7 Steps to Starting a Craft Outlet
Making crafts is a wonderful pastime for many. However, we often end up making things we will never use ourselves. For many, selling the items created is a source of income as well.
It is not always feasible for a crafter to rent a booth or table at a Trade Show or Farmers Market. They are often on the lookout for a place to sell their crafts, but do not want to have to attend markets. This is where you come in!
In my twenty plus years as a crafter I have attended Craft Sales, Farmer’s Markets and Trade Shows both as a vendor and a customer. I know firsthand how much work it is to set up a display booth and to keep it interesting so you attract customers. The majority of these events are held on weekends, which is often the only time we have to spend with our families. Some people are able to get the whole family involved in different aspects of the Trade Shows, but this is not always the case.
How does this pertain to you, you ask? The answer is to provide crafters with an outlet where they can display their products continuously. This doesn’t have to be a very big space...it can be a room in your home or a small storefront. I currently have my crafts in a local shop which is open six days a week. The monthly fee is low, and I am able to dedicate my time to other things. It is a win-win situation; the shop owner earns a few dollars by charging me a fee plus the ever-changing stock keeps people going back to her shop. Plus, I can concentrate on my writing and making of new crafts without having to commit time to set up at a market.
Step 1: Establish a space. If you have extra room in your home, this is an ideal home-based business. If not, secure a space in a local mall or busy business area. Keep in mind the overhead will be much higher if renting a storefront in a business district.
Step 2: Establish a set price for space rental. This is where you have to decide if you will be designating a certain area to each crafter, or if the items will be set up in themes. There are pros and cons to each method; you will have to find the one that works best for you. Keep in mind whatever you decide is not written in stone; you will maintain the right to alter your decision. Do inform your clients of any changes in writing. Depending on the space available and how much work you will be doing to maintain the displays, an average fee could be $25.00 per month.
Step 3: Contact crafters in your area and surrounding areas to inform them of your business. Depending on the area you live in, you may soon find yourself with a waiting list. Most crafters will jump at the chance to have their items on display in a shop while they concentrate on making more.
Step 4: Decide on a coding system. This should be consistent, as it will ensure the money from items sold goes to the appropriate crafter. In a small community, the last four digits of the crafter’s phone number followed by a hyphen and item number could be used. In larger centers where there is more than one prefix, a different code should be used. My crafts are coded with my initials followed by a hyphen and item number. I keep a record of which numbers have been used so I know which number is available next. This way, any confusion is avoided.
Step 5: Depending on your layout, you may wish to have different size display areas. A small eighteen inch wide by forty eight inch high shelving unit may be all one crafter needs, while another may require a ten foot by ten foot space. Their individual requirements should be discussed when they express an interest in displaying their crafts in your shop. Be flexible but maintain professionalism and control. If you waver too much, you will find more domineering clients trying to take over and dictate how your shop is set up. It does happen, but often clients are just offering constructive criticism. If you feel this may be a problem, designate the space and suggest the crafter maintain the space. You can be responsible for general cleanup around the space, but the displays and organization will be up to them. Again, it all depends on the individual circumstances.
Step 6: When you have obtained a variety of crafts, it is time to open the doors. Do not hold off on opening up shop if you only have a few members as this will become frustrating for them. They are paying you to sell their wares, so open up shop as soon as possible. If you feel your space is too empty you can easily add some room dividers to make the space appear well stocked. As your clients increase their products you simply push back or eliminate the dividers to make more room.
Step 7: Advertise! Advertise! Advertise! This is imperative to gaining a solid customer base. You may advertise individual crafts or the store in general, but always put the focus on how it benefits the customer. For example, “Are you looking for a special handmade item? We are sure to have what you’re looking for! Visit us at 123 Any Street, Anytown.” If you also own a website you may update it regularly to showcase new crafts; be sure to remove items as they are sold unless they are regularly stocked.
By following the above steps it is possible for anyone interested in the craft industry to successfully open and maintain a profitable shop. In addition to the crafts made by local artisans you may wish to also stock craft supplies or teach classes to supplement your income. If you are an artistic person you may also sell your own creations.