Craft Show Survival Kit :: Part I - The Bag

One of the things I found most stressful about prepping for my very first few shows (several years ago) was the worry that I might forget something important. It would, of course, be something I could not live without. The whole show would fall apart and I would crawl home, a disappointing slug. Hopefully, your mind is not as overactive and dramatic as mine is, but you get the point.

I have learned two very important lessons since my first sleepless night before the big event.
  • You cannot put a value on the peace-of-mind you get arriving at a show with everything you need and feeling completely prepared for the day.
  • You are only human and you will forget things. The good news is: you can forget a LOT of things before you actually turn into a disappointing slug. 

As a crafter, you are probably constantly trying to streamline and improve the production process. It is good sense to streamline whatever you can, and why not do that for your craft show prep as well?
This article is going to cover what I ridiculously call my “Administrative Bag.” The Bag is a big, red tote that I go to when I am looking for anything set-up or business related. It should contain everything you need for the business portion of your show. This may include, but is not limited to, the following items:

Change Bag/Box
  • Full of change for the show.
  • Sheet of paper tracking exactly how much change I leave with. I double check this number when I get home and work through my sales numbers. This is a great way to catch any missing sales or miscalculations
  • Sales Tax and Use License. You should have this with you at every show you attend. Make a copy that you can use for shopping etc, and rest assured knowing that your original will always be safely tucked away here.
  • Credit card processor. In one word: Square. If you don’t have one of these, I can’t endorse it enough. Square is an incredibly affordable and easy way to accept credit cards on the go. If you have a smart phone, then you can have a square. The reader is free and so easy to use.
  • Emergency pen, just in case I need to scribble something on a check etc.

Record Book
  • I like to track my sales as I receive them by quickly jotting them down in my notebook. Again, this is a great way to not only track sales but to avoid any accounting errors.

Vendor Packet
  • Now, this is something that changes from show to show. I usually print all my vendor information, review it, and slide it into ye ol bag for later. Good news is, you usually receive a little vendor packet the day of the show, or at least at the setup. It’s not something that you necessarily have to remember to bring. You already have your bag with you, and you can just slip it in there when you get it. If you have questions later about hours, tear-down, or venue locations… you have all that information in one place. When someone asks me where the bathrooms are, I can easily access my map and show them. Similarly, I love to have it on hand in case someone mentions something that they just love. For example, I sold a Sock Monkey Hat to a woman who just LOVES sock monkeys. So I am happy to tell her that just down the aisle at spot G214, there is a vendor that sells the most amazing sock monkeys. Go check her out!

Business Cards
  • Even if it is your very first show, it is imperative to have some kind of branding and contact information. What is the point of networking and making contacts if, after the event, no one has a way of remembering what you did and how to get in touch with you to order it? I keep a constant supply of (more than I need) business cards in this bag at all times. I refill it after each show and check my master supply to know when it’s time to re-order.

Contact Book
  • Craft shows are a great place to network, advertise, and gain exposure.  Even if someone cannot support your business at the show, that doesn't mean that they wouldn't like to in the future.  Having a newsletter, if only to announce sales and upcoming shows, is an important tool to build repeat as well as future business.  At all my shows, I encourage just that.  I set out a notebook for shoppers jot down their information if they are interested in receiving updates, and at the end of the show I input these entries into my newsletter list.  Once I'm done, I flip to a new page and put the notebook back for the next show. 

    Tool Box
    • This little sucker will be covered in depth in Part II : The Box, since I think it is the most glorious part of my Survival Kit.

    So, my bags are literally packed and I am ready to go. It is one (or a million) less thing(s) to worry about gathering up and/or forgetting, allowing me to sleep a little better AND a little later. It eliminates a huge part of my Packing List, because the bag stays completely intact, always. When I get home, the bag goes into my studio and is already packed and ready for my next show.

    For shows that last more than one day, I can just pick up my little red bag at the end of the day and go. All my money is safe and sound, and it is much harder to forget a red bag hanging on the door knob than it is a tiny little money pouch.

    Stay tuned for Part II: The Box, where I will cover all those little essentials that come together to make a Tool Box I never leave home without.

    preparing for a craft show, craft show supplies, craft show supply list, first craft show help


    1. Awesome list! Great tips for anyone participating in a craft show!

    2. OMG! Where was this list when I started doing shows!?!?! I SO could have used this list the first couple of shows we did! LOL

    3. wow, this is a great resource for newbies like me! i'm working on getting a booth together now. thank you!

    4. Thank you so much for that, I'm going to print them all out to save on the usual stress! x

    5. Thank you so much for putting together this list. I am setting up for my very first craft show and your post has been a great help.