The majority of small candle businesses sell candles at craft and vendor shows in addition to selling online. These are often referred to as “Pop-Ups”.
Craft show events are one of the best marketing plans for small handmade businesses. It is one of the easiest ways to get started and send traffic to your online store. People love to meet the crafter, and establishing the initial relationship can create a loyal customer.
How to Find Craft Shows and Events
Selling candles at craft shows starts with finding the venues. The best place to find craft and vendor shows near you is Facebook Events. Type in “craft” or “craft show” in the search bar.
Even if there is no contact information for the planner, go there and introduce yourself. Get your name on the waiting list. Many planners have groups to support their events as they run many.
Other crafters or vendors at the shows will have contact information. Going to the shows and networking with others. It pays off.
Don’t limit yourself to craft and vendor shows. Many Farmer’s Markets or fundraising events host crafters. I have even worked a venue with the city’s local festival in the fall.
Another source for finding events near you is your city’s chamber of commerce. Events are often advertised or permits for bigger events are pulled. They can help you find events. They are very supportive of small businesses.
If you are having issues finding open events, try your local small businesses like salons. Sometimes they will let you set up a pop-up for a Saturday in the corner of their business or the front of their store.
Craft and vendor show events book fast. You have to reserve your spot 6 months to a year in advance sometimes. I created my own events. I have even sold candles from a table set up in front of a tax return business. It doesn’t have to be related to what you sell.
I have also targeted storefronts en route to our city’s festival for the summer’s fireworks. I sold everything I brought with me! Don’t limit where you can sell and don’t be afraid to ask small businesses for support.
What you need to do before you sign up for a craft show
Before you sign on selling candles at craft shows or vendor shows, you need to make a list of questions. The answers are going to be in line with what your needs are. There is no right or wrong answer but whether or not it’s a good fit. Don’t settle for just anything.
Here is my list to help you get an idea of what to ask and get started. It is important to be prepared. It reduces stress and your event will run smoother.
1. Where is the craft show event located?
Make sure the trip is worth it. You will need to drive and arrive in time to set up. Most event planners require that you stay until the event is over and you cannot break down your area until after it’s over. Make sure you consider this.
Additionally, evaluate the setting. Is the event in a hall, a high school gym, or a church, or is it outdoors? You will need to know the details of the location. This will have an impact on the traffic.
My first outdoor craft show was in a church parking lot with no shade and I did not have a canopy. They did not supply one either. I did not make it through the entire show. When I signed on I didn’t know it was outside.
It was the only church event that was outside. How was I to know?
What is the parking situation for unloading and during the event? Do you have to pay for parking or will you get a parking pass?
If the craft show is close enough and opens early enough for the setup I can make two trips or ask a friend or family to help me with a load in their car.
2. How much traffic is expected?
You need to know the size of the event. How many vendors will be there? Are there duplicates of what you sell? That’s ok if it is a big enough event but I like to know in advance.
A craft show with 30 tables is a small show and I would expect to earn a smaller amount. A craft show with 150 tables brings in more traffic and the earnings go up.
This also will give you an idea of how much product you need and how much you would expect to pay for the space. You don’t want to sell out your first hour and you can only make as much money as what you have to sell. Keep your table full.
3. How long is the vendor event?
Some events are two and three days. These are usually bigger events. You will need to know if you can leave your set up overnight and if the pricing is per day or for the total show.
4. How much is the total cost of the event?
I have only come across this once but there was an additional advertising fee for an event I did. The fee was on the application so it wasn’t a surprise.
Your candle business should have a Facebook page. Create an event for your craft show and share that event. You should be sharing your location on your social media pages as well. TicToc is on-trend as well as Instagram.
Sometimes there is a different price for the location of the tables or booths at the event. Areas with electricity cost more. Some events have a tier system that allows you to rent the space and you provide everything else.
You may also have to donate a product to be raffled. This is common with craft event shows that are fundraisers.
