  1. I won’t participate in a show if it is the first time they are having it.  Try to find shows that advertise at least “3rd Annual….” or “Celebrating our 22nd year”.  These shows have been around for a couple years and all the bugs and kinks are worked out. Attendance is usually great and it is well advertised. The only exception to this is if it is at my child’s school.  Always support your local school and you will always be successful. Moms come out to support their schools.
  2. If I can’t get information about the show, I’m not applying. I will call a local Chamber of Commerce and ask about a fair.  I will ask for references for a show.  Contact info of other crafters to get their opinion. I will use my social media skills to get info.  Often, you can find rating on shows online.  and are great resources.  Not all shows are rated but I want to be able to talk to someone about it.  A good show is more than happy to put you in touch with past crafters or the chair person who can give you more information. A great option is to attend a show to check it out.  If it looks good, apply the next year.
  3. I try to only be a vendor at shows that are juried, meaning a panel judged my items.  I am trying to be a part of shows that are of a certain caliber. I also do not want to be at a small show where there are lots of people selling items similar to mine. At a large show, 100-200+ vendors, I do not want to be near someone selling items similar to mine.  This is especially true for jewelry vendors.  Some great shows are first come first serve, in these cases I get my application in the mail the first day I can have it postmarked.
  4. I don’t like being a crafter at a show that has commercial or direct sales vendors.  There are exceptions to this one for sure.  Many events are great for networking.  Getting your name out there is important. The Sip N Shop held by Vend Raleigh last month is a great example of an exception to this rule.  Sales were good and I made lots of great connections.  Local school shows can be the exception here again. I just prefer shows that require all items to be handmade. When I first moved to NC 3 years ago, I thought I did all my homework on a particular show.  I called and asked for references; I went to the town and asked people about the show, a few people I met at other shows even recommended it. I arrive at the venue and I am wedged between an orthodontist and a window company.  Not where I wanted to be.  If they are going to have all types of vendors I want to know the crafters are in a separate area all together.
  5. I  won’t drive more than an hour to a show I have not visited first as a shopper.  This is a great way to see what a show is like, the clientele, whether or not people are actually buying.  This is a key point: there can be lots of people at the show but if they are not carrying bags, they are not buying.  I would rather be at a show where there are buyers. I know making the trip to a faraway show can be difficult but it is always worth it.  Vendors will be happy to talk to you and you can get a first-hand account of what the show is like.  Many will be able to tell you about the show in years past as well. 

There are no hard and fast rules really. They all bend and I even break some from time to time.  Some shows will break every rule. These are just a few guidelines I use for finding craft shows I hope will be successful. These guidelines are for craft shows only, where all items are handmade.  Application fees can get expensive, so do your research. 


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Sarah Coffey
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  1. great article–all except for not wanting to be around direct sellers at an event–I see your logic with it, but as both a direct seller and a handcraft artisan, direct sellers are a huge source of support for my artisan business, as they purchase my items and network for me by word of mouth for them as well as the networking part for the direct selling biz. Direct sellers are capable of bringing a percentage of their customer bases to an event by advertising (the same way an artisan does)–not knocking your viewpoint, but don’t throw out a great opportunity to expand your customer base as an artisan–that’s why my DS customers mainly go to events, for handcrafts, as they can get their product from me anytime–thanks again for a great article–

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