How to Sell at Shows

About, Design


If you’ve stood next to your products watching people walk past you as you “hello” then you know the torture that can come from having a booth at a craft fair. You’ve worked hard on your product, decided to do a show, and have your booth set up just the way you’d like. Now you just have to wait and let the customers roll in, right?

What happened? Where are the customers? Where are the wods of cash you were hoping to bring home with you? We’ve all been there. Here’s a few tips we’ve learned that will hopefully stop this from happening to anyone else.

  • PUMP IT UP -Most list you’ll read will start off by talking about your booth. Don’t start with your booth. Start with the event. Start with building it up on your platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat. If you’ve got followers that live in the area let them know where you’ll be. People like connecting. That’s why social media works. If they have a chance to check out your product in person or meet you face-to-face they’ll likely make an effort to do so.


  • DRESS IT UP – Nobody walks onto a car lot and asks to see the ugliest car there. People go to what catches their eye.  Put as much effort in your booth as you do for your product. Make it stand out. DO NOT use one of those neon plastic table cloths you picked up from the dollar store on your way to the show. Those are ugly. It’s like going to the prom in your pajamas.


  • ASK YOURSELF – With most small businesses, you are your customer demographic. Meaning the type of people that will buy your products probably have a lot in common with you. It’s unlikely you’re a Northwestern lumberjack selling pink crochet doilies (if you are, contact me because you are awesome). So what would you like to see at a booth? What would draw your attention? Do that.


  • USE WHAT YOU HAVE – Once you decided that your booth is a priority and you have ideas swirling in your head, you’ll probably do a Google search or check out Pinterest to see tons of ideas. Unless you just have gobs of money to throw at a booth, don’t waste your money on purchasing a lot of decorations. Use what you have. Make some stands from leftover wood. Grab some furniture from the thrift store and dress it up. Use that same resourcefulness that made you a maker and focus it on your booth.


  • DON’T BE LATE – Just don’t do it. Don’t be late setting up. MAKE yourself be there early. Be the first one setting up. It will give you more time to get comfortable and get those confidence-juices flowing. Being late is very inconsiderate to the people hosting the show. Show up early and stay the entire length of the show. It’s just good manners and should go without saying.


  •  GET OUT THERE – Do not sit behind a table. You’re not giving out raffle tickets. You’re not selling something at a concession stand. You’re selling something you work hard at and believe in. Don’t hide behind a fold-up table! Stand up and get out there. Meet people. Enjoy yourself and make sure other people do too.


  •  YOUR STOCK WILL NOT SELL ITSELF – We all have this sort of internal scenario where we just put out our stuff and flocks of people gather around to “ooh & ahh” at what we’ve done. Guess what – that’s not how it works. People walk around a craft show and slow down at booths that catch their eye. They’ll pick up something that looks appealing. They’ll buy it if they feel it’s worth the price. Do anything you can to help that process. Help customers look at your items as something of value. If they perceive the value of your item is greater than the price, then you’ve got a sale on the way. This won’t happen by itself though. You’ve got to work for it. Don’t be pushy, but don’t let your customers walk away without an interaction from you.


  • DO NOT GIVE OUT YOUR BUSINESS CARD – I know this sounds insane, but hear me out. If you are speaking to a customer who is interested in your business, DO NOT GIVE THEM A CARD. Giving someone a card signifies that the transaction is finished and they are free to move away from your booth, like telling them they’ve got what they came for. You are effectively killing the conversation and the opportunity of a sale. Don’t close by giving a card, close with a sale. If they ask for a card of course give them one or if there is a particular reason like to do a custom order in the future. Overall goal should not be to hand out cards. Your goal is to make a sale.


  •  DON’T SEE COMPETITION – If selling just doesn’t come natural for you, holding your own at your booth can really be a challenge. Here’s a tip – do not compare yourself to others. You are not competing against anyone there. You should only be competing with yourself. Focus on doing a better job at this show than you did at the last.


  • EMBRACE THE COMMUNITY – You’ll meet some of the friendliest people at shows. Every other maker there is going through the same thing as you. Make an effort to talk to the folks there. If you like something, give a compliment. Gather ideas for your next display. Ask them about their products. It won’t take long for you to realize that sometimes the best customers you’ll have are other crafters. They’ve spent the whole day looking at your booth and as soon as they get a little cash for themselves, they tend to shop.