- Is there an admission fee?
- Is there a pass to get in?
- What about my assistance with my booth?
- How many helpers am I allowed?
- How many passes will I get?
- How many people are allowed to work at my table/booth?
5. What is the size of the area?
Sometimes the event description isn’t clear. Over time I learned to ask. I once rented a space at an event for a show held in a gym. When I got there it was a 10×10 with an eight-foot table. I didn’t know! I could have brought so much more.
I started mapping out my area after that. I learned to work with the event planner to understand what I was renting. Once they understand you are doing this as a small business they work with you.
Most planners have a floor plan for the tables. Don’t be afraid to work with them. You are renting space from them. I like to know in advance where my table is located.
Event planners know the traffic patterns and map out the setting ahead of time. The location of the space can be just as important as the size.
6. Is the area a booth or table?
I have rented both. You can get more products in a booth but it seems like people are hesitant to enter booths. You don’t have much time to catch someone’s attention.
I prefer to rent center isle tables. The traffic flows in both directions. If you get a booth, tables at the front should be your top sellers. People tend to buy as they pass through.
If your space is big enough, invest in folding tables. I have several and one stays in the bottom of my trunk just in case I need it.
My car is always packed with as much as I can bring. If the craft show event goes well I can bring more in.
I have also had instances where the area next to me did not show and when chatting with the event planner she asked if I have enough to fill that space. I ended up with double the space for the price of 1 because my neighbor did not show. An empty space looks bad.
7. Does the area have electricity?
In the beginning, this did not matter to me. Most venues charge extra for space with electricity so I didn’t sign up. I soon learned that lighting helps to sell. I have also been stuck in a space with poor lighting.
You will not be allowed to use extension cords. You will be allowed to use a power strip.
Either way, you cannot have an open flame of any kind. You can create an atmosphere with LED candles and battery-operated LED lighting. Patio lighting works great! I use the outdoor patio umbrella LED lights. Bring extra batteries.
Draw attention to yourself with lighting and make your area cheerful and inviting.
8. Are you required to have a business license, permit, or insurance?
This is typically the responsibility of the person renting the venue holding the event. There may be some local requirements in your area but you should know ahead of time.
How to Prepare for a Craft or Vendor Show
Now that you have secured your spot, you are going to do a “dry run” or a mock event. I used to do a show every weekend and if you are not organized you can spend the day miserable. This should be a good experience for you, not a bad one. After all, you are working for yourself.
Every trip to an event I use a checklist. Every bin gets checked, loaded, and checked off the list. My totes are labeled. I know what my inventory is. It is very stressful to realize you forgot something when it’s too late.
Let’s start gathering some essentials every crafter needs to do a craft or a vendor show to be prepared. As I did events I started adding things to my list to bring. You can add or take away what you wish.
Dress appropriately (to your craft) in business casual (comfortable) attire. Don’t expect to sit behind a table texting on your phone for hours in your sweat pants and make a lot of sales. If you don’t look interested in your customer, they will not be interested in you.
Be prepared to pass out advertising or samples of some kind. Get in front of your table and talk to people. Introduce yourself. Keep track of what you hand out, it is a tax write-off as advertising. Drive traffic to your website.
Candle Care Cards as the back of a business card is something that is a benefit to your customer.
If you have a buddy to work the show with you that is great. Many times I had to run my table by myself. Take this into consideration. I used an over-the-shoulder crossbody bag instead of a purse. This also served as my money pouch for making change.
You will need enough change to handle transactions and a safe place to put your money while you are working. Don’t rely on a cash drawer that you have to watch. I put my bag on my body and never took it off, even when I went to the restroom. I keep my phone here too.
I also use a square reader that attaches to my phone to take credit cards. I like Square because it syncs my inventory. It also has many features that ty into a website well worth learning.
You can increase your sales by offering many ways to pay. Offering to accept a debit or credit card opens doors for your sales. It will track exactly what you sold at the event and if set up correctly gather your customers’ email information.
