I’ve recently started doing handmade home shopping parties selling some of the goods from my shop, modeled after Tupperware or Mary Kay parties. I hosted the first party at my house in October 2009, and a few weeks later my friend Leslie hosted a party at a coffee shop here in New Orleans.
Recently a reader on my blog commented to ask if I had any tips on getting started doing these shopping parties. Now that I have two of these parties under my belt, I feel qualified to offer up some tips of my own:
#1 – GIVE YOUR HOST GREAT INCENTIVES!
After scouting some tips I found online, I decided to offer $25 in shop credit plus 10% of the total sales as shop credit to the hosts of my parties. If you make mainly one type of item, like jewelry or handbags, you might want to offer the host their choice of a certain type of earring or clutch, but since I carry such a wide variety of products, I thought that shop credit would be the easiest way to go.
Think of these incentives as you would a booth fee at your local craft fair. The great part is that, unlike a craft fair, where you pay your fee and then have to make your money back, here you offer the hostess a percentage of your sales as shop credit. If she brings in lots of friends who buy lots of stuff, she does well too and gets freebies from you, but if the party ends up being a bust, you’re not out a ton of money. (But from my own experience, and the stories I’ve heard from more experienced handmade home shopping party aficionados, you’re more likely to do very well than not!)
#2 – MAKE IT FUN!
It’s a party, so treat it like one! Whether you’re hosting the party at your own home, a friend is hosting at theirs or you do it at a coffee shop like we did last night, make sure there are plenty of drinks and snacks available! The Orange Couch loved us because we brought new customers into their shop, and at my first home party that I hosted I made sure there was plenty of wine and cheese to go around. Drinks and snacks can be as cheap or as expensive as you’d like… Each party could have a slightly different theme, depending on the host’s preferences.
Taking a cue from Tupperware parties that I had been to, I also made sure to create some fun and excitement with giveaways! You can pick out a few lower priced items to give away or do a drawing for $10 in shop credit. You can also create fun games or even do a demonstration of how you make your craft. People will see the work and talent it takes to create your items and they just might be more inclined to buy!
#3 – COMMUNICATE YOUR NEEDS FOR SET-UP!
The first party I did was at my house, so I had all day to get my set-up just right and use whatever random materials I had around the house for displaying my goods. I invited other artist friends to set up in my home as well, and while we were worried at first how to make everything fit, by using furniture already in my home, we made it work. We accidentally scratched our credenza though, so whether at your home or someone else’s, if you’re going to use someone’s furniture to display your goods, make sure to throw a tablecloth over it first! That’s one of those little things that didn’t even occur to me but in hindsight I wish I had thought of it before we scratched up the furniture!
For my second event at The Orange Couch coffee shop, my friend Tressa from Flambeaux Design Company and I both set up for the party. Leslie, who had arranged things with the coffee shop manager, had given us details about the space and timing of set-up. Tressa and I were both a little worried, because we thought we were only being allowed 30 minutes to set up. (I typically take about an hour or so to feel comfortable.) Luckily it all worked out though… I arrived early to scope out the space and have some ice cream. (The Orange Couch is such a great coffee shop – I wish it was in my neighborhood!) The manager introduced himself to me and not only let us set up earlier than we thought, but he also helped us move tables and even ran home to get us extra lighting! In the future, I’ll make sure to clarify that I need at least an hour or so before guests arrive to set up my goods, so there’s no need to stress!
#4 – GET THEIR CONTACT INFO!
As I mentioned above, we did some fun giveaways, and the way I’ve had people enter the drawing is to fill out a slip of paper with their contact info, including their name, email address and phone number. I have lines asking if they would like to be included on my email newsletter list and if they are interested in possibly hosting a handmade home shopping party of their own. I ask, if the answer is yes, what day and time do they have in mind? I also leave a blank for any additional comments or suggestions. This is your captive audience… they’re already interested in what you do, so don’t miss the opportunity to stay in touch with them!
#5 – ACCEPT AS MANY FORMS OF PAYMENT AS POSSIBLE!
For a long time, I did craft fairs and I didn’t have any way to accept credit cards. I definitely wanted to, but I didn’t feel that I was doing craft fairs often enough to justify it. This past summer, just in time for our New Orleans Craft Mafia birthday bash at Twisted Hair Salon, I signed up with Propay and made sure I had the ability to accept payment by all major credit cards. (Now I use Square!) This is a definite necessity! The majority of my sales are by credit or debit card now, and many customers also like to pay by check, which I gladly accept! Think like your customer – if you’re like me, you probably don’t carry much cash on you, so it’s often more convenient to pay by debit or credit card. Don’t miss an opportunity for sales!
I hope this helps some folks! I’m having a lot of fun doing these handmade home shopping parties, and I think they’re a great alternative to craft fairs, especially if you’re just starting out and you can’t afford the booth fees of big events.
If you found these tips useful, you’ll love my e-book, How to Make Money at Craft Shows (and art fairs, festivals, conventions and other events!)
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