Making events work

As published by Handmade UK Once you've decided to start selling your lovely handmade items at craft fairs and events, how do you make sure you make the maximise the opportunity and increase your chances of gettting those all important sales? Rickie Josen tells us how...

Here at Crafty Skills we run Success Workshops to help support and grow small businesses and one of them is all about maximising on the huge opportunity exhibiting at events create.

What should you have on your stand?

Have the most eye-catching and unique products in a prominent position. If you offer a wide range, still have the most eye-catching at the front and a smaller selection of an album of beautiful photographs to represent the rest of your work.

You can always have enough stock with you to replace an item that sells but just putting one on display adds to the uniqueness of handmade products.

Most importantly, have your name everywhere! Be clear to all approaching your stand what your (trading) name is and ensure the price is on every item along with your name. When they take their purchase home, the price tag (with your website details) will remind them to look you up online or pass your details to a friend. You can also have some prettied-up plain shopper bags with your logo and insert a card inside.

What about prices? Should you negotiate?

Do be consistent with your prices. Fans of handmade products will travel to other events and want to buy online and will expect the same price each time. If you are trying out a new product, you could always call it an ‘introductory price’ and use the event to get immediate customer feedback.

Absolutely, do have fun negotiating deals with customers who want to buy multiple items and you can also have an ‘offer of the day’ just for the event too.

How do you greet customers?

With a smile! A good morning/afternoon is always welcome as is ‘how are you’ when they approach your stand directly. To engage customers, talk about what gave you the inspiration to make the item they are looking at or simply ask them what sort of things they like.

Ask them to sign up to your mailing list (you do have one, don’t you?!) which perhaps gains them an online discount or free gift on their next order.

How do people find out you’re there?

Promote promote promote!

Yes the organiser will be promoting via their contact list but it’s important you use your contacts too as otherwise, how would they know about it? In the same way we discuss in our Finding Your First Customer workshop, spread the word via colleagues, friends and relatives and any groups you belong to. Of course social media is a must so talk about what you are up to across all the platforms you use.


Check with the organiser if you need insurance to cover both your products and public liability. It’s a good idea to cover yourself anyway and remember to account for any additional costs such as parking and unloading, power, refreshments and staff.

Rickie Josen delivers Saturday StartUp workshops – start your business in a day in Birmingham every month as well as regular workshops on social media, sales, PR, growing your networks, blogs & websites and more.

See her previous article


From Holland and Italy, a jewel emerges

As you’ll be able to tell from the name, Tamara Van der Velden has Dutch ancestors and rather delightfully, MOOI means ‘beautiful’.  The exact word Tamara uses to describe the Murano glass jewellery she first saw in Venice.

What started on a romantic, pre-first baby surprise from her husband resulted in a business for Tamara. “Venice of course is a beautiful city, but I particularly fell in love with the glass workmanship on the island of Murano and the stunning glass jewellery and other glass items they produced. The pieces were beautiful, exciting, colourful, and refreshingly different and the glass felt warm on the skin. Needless to say I bought lots of jewellery!”

Independent Consultants

Back home, friends would ask about it and comment on how beautiful it looked and Tamara approached suppliers in Venice to buy gifts for them. When it came to returning to work after maternity leave, Tamara decided to look at another money making opportunity and started selling the jewellery at parties, markets, events, fairs and also online.

However that’s not the entire story. As working mum, Tamara does not want to work full time resulting in less time with her daughter so she now has independent consultants working with her that sell the jewellery in the same way.

That trip to Venice


For this business model to work Tamara felt she had to put a bit more money into the business for marketing, the website, logo and of course more stock. “The cost of the website was minimal though as I used which allows you to pretty much build the whole website for free until you are ready to go live and even then you only pay if you want to remove the Wix advertising to give the site a clean uncluttered look.”

Tamara set the whole thing up herself in just a few days and found it simple and straightforward. She recognises that marketing is going to be her main cost and invested time and money into it.

Tamara is still learning and social media is something she has to grasp next but for the moment, she is targeting other mums she meets who want to earn in flexible hours but don’t want to set up a business from scratch.

MOOI isn’t Tamara’s first venture as she already has a photography business and as with that business colleagues and peers can be a great motivator. “Of course when achieving some of your goals it’s nice to have people around you to celebrate with.”

Find out more about MOOI here

BUSINESS: Finding Your First Customer

As published on UK Handmade Turning your hobby into a fully fledged creative business can be a daunting task but here are a few useful tips from Rickie Josen ofCrafty Skills.

Recently we ran a Success Workshop which had the official title of ‘How to sell to those other than friends, relatives and colleagues’. These workshops offer practical tips and advice about turning your creativity into earnings.

Even without trying sometimes, the first people who buy from us are people who have seen our work. Perhaps your colleague admired a necklace you were wearing and they were gobsmacked that you did that yourself? Or your mother-in-law came round and saw the beautiful hand-crafted cushion that takes pride of place on your sofa?

In fact, many small businesses have started because a friend or family member admired and your work and uttered those words, ‘you should sell those.’

So you have a ready-made market with people who already know, like and trust you but how do you reach others and make this craft into a business?