Alternatively, offer to accept Paypal as many see this as a secure way to pay. Set this up ahead of time. Bring a little card that advertises that you take credit cards.
You will at some point have to leave your table or booth. I have learned to ask my neighbor to keep an eye out and exchange favor. You can also bring extra tablecloths to cover your products while you take a break.
Part of your arsenal should be table coverings. I have 6 black tablecloths that cover 8-foot tables. Some event planners require that your tables are covered some do not. It looks more professional to cover your tables.
I use regular tablecloths as opposed to the stretch kind that fit snugly against the table legs. I use the underneath of the table for storage. I want my customer to see a neat and organized area. It is also where I put my personal belongings.
Most events will only supply 1 table. If you have a big enough area, ask if you can add tables. The worst they can say is no. I invested in 6 foot folding tables that fit in my trunk.
Also, ask if there are chairs. I also bought 2 folding chairs but don’t always bring them. Yes, I once did a show that did not have enough chairs for everyone, and guess who got left out and stood all day? Me.
After a day of setting up and working on my feet in dress shoes, I started bringing an extra pair of professional-looking slippers.
You have to remember to take care of your personal needs too. I now pack a small soft cooler for snacks, drinks, and Motrin. The outside pockets have grey tape, zip ties, scissors, markers, pens, paper, etc. I also pack hand sanitizer, wipes, bandaids, and whatever I think I may need for the day with limited resources.
Selling candles in the summer outdoors can be a little tricky. I pack them in coolers instead of totes and keep them under the table.
Candles get heavy so it didn’t take long to learn to not skimp on the totes. I started with boxes that didn’t hold up and transport well and switched to cheap totes. I soon found out that they did not hold up to the weight of candles.
I also learned that I could not carry the heavy totes like I thought I could as not every show worked out with parking. I invested in a fold-up wagon that I keep behind my driver’s seat. They hold about 150 pounds and come in handy when everyone is scrambling for a cart and there is not enough to go around.
For larger shows, I add another wagon folded up behind the passenger seat that has a strap so that I can hook them together to form a train. I did a show once that just the trips back and forth to unload were so far I was exhausted before I even opened.
There is no guarantee that you will have something available for you to bring your products to the event. Some high school events have the kids help carry to and from your car which is a great help. I have learned to plan for the unexpected.
Vendor Table, Booth, and Display Ideas and Tips
Now that you have your space picked out, you need to plan the area you will be selling from. This section can have an entire website dedicated to it. The possibilities are endless, but you need to find your style.
There are some rules to running a successful event at a craft show that apply. Safety first. All of your displays must be durable enough to hold the weight of candles and the movement of customers picking them up and putting them down.
When space is limited, take advantage of vertical real estate. I pull my table back enough to place totes in front so that the product is at least 18 inches off the floor. I tuck them slightly under the table so that the entire table can be reached comfortably.
I cover the totes to make them blend in with the table to create a tiered table effect. Make sure your event allows this. Some have restrictions on your setup.
Off to the side I use corner-style cabinets clamped to the table so they do not fall over but they are also out of the aisle. I also make sure my tablecloths cannot be tripped over. Safety pin the edges back if needed.
On top of the table, I display my candles with step displays on the side and leave an opening in the middle for myself. People may not feel comfortable exchanging money in front of the table close to you. It can be an awkward transaction.
Also, many women look for a place to set their purses down. A spot to check out is a bonus.
All of my products have a very visible price tag. People hesitate to ask for pricing. I keep the packaging and gift bags under the front table as you would experience in a storefront.
How much room you have will have an impact on your area’s layout.
Keep your heaviest items on the table and the totes in front of the table and the lighter items on the shelves.
If you sell add-ons in addition to candles like incense or wax melts, you can use grid walls to hang them from. Make sure all of your items are accessible to the customer. People typically do not like to ask for products unless it makes sense. (fragile/expensive items)
When selling candles at a craft show, expect people to pick them up and smell them. They are buying fragrances. Have a sample candle available if you have candles packaged. Don’t be heartbroken if at some point someone breaks one.
