On participating in a holiday market

As most of my readers know at this point, I have a little jewelry business. I comb through deadstock chains and vintage plastic whatnots and old chandelier pieces and put them together to make necklaces that I would be happy to wear if no one bought them. I opened an etsy shop about two and half years ago(!) and sold a couple of things. And by a couple of things, I mean that I had, like, eight sales in two and a half years, one of which was to a friend I asked to try it out when I started to make sure everything worked smoothly (I gave her the necklace and refunded her money), none of which have happened since last Christmas.

This was, as you can imagine, a little disheartening. Except I wasn’t doing much in the way of marketing (occasionally saying something on Twitter or here on the blog) and my photos and copy certainly weren’t all they could have been. And I had a feeling that because etsy is so huge at this point and there’s no easy way to separate the wheat from the chaff, that no one was seeing my stuff. It was less a matter of THE WORLD HATES WHAT YOU MAKE, YOU CHARLATAN FREAK as NO ONE KNOWS YOU EXIST. So when Adina from Sprout Wellness (fantastic all-natural skincare made in Brooklyn; I highly recommend) mentioned on Twitter that she was looking for vendors for a new holiday market, I signed up. I figured it would be a good way to get some actual feedback and see if this little endeavor has any legs or if I should just go back to making stuff for myself.

I was too distracted and busy all day to take pictures, but luckily, Adina had taken the one below on her phone. It’s a little hard to see, but the glass vases are filled with chestnuts and acorns and leafless branches. I hung some of the necklaces from the branches and laid some out on black felt. I was also selling some holiday cards and postcard packs from Alex Eben Meyer, illustrious illustrator and (one of) my (many) former roommate(s), though I hadn’t put them out yet when the photo was taken. Alex and his wife, Anna, who’s going to be photographing my new sweater design this weekend, brought me coffee and a Tina Fey-approved Peter Pan doughnut, talked me out of being nervous, were excited for me when I made my first sale, and just basically helped set me on my feet before they left to go get a Christmas tree and make chili to feed me later.I went in with really low expectations. Honestly, I just wanted to sell something, and if I sold something, I wanted to make back my table fee, which would have taken about three sales. But, you guys, I did really well. I sold about half of what I brought with me (between 15 and 20 sales; I need to check what’s left against the list I made beforehand) and got a lot of really nice comments. It helped that my materials costs are low enough that I could I price everything to be impulse friendly (most at $20, some at $15 or $25, the chandelier pieces up to $40 because the parts were more expensive). I’d say close to half of my sales were to people who said they were buying a gift for their sister, one was for a friend’s 30th birthday, and the rest either for themselves or they didn’t say. The bar that hosted said they want to have us back for another market in the spring and one around the holidays next year.

So, I have some thinking to do. I’d like to do more markets going forward; that’s a no-brainer. I think I could do well selling in boutiques, so I need to look into putting together a press kit and approaching shops. Even though etsy really doesn’t work for me, I think I should keep at least a few things in there so the business has some kind of online presence. (All of my listings expired the day before the market so there’s nothing in there at the moment.) It’s an interesting position to be in, for sure…


  1. says

    Etsy is just so big now that I think it’s a matter of not getting exposure. I have another friend selling knit hats, etc.; she and her partner do far better at the shows than they do on Etsy. It is nice to have an online presence, but is it worth any fee you might be paying to Etsy?

  2. says

    i’m so glad you got recognition/sales! btw, you might think of etsy as supporting your real-life sales…people like to have a spot to find you later if they can’t commit in person.

    i’ve been thrilled with etsy, but i’m selling vintage only (link to my store is on my name), and it’s a different market entirely. I’ve had a lot of discussions with people about etsy culture and the consensus is that the homemade jewelry market on etsy is thoroughly glutted.

    which is sad, bc i’d like to make some and sell it too. I have a MILLION bits of stuff accumulated from like 20 years of collecting beads and crap to make it with.

    good luck!

    – r

  3. says

    you may get some sales on etsy from people who see you at the markets if you hand out business cards w/ sales etc. i.e., maybe they have to go home and have the recipient look and see what they like.

  4. Dana says

    Oooo, Stephanie, the necklaces that you had on Etsy… such a stunning, simplicity… They’re gorgeous. I would have bought one. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I know you haven’t listed any items in a bit, but I made your store a favorite of mine. Please let me know if you decide to list anymore items and I will work on getting the word out for you.

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