This is a post that I have had swirling in my head for over a year now.
We just showed at our last event of the year this past weekend, so it seems fitting that I finally share some thoughts on the importance craft shows have played in our business over the past few years.
So, let's go back.
It was the end of the 2011 and we were in the midst of a big shift or pivot (I just puked in my mouth) in our company. We diversified our product line and expanded from our first and only design the Deckster. Our retail presence was solely in the US, nothing in our hometown.
Chrystale, in her infinite wisdom suggested that we start showing at local craft shows. I straight up hated the idea. As a human male, "attending a craft fair" would fall somewhere between helping a re-organizing the spice drawer and dusting the plants. As in "sure, I could do it but do I have to?"
I wasn't very familiar with the modern version of these events. When I was a young lad, I would save up my quarters so I could rummage in various church basements looking for c̶r̶a̶p̶ treasure. This is what I thought when someone would mention the words craft + show in my presence.
I had no idea. Chrystale did. She absolutely had the right idea.
I'll be very direct. I felt that these types of events were beneath us. I didn't want people judging us and our design right in front of our faces. And most importantly, I was not interested in debating the merits of our goods and their prices.
Our first ever foray into this world was Urban Craft's Spring Show.
It blew my mind.
Gone were nanna's tea cozies and kitschy handmade greeting cards. And if they were at these events, they were the coolest fucking tea cozies or greeting cards I have ever seen.
Slowly, we found fans and customers. These shows became the biggest part of our sales and marketing efforts. Nowhere could we get this kind of high level product and market research. The attendants of these shows were modern, hip and highly sophisticated. They knew their shit. They know quality and most importantly, they were willing to pay for it.
It turns out that these public events were a great opportunity for us to test the merits of our efforts. We had to succinctly and plainly explain ourselves. We were very new players, so we had to introduce ourselves over and over again. We connected with people and our sales increased. That first Urban Craft was a great day for us and we never looked back.
I can not point to a single initiative that has done more to grow our business.
In the last few years, we have travelled to Montréal and Toronto to participate in similar events. I've noticed a few patterns.
- They personified #supportlocal. It's authentic.
- These events were spearheaded by mostly women.
- These women did more for the local economy and the startup community than any incubator or accelerator that I have ever seen.
- They get next to zero support from the typical institutions that are mandated to support entrepreneurship.
This all culminated to this month where we had our highest 1 day total ever at the Idle Hands Art, Craft and Vintage Sale. Then this past Sat, Urban Craft had a record attendance for their holiday show. It was an incredible spectacle of humanity.
So I want to thank some people (along with their volunteers) in particular for their efforts and everything they've done for us and so many small businesses like us.
In no particular order:
- Krista Leben and Robin Sidhu of Urban Craft
- Jenn Stone of Idle Hands
- Emily Arbour of Handmade Harvest
If you look at Ottawa's social calendar, there are these types of event popping up everywhere. Heck, we even threw our hats into the ring with our first ever City Night Bazaar.
Twenty-sixteen will undoubtedly be another great year for the organizers, the vendors and the attendants.
If you happen to see us at one of these events, don't be a stranger and come say hi.