Are you wondering if it’s time to begin exhibiting your work at trade shows in order to get your art into more shops and galleries? I think it comes down to asking yourself a few simple questions.
Does each of your pieces require significant hands-on time and do they have to be your own two hands or can you get help with some of the process? For example, you design and create all the components for your line of jewelry but you pay someone to do your soldering.
Do you handcraft the original and then make reproductions such as art prints or metal casting?
Are you ready to seriously gear up your production when you receive a lot of orders?
How quickly can you fill those orders?
Do you have access to someone to handle the administrative tasks such as billing, shipping, receivables, ordering supplies and tracking inventory?
The idea of picking up several new accounts and writing huge orders may sound appealing but you have to be ready to gear up your business rapidly. The costs involved in exhibiting at a major trade show are significant and you have to sell several times the amount of your expenses and be ready to rapidly transition from cottage craft business to serious enterprise.
Many craftspeople dream of getting picked up by Sundance Catalog or Nordstrom. It’s an exciting prospect but be careful what you wish for. In order to fulfill mega orders and satisfy your new big customers, you are going to have to purchase supplies in much larger quantities and hire staff or outsource some of the administrative tasks and assembly. Do you have the cash flow to purchase those supplies and hire the helpers you will need? Or will you be floating on credit cards and soliciting labor from friends and family in the early stages? Will you require a larger workspace?
I’m not trying to frighten or discourage you from branching out to wholesale trade shows. I’m just letting you know that along with the notoriety and big bucks comes some big stress and financial risk. If you’re not sure you’re up for it yet, there’s nothing wrong with the slow and steady growth model. You can thrive by building your business a few loyal accounts at a time. When you are ready to take the leap, go with Godspeed.