How do you find your first customer?

Yes, the first port of call is our family, friends and colleagues. Next, how many people do these kindly souls know? 10, 20, 100 or 500 each? How large are their families? How many people follow them on Twitter? How many Facebook friends do they have? Who works at a large company that can put your posters and flyers up for you? Now we’re talking of a reach of 1000s of potential customers just be having a handful of conversations with people you know.

How do people find about you Apart from the aforementioned word of mouth and important promotional tool – as well as a fun sociable one – is social media. My advice is to use them all; Twitter, Facebook Pinterest, LinkedIn and any others to heighten your online presence. It’s free after all and think of making friends via social media as part of your marketing time. Just occasionally mention your products!

What do your competitors do?

Why not emulate it the tried and tested methods? Look at what works and make it work for you.

Who can you promote your product or service to?

So far we have talked about reaching customers directly but what about indirectly? Try approaching shops that sell your type of products. It helps them as it adds more product lines and therefore increases their profits through the margin they are making on your product.

How do you know what works?

Try it and see. It costs nothing other than time to work with social media, send emails and very little to print out some flyers and make phone calls.

Who is your audience?

Work out who your products appeal to and go to that market. Do young students go gaga over your jewellery? Approach universities about events where you can exhibit at advertise relatively cheaply in student magazines.

How to make sure people buy from you

Let them know where you are and how to buy! At an event, ensure your name is on every product and you have flyers and business cards with all the ways you can be contacted. Remember although it feels like it, the whole world is not on Facebook so be sure people can find you on-line via a blog or website. When they do buy from you, whether in person or online, include your contact details so they can buy more or pass it to a friend. Who can throw out a beautifully crafted calling card?

Happy selling!

See full article as published on UK Handmade here

Making the Leap from Hobby to Full Time Business

As published on UK Handmade Today, writer, crafts events organiser and trainer, Rickie Josen, examines how to make the leap from hobby to full time business.

Making the leap

Have you ever found yourself sitting at the computer, looking longingly at the beautiful photographs of lovely handmade creations made by those clever people who have managed to turn what they love doing into a full time business? Gone are the days when those people rush home from the office to finish a hem, frame a print or ice a cake and then spend the rest of the evening returning emails, packaging goods or updating blogs. Oh and then they have to change their work space back into a home and get ready for ‘work’ tomorrow. Those people have made the transition to doing what they love full time and getting paid for it - that’s my definition of true success. Want to know how they did this? Read on. 

Introducing Naini

Freelance Artist. Established 2009

 Starting Up

Naini’s motivation is simply to have ‘personal freedom through being creative and independent.’ Naini wanted to challenge herself and see where the road leads.

However, the biggest challenge has been over coming self-doubt. Its taken time but Naini has learnt to listen to her heart and follow her instincts, which somehow always lead her in the right direction.

Marketing art

Naini has learnt to market by trial and error and her best advice is to use more than one avenue rather than sticking to one limiting strategy. “In my view there is no such thing as 'best advertising' since the dynamics between product/service and the target market are constantly changing - especially in the art market. Change is the key; what works another may or may not work for you, and vice versa.”

The comfort of the first customer

“The first customer came literally through a gallery” which goes to prove how important it is to exhibit your work where people can see it. Naini is in galleries but you could also try coffee shops, offices, train stations – anywhere that people pass is always a good thing, remembering to clearly display your name and contact details should a passerby wish to buy.


Life itself is an inspiration. Everything that we experience, see and feel without exception is nothing less than a miracle - a marvel of nature and mankind.” These are lovely words from Naini in describing what motivates her.


Naini has her studio at home and prefers to work from there, “I would say working at home in very quiet surroundings would be an ideal working environment. It's what allows the creativity to flow in full.”

Finally, I asked Naini, if you could look back and give one piece of advice to yourself before you launched, what is it?

“Listen more to my inner instincts. It's the one voice that can guide you in the right direction. The more you use it the better it gets. It requires fine tuning through trial and error before you can trust it completely”.

Find out more on

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Introducing Allison Franks

Designer/maker of bespoke fused glass and tutor. Established 2009

The Boss from Hell

“The last parting words from my boss were “you can now go and find a job which you’re actually qualified for.”

At 40, as it turned out, these words spurred Allison on from being in a bad place where she was bullied at work to starting in business.

Allison says “I had two options, believe that I was completely useless or I could look at the positives I had to offer. I decided to look at my qualities, I love working with people, I am creative and missed the time I had spent in higher education getting my BA Hons. So I combined those qualities together and decided to set up an arts business, designing and making bespoke kiln cast and fused glass while also delivering creative workshops within my local community and schools”.

At this time, Allison was asked back to a previous position. “It was on a part time/temporary basis which was perfect and it gave me a boost personally.  I was working with colleagues who knew me and knew what I had been through, I also had an income!”

Working part time, Allison started to develop her business plan with help from a local support agency SWEDA which helped when asking the bank for a business start-up loan.

Allison continues “within weeks I had my first workshop booking and I will be celebrating three years in business this May”.

