biz chat: how to deal with holiday show rejection

Holiday show rejection is the worst, it’s the busiest shopping season of the year, and we all want to be out there as much as possible. As most of the show letters have gone out now, and you may have been rejected from some, here are some tips on what to and what not to do now.
*will denote personal experience notes

how to deal with holiday art and craft show rejection

First, and most importantly, DO NOT TAKE IT PERSONALLY.
I know it stings, you may want to cry, and you may see someone get in that you think you’re better than, and that’s okay. We can all feel those things, just don’t stay in that negative space for long, and only share those feelings with your friends and family, not in an public forum. You don’t want negative posts to get back to show organizers. Don’t email show organizers in a defensive manner, either. Stay professional, review your applications, and work on improving it. You don’t want to hurt your chances of being accepted in the future, or getting a bad reputation.

*I know I said “don’t take it personally”, but sometimes you could not get in because a show organizer is close friends with someone, and they don’t want them to have any competition. This happened to a friend of mine. The show did tell her that she could bring everything else she sold, just not one particular item that competed with their friend. Is that fair? No, but if you run a show, you might do the same thing for your friend. I would continue to apply for that show, because you never know if that person is going to apply.

Hit them with your best shot.
The number one thing that keeps people from getting into a show is bad photos. I’ve seen people using bad photos in their shop, social media, and of course their applications, and I cannot understand how they don’t know they have bad photos. If you were rejected, this is the first thing you need to review. Some juries only look at photos and know nothing about you, so if your photos are bad, or there is a lot in the photo causing distraction from the piece you want reviewed, you might not make the cut. This is the most frustrating reason to see people get cut over. It wasn’t that your work or quality was poor, it was that your photos didn’t do your work justice. If you invest in nothing else, invest in good photos.

*When I was on the ACR jury I scored someone low because the products didn’t look great. Thankfully, aside from scoring we would discuss. Two people on the jury owned work from that person, and they said the photos were terrible, but the products were solid. If we only went by scores, that person would not have made the cut.

Never expect it.
When you’ve been accepted to a show many times, you may expect you’ll always be in. When I give talks on shows, this is something I always stress. You need to give every application your all, treat each one like it’s the first time you’re applying to the show. Give them the respect of showing your best work. Just because the jury loved you one year, that doesn’t mean the jury will love you the next.

*Often this is a numbers game. You could have had a great score overall, but your category may have been super competitive. Imagine your category had many people scoring 100’s, and you scored an 85. An 85 is a respectable grade, but if your category is packed (jewelry makers know this all too well), you might not pass. Meanwhile, if you had that same score in a less competitive category, you could have been at the top.

Show growth.
Show organizers want to keep their show fresh and exciting, giving shoppers something new to look forward to. If you keep applying with the same photos, and show no growth, it will lessen your chances of getting in. If you make candles, you can simply add a new scent. Make sure you change your booth set up every year, too. Remember there are new people coming on the scene all the time, and if they make something similar to you, but also have a little extra, they can edge you out.

*Shows can get three times the applicants of spaces available. Some shows have a percentage of new artists they want to accept each year.

Find your place.
Once the show roster is up, look at who got in, does your work fit? Sometimes you could be applying to a show that is targeting a market you’re not right for. That doesn’t mean your work isn’t “good enough”, it just means it’s not the place for you. Maybe the demographics of the audience cannot afford your work, these are things some shows consider.

*When I was on the ACR jury we turned someone down because they were too fine art for the show, not because the work wasn’t amazing, but we knew they wouldn’t get the sales they would expect. We did let them know the reason, but other shows might not take the time to let someone know that.

Don’t ignore being wait listed.
I’ve seen people get called from the wait list the day of the show! You never know what could happen. You may have missed the cut by 1 point, you don’t know how the decision was made, treat being on the wait list in a positive light.

*People can drop from a show because they applied to two shows the same weekend, and prefer another one. They can drop because they didn’t get the space they wanted. I dropped a show I love one week before because I had pneumonia and was way too sick to drive to LA.

