Tuesday , 17 September 2019
One of the things I found most stressful about prepping for my very first few shows (several years ago) was the worry that I might forget something important.

Craft Show Survival Kit – Part One – What’s In The Bag?

Owl TShirt - Grey Alternative Apparel by: naturwrk

Owl TShirt - Grey Alternative Apparel by: naturwrk

One of the things I found most stressful about prepping for my very first few shows (several years ago) was the worry that I might forget something important. It would, of course, be something I could not live without. The whole show would fall apart and I would crawl home, a disappointing slug. Hopefully, your mind is not as overactive and dramatic as mine is, but you get the point.

I have learned two very important lessons since my first sleepless night before the big event.

  • You cannot put a value on the peace-of-mind you get arriving at a show with everything you need and feeling completely prepared for the day.
  • You are only human and you will forget things. The good news is: you can forget a LOT of things before you actually turn into a disappointing slug.

As a crafter, you are probably constantly trying to streamline and improve the production process. It is good sense to streamline whatever you can, and why not do that for your craft show prep as well?
This article is going to cover what I ridiculously call my “Administrative Bag.” The Bag is a big, red tote that I go to when I am looking for anything set-up or business related. It should contain everything you need for the business portion of your show. This may include, but is not limited to, the following items:

Change Bag/Box

  • Full of change for the show.
  • Sheet of paper tracking exactly how much change I leave with. I double check this number when I get home and work through my sales numbers. This is a great way to catch any missing sales or miscalculations
  • Sales Tax and Use License. You should have this with you at every show you attend. Make a copy that you can use for shopping etc, and rest assured knowing that your original will always be safely tucked away here.
  • Credit card processor. In one word: Square. If you don’t have one of these, I can’t endorse it enough. Square is an incredibly affordable and easy way to accept credit cards on the go. If you have a smart phone, then you can have a square. The reader is free and so easy to use.
  • Emergency pen, just in case I need to scribble something on a check etc.

Record Book

  • I like to track my sales as I receive them by quickly jotting them down in my notebook. Again, this is a great way to not only track sales but to avoid any accounting errors.

Vendor Packet

  • Now, this is something that changes from show to show. I usually print all my vendor information, review it, and slide it into ye ol bag for later. Good news is, you usually receive a little vendor packet the day of the show, or at least at the setup. It’s not something that you necessarily have to remember to bring. You already have your bag with you, and you can just slip it in there when you get it. If you have questions later about hours, tear-down, or venue locations… you have all that information in one place. When someone asks me where the bathrooms are, I can easily access my map and show them. Similarly, I love to have it on hand in case someone mentions something that they just love. For example, I sold a Sock Monkey Hat to a woman who just LOVES sock monkeys. So I am happy to tell her that just down the aisle at spot G214, there is a vendor that sells the most amazing sock monkeys. Go check her out!

Business Cards

  • Even if it is your very first show, it is imperative to have some kind of branding and contact information. What is the point of networking and making contacts if, after the event, no one has a way of remembering what you did and how to get in touch with you to order it? I keep a constant supply of (more than I need) business cards in this bag at all times. I refill it after each show and check my master supply to know when it’s time to re-order.

Contact Book

  • Craft shows are a great place to network, advertise, and gain exposure.  Even if someone cannot support your business at the show, that doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t like to in the future.  Having a newsletter, if only to announce sales and upcoming shows, is an important tool to build repeat as well as future business.  At all my shows, I encourage just that.  I set out a notebook for shoppers jot down their information if they are interested in receiving updates, and at the end of the show I input these entries into my newsletter list.  Once I’m done, I flip to a new page and put the notebook back for the next show.

Tool Box

  • This little sucker will be covered in depth in Part II : The Box, since I think it is the most glorious part of my Survival Kit.

So, my bags are literally packed and I am ready to go. It is one (or a million) less thing(s) to worry about gathering up and/or forgetting, allowing me to sleep a little better AND a little later. It eliminates a huge part of my Packing List, because the bag stays completely intact, always. When I get home, the bag goes into my studio and is already packed and ready for my next show.

For shows that last more than one day, I can just pick up my little red bag at the end of the day and go. All my money is safe and sound, and it is much harder to forget a red bag hanging on the door knob than it is a tiny little money pouch.

Stay tuned for Part II: The Box, where I will cover all those little essentials that come together to make a Tool Box I never leave home without.

My name is Tania and I love everything about the Arts & Crafts scene, from the creations to the community and every step in between.  Several years ago, I started up The Curious Cake Shoppe and there has been no looking back since. I continue to use my passion for this community to create more, such as The Curious Canvas, and do my part to help out in the Arts & Crafts scene through my Texas-based Craft Show website, DFW Craft Shows.  I use my experience to write Craft Show articles and I love promoting other vendors through my Arts & Craft Giveaways every other week.

Check out part 2 : Craft Show Survival Kit :: Part Two – The Box



craft show manager - excel spreadsheet


Keeping track of your finances at a craft show can be complicated.  That’s why we’ve been working the past month developing the ultimate craft show solution to make your craft show season go so much more smoother!

We know you don’t want to focus on finances while at the show, so our unique system has you enter in information before the show and after the show.  Then all types of useful reports are generated showing your results from the show.  We also help you track promotional items, because craft shows also help you get sales in the future!

