Tips for a new teen crafter?
December 9, 2013 7:40 AM   Subscribe

What should me 14-y.o. daughter know about starting a small hobby/business of making and selling crafts? Specifics inside.

She's a smart kid, and we have already talked about some basic things: get someone you trust to evaluate your items; stick to one thing that you do well; don't be too emotionally invested; and don't commit money you can't afford to lose. She's already taken a class in "business basics" so she understands a lot of the principals of money. What else should she know?

This weekend there is a craft fair in town and tables are free. She has figured out how to make something (a hair accessory) that she and her friends all like and use, and which is popular in her age group. It's not too expensive: she's shooting for about $5 a set. She bought the materials out of money she'd already earned so there's no risk.

At events like this can she stick to cash? How much cash should she bring for change? Does she need a clever name? Does she need to have it on Facebook (or somewhere else)? When does a crafter turn into an Etsy seller? Can she piggy-back on a PayPal account in our name for a while, or should we set up a new one for her?

I don't want to be a helicopter dad, but I think there are enough folks here that know more than I do and it would be foolish not to learn from you. Thanks in advance!
posted by wenestvedt to Work & Money (20 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
If she only takes cash, she should for sure have a facebook site set up, so that if people don't have cash, they can go there later to buy things. I do that a lot when I see something for sale somewhere and want more/different/don't have cash. It has the benefit of people being able to comment and share, obviously. Take good pictures for the site. I would set up a new paypal account for just the business, just to keep things separate.
posted by dpx.mfx at 7:55 AM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Having her table set up in an attractive way can make a huge difference. Even something very simple like a plain white tablecloth will make her space look more polished.

She's making hair accessories, wearable things. She should wear one of them so she can point to it and say "like this!" People will be more inclined to buy something if they can see how it works. If the table is outside and it's chilly and she's going to be wearing a hat, get a few photos of her and her friends modeling them as an example. (They're young girls--have the photos like this so the focus is on the accessory and not the kid.)

If it's something that doesn't require a ton of focus or time-sensitive pieces to make, she could make a few at her table which would draw people in to watch the interesting thing happen.

If it's something popular with her friends, she needs to be ALL OVER the elderly lady sale bracket. Branding them as "an AWESOME stocking stuffer for your granddaughter!" will net her a ton of sales from a demographic she may not think to target.

Cash is great, but if you want to step up your game get a Square Reader. They're free to get, and you just pay a % of the sales fee. I use one when I do cookie sales with my Girl Scout troop, and we got a lot of sales from folks who tried to use the "oh, I would, I just don't have any cash on me..." excuse. Having a little personalized cash register also feels pretty grown up.

If she's thinking at all about doing an etsy shop, she needs to make that account now and print her shop name onto little cards to give out with every sale she makes at the craft fair.
posted by phunniemee at 8:02 AM on December 9, 2013 [8 favorites]

If you keep change at the table, keep it far from the reach of customers. Craft fairs are an easy place for theft to happen. A money belt might work better than a cash box.
posted by xingcat at 8:03 AM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

What to Bring to a Craft Fair
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:46 AM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

Make a set of business cards, with a good image of what the product is, and a website to look it up on and purchase. That can be facebook, it doesn't have to be etsy or a real marketplace site.

However, the first question to ask is: what will she do if someone purchases it online after the craft fair, is she actually willing to do the packaging and shipping to manage a mail-order business?
posted by aimedwander at 9:02 AM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Awesome points from phunniemee!

In terms of pricing: at $5/set, does that cover her cost of materials, some compensation for her time spent making them, and some amount of profit? Pricing is probably tricky for her market of small accessories for teens who may not have a ton of disposable income, but it's really important for her to recognize that her time spent making her product and dealing with other aspects of her business is worth something! As a wholly abstract example, say each widget she makes uses two dollars' worth of materials and takes half an hour to make. At the Federal minimum wage that's already a cost of $5.63 per item!

When just starting out, there may be a temptation to not even worry about the time spent; a few hours here or there working on stuff while watching TV doesn't seem like much... but if she starts selling a lot of stuff (and I hope she does!) it could quickly become a grind where she realizes that she's effectively only making a couple of bucks an hour to keep up with demand.