So just how did Allison find her very first customer?

“My first workshop booking was for West Bromwich Learning Co-OP, through my links in the community I had a connection who worked in Adult Learning”. Allison called her contact was surprised to be asked in for a meeting which lead to her being asked to deliver some creative workshops during the School Summer Holidays. “It was fate and pure luck that everything fell into place and that’s where it all started”.

Allison’s previous career helps in her growing business too: “I have worked and volunteered within my local community for more than 16 years. This has given me experience of working with people from different back grounds and of abilities which is part of my work which I love.” Clearly Allison has also developed great links within the community.

Allison returned to higher education as a mature student in 2000 and graduated from Wolverhampton University with a 2:1 BA Hons degree specialising in Glass in 2003. “Upon graduation I was awarded a Studio Bursary which included studio space, use of the universities facilities to develop my making skills and an NVQ in Business start-up in the creative industries”.

One of the hardest habits to deal with when self employed is when to focus on work and when to switch off and refresh. Allison agrees, “I have tried working to regular hours but find it impossible; I’m either really busy or quiet depending on the school holidays and seasons. During the summer I seem to have more bookings than the winter, so I have to be flexible in my working.

Allison has some advice those wishing leave the corporate world. “Anyone who is thinking of becoming self-employed, should go into it expecting to put in lots of hours, you have to be able to adapt to situations and job roles. If you work as a sole-trader you are reliant on yourself for everything from administration to book-keeping. It is a massive learning curve and you have to learn to do a little bit of everything, but it’s also very rewarding, you learn something new every day!

If you could look back, Allison and give one piece of advice to yourself before you launched, what is it?  Believe in yourself!!!!  I am my own worst enemy when it comes to doubting myself.  I should also trust more in my instincts, they are normally right.  I recently made contact with a supplier in the US who was interested in what I do and my design work,  he told me “You hold your own destiny” now when I start to doubt myself  I just remember what he said.

I think you’ll agree, Allison has a very inspiring story. To find out more about Allison’s work click here or on Etsy or contact on


To be featured here or to recommend a business you admire, please email me on

Hardluck Hotel

It's so good to have Hardluck Hotel, AKA the talented Mr Keith Bloomfield back for the second Vintage Festival. Keith took some amazing photos that have been used many times to give a real flavour of the event.

Meeni at BVF June 2011

Keith will be back at BVF to take more fantastic photos as well as exhibiting and selling some of his work. For more details see the website or visit the stall.

Art Angel Marie Nemeth

We're pleased to introduce Marie Nemeth to this months Birmingham Vintage Festival. Originally from Lancashire, Marie studied  Fine Art at Birmingham Polytechnic creating large semi-abstract paintings and collages influenced by bands and she states, musical instruments and the rock ‘n’ roll scene of Birmingham. Having worked as a graphic designer since, Marie has now returned to her roots and will be showing her work at Birmingham Vintage Festival on Septemebr 24th.

White Studios

We're thrilled White Tree Studios and Gallery are returning to Birmingham Vintage Festival this month.

Established since 2008, the art directors are Jennifer Gollings and Belinda Maria Longsden who have ten years experience between them.

Artists themselves, they are the leading organisation in Wolverhampton for gallery hire. White tree has six artists studios and currently have five artists in residence. For more information see the website or see them at Birmingham Vintage Festival on September 24th.


We are so pleased to have one of our most popular traders, Meeni back for the September 24th. Madeline is a multidisciplinary artist working with visual artwork, craft, music, soundworks and sometimes dance.

Using  a variety of materials and working in different media, Madeline likes to use thrifted and vintage materials and reuses and recycles whenever possible.

In addition, Madeline makes jewellery incorporating her own handmade glass beads. Ask Madeline to show you what takes your interest at the next Birmingham Vintage Festival or have a look at her website

Grandma Chic

Apart from the fantastic name, Grandma Chic, this business is eco friendly!

A fashion and textiles graduate from Winchester School of Art, Sam Budgen set up Grandma Chic after interning with ethical fashion label From Somewhere. Inspiration is taken from vintage fashions, particularly 1930s and 40s and from the music and culture from that era.

Of course there is a nod to on  stylish Grandma! For more information see the website or come and visit the stall at Birmingham Vintage Festival on September 24th.

Ears and Whiskers

Today we welcome another new trader to Birmingham Vintage Festival

They offer hand made clothing & jewellery as well as up-cycled and vintage clothing pieces.  The best news is each item is a complete one off so never catch someone else with the same piece!
For more details on Ears & Whiskers click here Or see them at the Birmingham Vintage Festival on Sept 24th 2011

BirdieGingham:Accessories for you and your home



We are delighted to welcome the gorgeous Birdie Gingham to Birmingham Vintage Festival this month.

BirdieGingham is home to handmade fabric creations. They blend the quirky and the quintessential with a dash of shabby chic and a lot of style for their  home furnishings and accessories.
Using iconic patterns such as polka dots, gingham and florals as well as vintage-inspired fabrics and upcycled materials, every item is hand made with a helping of Birdie love.
For more information about Birdie Gingham click here Or follow on Twitter