Thursday, May 7, 2009

So, You Want to Sell Your Wares at a Ren Faire...

I've been thinking A LOT about time management lately. Sounds kind of dull, I know, but I am desperately trying to figure how to make things work. It's been a goal of mine for a while now to build up my inventory so that I can start selling my chain maille at ren faires. Unlike setting up a table or tent at a craft fair, ren faires require a bit more work. I'm not trying to be dismissive about craft fairs in the least (I certainly know how much work goes into those, too!), but I don't think a lot of people understand how much more involved ren faires are for vendors.

At a craft fair, you want your tent and display to represent your brand, and you also want it to be distinctive (so people remember you) and inviting (to draw them in). At a renaissance festival, not only does it need to do all of those things, but it also usually needs to be representative of the time period. Many ren faires require structures to be built. Others are not permanent, but also don't allow standard pop up tents. Or if you are using a tent, it needs to be completely disguised to be period with no metal showing. When a customer steps in, they should feel like they are stepping back in time.

Along the same lines, the vendor must also dress the part with garb. Garb in itself is an investment. And since I can't just be a merchant wench (the warrior spirit in me would never allow it), I have to invest in a bit more than a corset, chemise, and skirt. I've already started to assemble my garb with a fantastic leather coat, some leggings, and a shirt; Scott bought me a fantastic epee as well. I still need to get all of the belts, pouches, accessories, and boots to go with the ensemble.

The length of time a faire is set up and also amount of people that pass through varies from faire to faire. It could be a simple weekend faire, but you could still have up to 50,000 people walking through. Or it could be a seasonal faire that lasts a few months and can have as many as 250,000+ patrons. The cost for setting up your shop and selling your wares can vary anywhere from a couple hundred dollars for a weekend faire with a tent upwards to $50,000 to have a structure. And, of course, you need to be juried in.

As a direct result of the length, attendance, and size of the fair the amount of inventory required will also vary. I know one maillesmith who did a very small weekend faire in Vermont. He brought a duffel bag and foot locker FILLED with inventory and practically sold out!! He made enough profits to buy a front loading washer and dryer set, a new digital camera, and some other high ticket items. That was a while back and I don't know how much that may have changed recently with the economy, but I'm hearing rumors that people are still purchasing at faires. I guess the theory is that the way things are lately, people need an escape and the ren faire (which is something that happens annually and they can save for it) is the perfect place to do it. And, let's face it, ren faire enthusiasts are there because they love it and will usually invest in something while attending.

The benefits of selling at a faire are great, if you can get there. Somehow, you need to do all of the previous prep work in addition to the grunt work of getting liability insurance, a business license, setting up business banking accounts, getting set up with a credit card processing company, etc., etc. It is no small feat. So, when you ask me "are you selling at the ren faire this year?" I hope you understand when I say that I'm not ready to do that yet. I would love to. Absolutely love to. But doing everything to prepare while working a full time job is proving to be challenging to say the least. It is still something that I want to do, I just have to figure out how to do it...

6 comments:

Merily said...

This post is really helpful! It's my dream to sell at the Renfaire sometime in the relatively near future (probably not for a few years, though- I'm not even officially a business yet).

mermaiden said...

it is HUGE, isn't it? I think you need to organize a weekly check-off list (seems to me your the kind of warrior princess who does that well ;]) so that it is not just one overwhelming blob. Make it an achievable dream, and tackle it link by link.

Cozy said...

There is a ren faire every year near my home in Apache Junction AZ. If your dream comes true and you are ever in that one let me know. I will be sure to stop by and say hello.

Carapace said...

I've only ever done really really teeny renfairs. I love really really teeny renfairs. And similar size cons. My favorite part of the thing is getting to sit still while awesome people come talk to me. :D And this might be why I can't make a living from art...
But I bet you can! You are gonna get your act together, heft that Maillebag, and COME TO TRF so I can see you!:D

Cat (darklingwoods) said...

I think I'll be sticking to attending the faires :) It is a huge amount of work but I do think people are still treating themselves at the faires!

Evie's Tool Emporium said...

I believe it is super smart to give yourself plenty of lead time to prepare for an event of this size!
I've never done a Ren Faire...but have done a couple of large car shows selling our tools. Every year we get a little more organized and a little better prepared!
Start preparing now! You'll know when you're ready!
Best of luck!
Michelle-