This weekend we were honored to have been a vendor at Renegade Craft Fair San Francisco. Renegade has established themselves as one of the nations most well respected craft fairs after years of touring coast to coast. They host over 200 vendors that travel from around the nation to sell their goods and bring in thousands of shoppers each day.
We have recently started branching out to do markets in different states as we begin to grow our customer base and test which cities are attracted to our products. Recently we went to Kansas City, MO but we were able to drive there in 8 hours and bring a car full of products and our big display. When we got accepted to Renegade we knew it was a no brainer to go but also knew it would be a much bigger challenge because of how far away from home it was. We could either drive and spend 2 long days in the car each way making it a week long trip or we could fly. As we enter our busiest time of the year, we just knew that we didn't have a week to dedicate to one event. Once we made the decision to fly, we put the pieces together to see how we would make it all work.
Since there is still so much work to process at home, we made the decision to have me go by myself and recruit my amazing sister who lives in the Bay Area to be our help for the weekend. Deciding to divide and conquer meant I had to get everything out to San Francisco by myself. I am a light traveler by nature so I knew this would be a different experience for me. I have heard that Renegade is a notoriously good event so I knew I needed to be prepared and bring as much product as I could possibly fit. The challenge was that I only had 2 suitcases to do it with. Because I had to focus on bringing so much product, I couldn't really focus on bringing many pieces for a display. That said, we typically put quite a bit of effort into our display when we are in Denver so I knew it was important to withhold our brand image, even on the road. So, how did we do it!?
First, the product:
When I was telling my granny about our event and how I was unsure about how I would manage to get our products out she remembered how her sister, who is an artist would get all of her items back to her home in Mexico when she would travel. She would travel to Japan to get fabrics but like me, wanted to get as many as she possibly could to fit in a few suitcases. My granny mentioned that she would get the space saver bags that you would stuff to the brim and suck all of the air out. I immediately went and bought enough of those to fill my suitcases. When it was all said and done I was able to fit close to 350 shirts in my two suitcases. Since everything was so condensed, I knew I would go over the weight limit and would have to pay a fee so I was prepared to pay it and just see it as cost of doing business. Much to my surprise, neither of them went past the limit! That said, they were so heavy that I struggled big time just to get them to the ticket counter. I don't think I've ever had to haul so much weight!
I flew out a day and a half before the event started because I had to go buy everything for our display. Since I have a southwest credit card for all of our business expenses I had points saved and was able to book my flight at no additional cost to me. I ended up putting the money that would've gone to that into the display but actually spent less than a plane ticket would've been so it felt like a win win.
Second, the display:
Over the past few years of doing events we have kept thinking of ways to make our display more compact while still fitting our desired level of functionality and aesthetic. After all of these years of buying things, having certain things work and others not I knew just how I would make this work. Ikea became our best friend a few years ago when we realized many of their display items were functional, easy to set up and take apart and minimal for our aesthetic. There is obviously a lot to dig through but once you know what your needs are you can quickly find something to accommodate to them.
I knew that nearby Oakland had an Ikea so before I left home I put together a list of things that would work. We then went there (thank goodness I had my sisters help and access to her car) and spent $150 on a display that almost replicated what we have at home exactly. I had plans to find a local vendor who might want a brand new shelf and give it to them or worst case toss it in the dumpster. As it turned out, my sister was glad to use what we bought in her house! Instead of making a whole display for our kids shirts, I just got some twine and nice pushpins to hang them up on the side of the shelf. Instead of a nice counter, I rented a table from the Renegade staff and used a tablecloth we screen printed ourselves instead of a wooden sign we have at home. Instead of a wooden display for our shirts, I purchased a collapsible display to hang them up that I was able to bring with me on the plane. It was a bit heavy and awkward but worked really well for what we needed. Lastly, I knew that bringing a bunch of smaller priced items (stickers,pins,patches) was going to be a good idea because it was easy to bring A LOT of them because of how small they are yet when sold, they really contribute to our bottom line. I wanted to display them nicely but didn't want to bring anything too bulky. I saw some collapsible racks sitting in our shop that belonged to shopmate, kiwi who said I could borrow one for the weekend. I easily threw it in my suitcase and off I went!
The fair itself:
I'm not going to lie, even though I have confidence in our products, I was nervous to see how our products would go over in a new market. I was excited but nervous. I tried not to overthink it but I knew I didn't have a whole lot to lose if it was a flop but was as prepared as I possibly could be for it to be a success.
As day one started, we sold some products here and there but after about an hour into it the people just didn't stop coming. We have been at many hectic events so I was prepared to have transactions run as smoothly as I could. My sister hasn't worked our booth before but has had years of retail experience so I was able to count on her to keep the shelves stocked and bag orders while I just kept ringing things up on the register. Luckily at that point our products were depleting pretty evenly with sizes and styles so even though we sold a lot, we still felt pretty stocked by day 2.
My future brother in law joined us because he too hadn't experienced a market from our side of the table. The day started off slow so I figured it would be significantly slower than Saturday. Sometimes Sundays are dead at markets and sometimes they produce better sales than Saturday, it really just depends! Once it hit 1 o clock the madness started all over again. I wondered why it took half the day and then I had to take a quick break to run and get water and overheard a lady say "oh yeah everyone just got out of brunch and are now excited to shop." Which made a whole lot of sense looking at the crowd.
Since Sunday was so busy we quickly started to run out of sizes and quickly saw entire styles just vanish. I offered free shipping for anyone that wanted to place an order at the fair if we didn't have their size. I felt that getting that new customer was way more valuable then losing the $2 a package that it costs us to ship them. Many people took me up on my offer but others just figured it wasn't meant to be. I was thrilled to fly home with a lot less in my bags and not struggle to make it up to the ticket counter on the way back.
What I would do differently:
I would definitely return because the response from San Francisco was more than we hoped for. I was able to see the purchasing patterns so I would bring more items per style and more styles overall. I would also bring sweatshirts because I was wearing one and a good 15-20 people asked me if they could buy it. I think I would bring the same amount of product in my suitcases but ship 2 boxes ahead of time so that we wouldn't sell out by early Sunday. Since our display materials were affordable enough, I would likely spend about the same amount of money to buy a new display. At home we use the same one over and over again until it gives out but it's tricky being out of state.
Even though markets are exhausting, there is really nothing better than meeting customers face to face and getting in person feedback half way across the country. We're excited to keep growing and enjoy taking each step to enter new markets to see that happen.