Must Have Vendor Bag [Craft Show Prep, Part 1]
With my first craft show approaching, I found myself overwhelmed with the task of determining what supplies I would need throughout the day. I worried that I might leave something important behind, and whatever I forgot would undeniably be essential to success. The whole show would fall apart, and I would crawl home, a puddle of disappointment, shame, and regret.
I thought it was just first show jitters, but the feeling returned again and again. Instead of battling the Am I Forgetting Something Anxiety with each and every show, I decided to make a plan, develop a craft show checklist, and give my brain a much needed break.
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How to prepare for a craft fair
I have learned a thing or two since that first sleepless night as a craft show vendor, and I am here to drop some of my craft show prep knowledge on you. Why? Because you, my friend, care enough to think ahead and understand the value of being prepared, which means you are already half way there.
- A good plan provides peace of mind.
- Even so, you will eventually forget something.
- You can forget a LOT of things before disaster ensues.
When it comes to crafting, you are constantly reevaluating and refining your methods in order to fine tune your creative process. It only makes sense to streamline wherever you can–why not do that for yourself as a craft show vendor as well? Today we are going to cover what I affectionately call my “Must Have Craft Show Vendor Bag.” The Must Have Craft Show Vendor Bag is my big red tote that goes with me to every single show. It is the first place I turn whenever I am looking for anything booth or business related. Your Craft Show Vendor Bag might be your own brightly colored tote bag, a backpack, or even a rolling suitcase. It should contain everything you need to create and run your own little pop-up shop. Let’s walk through everything in my Must Have Craft Show Vendor Bag (including one of my very favorite items AND some additional craft show resources at the end).
Credit Card Processor
This is a must have for any business. If you don’t have a mobile credit card processor yet, pop open another window and get one ordered right now. There are many options to choose from, a few of which I will cover below. The processing fees are about the same as any standard online payment method, and it gives your shoppers the flexibility they have come to expect in retail.
Square is an incredibly affordable and easy way to accept credit cards on the go. I have used them as a craft show vendor for more than a decade and have always been happy with their service. Your first reader is free and you can enjoy FREE processing on up to $1000 in sales when you sign up with our link. You can even track and provide digital receipts for ALL your event sales in their app–including cash transactions–which will make it super easy to create a sales report and evaluate your performance at the end of the day.
Procrastinators Rejoice: If you can’t find your Square card reader the night before a show, you can snag a replacement reader at most popular retail stores (CVS, Walmart, Best Buy, Target, etc).
Paypal is another extremely popular payment option for both online sales and in person events. They offer their own card reader and a $10 incentive with your first purchase if you use our link to sign up.
Dealing with paper money is a blessing and a curse. Sure, you don’t have to pay processing fees, but you do have to come prepared with enough change to get yourself through the duration of your craft show. Get yourself a cash box or a change bag, and fill it up with twice as much cash as you think you will need. Make sure you have a broad range of bills, and yes, even some coinage.
The night before your craft show, write down exactly how much change you have and keep it somewhere safe. (I typically drop a note down in the bag with the cash.) It might be easy to remember that you brought $200 of change to the first show, but will you remember that you started with $187.35 at the next event? Keeping an accurate cash record is essential to catching any missing sales or miscalculations you may have made throughout the day.
We are at the mercy of our phones when it comes to accepting digital payments and processing credit card payments. So, it makes sense to invest in a decent backup battery. This Anker Power Bank is currently my all time fav. I can get multiple charges out of it before it needs to be plugged back in. This battery is very slim and lightweight, but they also come in even smaller sizes, like the this smaller power bank or Chap Stick, which I keep tucked in my pocket or apron as well. Store it with a dedicated cord, and make sure it is juiced up and ready to go the night before.
Need something beefier? If you are looking for a heavy duty power solution that offers a long term charge with traditional outlets, you will need to look at portable power stations. They are much larger, but they can power multiple devices for an extended period of time. This can be particularly helpful if you need to turn lights on for an evening event or power fans to keep cool in the summer.
Technology fails us all the time. Batteries mysteriously drop from 80% to critical mass, signals get lost, cords break, apps crash. Sometimes we need to plug in a fan, a phone, or a hotspot, and we don’t have access to an outlet. So whether you go big or small, it is always a good idea to have a power backup plan.
Sales Tax and Use License
A Sales Tax & Use License is required if you are going to be selling goods. Make sure you bring yours to every show you attend. I keep mine in my change bag, but I made a copy of it that I could keep in my wallet for other uses, such as buying supplies. If you live in Texas and you haven’t yet registered for a Sales Tax and Use License, you can do so online. We will walk you through the whole process in our Getting Started Guide for Small Businesses.
Sure, the sales you process digitally will be recorded, but what about your cash sales? What if you use more than one digital payment method? I have always chosen to document all my craft show sales in a record book as I process them. They even make sure little sales tracking notebooks. This was the easiest method for me to make sure that all my sales were accounted for, event when my booth got super busy. Having a record makes it easy to evaluate your sales as the day goes on, but it also helps to keep track of any errors that might have been made along the way. It may sound pretty old school, but sometimes the simplest answer is the best. Whether you choose your phone or an abacus, just make sure the sales are getting recorded.