Face the situation.
If you’re getting rejected more than normal, look at any changes you’ve made to you offerings. If you’ve never been accepted to a particular show, try emailing them in the off season (generally January) to see if they can offer you some feedback. Depending on how the decisions are made they might not be able to, but it doesn’t hurt to graciously ask for more information. Walk the show, look at any competitors of yours that made it in. Are their price points lower or higher? Do they have a wider or more targeted range of offerings? Do your sleuthing!

Don’t give up.
Keep in mind that juries can change from year to year, maybe a strong competitor of yours won’t apply the next year. As long as you keep improving your work, have bright, clean photos, and are applying to a show that your work fits within, there’s always a shot.

Now that you’ve gone through the 5 stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance)…

Let’s talk about how to make up that show income:

Have your online shop full and optimized (SEO and tag wise).
Pitch to blogs.
Advertise on sites/blogs (check out Passionfruit for some leads).
Get your line sheets in order to send out.
Pitch to stores (keep your pitches extremely short).
It’s pretty late, but see if you can get in any gift guides.
Try to get in show swag bags.
Work on your social media game.
Join an Etsy group or a Treasury group, any kind of group that does a great job of promoting one another.
Suck up your pride, and apply/sign up for those smaller shows you weren’t even thinking about before. This is the time of year we need to be out in full force to get those sales. Every show is a learning opportunity, and a chance to reach more people.
I’m one of those people that believes everything happens for a reason. Maybe the show wouldn’t have been the place for you (wasting your time), maybe you needed a reality check to humble you, maybe you’re going to have such a busy season, you’ll need the break. Rejection hurts (we’ve all been there), but it’s up to you to move past it, take it as a learning experience, and keep pushing forward.

biz chat: craft show booth set-up tips


Looking back at this booth, I’m a little embarrassed. I’ve grown so much since this. That said, I did win 2nd place in the best booth contest at this show. I’m using the pronoun “I” instead of “we”, because booth set up is something I heavily obsess over, and is one of the facets of Robo Roku that I take complete charge over. I love trying to create a happy environment. I was fortunate enough to have had merchandise training in one of my former retail management jobs. The company I worked for sent managers on a week long retreat that mostly focused on the Psychology of merchandising. I don’t always use what I’ve learned, because “happy environment” is top priority for me. This post is going to be a little bit more “do as I say, not as I do”, sharing my past retail merchandise training and experience as a former producer for a local craft show with you to help you up your show booth game.

Memorable Experience
Use your booth as a way to create a memorable shopping experience. Infuse your branding into all the elements. From floor, to walls, to “ceiling” have every aspect of your booth show your colors and style.

We try to bring the outdoors in and remind people of a fun day laying in the grass looking at clouds. We use AstroTurf for the floor and walls, and batting to create “clouds” in the air. We use white curtains on as many sides of the booth as possible to brighten up the booth, and increase the airy feel.

We also always pay for electricity. Lighting is worth whatever they charge you, it helps your booth stand out from your neighbors, and highlights your goods. It can also act as a beacon, drawing people in.

Table Coverings
If you have beautiful tables that you’re not hiding anything under, then you can skip the tablecloth. If you bought a standard folding table at Target (or wherever), then you need to cover it up, and class up the booth. Choose a tablecloth that matches your branding, ideally one that is water resistant. Having custom fitted tablecloths are even better. If you’re like me and change up your set up too much to justify paying for custom fitted tablecloths, have safety pins handy to tie back the sides of the tablecloth for a more polished look.

Height in your booth is very important. Having staircase type set-ups gives your customer’s eyes places to continue going, which keeps them in your booth longer, and maximizes your display area. I prefer to have a 3ft tall table, because it helps most people not feel strain bending over to look at your goods. Only having this height can cause issues for people not able to see that high up, so make sure you have multiple levels for all situations.

