Organizing Your Own Jewelry Open House

by Kathy Reading.

In the past, I’ve hosted a jewelry open house to sell my handcrafted jewelry in my home, inviting friends and co-workers.

This creates a couple of problems, and since my goal this year was to get new customers and advertise my Home Jewelry Show Party option, I decided to rent a local community center.

The rent for the community center was pretty steep, so I decided to invite other vendors to participate in the open house to cut costs, share customers, and also advertise the show as a “One Stop Holiday Shopping Extravaganza.”

I contacted all sorts of vendors except for other jewelry vendors, as I did not want competition from them. Everyone attending the show would invite their client base, I’d put an ad in the local paper to get a lot of walk-in traffic, and we’d all have a fantastic show and sell all our stuff!

Button bracelet and earring setby Kathy Reading

Button bracelet and earring set
by Kathy Reading

What I Learned Along the Way

  • It’s time-consuming. One lesson I learned almost immediately was the amount of time spent on the phone and emailing information to the vendors. I spent a lot of time, much more than I would have thought with this task. I had to email and call several times to get payment for the rent table, and also sent several reminders about making sure they contacted their customers. I even created a flyer that I emailed to them, all they had to do was print it out and pass it out.
  • It’s even more expensive than I expected. I also didn’t realize that I needed a liability insurance policy to make sure that I was covered if anyone was hurt on the community center property during the show.That set me back $400, and was definitely not in the budget. Another issue associated with money was that I had two vendors who decided at the last minute they were not going to do the show, and of course they hadn’t paid for their table, and it was too late to get a replacement. So now I know to get payment up front and have a “no refunds for cancellation” policy.
  • The ad in the local paper was pretty expensive, but one of the tips I’ve learned from Rena was to put in the ad “return this ad for a free pair of earrings.” That way I would know how much traffic the ad brought in and be able to decide if that expense was worth the cost. Well guess what? I didn’t get one single ad returned for a free pair of earrings.
  • I did a ton of promoting. I had built into the budget printing of flyers, signs, and postage costs. I mailed around 150 postcards advertising the open house, knowing that if you get 5% attendance that is good. I passed out flyers at local businesses and two weeks before the show put a sign up in my yard. Everyone I ran into I told about the show. The community center also advertised the show on their sign, so I felt I had advertising covered.
  • I gathered door prizes. Taking another great idea from Rena, we had each of the vendors donate an item to a door prize table, and we asked everyone who attended to fill out their contact information so we would get an idea of how many people attended the show over the 8-hours that we were set up.
Bead and fiber necklaceby Kathy Reading

Bead and fiber necklace
by Kathy Reading

So, I know you can’t wait to hear –
how did we all make out?

  • Here’s a really big lesson – Our final count for customers was 30, and 25 of those were people that I had invited with my mailed postcards. When I talked with the other vendors during the course of the show, it turns out of the 12 other vendors that were in the show, five of them did not invite any customers; three of them emailed 40 customers, none of whom attended the show; and 4 said they invited all their friends and family.The lesson here is to send out invitations in the mail, emailing doesn’t always work nor does advertising in the local paper and putting up fliers and signs.
  • Where was the walk-in traffic? I’m not sure why the walk-in traffic was virtually non existent that is the most perplexing question. Perhaps the location wasn’t the greatest; perhaps the sunny fall day kept everyone away, perhaps folks already had lots of thing to do that day.But hey, those 25 customers of mine that showed up, they shopped until they dropped for my jewelry. I sold a great deal of jewelry, the show was definitely a success for Catju Designs. Most of the other vendors were disappointed with their sales and the turnout. I emailed them all after the show to send them the contact list from the door prize entries and asked for their feedback on what we could have done differently, and I didn’t get a single response.
  • The biggest lesson I learned from this adventure is that before taking on another venture like this one, to make sure I am ready for all of the time consuming chores that will take me away from what I really want to do, which is make jewelry.

Author Kathy Reading of Catju Designs is a self-taught jewelry designer who has been creating unique pieces for over 15 years. Her jewelry is made with vintage Swarovski crystals, beads, components, findings, and buttons. Inspired by artistic, vintage, and art-deco items, many are one-of-a-kind and limited-edition pieces.

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  1. That is too bad it worked out like that. As for walk in traffic a lot of times the first time a show is done you may not get much. I know from experience that it can take 2 or 3 times to get that off the street traffic to flow in. Other vendors usually only want to reap the benefits and I have found that it takes a lot to get others to work at it as hard as you do. Maybe trying again might work out better.

    I do love that you shared your experience as I was planning to do something like this in our community. May have to do some more home work.

  2. Kathy, it sounds to me like you did just about everything right. But from your description I gather those other participants were mostly hobbyists. If a dozen of them were able to generate no more than five visitors between them, and nearly half failed to invite anyone at all, I’d have to question their seriousness in participating. Next time I’d be more selective and invite only those with a demonstrated interest in growing their business!

    It has been my experience that walk in traffic at events like these is usually just a fraction of the total number of visitors attending. Most visitors will be people vendors already have a personal relationship with. Rather than investing in paid advertising to reach the general public, you can use Facebook, Twitter, free online community bulletin boards as well as free event calendars in local publications. This lets you allocate more of your budget to expanding your contact list and reaching the names on it multiple times. (For example, send out the first invitation, then send another invitation just prior to the show as a reminder.)

    I think you did a bang up job of planning your event. With just a bit of tweaking (i.e. inviting others who are as serious about making it successful as you are) I think your next event will be even more profitable — for all of you!

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