2020 Update: If you’re avoiding in-person events right now, learn how to host a virtual trunk show.
The first year I turned my jewelry hobby into a business, I didn’t feel ready to participate in any craft shows. To me, those felt like something only “real” jewelry makers did, and in my opinion, I was not in their league.
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(By the way, five years later, I still have those feelings of doubt!)
Plus I was not ready to shell out money I didn’t have to participate in a craft show, which in my area can cost anywhere from about $75 to several hundred.
The thing was I really wanted the experience of selling my jewelry directly to people.
Before I dove, I wanted to:
- Make sure I was comfortable doing it
- Test out accepting credit card payments
- Practice setting up my jewelry so that when I did do a craft show I felt ready.
I also wanted a low-cost way to do it.
A home trunk show.
What is a home trunk show?
A home trunk show is like having your own pop-up boutique that you set up in someone’s home where you sell your handmade jewelry.
It can be done either out of your house or at someone’s else home. There’s little to no financial investment (other than the cost of making your jewelry and perhaps some snacks) which makes it a great option for people at all levels of jewelry-making, especially those just dipping their toes into being a business owner and don’t yet have the capital to pay expensive craft show fees.
Because it’s done out of someone’s home, they tend to be smaller and more intimate. They give you an opportunity to talk and mingle with potential customers and get direct feedback in a more relaxed setting.
Tips for a having a successful home trunk show
Find a host
If you haven’t yet completely exhausted your personal network — that is, your friends aren’t tired of receiving or buying your handmade creations — you can host the trunk show yourself.
Alternatively, reach out to some friends or acquaintances to see if they would be interested in hosting.
As an incentive, I like to offer a special to people for hosting, say a heavy discount or a credit toward any purchases they make depending on how many sales I make. However, I tend to make the most sales when I host, but I only do a trunk show every 2-3 years.
Pick an ideal time
Choose a time of year people are more likely to be thinking about buying jewelry, such as right before Mother’s Day, Christmas, or even Valentine’s Day.
If you’re planning yours to coincide with Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day, a week or two before the holiday is best. For the holiday season, late October to early December is an ideal time, since the holidays are on people’s radar but they aren’t scrambling for last-minute bargains.
For me, a three-hour show tends to work really well. It gives people a big enough window of time that they can drop it but not so much time that my guests trickle in and leave. Generally, the first 30 minutes to an hour are pretty quiet, and most of the purchasing happens in the second half of the trunk show.
Team up with another maker or small business owner
One of my most successful shows I partnered with my friend and owner of Bharat Babies, a children’s book company that shares stories about Indian culture.
It may sound like an odd mix, but it worked really well.
Many of the women who attended our trunk show were moms of young children or who worked in education. They loved that they were able to purchase high-quality books for their kids AND buy something nice for themselves.
The advantage of teaming up with someone else is it expands your network so you aren’t just reaching out to your own friends or family members.
You probably don’t want to partner with another jewelry designer — unless their jewelry is VERY different from yours. Instead, think about complementary businesses, such as someone who makes scarves or pottery.
Give people ample heads up
For my first trunk show, I sent a save-the-date out about a month before so people knew about it, then sent out a more formal invitation a couple weeks ahead. I recommend setting up a Facebook invitation or something like Evite or Paperless Post, which are both free and allow you to send virtual invites. That way you can get a sense of how many people will attend, guests can see who else will be attending, and you can easily send out reminders.
So who should you invite?
Even if you worry your friends are tapped out, invite them anyway. Let them know there is absolutely no pressure to buy anything, but you would just love their support through their presence, and encourage them to bring a friend or two. You can even offer an incentive for bringing a friend.
Drum up excitement for your trunk show
If you are doing a Facebook invitation, give guests a preview of what you sell. Post photos of new jewelry designs you are working on and will be selling at the show. You can even show pictures of the process of you making jewelry.
You want to give guests a sense of what they can expect and your style.
You don’t have to spend a ton of money, but something like wine and cheese or simple fingers foods can add a nice touch. It makes the atmosphere both more inviting and laid-back so people have something to do when they aren’t looking at your jewelry
Create a professional set-up
Set up your space so that it has a boutique feel. Arrange furniture so that people have ample room to maneuver around and see your work. Arrange your jewelry on displays like you would see it at a shop or at a show. You want your work to look professional just like you would if you were selling it a store or at a show. Plus it’s a great opportunity to practice how you would display your jewelry for craft shows.
You don’t need to necessarily purchase professional displays, which can be super pricey. Instead, hit up your local thrift store and see if you can find things to repurpose into jewelry displays, such as turning an old picture frame and a dish stand into a jewelry display, or look at what you have around your home.
Also, remember to have mirrors readily available so people can check out how amazing they look in your handmade jewelry!
Follow up with people afterward
Regardless if I’m doing a show out of my home or a big craft show, I always let people know about my newsletter and offer an incentive. For my first trunk show, I did a raffle where an attendee was randomly selected to win a pair of earrings. A day or two after the show, send out an e-mail thanking them for attending and let them know where they can find you online.
Perhaps most importantly, make sure to relax and have fun! If you’re so focused on making sales instead of interacting naturally and enjoying your guests, they’ll pick up on it. Your guests want to have a good time and a positive all-around energy will likely encourage people to buy. And if not, at the very least you got to have a fun few hours with some of your favorite people!
Check out even more tips for rocking your jewelry business.