Make sure there’s room for your customers to move around. Try not to create a dead end or bad corner where they can get stuck. In the photo above I have the tees on a rack near the entrance so people can flip through from the aisle. If you can make a space that’s shoppable from both sides, you gain more space in your booth.

Have a big banner with your name (maybe even your url) so people can know who you are, and can read from the aisle. Pricing signs (if your items are not individually priced); social media contact signage, so they can jump on their phones and follow you right away; payment options, so they don’t have to worry whether or not they can buy something from you. The payment signage is so important. Even with a sign from Square in our booth sometimes people miss it, assume we’re cash only and almost walk out of the booth.

At the very least you want to give out your business card to as many visitors as you can. Have these in more than one place. We always keep some near the front of the booth (opposite of where our checkout is), and some at the checkout. If possible, have freebie stickers, buttons, or postcards to help them remember you. While this is not necessarily a takeaway, make sure your shopping bags have your name on them, this is free show advertising for you. I chose a particular size and color for our shopping bags, and that bag alone (without our branding on it) is recognizable locally. At many shows I’ve had people tell me “I’ve seen so many people with your shopping bags”, it may not be true that so many people have shopped our booth, it’s that we’ve solidified our branding so much, that the bags stand out.

Seasonal Decor
If it’s the holiday season, try adding some garland, twinkle lights, pine cones, snowflakes, etc to your booth to up the holiday shopping spirit.

Keep in mind, even with my past retail experience, my first booth was a sad card table with no table covering. Just packaged jewelry and badges laying on the table. Not much height or interest at all. You can see some past booth set-ups here, and see the growth over the years. We all start somewhere, and even if your last booth was super awesome, I guarantee there’s always room for improvement. Every year I look at my booths from the year before and think “yuck!”, even though I know when I was setting up each booth I was super proud of the time and energy I put into it. I think evolving every year is one thing I really like about booth set-ups. I look forward to finding ways to make the booth better than before. If you have any questions or suggestions, leave them in the comments below. Some people have emailed me asking questions from the last biz chat post, and you’re welcome to do that, too. I just want to share with you what I’ve learned to help make your first time out a little less scary.


biz chat: are craft shows worth it?

Robo Roku booth RCF

Doing shows are a lot of fun, a great way to meet people in your industry, get your name out there, and ideally make money. When you’re just starting out, shows are a fun way to broaden your reach, and learn what people think of your goods. After at least a year of doing shows small one-day ones to bigger 300+ booth shows you’ll need to start realistically crunching the numbers on the shows to see if they’re worth it anymore.

First, you’ll need to do a check-in with yourself on how much your business needs to be bringing in. Add up your monthly expenses including mortgage/rent, utilities, phone, gas, groceries, savings, everything you need to pay each month. Multiply your monthly expenses by 12 and now you have your must-have income goal.

Let’s say your needed amount is $50,000/year
(and you’re going to work a typical 40 hrs/week with 2 weeks vacation time)
40 hours a week x 50 weeks = 2,000 hours
$50,000 / 2,000 hours = $25/hr

That hourly wage gets factored into your pricing structure.

If you do a 2-day show that’s open eight hours a day you’ll probably end up working 22 hours from set up to tear down.
22 hrs x $25 = $550 (increase this number if you have booth helpers)
Booth fee $500
That’s $1050 you need to make just to be reimbursed.

If at the end of the show you have $1050 in your pocket, you didn’t profit, and the show was not worth your time. Remember how we price?
You have to deduct your costs of time and materials of everything you sold, so $1050 then becomes $787.50.
You also have to pay taxes, so that’s another deduction from the money you have in your pocket.
Did you buy tables and fixtures for displays? Another deduction.
Did you buy food while at the show (or before the show to pack a lunch)? Another deduction. (even if you can write it off, it still counts)

By skipping a show that has proven to not be profitable you can spend that time reaching out to magazines, stores, and blogs.
You can use that money on advertising, put it toward doing bigger, more profitable shows, or expanding your product lines.

