Oct 132011

This past weekend, as I mentioned in a previous blog post, I sold my handmade paper-crafted items at a local craft show. While sales were not spectacular, I did all right—enough so that if my schedule allows for it next year, I will likely attend again. My tables were not overfilled, but I did have enough product on hand. At the last moment, I hung a metal tree with felted wool coffee cup sleeves . . . interestingly, those attracted the most attention, possibly because they can also be used as candle wraps. You just never know what to expect at these events!

Speaking of not knowing what to expect, I do like to be prepared to accept credit cards from my buyers. This is not as expensive as you might think, even if you are a small seller. In previous years I used ProPay, which offers a reduced price for Etsy sellers which you can access HERE.  The current annual fee for Etsy sellers is $39.95 for the ProPay Premium plan. For each Visa, MasterCard or Discover transaction, you pay a 2.69% fee plus a flat 25 cents. For American Express, you pay 3.19% plus a flat 25 cents. Truthfully, I have been satisfied with this service. It has been easy to use, and quick to deposit earnings in your bank. You do have the option to purchase a digital card reader from ProPay for $39.95 for your Apple mobile device, or $49.95 for an Android mobile device. Or, you can do as I did and purchase a manual tabletop credit card imprinter for $16.99, along with transaction receipts, from a seller like mrimprinter on eBay.

Earlier this year, however, I heard about another option, and I am really excited about it. That option is Square, which charges no annual fee at all and a 2.75% fee for most credit card or debit card transactions. (If you key in the credit card information manually instead of using the Square card reader, you are charged a flat 15 cents plus a 3.5% fee.) Square is for U.S. customers only (you need a Social Security number), and is supported on Apple iOS systems (such as iPhone and iPad) running 4.0 and up, and on Android devices running 2.1 and up. Your mobile device does have to have a 3.5 mm headphone jack, in which the Square reader (which is mailed to you for free) is inserted. Then, you are able to take Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express cards, as well as debit cards, simply by sliding them through the Square reader that you insert in your mobile device’s headphone jack. The card is approved or not, and you can either e-mail your customer or send a text message receipt. What really impressed me is that you can take a photograph of the item you are selling, and write a description that is included with the electronic receipt. You can even track cash transactions this way. Later, when you are sitting in front of your computer, all of the data can be downloaded from the Square Web site. Your funds are deposited to your bank account within 12 to 36 hours. You can sign up for Square HERE, and get most of your questions answered on their Help page. The Square app is free to download to your smart phone.


So, did I use the Square tool this past weekend? No, but I was prepared to do so. I even ordered a second free card reader so that my husband could help me process card transactions!

One of my customers bought a spiral-bound Gratitude Book that is a new item in Mister PenQuin on Etsy. The book is filled with 100 pages (50 double-sided pages, actually), containing one writing prompt, “Today I am thankful for…” My buyer told me that every Thanksgiving the grandparents come, and that when everyone sits down at the table, each person gives thanks for something. This year she is going to pass the book around and have each person write down for what he or she is thankful. In the years to come, and especially when the grandparents may no longer be around, she will have a permanent record of family blessings. I like her idea so much, in fact, that I may borrow it for our family. You can find more Gratitude Books in my Etsy shop HERE.

Click on image to learn more about this Challenge.


© 2011 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Oct 052011

Fall is definitely here, as evidenced by leaves falling from my trees, as well as by local newspaper announcements about autumn craft shows. It doesn’t take long before my calendar is filled with events I want to visit as a shopper, in addition to a few where I hope I can sell my own handmade items. This coming Saturday, for example, I am selling handmade goods at an arts and crafts festival being held at a local church. I’ll be showcasing mini clipboards for Post-it Notes® (see Picking up old threads), gratitude books, brag books, holiday shopping pads, felted wool needle books, sewing notebooks, and inspiration books.

The weeks leading up to a craft-selling event are packed with preparation. Besides ensuring that enough product is on hand, you have to price goods and generate a plan to display your items effectively.

Paper-crafted goods present a special display challenge. While their small size means they don’t take up a lot of space, they also are not large enough individually to attract attention from a distance. They can become dirty if handled by sticky fingers, or if they are dropped on the floor. If you enclose paper goods in cellophane bags to keep them clean, they often become victims of fluorescent light glare. You don’t want to create a barrier between your product and your buyer, so I take my chances and don’t put things in cellophane bags.

You have a limited amount of space in which to display your wares, so every inch counts. My space this weekend measures 8 feet by 8 feet, just enough for one venue-provided utility table, but not enough space if you have a lot of merchandise. I do. So, I generally bring my own lightweight folding tables, narrow 20-inch by 48-inch tables that allow me to arrange my space in a more flexible way. I like to move the tables so they form a shallow “U,” and then sit behind the tables so that I can help folks who need assistance, but stay out of the way when people just want to browse.

Items laid flat on a table do not usually catch people’s eyes, so I try to find attractive, accessible and vertical ways to display items that aren’t going to cost me more than what I can sell. I agonized for a while about how to display my mini-clipboards at this show. I have a metal “tree” that accommodates hung items, but when I hung my clipboards on it, I discovered they took time to hang, and took time to remove. In other words, my tree made my items somewhat inaccessible. I evaluated whether I needed to purchase a fixture for them, and in the end discovered a rotating display rack at Display Diva on Etsy that I can use in other ways at future craft shows. I was very pleased with how quickly the rack below shipped, and with how well it displays my mini-clipboards.

Finally, I thought about how to display my shopping list pads vertically. They have magnets on the back, so the obvious solution could have been a metal board on a stand. I was unhappy about the amount of space this would take, however, so I began thinking about inexpensive alternatives. On a trip down into the basement, I spotted an empty holiday cookie tin that was the perfect size for what I had in mind. I stood it on its side on a kitchen carousel, and hung my items. Perfect!

I still have quite a number of tasks ahead of me before my selling event, but having display decisions behind me is a big relief. What are some of your larger concerns when you sell at a craft show?

© 2011 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Sep 212011

Although autumn won’t officially begin until this Friday, already I am seeing signs of my favorite season. The days are gradually shortening, the temperatures are beginning to drop, and the leaves on the trees are crinkling and yellowing. School is once more in session, so mid-afternoon I see middle school and high school students traveling in packs as they walk home. The craft and fabric store aisles are filled with fall merchandise . . . orange decorative pumpkins, orange-and-red-and-gold silk florals, fabrics in warm harvest colors, friendly scarecrows for your front lawn and welcome signs featuring crows. My spirit lifts, and I feel renewed energy to finish projects that have resided in the UFO (UnFinished Objects) pile for months and sometimes years, and to start new ones.

For this week’s 52 Weeks Challenge, I completed a fall-themed candle wrap for a customer who needed one for her four-ounce jar candles. This crocheted and felted wool candle wrap is actually one of my Java Jackets that I sell at JN Originals on Etsy, but my buyer had a wonderful idea about an alternate use. I think I need one of these myself, since we always have a candle burning when fall begins. Can you smell the cinnamon?

© 2011 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.