Shopping Local – Hold A Craft Fair During Coffee Hour

Jon recently helped organize a small craft fair during coffee hour at church, and it was an easy way to encourage people to buy local.  Below, we give simple directions for organizing a simple craft fair.  It’s so easy, anyone can do it.

Buying local is good for the environment because it cuts down on green house gas emissions and other pollution from transportation. When you buy from someone directly, you can ask about what ingredients and materials they use and feel comfortable that you know what is in that food or product you are buying. Also, purchasing something directly from a artisan also means that your money goes directly to the person who made the product, not to corporate profits, exorbitant CEO salaries or shareholders. Buying direct from a crafter is green and good for the economy.

solar panel jewelry for sale at a small craft fair
Jon’s table selling Solar Panel Jewelry

If you’re a regular reader of our blog, you know that Jon makes and sells Solar Panel Jewelry. He does most of his sales via Etsy. When he spends hours having a booth at a fair or event he usually makes very little to show for his time, although he really enjoys the direct compliments on his work. Last year we realized that there were many artists in our church, people who craft and make things to sell. Our church used to hold a large fair each year which was a lot of work. So much work in fact, that we stopped holding them a few years ago. We realized that we needed something simpler and smaller that would allow people from the church, or friends and neighbors, to purchase local made holiday presents without a huge time and energy commitment by the artisans or others.

African handmade bracelets for sale at a craft fair
Bracelets for sale at our craft fair

From this was born the idea of a small Craft Fair during Coffee Hour after church on Sunday. A small semi-formal craft fair could work for any organization that has some sort of regular event that people gather for. Imagine if the turnout is good at your PTO meetings, holding a craft fair for 20 minutes before and 20 minutes after the meeting. Or if your school has a sport that gets a lot of adults attending, consider a brief craft fair between periods (quarters, etc). Or if your school has a well-attended Winter Show, Concert or Play, a craft fair during intermission would be a great opportunity for local crafters to sell their items, parents and others to purchase locally made holiday gifts and for the organization to raise a little money.

Here are a few easy steps to setting an event like this up.

  • 1. Reach out to your crafters/artisans – Put a blurb in the newsletter or bulletin inviting them to have a table on the specified date and time. By putting the blurb out publicly and early, you are also advertising to your potential customers. You may need to work with them to pick a date or you might find it easier to pick a date and see who can come.  At this point, if you need to, you can change the date.  Here is an example invitation from the most recent fair:

    Calling All Grace Church Artists for Craft Fair (Dec 2nd). We are going to hold a craft fair for Grace Church artists to display and hopefully sell some of their crafts during coffee hour following the 10am service on Sunday, December 2nd. The craft fair will be informal and fun from about 11am-12:30pm in the Wiles Hall.
    If you are interested in having a table to showcase and sell your crafts, please contact ******, by Wednesday, November 28th. We suggest a $10 free will offering per table.
    Come Shop Very Locally For the Holidays (Dec 2nd) Pick up some great handmade Christmas gifts and see how creative your fellow Grace Church parishioners are at the craft fair during coffee hour on Sunday, Dec 2nd in the Wiles Hall. The craft fair will begin following the 10am service and run until 12:30pm. Speak to *****with any questions. This event will be advertised on the local newsgroup and please spread the word and invite your friends and neighbors to join us for coffee.

  • 2. Arrange for tables and chairs – hopefully something like church coffee hour or school play intermission has such tables and chairs available for you to borrow.
  • 3. Advertise the Craft Fair – Let people know that the crafters will be selling their handmade goods during the event. In my experience, it is best that the potential customers know about the sale in advance so that they are expecting that they might buy something and come with some cash and the right frame of mind.

It is important that the crafters and customers be from the same community because it means so much more to buy soap, greeting cards or jewelry from someone you see at meetings or in church than from a complete stranger. The idea is not to bring in big, well known vendors, but rather to support each other in the spirit of Christmas and the other holidays.

For the two low key craft fairs at our church, we put forward the request to crafters for an approximate good will donation of $10 to the church.  Because the event is a local and internal crowd, if one of the artisans does really well, they have been known to be more generous.  Also, if one of your members does not do so well at the fair, they do not feel upset about “paying” for the table, but many still do give something.  Depending on your organization, this approach may or may not work.

We have found that if “the event” is 30 minutes during coffee hour, for 20 minutes after a PTO meeting or during intermission of the school play, it keeps the the time commitment short enough so new crafters are not overwhelmed.

It’s OK if the event is small.  You are raising awareness about local crafters and about buying local for the holidays. The first year we did this we had 5 crafters who each sold a few items. This year we had 8 tables of people selling and it was nice because it was a very good community building opportunity.  Several of the crafters did very well this year. People were pleased to show what they do and the community was excited to see the talent in our midst.

Setting up an opportunity for your members to support each other through local gift purchases is a great way to go green and build community at the same time.

Happy Greening,

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  1. Greetings! Very useful advice in this particular post!

    It is the little changes that make the most important changes.
    Thanks for sharing!

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