Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Sakura Con Artist Alley Experience

There has been quite a bit of chatter on the Mom's Basement Team about selling in an artist alley!  So I thought I'd write a more in-depth entry about my experience vending at Sakura Con's AA, along with some hints and tips.  The tips are highlighted in yellow so you don't have have to read through EVERYTHING.  There is also a list at the bottom of this post.

This was my first artist alley experience, so granted, I'm no expert!  However, I have sold at a few cons in the dealer's/exhibitors area and at 50+ craft fairs, and I've found that there are a number of similarities.

Thursday, April 5 - Set Up Day

The first challenge of the AA process is figuring out where to unload your vehicle!   The Washington State Convention Center was kind enough to lend out their large dollies.  You don't get that kind of service everywhere, so it's a good idea to be prepared with your own pushcart, folding dolly, or army of people willing to do manual labor.  If you have more than one load, make sure you bring a friend to watch your goods while you return to your car to get the rest of your stuff.  I've found that while the other vendors are generally very honest people, there will be convention center staff, A/V crews, decorators, etc, roaming around the hall. 

Sakura Con was very organized and we were able to pick up our badges easily.  We found our table and uh oh . . . it was tiny. A 8' table is not much room, and I was shocked by how little we were able to fit on it.  I tried to upgrade to a 10' x 10' booth, but they were sold out.   Do a mock-up of your display at home so you know how much room you have. I am still kicking myself for not taking my own advice!  After about an hour of decorating, this is what we ended up with:

Bit of Sugar booth at Sakura Con Artist Alley
See those two girls?  They, too, were vendors, and vendors are likely to be your best customers because they are there all 3-4 days and they are making money so they will be spending money!  If you do cons regularly, you will even start to recognize the same people as there are a number of pros who travel around the country from con to con.  These vendors are some of the nicest, friendliest people I have met, and they have given me great advice. 

At this point, Brad was getting HANGRY (so hungry he was angry) and needed to be fed, so we just did a quick lap around the room to see who else was vending, aka make my shopping list!

Here are some miscellaneous set-up day tips:

1.  As you go through the setup process, you will realize that you've forgotten to do or bring a number of items.  Make a list of things to bring the next day.  Write it down - if you forgot it the first time, you might forget it the second time. Can you see what we forgot to bring?  Our banner - BIG mistake!  There's not much you can do when you're 2,500 miles from home,  so we improvised with a small framed sign.

2.  Wear comfortable shoes. 

3.  Bring food and water - the concessions are usually not open.  Hotel and convention center vending machines charge exorbitant prices!

4.  If it's cold, layer!  If it's hot, be as nekkid as you're comfortable with.  Heating and A/C units are usually off on setup day - boo!  Even if they are on, most convention and exhibition halls have large walls/doors that are left open during move in so any heat/cool air escapes anyway.

5.  Bring plastic tablecloths to cover your table at the end of the day.   It deters theft - if they can't see it, they can't want it, so they won't steal it.  It also prevents people from browsing after hours . . . browsing and accidentally spilling their soda all over your table :( 

6.  Allow yourself the whole day to set up.  It always seems to take twice as long as you think it will. 

7.  Test the cellular reception.  Whether you are using Propay, Square, a traditional terminal, etc., you will need to get a line out to gain credit card authorizations.  If you are using a traditional terminal and your signal is weak, make sure your terminal has software to do a store and forward.  This is a HUGE advantage over Square/Propay type swipers, and I can't tell you how many times it has come in handy at larger conventions/shows.  If you are using a Square/Propay type of system, the best advice I can give is to bring a backup phone, backup battery, or power pack.  Signal searching sucks the life out of your phone so quickly. 

In the next post, I'll continue this series on AA tips.  Stay tuned!

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