This Etsy article may seem like overkill for someone who's just getting started, but it contains a lot of good stuff to at least be aware of: A Simple Formula for Pricing. It's definitely a balancing act!
posted by usonian at 9:03 AM on December 9, 2013 [7 favorites]

Best answer: When just starting out, there may be a temptation to not even worry about the time spent; a few hours here or there working on stuff while watching TV doesn't seem like much... but if she starts selling a lot of stuff (and I hope she does!) it could quickly become a grind where she realizes that she's effectively only making a couple of bucks an hour to keep up with demand.

This a hundred times over. I would strongly encourage you to encourage your daughter to measure the actual time spent creating these items, and to understand the idea that her time has value (even when she's having fun but especially if she's not).
posted by telegraph at 9:04 AM on December 9, 2013 [5 favorites]

I don't have a lot of wisdom to offer, but when I worked a booth at a farmer's market, as xingcat says, I did not use a cash box. Instead I used what google seems to think is called a "money apron" -- an apron with pockets for each denomination.

This way, not only was it more secure, but I could also be a bit more mobile rather than being stranded at the end of the table with a cash box. I was selling fresh cut flowers, so the apron aspect was important. Still, I would definitely suggest some kind of belt or apron type thing rather than a box that sits on the table.

Etsy has a ton of cute crafty looking ones. Here's a tutorial to make your own. I'd guess that you can also find the plain functional "no really you can totes spill stuff on this" cash aprons at a restaurant supply store.
posted by Sara C. at 9:35 AM on December 9, 2013

More wisdom: you can totally make your own business cards on the fly the night before an event like this. You definitely don't have to order them or do any kind of fancy design.

She should spend an hour or so getting set up with an Etsy shop (the inventory can wait, but definitely sign up with the name she wants to use), and then make a simple business card with her name, her "business name", and the URL of the Etsy shop. Also maybe an email address? If I were her I'd set up a account so as to avoid giving her personal info to random strangers.

Pick up a pack of DIY printable business cards at an office supply store. She can create the design on the computer if she wants, but it's equally easy to use the printable cardstock to write or draw on.
posted by Sara C. at 9:43 AM on December 9, 2013

Can she piggy-back on a PayPal account in our name for a while, or should we set up a new one for her?

She might not be able to have her own based on their TOS, but she should have a PayPal account for business use that is separate from your personal or business accounts.

If she does well with this, she'll need to be keeping good records for doing her taxes later.

At the craft fair, definitely wear your money. She'll want to have quicker access to bills she needs for change, and a separate hidden place for larger bills that won't be needed for change.

Engage with people walking by the booths. Look at them, smile, invite them to view the items. Don't read, text, or eat at the booth, people tend not to stop to look. Keep drinks and personal items out of sight. Having things displayed at different heights can help draw the eye, this can be as simple as boxes covered in white paper or fabric matching what's on the table.
posted by yohko at 9:48 AM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Don't forget to have her keep receipts for all purchases of materials and records of her sales for tax purposes. Yes, if she makes a profit, she may owe taxes on the profit, even though it's a small amount and she's only 14 (the requirement to file a tax return starts at $400 of self employment income). Make sure she's complying with any sales tax regulations in your jurisdiction. Sometimes there's an exemption for occasional sales or craft fair sales, sometimes there isn't.

The only issue I see with using Square or Paypal is that, at her age, she cannot legally sign up for those services. So the account would have to be in your or another adult's name, meaning that you could assume personal liability for actions of her business. Not that the risk of huge lawsuits over these products is particularly high, but you should at least be aware of the liabilities you may be assuming.

Make sure she knows not to give out her personal information (full name, phone number, address, etc) to anyone who may visit her booth. This is where business cards with the company name and an etsy or facebook shop address would come in handy.
posted by melissasaurus at 9:59 AM on December 9, 2013

If it's the kind of thing people will be able to easily try on, she should have a mirror available.
posted by phunniemee at 10:56 AM on December 9, 2013 [6 favorites]

It's so easy to whip up a brand from scratch these days. Some Moo cards and a business name you can use across Etsy/Facebook/Wordpress are pretty much all you need to start. If she can come up with a business name, some sort of sign to put on the table (with link to Facebook site, for instance) would be useful.