  • DON’T PANIC – There you are – the show is wrapping up and you’re left with a ton of stock you didn’t sell. It happens every time and every time you’ll be tempted to start slashing prices just to get a sale. DON’T. Don’t start selling things from a scarcity mindset. When you reduce the price of your products you de-value your own work. Just because you still have it at your booth doesn’t mean it’s any less valuable or has any lower quality. If you really want to get rid of something then give it away. Free goes so much further than discounted.


  • LEARN FROM IT ALL – After the day is over and you’re all packed up make sure to take a moments and write down the experience.
    • What worked?
    • What didn’t?
    • What did you feel good about?
    • What do you think you struggled with?
    • What do you think you need to work on?
    • What caught customer’s eye?
    • What items sold the best?
    • Are my prices too high or too low?

Take a moment while the events are still fresh and make some notes for next time. Learn each time and you’ll get better and better.

These are a few tips I hope other makers will find helpful. If you’ve got a great product you owe it to people to put it in their hands. Don’t let a few simple mistakes at a booth keep that from happening.



The Unspoken Value of Handmade

About, Design

SawHorse tag

Handmade things are just better.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a butcher block or the weird looking coffee mug your kid made you in art class. There’s a value that goes past the quality materials or the maker’s detailed craftsmanship.

recent article suggested value can be broken into categories of functional, emotional, life-changing, and social impact. FitBits are a good example. FitBits aren’t just wearable technology. They’re motivation and a signal to everyone else that you’re taking your fitness seriously. That’s life-changing.

When I read this I  thought of the value associated with handmade items like ours at ScrapMills.  While we can’t promise much in the side of weight loss, our items carry an emotional value that can’t be found in other products. Handmade items have greater value.

You won’t find emotional value in something you picked up from Target. After you’re gone, no one will hope you left them that clock you got on clearance from TJ Maxx.

No matter how much you paid for it, products picked online or pulled off a shelf will never have the emotional value that clings to  a handmade piece.  After something passes through the first set of hands it starts to lose value. Your grandparent’s may have paid good money for some candlestick holders, but unless it fits your décor, you’re going to stick it in storage or sell it online. Regardless of how much is spent, mass production pieces don’t have a long journey before they end up in someone’s yard sale.

Functional items tend to depreciate faster than anything else. It doesn’t matter how good they look or how expensive they originally were. If you can’t use them, you’ll get rid of them. It’s because there’s no emotional value.

That’s where handmade makes a difference. These things may be functional, but the also serve an aesthetic and emotional purpose. They remind you of something or someone. They’ll remind you of your wedding day or that Bible verse your grandfather always said. They can motivate you to be adventurous or to take equal doses of coffee and Jesus.

They speak to you every time you walk past them. Before long they grow a voice of their own. It’s unspoken, but it lingers and it lasts.

Community Over Competition


“There has never been a statue erected to honor a critic.” | Zig Ziglar

Wood Background

When we started this business a short time ago we learned very quickly that we aren’t the only ones in the game. We were just launching our message and already I felt drowned out by everyone else. Etsy, Shopify, and Instagram are for full of people who make hand-painted  reclaimed wood signs like us. And like everyone else who is insecure, I would size up the competition at every turn.

“Eww that’s ugly.”

“That looks like a third-grader did it.”

“I mean it looks nice, but they are charging way too much.”  

It was almost a little game to critique everyone’s work I saw. I know, it sounds awful, but what’s worse, it was fun. It made me laugh and made me feel better about my own work.

Here’s the thing though; It didn’t make my work any better. It didn’t get me any more sales or any more orders. It wasn’t constructive. When you don’t have a lot of spare time you realize anything that is not constructive can easily become destructive.

So I stopped.

Instead of looking at other people’s work with the critical eye of competition, I started looking at things through the welcoming lens of community.

I’d try to find something good in any work I saw and if I had a chance, I’d let the maker know I liked it.

Not only is it the right thing to do, it’s also is constructive. When you open yourself up to seeing other people’s work in a positive light you open yourself up to learn. You see new techniques, new setups, new ways to market products.

You also get more business. If you follow a business similar to your own, their followers will likely to do the same. They’ll see your work and explore your page. With increased traffic comes the higher likelihood of orders. It’s a win-win.

I still feel competition often breeds the best work, but the best place for it is with yourself. Compete against your own high standards. Compete against your own past works.