There are a lot of decisions that will go into this and the trial run at home is very important. You are going to set everything up at home and pack your car. Then you are going to unpack it and bring it back to the house.
I am not crazy. Had I performed this exercise I would have known before the day of the event that the totes I just bought would collapse under the weight of the candles when trying to move them.
It is also the absolute way to know how much fits in your vehicle.
I think we all try to do a setup of our tables but most do not take it this far. I have planned events that I have left things behind because they just didn’t work. I have had totes break loose in the middle of parking lots. I have had displays collapse.
Packing may also include cling wrap and bubble wrap. Selling candles in glass containers at a craft show means you are transporting them. You need to pack them accordingly.
If you have wax melt hanging from a wall grid, you can use cling wrap to hold them in place so that you do not have to take them off and put them back on. Make sure your grip is in small enough sections so that it is manageable.
Use displays that fold flat and take up less space. Learn to pack efficiently. If your totes have a small gap at the top, use that space for gift bags of whatever fits. Try to limit the number of totes or boxes.
I also invested in a folding luggage carrier. This helps to move totes around where my wagon would not go. It folded flat and fit in a tight spot out of the way.
Basics for craft and vendor show displays
Start with a theme and color scheme. My tablecloths are black and this is the dominant color. Table coverings can be any color or texture. Your display will be built starting from there.
If you have a country theme, you can buy a table covering that looks like wood. A spring event would look cute with artificial grass. A sophisticated candle display could have ruffles or silk.
Small candles display nicely on cabinet organizers. I covered some with fabric to dress them up for a Mother’s day show. They can also be painted or decorated to match your theme.
Your intent with an event is to create an atmosphere so that the customer has an emotional trigger when they visit your area. People often buy candles with emotions. The fragrance is how it makes them feel so should the shopping experience.
Add some LED candles in between your candles. Actually, use the containers you have with an LED in the jar to simulate a burning candle. Let people “feel” the candle.
I also use LED battery-operated lamps. The lighting is huge! Bright equals cheery and upbeat. I have modified regular lamps to hold LED bulbs so that I am not using camping lights on the table. My favorite is the LED under the umbrella for patios. They mount under almost any lampshade.
The most important thing you can do is pay attention to your customer without being aggressive. Make yourself available but the next biggest part of your display should be your signage. Your area should be organized and easy to shop in.
Signage helps explain what you are selling. As people walk by they should see your business name. Your signage should be branded to your business so that when they shop online they know they are in the right place.
Signs around my area describe the fragrance notes for candles that have non-descript names. Shoppers will read a sign that says “citrus…” and pick it up to smell. If the name of the candle is “Summer…” they may just pass as an unknown.
Offer QR codes to help bookmark your site, Instagram, or Facebook page. Make it as easy as possible for them to connect with you.
Carry over that branding on your gift bags. I already print labels for my candles and I have shipping 8.5 x 5.5 labels I print to match. These go on white gift bags with heavy handles. Don’t skimp on your package. Presentation is part of the experience.
Dress up your area with décor. Tablecloths can be layered for color. Add some interest with candle holders or items that fit your theme. Use some items that are reflective so that your area has a sparkle. Sometimes a simple mirror placed flat reflects the light enough.
Dress up your signs by putting them in a picture frame or putting them on an easel. I have created a slideshow on an old Ipad and played that off to the side of my table. If you also have videos you can play those as well.
Selling candles at a craft show can be fun. Don’t stress. I also bring an electric wax melter. I melt a soft fragrance that would appeal to most people. Often I match the melt to the season. If I don’t have power, I bring fragrant wax melts that cast without a melter and open them so that my area smells good.
Some of my best ideas come from shopping the craft and vendor shows. The crafting community is very creative.