Why we believe craft shows won’t work (in the long run) for your business

As we all learn and relearn as small business owners, anything that is not sustainable in the long run will have to stop, either by choice or by necessity. And we think craft shows are often one of those things, for makers.

We love craft shows. When there is one near us in Philadelphia, or when we are traveling, it immediately makes it to the top of the list.

And we so value and appreciate that for many of the makers, artists, and designers we work with, craft shows have supported them in a big way. They make it easy for a fledgling business to test out a new product in a market they have easy access to and get feedback from real people who are exchanging real money for their work. Craft shows have propelled dozens of businesses that we work with from an idea to a money making business and that is a beautiful thing.  

The problem is that almost every day, we hear variations of the following from our customers and prospective customers:

  • “Last year I went to 31 craft shows and it is draining me, financially, emotionally and physically.”
  • “Craft fairs were great when I was starting out but I’m just getting too old for it now and I have kids.”
  • “I want and need to move my business to something that is steady and consistent beyond craft shows.”


Even if there is a return on investment, is it sustainable?

Though the return is often there financially, craft shows may not be sustainable physically and emotionally. “Sustainable” simply means that a certain activity can be maintained for the duration.  If a craft show is generating more than you are spending then it may be sustainable financially but often not after factoring in taking time away from the creative side of your business, from being with your family every weekend, and a general sense of being drained.


What does this mean for you?

  1. Just because something has worked before -- and gotten your business to this point -- doesn’t necessarily mean it will get you where you want to go. All businesses need to reassess and shift to whatever tactics are right for us, right now. It is natural that these change over time.
  2. If you’ve had this hunch that craft shows are not sustainable for you, you are not alone.
  3. There are other options to propel your business forward. You can scale back the shows and still succeed.  

Many of the makers we work with continue to do a few select craft shows as they grow but simply cultivate additional channels to sell their products and devote more energy to those, be it building an online community and traffic to their website, wholesale, or a combination of those.

If going to shows is energizing for you please, please keep doing them. Continue forward if it is generating energy for you and your business, but if it is hard now and you feel drained, it’s likely not going to get any easier 1 or 5 years from now -- and the time to build another way forward is now.


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