Sunday, August 27, 2017

Selling handmade jewelry: Tales from the Long Island Vegan Fest

I don't know if the eclipse had any influence, but this was a really good jewelry week for me! It began on a low note with jury duty (Yuck), but then quickly picked up and just kept going. I've once again been accepted to the local art fair, I have a couple more people interested in me teaching classes at their venues, and I sold a piece to a new (for my business) country: Finland. The week was then capped off with my friend Christopher's amazing Vegan Fest.

When Christopher and his husband, Scott, proposed I sell my jewelry at the event, I was skeptical. I wasn't sure that jewelry fit in with holistic doctors, nutritionists and vegan caterers. However, Scott reasoned that they wanted to include a shopping experience at the fair and that my pieces would appeal to an "earthy" vegan crowd. I agreed because I'd planned to attend, anyway, and figured I could make some animal pendants for charity. Chris decided that money would go toward Broome Animal Sanctuary, up in Middleburgh, NY. I designed 18 of these pendants and at least felt that I had a purpose for being there.

Turns out that the guys' instincts were spot-on. I raised $300 for the sanctuary -- and completely trounced my previous sales record from an event. "Earthy" vegans really did like my work!

I usually have a little down-time at fairs, where I can walk around, eat and do some shopping, but at this fair, I barely had time to use the ladies' room. It was great, though. I met some interesting, kind people and enjoyed introducing them to fused glass, as well as the sanctuary. Since this was mainly a Long Island crowd, not too many of the attendees had heard of BAS, which is in central NY, but I explained what the farm is like and how passionate Christopher feels toward this place. Some had visited local sanctuaries, but were now eager to see this one. There was even a case where one of Scott's co-workers did not purchase an animal pendant, but insisted on giving me a generous donation for the sanctuary. I offered to give her a bonus piece of jewelry, but she refused. THAT's what most of the attendees were like: open, warm and giving.

I'd expected my animal pendants to be the main draw and surprisingly, they weren't. People liked them and purchased several, but also bought my regular work. As I'd expected, I got many questions about the materials I use and how I actually create the pieces. Several were intrigued to hear about my microwave kiln. Perhaps we'll hear about some more glass artists in the near future!

I did get to take a very brief lunch break and picked up a combo plate from the vendor across the way. They served homemade black bean burgers with spicy barbecue sauce, potato salad made with cashews, mustard and vinegar -- and the most chewy and delicious brownies I've ever eaten. I never did ask what was in them, but they were rich and fudgy. I'm still dreaming about them.

One company called Pride Enjoy sold vegan rainbow cookies. Rainbow cookies!!! Those are my favorites, but I refrained from buying any because I didn't want to go overboard in sampling treats. The guys bought two containers, so maybe they'll save me one ... if they don't eat them all first.

Jon came for about an hour, but I was so busy working, I didn't even get to talk to him. He had a jack fruit and pineapple curry and was still raving about it hours later. He even said that if all vegan food is like that, he could deal with being vegetarian.

There weren't just food vendors, though. Several organizations gave out literature containing information on veganism and vegan foods; one booth had vegan cookbooks; a couple of tables represented local sanctuaries and farms; a mother and daughter team sold cruelty-free makeup and one company sold hydroponic garden supplies. There were also eight lectures, a masseuse on hand and outdoor yoga classes.

I can't begin to express how proud I am of Christopher. He's a great guy and a close friend, so I'm biased, but he really did a fantastic job in putting this event together. He sought out quality vendors. He promoted the fair like crazy on social media so he'd get ample traffic. And he put together a fair that encompassed an entire vegan experience for attendees, incorporating food, fun and wellness. I've been to dozens of events at this point, and this was one of the most well thought-out and organized. He managed to get over 600 attendees! Just look at the happy crowd. There I am (to the right in blue), selling my heart out:

I'm trying to figure out what I did *right* at this event, so I can do it again at the next fair. I think that some of the reasons I did well here were because A) I had a table right by the entrance, so people saw me as soon as they came in. B) I didn't have much competition since my booth was different than anything else there. C) I've gotten better at schmoozing and selling. That last one is important because it's a skill I'm still working on. I did channel my friend Lani a few times during the fair and managed to close the sale. She'd be proud.

The festival was so successful that Christopher has decided to turn this into a bi-annual affair. I'll definitely be back for the next one. After all, I still need to taste those rainbow cookies!

Check out my jewelry at Naomi's Designs and MayaGirl Creations.

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