Keeping track of your cash and receipts can be a headache – so we have a calculator that also helps you count and manage your cash.  Keep track of up to 200 unique inventory items with as many quantities for each of these items as you want.  Tracking costs is easy with the cost manager.

Enter details about the show, manage your cash, manage your promotional items, manage your cost, and manage your inventory all with a simple spreadsheet.  Once you gather information about these areas – a craft show report is generated automatically.

You can even track up to 5 different craft shows to compare your performance.  We also have a email signup list so you can keep track of what people signed up at which show.  With this list you can go back and add them your email client and send out emails!

You can pick up the Craft Show Manager in our Etsy shop for $30.  HERE

craft show spreadsheet

craft show spreadsheet

craft show spreadsheet

craft show spreadsheet 

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  1. Great article. I have a craft fair coming up this weekend and i downloaded a list of things to bring from the internet and printed it out. It has all the possible things you might not think of on it and I am almost packed today. I can’t wait until the show! It’s the Hester street fair tomorrow and I’m excited to be going. I wrote a blog post about it here: http://chelsearainbows.blogspot.com/2011/05/countdown-to-hester-street-fair.html

  2. I’m doing the Hester Street Fair tomorrow and this article was just what i needed. I wrote a blog post about it here; http://chelsearainbows.blogspot.com/2011/05/countdown-to-hester-street-fair.html

  3. Great information, I will bookmark this for when I get the courage (and inventory)to finally do a craft show!! Thanks so much for sharing this.

  4. I just signed up and paid for my first craft fair. It is not until September, but I am looking for all the advice I can get. Thanks for sharing your wisdom. My little red bag (actually, it is a black one) is almost packed.

  5. Always great information on here , THx ;-))

  6. I have been doing craft shows [sales] for
    several years and love them. I think it is the best way for your creations to become known. great thing that big red bag.

  7. Thanks for re-posting Tania’s blog post! She has helped the DFW area crafters immensely with her Craft Show Calendar and Weekend Guides! You should also check out her Part II post at http://www.dfwcraftshows.com

  8. Been there and done that!

    I too, always have my “survival” bag with me. It’s big and pink and has my KYEbags logo on it :) It’s such a lifesaver!

    This article is great and really hit right on. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Super info and always so important no matter how many shows you have done!!

  10. Can’t wait to do my first show…bookmarking this article!

  11. One thing I have learned is that I will, inevitably, forget something! And I can often turn it into some kind of game, where I realize that I do not have a working “whatever it is” and now I have to go through all my stuff and figure out how to “make” it work. I have never had to crawl home, a disappointing slug.

    Usually I do just fine. (although, on occasion, I have had to depend upon the kindness of strangers!)

  12. Thank you so much for this. I have been freaking out about doing my first craft fair this summer. I have been making jewelry and selling it for almost 9 years but have never done a craft fair. I am so scared I will forget something so this series is going to be great!

  13. Long ago, I put a check off list, in Excel, on the computer. I have a page for markets, bicycle vacations, travel to USA, local travel. It is so easy to add or delete items. Make it detailed, Stand, shelves, screw box etc. Use it like a pilot preparing for a flight, physically check off each item.
    Initially, to develop the list, play act out each step. Going, map, acceptance form, confirmation of accomodation. Step by step and list what you need to have with you. It is fine to have things you ‘never’ use, one does not know when never arrives.


  14. Having done fairs for many years, there have been many times when the thing I most wanted was still on my work table at home. I finally got organised when I invested in some stacking Really Useful boxes, one for lights, one for stock, one for stands etc and most importantly, a different coloured one for “the office”. Everything lives in there, cash box, card terminal, toolbox, pins, clips, everything I cannot function without. At least the last minute panic of ‘is the cash box in’ is solved with a quick glance for the coloured box.

  15. Helpful post. I’ve only done 2 craft fairs so far. I’ll stay tuned to read about your tool kit.

  16. Great list, thanks. I use a little blue travel folding chair that has a zippered “lunch box” under the seat and keep that filled with my necessities such as business cards, tape etc. It’s my little travel office that I can sling over my shoulder.

  17. Looking forward to reading more! Thanks for sharing :) I can’t wait to do one when my time permits. I would love to sell my hemp jewelry & other handmades at a craft fair! http://www.etsy.com/shop/HandmadeHempMomma

  18. Thanks for sharing. We’re getting ready for our first craft show, so this is really helpful in reviewing our checklist!

  19. Thanks for re-posting this article, it’s always nice to re-read something and see something you might have missed before or someone shared. My red bag is a rolling yarn tote with lots of pockets and room. Makes it easier when my booth is a long way from my car.

  20. I’ll be doing a craft show in 2 weeks time. My first one. I’m very nervous, but I’ve found a lot of useful information on the net, like this on. I have a list of things to bring, and a wonderful toolbox, with lots of compartments to put it all in.

  21. One thing I like to have in my bag is a waist purse or ” belly bag” as some call it. I keep this in my craft show bag so I can put it on and transfer large bills, checks, and excess cash (ahhh…those successful shows) into it. I leave just enough money in the cash drawer to make change. I’m much more relaxed knowing the money is safely stored away.

    The Magnificent Magnet

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