So the kids convinced me to sign them up for the annual craft fair. This is the one run by the county's library organization, featuring handmade stuff by kids (not their parents) and in which everything sells for $2 or less. Very charming idea, and unfortunately one which I'd avoided like the plague in previous years because it's in the blistering August noontime sun and we're not allowed to charge what the work of the kids really deserve. I mean, there were kids who stuck a hair clip on a plastic flower and priced it $2 and there were kids who crocheted entire dishcloths and sold them for $1. Where is the justice?
I'd only ever done one craft fair in my whole life and I quickly decided that, much as I love mass-producing, sitting at a table covered with nondescript fabric items (what I sold) was not my calling in life. Give me a classroom of sewing newbies who don't know the difference between a seam and a selvedge any day!
But then, there was the idea of education.... not me teaching people to sew, but the kids learning how to run a business, that sneakily appealed to me. So I said to them, "Okay. It will be a good experience for you girls. Yes- even you, little Kate."
What to sell, though? That 4-year-olds could make, without overcrafty parents helping? I could think of a gazillion things to sell that were unique, crazy inventive and totally hip and made of cardboard. But for $2 or less? Opportunity costs aside, I couldn't bring myself to show such little respect for so supreme a crafting material.
The girls then suggested selling our vast collection of card sets that we'd made earlier in the winter. Perfect. Not unique by any stretch of the imagination and clearly a gross under-representation of the never-say-normal capabilities of my kids but they made them all by themselves and they were gorgeous. Plus, and most importantly, they were already done so no extra work for me, meaning I could continue enjoying my summer with no interruption. In other words, I could keep on swimming (hurrah)!
So the girls were set to work thinking up a business plan, including pricing, marketing, publicity and communication. I'd never studied Economics at school so I simply did this the common sense way. Jenna made a list of the things we needed to survive an afternoon under the scorching sun.
Emily did market research ("we need kitty and puppy stickers because that's what I see a lot being sold in stores so it means people must like them!"). Everyone worked on developing a secondary line (little notebooks that used up the remnant cardstock).
We brainstormed marketing strategies
and discussed the rationale of price scales ("card sets with 5 or 6 cards should cost less than card sets with 8 cards").
We set out little plastic bags ("because all stores have them to carry home stuff in"). We talked about how to get small change for monetary transactions and how many quarters there are in a dollar. We designed and drew up signs. We emailed friends and invited them to come browse.
And we managed expectations. Oh, this part was soooooo important. The girls are so used to watching things fly out of my etsy shop now that they forget how slow sales were when I first opened it three years ago. And they don't know the crazy hard work that goes on behind the scenes to build a reputation and a market of potentially-interested buyers. Or getting featured in magazines and books to get one's name "out there". Or learning how to take half-decent photos that might possibly do justice to products that one has already spent hours making. Or driving to the post office in all kinds of weather, with small children, some still in rear-facing car seats. And filling out tax forms. And logging transactions and expenses and other inane numbers in pages and pages of spreadsheets (and forgetting to click "save" when one is done). Been there. And I'm soooooooooo still there.
And so we said to each other, "The fun is in the preparation, right? Are you excited? Who will help me plan the poster? What sort of jobs do you think we'll have on the day itself? Shall we take turns bagging items? Let's practise what to say to people who ask us questions! If we sell just one thing, it will be a bonus! Look at what you now know about running a real shop! I'm so proud of you! It's only four days away!"
(from Jenna's journal, the day before the Fair)
Today was the day.
After my first look at what was on the vendors' tables - including ours - I marveled at how different they were from what I'd been seeing on craft blogs. I mean, I was looking at real, regular people who made stuff like duck tape pencil toppers, Perler Bead coasters and the aforementioned plastic-flowers-glued-on-hair-clips. Perfectly artistic but not the sort of projects that were likely to end up on my pinterest boards. And therefore completely refreshing in their normalness. I loved it. I think that sometimes, crafty blogland is heinously insular in how it makes us think every other person is some crafting maven (also how it makes us pin, pin, pin - as if we're ourselves desperately boring and uninspired people). And, for what it's worth, I apologize to anyone who thinks that of our family because of what they see on this silly blog. Yes, I have the bad habit of being slightly freakish with cardboard but on more days than not, all that my kids do is color on printer paper with Crayola markers and play with plastic toys. Why do you think I don't post every day? Or that I talk more about procrastinating and swimming than actually accomplishing?
We earned a whopping $5.50 today. Jenna, to her disappointment, didn't get to provide a plastic bag to a single customer (except our friend, who graciously accepted one) but she kept a tally in her notebook of what we'd sold. Emily, after a hesitant start, opened up and started talking to customers. Kate sat under our big umbrella and ate string cheese, apples and drank copious amounts of juice. We gave her an award for All Time Patience And Cheerful Participation While Fighting Dehydration.
The girls' favorite part of the Fair was probably the last 15 minutes, when we were allowed to barter with other vendors and trade wares. The girls ran off with sets of cards and swopped them for hairclips, bracelets, notebooks and toys. And they got to negotiate with people who came over to our table to trade with us. And then we packed up and went out for a late lunch of burgers and fries. Yum.
Emily said, "Can we do this again next year?"
Ummmm. We'll see. The kids learned a lot about Supply this year but absolutely nothing about Demand. Perhaps that will be next year's lesson: to develop an awesome product. Maybe we'll even break out the cardboard and raise the stakes a little - you think? None of the vendors made anything out of cardboard this year - can you believe it? None! For shame, people of the world (including lazy me)! Or make silkscreened superhero capes. Or clothespeg rubber band crossbows. Or wooden donuts. Or cardboard easels. No - wait, those are my ideas. I need to hand the helm over to my littles. They can do - and have already done -amazing things.
So that was our first Kids' Craft Fair experience. A good day - especially for the the Teacher in me, if not the Mother as well. Have you ever done one? What did you sell? What do you think we should we sell next year (if)?