It actually pains me to have to say this: whether it’s your very first show or you are a seasoned veteran, it is imperative to have some kind of branding and contact information at events. What is the point of networking at events if, after the craft show, no one knows how to get in touch, place an order, or find you next? I keep a constant surplus of business cards in my Must Have Craft Show Vendor Bag at all times. I refill it after each event, and I check my master supply so I know when it is time to re-order.
Need design help? If you haven’t established your branding or need help designing your business cards, we offer affordable, professional design services to help you stand out and make a lasting impression.
Some craft shows will provide important vendor documentation prior to the event. I like to have it on hand in case I have any questions, so I will either flag it in my email or print it out. and bring it with me. It’s not something that you necessarily have to remember to bring, but it’s always good to have if you end up with questions about event hours, tear-down, cleanup, etc.
A little tip from one craft show lover to another: always keep your booth map on hand. I love being able to refer folks to other vendors that might suit their interests. For example, I sold a Sock Monkey Hat to a woman who just LOVES sock monkeys. So I was happy to tell her that down the aisle at booth G214, there was a vendor selling the most amazing handmade sock monkeys. Be the community.
Newsletter Signup Method
Craft shows are a great place to network, advertise, and gain exposure. Even if someone cannot support your business at this event, that doesn’t mean they won’t in the future. Having a newsletter, if only to announce sales and upcoming shows, is an important tool to help catch leads and build your customer base. How you go about this is entirely up to you. Some vendors will leave out a tablet for folks to sign up on. Other vendors have prominently displayed QR codes. Many payment portals, such as Square, give you the option to sign up at the point of purchase. Even leaving out a blank notebook and a pen can attract quite a few sign ups.
If you need a solid newsletter provider to get started marketing your business, I highly recommend MailerLite. I have been with them for years and I am always pleased with their design tools, automations, and customer service.
Vendor Toolkit & Craft Show Checklist
There are so many items in my Vendor Toolkit, I decided to make that Part II of the Craft Show Survival Kit series. Go check it out to learn what other tools can help you setup and survive the your arts & crafts show. You’ll also find a customizable craft show checklist download with all my suggestions to print or use digitally. I find that a good checklist always eases my anxious heart the night before a big show.
Bonus: Favorite Craft Show Gear
This brings us to my absolutely favorite item in my entire vendor bag: my craft show apron! It’s not my favorite item because I couldn’t survive a show without, but just because I don’t want to. This craft apron was made by a local artist. The pockets were custom designed to my exact craft show needs. The large front pocket fits my change bag perfectly, and the many other pockets offer a safe and secure home for my phone, card reader, business cards, etc! A craft show apron like this one, a lightweight messenger bag, or a low profile waist-pack will allow you to keep your money (and your phone) on you at all times. When event traffic gets heavy, the last thing you need to worry about is misplacing your valuables. I wish I could refer you to the artist who made this one, but sadly I cannot. She passed away several years ago. We miss you, Laura. <3
Summer Heat Survival
Obviously the weather isn’t always on our side. If you live somewhere like Texas, you know that it is uncomfortably hot outside for more than half the year. Weather as hostile as that requires some additional consideration when packing, with a special focus on how to keep you cool and comfortable for the duration of your craft show. I’ve tested a lot of products and dedicated an entire post to keeping you cool at those outdoor events this summer. You can review them and pick your perfect personal cooling solution over at How to Stay Cool at Outdoor Events.
Craft Show Prep, Grab and go!
The Must Have Craft Show Vendor Bag is perfect not only for keeping all my craft show survival tools in one place, but it especially helpful for events spanning multiple days. The last thing I want to do at the end of a long day is snuffle around for all the items I can’t leave unattended overnight. With my Craft Show Vendor Bag, I can just pick up my little red tote and be on my way, confident that all my valuables are safe and sound. And as forgetful as I am, it’s a lot harder to forget a big red tote when I’m half asleep and heading out in the morning. Don’t forget to check out Part II of the Craft Show Survival Kit for all my vendor booth setup tools and everything else in my go bag!
How to find local craft shows
Need help finding your next arts & craft show? Don’t worry, we can help. Check out this guide to finding local arts and crafts events near you.
Craft Vendor Community & Support Groups
It can be hard to find support, resources, and connect with other small business owners, but we’ve got you. Our Facebook groups were made specifically to help you connect with other crafters, artists, makers, and bakers. Find valuable support, vendor booth display ideas, and resources in our Craft Vendor Community & Support Group (open to craft vendors worldwide). If you are local to the extended North Texas area, our DFW Craft Shows Community is here to help you connect with other local vendors and find local event information, resources, and more. See you there!
This article was originally published under the name of Craft Show Survival Kit :: Part I – The Bag and has since been updated for accuracy and relevance.