When I started SEA+STONE®, I was working and going to school in NYC, one of the most expensive cities in America. My budget was tight, my space was limited, and I had an art school education with no business background. I made all my jewelry on my Ikea bed while I stored all my equipment and supplies beneath it. My jewelry was all crafted with real gemstones and precious metals, and I referred to my style as "Boho Luxe". I made all my jewelry for a modern, freespirited woman with a taste for the finer things in life!
My conundrum was how to appeal to that target audience when my lifestyle at the time could best be described as "caviar tastes on a chicken-of-the-sea budget".
If I learned anything in my previous jobs working in the fashion industry, it was to fake it 'til you make it! Appearances are truly everything. If you dress, look, and act the part- nobody will suspect any different.
I applied that same philosophy to my fledgling bedroom-based-business. Small details can make a very big impact. I knew that the small details of my jewelry and my branding would help to set it apart in a competitive market. I invested in nice packaging and promotional materials. I took extra care when packing orders to make sure they looked beautiful. I collected and created display pieces that embodied the Boho Luxe vision that my jewelry embodied.
The advice I would give any entrepreneur is: the care and quality you take in displaying your craft is equal to the perceived care and quality you take in making your craft. There are SO many attractive, cheap products on the market today (jewelry, furniture, clothing, home decor, etc). The truth is that technology exists now to make really convincing and beautiful fakes. If you want people to spend the extra money on exceedingly great quality and craftsmanship, you have to provide an exceedingly great buying experience as well- which is something I strive very hard to do.
This not only validates the value of your product, but it also gives customers something we all crave- which is a unique experience.
"Experience" is such a buzzword right now. I feel like I read headlines all the time about how people today are opting for experiences over tangible goods- both in how they personally invest their money and in how they gift to others.
I try very hard to make my booth at markets and festivals an experience. And I'm always amazed at the vendors who have great product, but have no idea how to present it well. It KILLS me to see beautiful product with bad presentation, because I know first hand how much time, love, and hard work goes into creating a handmade product. There is nothing sadder for a creative entrepreneur than pouring your heart into a creation and then having nobody notice it.
That's why I've made a list of some of my favorite tips for how to make your work stand out in a crowd.
Creating a memorable booth for your small business
- Keep it Tidy. This should go without saying, but make sure your booth is organized and clean. Be selective and find the happy medium between sparse and overcrowded. Too much product makes it look cheap, while not enough product can leave the customer feeling like they don't have enough options. Keep personal belongings, packaging, litter, etc OFF your display and behind the tables/out of site. Nobody wants to see your protein bar wrappers laying next to a $100 product. Iron or steam fabrics before setting up. And straighten up product and restock it often.
- Don't be a wallflower but don't be a slimy salesperson either. *CRINGE* This is the worst small business offense in my opinion. I hate when I don't get greeted at a store or booth. It makes me feel unwelcome and like the staff can't be bothered to assist me. HOWEVER- even worse is being a slimy salesperson. I see it ALL the time and it kills me. Nobody likes a hard sell. If you have to convince somebody to buy your product, then your product is 100% not worth buying. I am a firm believer that your product should be presented and marketed in a way that it does 90% of the selling work for you, and you are there for the extra 10% that comes from being courteous and helpful.
- Make your booth appealing to spend time in. I like to do this with warm and homey touches. I always bring plants and greenery. A rug and drapes soften the booth and make it feel cozier. I try to have cohesive display pieces that look nice layered together. Use the same sense of styling you would apply to decorating a room in your house- buy display pieces not just for their functionality, but also for how they aesthetically fit together.
- Don't forget branding. Especially when you're participating in a huge market with MANY vendors, you need to put your branded materials in multiple places in your booth. One big sign is a nice identifier, but it isn't enough to make your booth and product memorable. I put branding out alongside of my product, and I do it in multiple ways. I have brochures, business cards, signs, packaging, artist bios, social media links and they all have my brand name and logo pictured on them. My bags have branding on them so that they advertise for me around the festival.
- Have depth. If all your products are horizontal on a table, customers will not be drawn in from afar. Try to utilize vertical space as well as horizontal space.
- Get clever, crafty, AND compact with your displays. Unique pieces can be made DIY or can be found for a steal. Your booth displays don't need to break the bank. There are so many great ways to refinish and repurpose thrift finds into great display pieces. Craft stores like Michaels and Hobby Lobby can also have great, affordable products that can be transformed into merchandising materials! And don't forget to make those displays compact. I fit the majority of my display items into a Honda Civic!
- Anticipate desire AND need. I always try to do some research into the area that I'll be showing in and will try to anticipate what products and price point will sell well- then I merchandise in a way that those items are highlighted. Likewise, when I'm going somewhere HOT, I try to bring a portable fan so that it's pleasant to stay a while in my booth. If I see a customer holding on to an empty bottle or can, I will offer to dispose of it for them. I always bring alcohol wipes to keep earrings sterile so that my more germ-conscious customers can feel comfortable trying them on. If you haven't read the Four Love Languages book, I totally recommend you do so. My love language is "acts of service", and I definitely try to apply that concept of service and hospitality to my customers.
- Be the expert. Know your product inside and out. Being able to speak to processes and materials proves you know your stuff! Plus if you are well familiarized with your product and inventory, you can help make suggestions when a customer needs products in a particular price point, color, style, etc.
- Remember the Benjamin Franklin Quote, "“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Preparation is your friend, and good preparation can set you apart from the competition. I always have an emergency kit including scissors, lint rollers, tape, extra pens, back-up chargers, zip ties, rope, etc. If you prepare ahead of time, you can maintain a professional booth no matter what the day throws your way!