Craft fair goes virtual to support small businesses

Posted at 5:00 AM, May 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-29 07:47:17-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Artists are among the thousands of people feeling the financial impacts of COVID-19.

Many rely on art fairs and craft shows, which have nearly all been canceled because of the pandemic.

Jake and Julie Bond, owners of Archival Designs in Kansas City, initially panicked when the cancellations began.

The couple makes ceramic tiles and pottery, much of which is sold at the six to seven shows they attend each year.

"Probably 70 percent of our pottery business is through different art fairs," Jake Bond said.

They responded by beefing up their website to boost online sales.

Archival Designs is now one of the vendors listed on a site called Shop Local KC.

It was created by Katie Mabry van Dieren, the curator of the Strawberry Swing Indie Craft Fair.

"I knew I couldn't just give up on my makers, and this is also my business, so I had to figure out a way to keep going," Mabry van Dieren explained.

The website was one solution, but Mabry van Dieren still wanted to host her annual spring swing event as well.

"Then I found a partner in Booth Central that created a platform where I could have a virtual fair, which is happening this weekend," she said.

The virtual fair will be live from noon to 4 p.m. on May 30 and 31. Shoppers can scroll through to see the 100 small businesses participating.

"You'll be able to click in like you're walking into a booth at the real show and ask them about their items," Mabry van Dieren explained.

Live entertainment is also planned for the website, and food trucks will be stationed around the city.

Archival Designs will participate, going live in their studio to answer questions about their pottery.

"It just shows people that we can still do it. We're still here, and there are so many artists and vendors that need people to know that," Jake Bond said.

Interested in selling your own items?

Katie Mabry van Dieren got involved in the maker community in 2011.

While on maternity leave, she started making jewelry, stationery and baby onesies.

"Then I started posting to Facebook here's what I made today, and people wanted to buy it! And so I got an Etsy account, and the rest is history," Mabry van Dieren said.

She and Carly Rae Robinson, a watercolor artist, started a business called Craft Show CEO with resources for people hoping to become full-time makers. The site includes advice for pricing items, finding craft shows and planning out booths.

Just getting started? Here are some of their tips for selling on Instagram:

  • Use a strong image (here's their how-to on taking product pictures)
  • Post a direct link to your shop in your bio. Creating an Etsy shop is free, but the platform does take a percentage of sales
  • Include a "call to action" in the caption. For example, for a pair of earrings you could post: "tag a friend you think these would look fabulous on"
  • Add hashtags. More on the right mix here