Porter Flea Guidelines for Vendor Booth Success
With Nashville's summer market, Porter Flea, right around the corner, we turned to interior designer and Porter Flea co-founder Katie Vance for some tips on how to achieve success as a participating vendor. 

Back in 2011, I had been working as an interior designer for the better part of a decade and started to notice something that just made me flat out sad — there was no crossover between the architecture industry and the network of people who make really wonderful, high-quality, handmade goods. 

Maybe you remember 2011? Instagram was brand spankin' new. Etsy was somewhere between Rob Kalin's departure and being a mainstream thing. Anthropologie's mass-produced "unique" goods were in their heyday. It was also exactly when all the restaurants in Nashville started to look the same — the salvaged barn wood and the mason jars and the faux antiques. I mean, no judgment, but...also no fun! I had been to other shows in places like New York and Chicago, and vendors there kept asking about shows in Nashville. Of course, we had a flea market, but it wasn't curated or juried and ultimately, it always felt unfocused. Sometime around March that year, I decided that I wanted to establish a craft show to bridge the gap between consumers and makers in my home state. 

Our first market was in a parking lot on Porter Road. That wasn't a great spot back then. It was July and hot as hell. We had 35 vendors. They were texting friends from underneath pop-up tents to come out and support us. But they made great work and Nashvillians did show up, so we called it a success and immediately started planning a holiday market. 

Makers Workshop Guidelines for Vendor Success at Porter Flea

This summer marks our 15th Porter Flea, complete with more than 175 vendors from all over the country. WHAT. It's crazy just to type that. And then again, it's not crazy at all because we've got the best dang vendors who have worked hard and continually talked us up to other vendors far and wide. Some of them have been with us for nearly every market (we love you, Bean & Bailey), some come and go and for each market, we receive an average of nearly 400 applications. It takes weeks for our jury to sort through them all. I wouldn't say there's a strict formula for vendor success, but there's no denying a handful of trends.

Here are the five big ones:

1. Don't treat a big craft market (or its application process, for that matter) as a guinea pig. Bring items you feel confident about — ones that receive positive feedback from customers and other artists in your field. New products are awesome! Bring them! Debut them! But even new products should fall within the logical breadth of your ongoing work. If you are unsure about something, ask a mentor or another vendor for honest feedback. 

2. Be extra professional. You're not at a market on the side of the highway sitting next to a guy selling price-negotiable socks in bulk, okay? Craft markets can be exhausting and overwhelming for shoppers and vendors alike; keeping your cool will go a long way. Shoppers can sense it. They're drawn to vendors who are welcoming and helpful. 

3. Plan something interactive to draw shoppers into your booth. It can be as simple as having a pitcher of cold cucumber water on a hot day or as elaborate as demonstrating your craft. Whatever you decide to do, post about it on your social media — make sure to tag the market's handle and use their hashtag. 

4. People from all different walks of life really do want to support you, so think about ways to help them help you. Never undervalue your work, but, for example, if you're a painter, maybe you bring mini prints and sell them for an accessible price. Having an item like that available certainly won't distract people who are interested in making a larger purchase. We find the $40-$150 price range is kind of the sweet spot, but there are always outliers. 

5. Your booth itself should be a good representation of your brand. Plenty of successful vendors have a simple pegboard setup, but they paint it a special color and make their logo into a sign that is easy for shoppers to read. Yes, this will probably eat up at least a whole day of your time, but do it well once and then take it to every market. Consider whether or not you need to bring your own light source (and an extension cord!), as many markets are in large warehouse spaces with uneven lighting. 

Makers Workshop Guidelines for Vendor Success at Porter Flea
Porter Flea 
June 29 - June 30 — Nashville, TN
Featuring modern handmade goods from the area's most talented designers, Porter Flea is Nashville's definitive Pop-up event for independent artists, designers and artisans.
May 24, 2018 by Lindsey Smith
Tags: Market Tips

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