This past Saturday was Crafts in Chelsea, a craft market and  fundraiser for PS 11 put together by the PTA.

I don’t quite know the history of it, but I know that it is a huge event for my Etsy NY Team The {NewNew} and I’ve heard many great things from past participants.  This year, when they notified the team of dates and applications, I jumped at the chance and I found a booth mate. The cost to rent a table this year was too much for just me alone, especially coming off of Celebrate Brooklyn, where I barely made any money, but I knew immediately I wanted to participate in THIS Market.

So I did. And I enjoyed myself. Immensely. While spending the entire day behind a 6ft table close on 21st St at 8th Ave, I learned quite a few things:

1. I need a grandma cart. My arms and shoulders are killing me two days later. KILLING ME.  It took me 10 minutes to walk from my apartment to Ave C to hail a cab. As a result I gave the driver a $4 tip extra for helping me because not only did he get me there on time, but he helped haul all my stuff into the trunk and to where my booth was. He also wished me “lots of money” that morning.

2. To quote Jay-Z, “I’m a hustler baby, I just want you to know.”  I really really enjoy sitting outside like a hustler. Yep. I really enjoyed talking to customers and potential customers about my work.  I gave out a ton of cards (I even learned that the new mini cards I ordered are more popular than my bigger cards) and even had a few people sign up for my newsletter. That alone made the day worth it!

3. Wind sucks, but really it’s about attitude. The day proved to be gorgeous (lots of sun), but windy. As a matter of fact, it was so windy several of my items found solace under the parked car directly across from my booth. It also means that many pieces ended up getting dirty from being thrown around.  Still, I sat out there until 5, talked to everyone who would talk to me, ended up meeting new people who would chase my items for me as I threw my arms and torso on the table to stop other items from flying away, and did this all while smiling.

4. Presentation is everything.  This was my first tabling event and so Friday night I ran to Pier 1 and spent $100 on items to decorate my table. I bought bright colored napkins instead of a table cloth (I may want to invest in a table cloth somewhere down the line), wooden and rattan chargers, two rattan baskets, and a tray to use to set up my stuff. I could use a bit more structured pieces, but everyone who came to my table, liked what they saw and complimented me on how “beautiful” the table looked.  This was not the heaviest stuff I carried (that was all the paper), but it made me wonder how other sellers carry more?

Also inline with presentation…anytime I made a sale, I wrapped the item(s) in tissue paper and stuck a small round pink sticker that had an embossed S2 on it. I don’t know how anyone else wrapped their items, but I know mine were wrapped almost the same way they would be if I were mailing or hand delivering an order to a customer. It goes a long way. One customer even mentioned how he saves tissue paper for his own wrapping. I’m glad that piece will be reused.

5. Sometimes things just go wrong. I woke up Saturday morning knowing that I didn’t have a mailing list sheet prepared, nor had I made copies of Girls Love Mail  fliers I wanted to pass out to customers.  I kept trying to figure out how I could do everything I needed to do and get to the location during the time I was scheduled to set up and dash around trying to make copies. In the end, I barely left the table because of the wind so it didn’t matter. The end result included using a blank page in a note book and verbally telling customers about Girls Love Mail. It was easy. It was efficient. I also just chalked it up to me being a first time market vendor and learning on the fly. I’m glad I went the way I did.

6. Friends really do make the world go round. I had three friends show up Saturday afternoon. One of them, Jan, brought her family-Dillon and baby Ashley (although she’s hardly a baby anymore). Not only did they come from White Plains to lend support, they also brought me empanadas to eat because I couldn’t leave my booth.  I felt so honored and touched that they would make coming to my event part of their day.

My other two friends showed up as quite a surprise, Amy and Chiara. Chiara is the gorgeous woman sporting the moustache card set in front of her face below. Amy is the stylish, blue hat wearing beauty who not only surprised me by showing up, but bought me a pickle from a vendor and manned my station while I went on the hunt for some soap by Nordea and to use the bathroom. She also helped carry my goodies to the corner and hail a cab. She is true blue and I am the luckiest of luckiest to call her friend.

7. I have good product. (It is so important that I’m not the only person who thinks my product is great.) I have gotten some great feedback from past clients and friends (my editing team is amazing!) and it has definitely helped me in terms of deciding what to and not focus on creating, but the response Saturday was immense. I did get the few people asking about single cards and cards with puppies, but that was rare. Instead, I got one customer who asked about custom sympathy cards. I got a ton of customers who were interested in save-the-date and wedding invitations. I also learned that Canadians love me! It’s true. They found my work witty and had all great things to say.  Which made me happy and feeling validated. I mean, after all, Canadians are AWESOME!

8. Sometimes you lose money to make money, but when you learn something new and are happy, anything is possible.  I say this because I made more money than I anticipated Saturday, but I essentially lost money. From the paper that I bought to create my new Thanksgiving product, to the display items from Pier 1, to the cab rides there and back, to the cost of the booth, I spent more than I brought in. Am I crying? No. Am I sad? No. Do I have to change things up? Yes. All of this is GOOD!

The most important thing that Saturday taught me is that I took a risk and when you take risks things happen. Whether they are how we want them or not is the issue, but over all, we don’t know unless we do.  Packing up my stuff, lugging it all, standing mostly all day, and selling my product taught me a lot. It also showed me that I’m on the right track, I can do this and THIS is what will make me happy. It’s rare that people have success right off the bat and I’d say that even though I’m not making the most money to survive on solely, I am making money, having fun while doing and making people smile, which is sometimes all you need to keep moving. When you follow your passion, things happen. 

Below are some pictures from the day. It was a great, great day and I feel incredibly lucky for the experience.

If you haven’t taken a risk with your business, I highly suggest you start small and jump right in. I am looking forward to incorporating all of the things I learned into future risks and even designs. I am also interested in hearing about your market experiences and what you’ve learned. Maybe I’ll even learn from a tidbit you share. You never know!


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