An open letter to a new vendor and all other new and aspiring vendors.
I had the opportunity to meet your husband while he was working as a Facilities Manager at a show recently. He told me that you were getting ready to do your first show and you were a bit nervous about it.
I am very excited for you. Being a vendor at a show is an experience unlike any other. You will get the opportunity to meet tons of people. Many of them will love what you are doing and others will only pass by. Keep in mind that not everyone has the same tastes as you nor do they want what you are making. That’s okay.
Being a vendor means that you are inviting people into your personal space. They will be judging your work and the things that you make. By extension, they will be judging you as well. It puts all of us in a vulnerable position.
However, this vulnerability will teach you a lot about yourself. It will help you build confidence and humility at the same time. Ironically, this vulnerability lets people get to know you better and helps to gain their admiration and trust. I have had numerous people come up to me and tell me that they do something similar, but theirs is “better” because they are more ornate or they use a different material, or something else. This doesn’t actually mean that what they do is “better”. It only means that it is different. That’s okay.
If we all made the same things the same way according to someone else’s idea of “better” then we would all have the same things and use them in exactly the same way. This is the great thing about individuality. We all have our own interpretation of “better” and “best” which means that we all have our own likes and dislikes.
There is a maker here in Houston that does some amazing art with a skull theme. Her work is fantastic and very creative. I know that her art has some deep cultural meaning as well although I’m not sure what is behind the meaning. Her work isn’t my style or taste. It doesn’t mean that I don’t find it intriguing and I don’t appreciate her vision and talent. It just means that it isn’t for me. You will probably have people like that stop by.
I’ll have to ask her about the cultural significance soon and educate myself.
At your first shows (and beyond), focus on meeting the people who stop by. Tell them the story about you and why you are doing what you are doing. When they get to meet the real you, they will appreciate you and your story more. Over time, I’m sure that you will change the way you make your products based on many of these conversations. Learn what you can about the people you meet and, by extension, yourself.
Don’t expect to make a ton of money at your first show. Your first shows are learning experiences. Monica and I made $46 at our first show. After the booth fee of $20 and $10 for lunch that we shared, we went home with $16 in gross profit. We were excited that someone actually bought something that we made. It was awesome!
Lastly, have fun. You will meet some great people and if it isn’t fun to be a vendor, then it makes the long days even longer.
And don’t forget comfortable shoes and a chair.
See you at market!