Jen Johnson is the mama in Mama’s Magic Studio, as well as team leader for the SF Etsy Street Team. Jen has been selling jewelry, handcrafted knitting needles and other “handmade magic” on Etsy since 2006.
Shopping and selling on Etsy rocks, but I think a good trunk show is even better. When the SF Etsy Street Team decided to hold its first team trunk show, I was delighted. The trunk show model of showing select wares to select customers fits beautifully with the artisan and handmade approach. Etsy Teams, especially those with a local focus, are ideal to present team members’ work to the surrounding community. While online trunk shows are possible, traditional trunk shows are held in the “real world” and require significant planning. We learned a lot as we organized the SF Etsy Sampler, and we’d like to share ten tips to help you plan your own terrific trunk shows.
1. What to Show
You can have a great show with one artist or with many. For both individual and group shows, think about how various items will work together. Perhaps you want to focus on jewelry and only include jewelry designers. A vintage trunk show could be great fun. If custom options are available, be sure to have an order process in place. Like us, you could embrace all handcrafted work. What you show has an impact on your marketing and planning, so choose thoughtfully.
Setting up for the SF Etsy Sampler. From right to left, work by Mama’s Magic Studio, CraftyGirl05 and Monkey and Seal. Rick and Eve of Monkey and Seal smile in the background. Photo by Sarah Beth Goncarova, a.k.a. goncarova.
In our case, we knew we wanted to include as many SF Etsians as possible. We decided to squeeze in 20 vendors. This was pretty tight in our space, and next time we will make it less crowded. Whether or not you want an official application process for group shows depends on your situation. In our case, the gallery owner juried our applicants.
2. When to Show
Time your show carefully. Work with your venue and participants to schedule something that works well for everyone. Consider the time of day and weekdays versus weekends, since you’ll have different traffic accordingly. Be sure you don’t conflict with other important local events that might interest your guest list. Give yourself ample time for planning, marketing, and creating work for the show. I’d suggest at least two months to plan a group show. Consider seasons and shopping habits as well. A holiday trunk show will have different results from one held in the middle of the summer. Ours was timed well for Father’s Day and graduation gifts.
3. Theme It
As you decide what and when to show, consider a themed event. Themes are a great tool for marketing and sparking creativity. Since we would offer a sampling of the talent in the SF Etsy team, we worked with the theme of “The Sampler” (like a chocolate sampler) and played with that idea in our advertising.
Poster design by Akiyo of My Dear Darling
We carried that through to the show itself by offering a variety of chocolates at the refreshment table. Have fun with your theme and choose something memorable.
4. Location, Location, Location
Where you hold your trunk show can make or break it. For us, the location prompted the entire event.
SF Etsian Kendra Renee, a.k.a. KendraRenee, sells her beautiful jewelry at the Artist Xchange Gallery, and gallery owner Scott Mitchell was looking to hold more events at the space. He asked Kendra if she could help, she mentioned SF Etsy, and a trunk show was born! Consider galleries, restaurants, coffee houses, boutiques, or even private homes for your show. Ideally, you can find a place with good foot traffic, easy parking and/or public transportation. It’s also important to have a friendly atmosphere, adequate room for vendors, their wares, and their customers.
San Francisco Map by GBPress
Keep cost in mind, of course. Some places might require a fee, others might be happy with increased business. You can approach locally-owned independent businesses to inquire about their interest in hosting an event or ask other local artists where they have held shows in the past.
5. Chalk It Up to Creative Marketing
Marketing doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated. Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and Etsy shop announcements can be quite effective. If you have a specific guest list, send postcards or invite people electronically via Facebook, Evite or email.
If you’re not limited to an exclusive guest list, post on Craigslist and at relevant calendars. Guerrilla chalk art makes for cheap, fun signage.
Consider traditional marketing tools like newspaper advertisements. Our ad was prominently placed in the centerfold of the Arts section, reaching a circulation of 125,000 people and leading to our recognition as one of the Fashionable Events of the Week by The San Francisco Examiner.
We didn’t pull in the guy with the bike, but our chalk sign got lots of other folks to come in and look around!
Photo by Mama’sMagicStudio.
6. Feed ‘Em!
A refreshments table is a nice touch for any trunk show and the perfect place for promotional materials. Don’t forget a sign-up for your mailing list.
7. Get Help
Don’t be shy about asking for help. Etsy Teams can apply for an Etsy Team Grant. Etsy generously supported The Sampler with funds for advertising and supplies. Charge a table fee if you need financial help to achieve your goals for a group show. Get team members or show participants to pitch in. Recruit family and friends. Always communicate clearly and kindly about what help you need and be sure to…
8. Say Thanks
Send thank you notes to everybody who helped – email is great, but even better is a handwritten note. Bonus points for using handmade cards!
Embroidered thank you card by CrookedSister of the SF Etsy team.
9. Get Feedback
While you’re thanking folks, ask them for some feedback about the show. What worked? What didn’t? Google forms is a free online tool for obtaining and organizing such information.
10. Beyond the Single Show
Promoting the event itself is hugely important, but don’t forget that a single show presents a great marketing opportunity in larger terms. We knew that The Sampler would be getting good press, and we wanted to capitalize on that to benefit SF Etsy as a whole. All online marketing linked to our team blog, where I set up a static page for The Sampler. I hoped that once people were there they’d want to see more, so I also set up another static page – a shopping guide for SF Etsy (an easy and ingenious idea borrowed from other team blogs). After the event, team member Akiyo, a.k.a. MyDearDarling, posted a podcast in which she interviewed all the Sampler participants. Long after the show is done, this podcast will be a fantastic resource for learning more about SF Etsy artists and getting unique insights into the SF Etsy community.
We know trunk shows are popular events for Etsians, so we’re sure other folks have suggestions as well. We’d love to hear from you in the comments!