What’s “awesome” or “good” to one person, may not be “awesome” or “good” to you. Consider the source. Is this person making a living off their business? Is this a part-time thing for them? Is this person a one-person operation? If you run the business with a partner, both of you need to be compensated. The bigger your business is, the more expenses you have, they may not need as much income as you.

If you’ve never done the show before ask someone that is doing it full-time. Ask them “was the show worth it?” this is a very direct question, and if you pay attention to their face, you’ll have your answer. Vendors don’t want to bad mouth shows and get a reputation, but if you ask a direct question, and really pay attention to their answer, you’ll find the truth. Check out Unanimous Craft for some reviews, too. Just remember vendors don’t want to bad mouth shows, your best bet is reaching out to someone personally. I’ve seen friends post on social media that a show was great, though they told me personally it was terrible (including figures). When you make a good chunk of your income from shows you don’t want organizers to see you complaining publicly.

the haps: pre-holiday season

Ami desk
Check out Ami chillin’ on my desk. She likes that I keep a space clear for her.

Last weekend we did the Austin Flea, and it ended up being a pretty decent show for us. We added it on last minute, so we were not that prepared, and had low expectations. I was really bad and watched roller derby div 1 playoffs on my laptop. Don’t ever do that at a show. Especially if you want to be invited back. At least Josh was there to chat with customers during my derby break. The main producers of Armadillo Christmas Bazaar (a show we are grateful to be participating in this year) stopped by our booth and gave us great advice on prepping for their show. It’s 8 (12 hour) days long, which is shorter than their normal 14 days because of the way Christmas falls on the calendar this year. It’s a fairly big commitment, but we’re excited to take it on. My booth neighbor Victoria of Victrola Studio (she does screen-printed apparel and accessories) did Armadillo Christmas Bazaar last year, so she gave me a few tips, and we chatted about packaging and how we are changing up our product lines. Victoria and I used to have studio space in the same complex in 2010, and as it turns out are going to be booth neighbors at Armadillo! I’m glad I’ll have a friendly face so close, since I’ll be working by myself the majority of the show.

Let’s break down the haps…

Client sites – almost done for the year!!
Still making/painting/stitching up goods for the fall/winter Robo Roku lines – this will be a constant for awhile.
TCL site refresher (STILL in the works).

How behind I am in my painting class.
Holiday season booth set ups.
2014 shows and cons to sign up/apply for.

Being more active on Twitter again. My Klout score has seriously dipped… not like that is really important, but it makes it more obvious how little I’ve been interacting on Twitter this summer.
Going to the doctor. I have been out of my prescription strength iron for a bit, and the effects of not being on it are getting worse. I get light headed just going from sitting to standing, get overheated if I stay in the shower too long, and my legs, feet, and hands are falling asleep a lot. Sometimes I try to pretend I’m okay, and it’s just mind over matter, but it’s not. If I don’t see the doctor soon I may have to get another blood transfusion (I’m really hoping I’m not at that point already). Unfortunately the soonest they can see me is October 9th. I am on a call list if there are an cancellations.
Skating – which I really shouldn’t do until I see the doctor, but the new rec-league and bank track sessions just started this week.
My LA trip at the end of October.
Hearing back on holiday show applications.

Passion Pit Pandora station, the new Toad the Wet Sprocket, Phoenix, and this amazing girl (check out her vids on YouTube)…

Still eating homemade food, and chile lime carrots from Bolthouse Farms. However the beginning of this month I ate pizza three times! I don’t want pizza for a long while now. Do you have any fave recipes to share?

The people I have met in the Make Art That Sells (MATS) class. My local friends are pretty fab and fun people to chat about biz with, especially Sierra since she has a college background in art and animation, but the people from the MATS class are trying to make a living as illustrators and painters, so they understand my specific world just a little bit better.

Mostly the same as last month. The next year of cons/shows, product releases, and the TCL site update. It’s always amazing to me how long some things take.