You have to decide to run the race like you are running against yourself and see everyone else as the crowd at the finish line.

The Problem with Hand-Painted


“Crafting verses Craftsmanship”


For the longest time, when a store front wanted a new sign on their window or advertise the reduced price on a seasonal fruit they’d have to contact their local sign painter.

As with most things, technology and digital capabilities have made this a relic of the past. Now a business owner can call a local screen printer and have a banner made in a matter of minutes. Where once there would have been a beautiful design with depth and character, has now been replaced by a banner that will soon fade in the sun, tatter in the rain, and droop with age. Far too often it will remain in place after all its gloss is gone and every comprise made in purchasing this over a hand-painted sign comes to light.

This is not an indictment on screen print signs or vinyl. They have their place and they serve a purpose.

In recent years vinyl cut-outs have made their way into our homes. With little work, crafters are able to print and stick words to wood for a faux paint piece.

This is where paint has a problem.

Sign painting by hand is not a quick and simple solution. Hand-painted items take time to design, layout, prep, and execute. It is not something anyone can do by purchasing a supped-up sticker-maker. Painting by hand takes hours of practice and patience.

Hand-painting also makes work for the client. Unlike vinyl, hand-painted items require design input from the client. Every new piece is a collaborative effort and the results are something genuine.

The problems for paint are real and present an obstacle. The thing is that these problems are  symptoms, not a diagnosis.

These “problems” are there because the end result is something that has to be achieved. These problems are part of the process to burn away impurities and refine the finished product. A product that worked its way into creation and earned its place.

That’s where the problems for vinyl are far greater than anything with paint.

Paint is one of a kind. Vinyl is ubiquitous. It’s a cookie-cutter design with little to no individuality. It’s crafting verses craftsmanship.

Vinyl is opening a door on the freezer aisle and picking out a box. Paint is your grandmother slicing each piece of apple herself and spending all day working on a pie, made in a way only she could do.

In the end, the problem with paint is a problem worth having.

And now I want pie.

Halfway There


“Show up every day for two years.”  | Sean McCabe


When my wife and I launched ScrapMills Signs & More we really didn’t have an idea of where it would take us. We had goals that we wanted to reach and only knew of one way to get there; By continuing to work hard on each order we received.

Growing this type of business was something neither of us had ever done before so we sought out as much information as we could find. A great resources we came across was I read all his blog posts and started listening to his podcasts.

Out of all the advice we found the piece that resonated with me most was show up every day for two years.

So that’s what we’ve been doing. We show up.

It started out slow for us but by the end of last year we couldn’t believe how many signs we had made in our first nine months.

It’s now been a little over one year since we started. In that short time our business has thrived. At only three months into this year, we had already received half of the orders we had in 2015.

We’ve now reached one year but we think of it more like getting halfway. We are looking ahead to the two-year mark now. We aren’t seeing it as a finish line. Just checkpoint on the road, reminding us to keep showing up, every day.



The Tagline



Since our launch, our tagline as been “hand-painted custom signs” and it’s worked. It’s short and to the point. But while it’s been accurate, it’s been uninspired.

Sure we make hand-painted custom signs, but I think we do more than that. We want to be more than that. It was time for a change.

We wanted to change it not because we wanted to separate ourselves from everyone else who makes things from reclaimed wood. We wanted to share what makes us who we are, why we do what we do, and why we like doing it for others. We came up with this:

“Making who you are, a part of where you are”

You can buy things from any store and hang it on your wall or put it on your shelf, but we want to offer something more than that for our customers. We want to take a little piece of your individuality and allow it to make wherever you are, reflect who you are.


On Simplicity

About, Design

“In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.”  | Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

As our business has grown, so have our tastes and preference for the work we do. There are a ton of websites and online stores where you can purchase reclaimed wood signs. We want our work to be different. We have discovered that when given the option we would most always lean towards the feeling of simplicity in our projects.

And there’s a reason for that.

Our goal is to allow our work to occupy a space, not take it over.

We enjoy letting our signs be discovered, rather than be something that jumps out for attention as soon as you walk into a room. We hope anything you get from us becomes apart of your home and feels organic, like something you’ve owned for years. We work hard every day to make this evident in each thing we create.

The greatest thing about this work is that we enjoy the process as much as the finished product. Thank you for supporting us along the way!