This past winter, Kota Crafted participated in its first craft fair, Denver Flea’s Holiday Market at Union Station. It’s a huge flea market with over 50,000 attendees. It was quite the way for us to break into flea markets but we learned a ton and had a really successful market. Here are 10 things to help you prepare for your first craft fair:

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  1. Design your booth at home first.

It’s hard to visualize exactly where things will fit and how visible they will be to potential customers without actually setting up your display. Our tent was 10’ x 10’ so we taped off a space and setup our display exactly how it would look in the tent. We did this the week before the flea market so we had time to think about the look, adjust things around, and purchase last-minute display items to get the display just right. When you finish your display make sure to take lots of pictures that you can refer back to later. There are lots of ways to setup a 10’ x 10’ booth. Ultimately, we landed on this:

Outline of our booth design

Outline of our booth design

The biggest thing we can stress is to make sure you have eye-catching items right out front, where people see them walking up to your tent and will stop to touch them and react. This reaction will get them to turn and look at the rest of your items that are inside the tent. Those eye-catching items are key. Our very first sale of the weekend happened very quick and was a handmade advent calendar that hung at the front of our tent. Throughout the weekend, the items that hung there consistently sold and lead to other sales.

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All setup at Denver Flea

Handmade advent calendar - our first sale of the weekend!

Eye-catching product to encourage browsing

2. Be setup to accept all forms of payments – all major credit and debit cards, and cash.

The majority of our sales were credit cards but we did have some cash sales. Get a secure cash box (we used this one from Amazon):

and be prepared with change. Estimating the change ahead of time is tricky but air on the side of caution. You don’t want to be stuck losing a sale because you didn’t have change. Plus, the cash you withdraw for change can be deposited right back into your account after the flea market, so there’s really no risk here as long as you feel safe carrying around cash. Denver Flea provided 24-hour security guards and we took the cash box with us everywhere – don’t leave it in your tent. Take it home every night.

For accepting credit and debit transactions, we used Square. It’s extremely easy to setup and works great for small businesses. We researched a few other companies including PayPal and Clover but ultimately Square won out for ease of use and familiarity. When you sign up Square sends you a free magstripe reader but you should purchase the Square Reader for Contactless and Chip for $49. If a card has a chip but your business only accepts swipes you are responsible for any fraud. But, with a chip reader you’re covered. It’s worth it, and it looks professional.

3. Attach price tags to every item.

Some people will want to chat about every item and love having you tell them prices and sizes but most people want to be able to look themselves. Not everyone is comfortable asking a price for an item when the maker is sitting right there. So, make sure every item is labeled. We used these price labels and attached them with small safety pins:

4. Chat with potential customers.

This one can be tough, especially since we’re introverts at Kota Crafted. But really, just let this one come naturally. Try to read the situation – some shoppers just want to browse undisturbed whereas others want to hear all about your products and story. We found it worked well to welcome every person and do a quick, one-sentence overview of who we are and what we do and then the shopper will take it from there. Be friendly, but not overbearing. This is a flea market. People come to buy unique items so a lot of time they want to hear your story (and sometimes even give you a hug for the work you do – really! It happens!) But once you start the day, you’ll get a feel for the crowd and you’ll get more comfortable with how and when to chat.

5. Listen to what your customers want.

This one is HUGE. Next to making sales, receiving feedback on your products is probably the most beneficial use of a flea market. We had lots of compliments for the design and look of our baby clothes but a lot of people were looking for larger sizes then we had available. Our number 1 goal for 2019? Focus our sizes on 2T-5T. We certainly would have made more sales if we’ve had more larger sizes available but, when you only sell online, you don’t receive this feedback. You don’t know why someone clicked on your product but didn’t purchase. At a flea market you get that person-to-person contact and you get to learn what your customers want. There’s nothing more valuable then feedback straight from potential customers on what would get them to purchase in the future. Take this feedback seriously and adapt your store to accommodate.

Ponchos and larger sizes were requested. Here’s a new release for 2019 - a 2T poncho

Child aprons fit a large range of sizes

6. Use social media and tag the flea market.

Chances are, the flea market is doing their own advertising about their main attraction – you! By shooting a quick video of your shop or people strolling the market and tagging the flea market it’s likely they’ll add your post to their own story upping your exposure and getting people excited to visit your booth!

7. Have a large stack of business cards and hand them out liberally.

Handing your business card to someone is getting you close to a future sale. Plus, people will be able to remember your name when they talk with their friends about the market – word-of-mouth recommendations are the best form of advertising for your business! We gave away a whole stack of business cards and every card expanded our reach substantially further. Make sure your name and website (or Etsy shop) are on the card so people can browse your offerings later.

8. Have an email signup sheet.

Email addresses are gold to your small business. Email advertising is free and easy (we use MailChimp) and these are people who love your products enough to give you a piece of their personal information. Let’s face it, we all have overflowing inboxes these days and are probably weary of more emails so when someone voluntarily gives you their email address it’s a huge compliment and makes them a very valuable customer. They’re saying they’re interested in buying from your store again!

9. Make sure you’re collecting sales tax.

Whether you add sales tax into your prices (great for mostly cash businesses to cut down on change), or, more frequently, have it add on at the end of a purchase, make sure you’re complying with the sales tax rules for the state and city you’re selling in. Depending on where you sell online, this may be something new for you. Not only do you have to collect the sales tax at the event you have to submit it and usually it’s due by a certain date or you’ll owe a fine. In Denver, the total 2019 sales tax rate is 8.31% with 2.90% owed to the state and 5.41% to the city. You have to submit these payments separately and the amount due is based on how much you collect. Visit Denver’s ebiz site for more information.

10. And of course: Enjoy it!

Denver flea does full weekends for all of their events so we worked long days Friday – Sunday. It was tiring. But it was SO WORTH IT! We got to talk with customers, hear what they loved, what they wanted to see more of, and we made a bunch of sales. And you can too! Flea markets require a lot of up-front work prepping inventory, designing your booth and preparing to accept in-person payments but remember – most of these things are just for your very first flea market. You can use the same booth design over and over again, and once you’ve set up payment processing you won’t have to do it again. Keep all the price tags on your products and that’s all done too! Doing your first flea market might sound daunting but it’s worth it to get in front of customers and showcase your products that you work hard on every day! Go makers!