My homework from my painting class.
Posts in the MATS board
Applications/Registrations for shows/cons

Monday nights I watch Regular Show
Tuesday or Wednesday I watch Face Off & Heroes of Cosplay
Thursday mornings I watch Wednesday night’s Broadchurch while I eat breakfast, and then watch Project Runway while I eat dinner.
Saturday mornings I watch Cartoon Planet (this will change if I do bank track sessions)
Sunday nights I watched Newsroom (the season finale was wonderful!) & Ray Donovan (Hello cutie, Liev Schrieber! I’ve been crushing on him since ’95!). Do you have any shows you watch every week?

handmade scene: september austin flea


The Austin Flea is back again this Saturday at a new location that I am really excited about, the Spider House Ballroom! Jen, will be there with her biz Jen Hearts Art, I’m hoping she’ll have this necklace available.


Josh and I will be setting up our Robo Roku booth, too! We’re having a BIG “End of Summer Sale” you might want to check out. We’ll have more goodies on sale in person than we do online. If you don’t live in the Austin area, you can get in on the $10 necklace sale here.

Robo Roku Fancy Cat Sale

Here are our “must visit” picks for the September Austin Flea…

Curare Sweets

Dish It Out!
Dish It Out


Please also visit our recently featured friends Inviting and Chet Art.

This list is just a taste of what you can find at the Austin Flea this weekend. Here’s a full list of vendors. We hope to see you at the Spider House Ballroom this Saturday!

recovery week

I’ve started and deleted a Renegade recap almost every day this week. I messed up my ankle at Renegade, so it’s been swollen, achy, and annoying me to no end. I think I need a little more time away from Renegade to get my head straight about it. This week has been all about resting, working on a client site, playing on Instagram, Pinterest, and watching Netflix. I started and finished NYC 22. I really liked it, sadly it was canceled. I finally finished season 5 of Mad Men. I STILL don’t get what ladies see in Don Draper.

Did you see some of the new Robo Roku tees sneak peeks I posted on Instagram? We have
a couple more new goodies I haven’t shown online yet, so there is still more to come!

Rad Panda ABM

Sir Meowlowishus Tee ABM

Here’s a brief recap of my week:

Monday – I mostly rested, worked on a client site, and played with the A Beautiful Mess app. That app is so addicting! I just wish it wouldn’t crash so much. Have you played with
it yet? I’ve been playing with it so much that my Mophie is getting quite a work out.


Tuesday – I spent the day being my mom’s chauffeur. I also found out a show in SF we love to do is an option. I almost caved in to do it, but my mom convinced me that my plan to take a break from big shows this summer was needed. I’m really only taking two months off, but that’s a lot of time I can use to focus on getting out all the designs we haven’t had time to launch, and to give the online store some love. We’ll still be doing the Austin Flea. I just love that show so much. If you live in Austin, stop by and say hi!

Austin Flea ABM

Wednesday – My car was in the shop to get the A/C fixed (it only cost $74!), they just needed to replace the switch. I spent the day working on a client site and playing around with Pinterest. Wednesday night I introduced Josh to an outlet mall. He needed some new summer clothes and didn’t want to spend a lot. I took him to the outlet version of his favorite stores. He was so amazed by the prices, he said “now I see why people freak out over outlet malls” haha!

Thursday – I spent the day being my mom’s chauffeur again (this is the new Tues/Thurs for me until July). Thursday night Josh and I worked on a client site and mapped out the weekend. Saturday is Roxy’s wedding, so we’re going on a day trip out of town. Have you seen her wedding trailer?!? It’s pretty awesome. I have one qualm with the intro, it claims that the movies reenacted are “obscure” when over half of them are classics. That doesn’t change how awesome the reenactments are. Check it out!

Today – I have to prepare for a brief trip out of town, and do more client work. I am hoping to ice my ankle a lot today so it doesn’t trouble me much tomorrow.

I am excited for a three day weekend with Josh, friends, bubble tea, and LOTS of movies! On my list are The Great Gatsby, Star Trek, and Fast and Furious 6. I hope you have a fun weekend, too! Don’t forget to check out that app (if you have an iPhone). It’s so fun!

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