It's helpful to keep all the business stuff (web presence, PayPal account, email address) separate from the personal.

Seconding what others have said about pricing -- make sure she measures the amount of time she spends on this in relation to how much profit she's making. If she's thinking of moving to Etsy, that's great and will give her a bigger market, but be aware a pricing race to the bottom often operates there. Women's tendency to undervalue their own work (and Etsy sellers seem overwhelmingly to be female) doesn't help.

I wish her luck! Go junior crafters!
posted by stuck on an island at 11:06 AM on December 9, 2013

Best answer: Have her look up "artist alley tips" on Google. It'll get her a lot of tips for selling at anime and other fan convention artist alleys, which are basically craft fairs. (Full disclosure: I wrote one called the Artist Alley Survival Guide, but there are a lot of others out there also.)

Do check to see if the craft fair requires a state tax certificate or other official thing like that present at her table. Most of the artist alleys in Texas that I've been to require the vendors to have one, although only one's ever asked to see mine.

Stand up behind your table, instead of sitting. You'll find that far more people will stop at the table if you're standing.

Also, pick items up and hand them directly to the people you're talking to. People are way more likely to purchase an item that they've touched and held.

If you have small items, watch out for shoplifters who put a larger item down on top of them, and then pick up the thing underneath it when they leave.

Keep the cash box/bag organized, because it'll make it easier to see if someone's reached in and grabbed cash. Also keep it off the table and behind something, so make it harder for someone to distract you and grab it.

I was at larger conventions, for which I usually showed up with $100 in change--$30-40 in ones and the rest in 5s and 10s. I'd guess that $50-60 in change is a better amount if it's going to be a small event. No matter what you bring, you'll alwyas wish you'd brought something else, so don't worry too much about it. Have a plan to run out and get more change if necessary.

You will get a LOT of $20s in the first half of the day as people show up having hit the money machines first.

Have an assistant to help! You can run to the bathroom, get lunch, go get more change, or take a break and wander the fair to see what other people are charging for similar items.

Make sure to have water bottles. You'll be talking a lot--or you should be, as people buy more from friendlier vendors--and your mouth and throat will dry out.
posted by telophase at 11:14 AM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Dang, this is all fantastic! Thank you, and keep it coming! :7)
posted by wenestvedt at 11:24 AM on December 9, 2013

Definitely have assistant, and have an adulthanging out in the background.

Keep your money attached to your body! Two or a double compartment bum bag work best. keep the bigger bills you're handed separate from small bills for making change.

Do not put any money 'away' until the transaction is over. Another common scam is to hand you a ten, which you pocket and make change for, and they say 'but I handed you a twenty!' and then you're flustered and not sure and handing them an extra ten bucks!

Take breaks, drink water, have snacks on hand. Have fun!

Prep packaging ahead of time... cute paper bags with a business card sealed with a sticker? Keep it simple, but don't let her items go naked!
posted by jrobin276 at 12:46 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer:! People love deals! Something like: Buy 1 for $5, Buy 2 for $9, Buy 3 for $12 might encourage people to buy more, although she should make sure she's happy selling at that price.

I also had a tendency to take 10-15% off the total if someone was buying a lot. It encouraged people to throw in "just one more item" if they felt it wasn't going to cost them much more.
posted by telophase at 1:26 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Find out the deal on sales tax in your state. I ran a craft fair for a nonprofit in California and we had to make sure that every craft vendor had a state sales tax license (you can get one that is good for just one day or a limited time).
posted by metahawk at 5:37 PM on December 9, 2013

Response by poster: UPDATE: Despite a blizzard, the event went on. She sold three dozen of her creations despite having a table behind a support column (invisible from more than four feet away) and being next to the table with the overpowering distraction of free cookies & cocoa.

On your collective advice, she made sure to keep her cash on hand and not in a box; she had pictures of the items in use; she brought along paper & pens in case she needed to change prices or signage; she wore the item herself to how them off; she had nice little bags with name labels; and she offered "bundle" pricing (which almost every customer did).

She covered her costs, she made a little, and she learned something. We consider it a success, thanks in no small part to you all. Thank you!!
posted by wenestvedt at 6:53 AM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Sounds like an awesome experience. Good job, kid-wenestvedt!
posted by phunniemee at 6:56 AM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

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