During this month of creativity, I have been very busy sewing, gluing, painting and generally having a lovely time making things. My mum and I have sewed and chatted together. I have cherished those moments. I have been amazed by the cleverness and generosity of others. My dear friend and I have been able to collaborate, lean on each other’s strengths, and build something amazing together. I have had ideas at silly o’clock in the morning and been unable to sleep.
Yesterday, all this work came to fruition in the form of the school craft stall.
So, what do you learn when you spend a few months organising a school craft stall?
Quite a bit, it turns out. I’d love to share with you how to run a school craft stall.
- Start early
The great thing about craft is that it has no shelf life. You can start as early as you find out your running the stall. And I definitely would recommend doing that. It’s much more fun creating things without the pressure of time.
- Get the kids involved
One of the nicest things about our stall was the things that the kids had made themselves. We organised with their teachers to spend an hour with each class, at a not-so-busy time of year. We tried to match craft activities to ages. We found that the more specific a craft, the better it worked. For instance, having a very structured card making activity worked better than a less structured one. When timing how long things might take, time yourself making it and then times by four. Make sure that you have plenty of helpers on hand to assist the kids. I was a bit worried that the kids would be upset about giving the things they were making to us. But, in the end, they were all really excited to be contributed to the stall. Go kids!
- Make stuff for kids
Kids are the ones with money burning a hole in their pocket at school fetes. We made sure we were making plenty of items, under $5, that would appeal to kids. Things like make-your-own craft packs, hair ties and bands, pet rocks, key-rings (for bags and pencil cases) and bookmarks.
- Ask for volunteers & be specific about what you want
You can’t run a craft stall without volunteers. Be really specific about what you want from your community. We made some take-home craft packs, so that people could craft at home with all the instructions and material to hand. Hair ribbons, ribbon wands and christmas decorations all work well for these kinds of packs. Every year, hanging crochet edged tea towels are a big hit, so we asked for those. We also ran some fun workshops. For those that weren’t crafty, offers of baby sitting were made so that others could sew and craft in peace. There is lots that people can do, and they will be generous, but you have to make it easy.
- Run workshops
Who doesn’t like a chance to unwind with girlfriends? We ran a couple of workshop evenings where people came and learned a new skill, noshed on nibblies and sipped champagne. Thanks to our lovely sponsor (more on that later) we learned how to make candles. Those that participated took one home with them. Workshops are a great way to make a large volume of a particular item.
- Make things that people need
We made a lot of drawstring library bags and drawstring earphone bags. These items are on the stationery list for grade one up. We also made useful items like casserole carriers, aprons, hair ties in school colours and zippered bags for wet items.
- Price as you go, including actually ticketing as you go
Pricing takes a long time. If you price as you go, you will have lots less to think about on set up day. Just make sure that your pricing is consistent. You can do that via a spreadsheet.
- Keep a spreadsheet of stock, price, quantity, who donated what, costs & how you might display the goods. Do this as you go. This is INVALUABLE. It will help you get a good idea of how much stock you have and also what will be necessary at set up in terms of display. It’s also nice to see how much you have! Noting who donated what allows you to send a thank you card and they might be kind enough to donate again next year.
- Keep a spreadsheet & folder for receipts.
The receipts for a craft stall are plentiful. We had over 60 receipts, most of which were under $20 in value. It was helpful to note the costs down as we incurred them. We numbered each receipt and took photocopies, which is much easier than trying to handle a bunch of loose receipts. Those little five dollar purchases here and there can add up quickly, so a spreadsheet is a good reality check about how much you are REALLY spending.
- Try to cover costs before you start
We ran a little fund raiser connected to the craft stall in the months leading up to the stall itself. We had tea towels printed up in the style of tram rolls with local landmarks mentioned. We sold them through the school and local shops. This allowed us to cover our costs before we even opened the stall for business.
- Get a great sponsor on board
We had the most amazing sponsor in La Belle Designs (you can read more about that store here). The owner helped us with ideas, with a workshop space, with promoting the fete stall, with selling tea towels, with her sewing skills, with providing VM materials and with oodles of inspiration. She also had access to raw materials at wholesale prices. If you can ask a local, crafty business to get on board, I thoroughly recommend it. We had a little area of the craft stall dedicated to her business as a (very) small thank you.
- Buy material. Make it up. Repeat.
Okay, truth time – buying the materials is kind of the most fun part. It’s also the part that you can allow yourself to run away with. Unless there is a financial imperative to buy a lot of fabric at once, buy what you need for a particular project, make it up and then repeat. Boxes full of fabric waiting to be made up is only going to make you feel overwhelmed and pressured.
- Put together a Pinterest board for sharing ideas.
We had a pinterest board – you can find it here. This was great for sharing ideas about what we could make. There are also lots of great articles about how to run a craft stall.
I like sharing what I make through social media in any case, but posting things to Facebook and Instagram helped create a buzz. It was also useful market research in testing what resonates with people.
- Pre-sell (some things)
Sharing via social media also allows you to pre-sell items. It’s great to start ahead on the day!
- Do your homework – visit other stalls
I headed to a few other fetes and craft markets to get a feel for pricing, what sold well and how to present things in a beautiful way.
- Pack as you go
Find some moving boxes and pack everything up as you go. It’s helpful to list on the box what it contains.
- Give yourself PLENTY of time to set up – about twice what you think you need.
- Group like items together.
- Use matching table clothes, boxes, baskets etc. – make it look lovely
- Think about the flow of the stall or room. How will people move through your stall? Were do you want to attract their eye? If you have items for kids, are they at their eye level? Can prams move through easily?
- Visual Merchandising is important – if things look beautiful, people will be more prepared to buy them.
- For items that you have multiples of, it might be easier to use signage rather than individually pricing items. Just remember to have a price sheet near to the register.
- Think about music and scent.
- Put signs around the fete, promoting your stall and letting people know where you are.
On the Day
- Have a kit ready for the stall – blu tac, lots of pens, paper, post-it notes, baby wipes, scissors, double sided tape, tape, thumb tacks, spare pricing tickets, pricing stickers
- Have a kit ready for yourself – water, food, headache tablets, etc.
- Consider using a cash register app. Doing so allowed us to keep track of what was selling well and tally our amount during the day. We used Cashy POS, which worked pretty well for a stall that didn’t need to deal with GST.
- Do a last minute run through, pretend you are a customer and work through everything from browsing, selecting and payment.
- Diversify! It’s not just for entrepreneurs. We had a guess how many pieces in the lego jar comp as well as a plaster fun stall as part of the craft stall. We also had demonstrations – jewellery making (my Mum) and a local artist (my Dad).
- Have an army of helpers around you. If you are lucky, you will have an amazing sister, mum and dad as well as the most gorgeous best-friend there by your side. We had so many beautiful helpers from the school who made the whole thing run seamlessly.
- Our best sellers were hair ties, crochet edged tea towels, cards, drawstring bags, crochet covered hangers and fairy wands.