What I learned at the craft fair: Lesson 4 -- Never underestimate the value of a good wingman (or woman)

Do you have a wingman or woman helping you?
Craft fairs are hard work -- weeks spent making products, days preparing and packing your booth, hours setting up and tearing down. Some lucky folks have a partner or friend who agrees to help. 

I'm even more fortunate. My husband not only "mans" the booth with me. He also constructs custom props to display my products. I try to keep him happy. 

Here are 5 ways to make the most of your support person.

1) Find out how much they're willing to do, in advance.

Before I sign up for a fair, I ask my husband how he wants to help. Will he sit at the booth with me? For both days? Will he move his car out of the garage so I can test out different setups? How does he feel about chatting with customers? I don't get all this in writing, but it might not be a bad idea.

2) Play to their strengths and make it fun for them.

Cool new thing
My husband is a born engineer and inventor. Like me, he enjoys taking old stuff and making new cool things. (The difference is, his look like something out of Terminator while mine are more Saturday Night Fever.)

So I'm always looking for ways to exploit his talents. He's built almost all of my displays, which he designs from scratch using the most unexpected materials.For instance, he made a rotating display for my domino magnets out of metal ducts, hardware from a repurposed lazy susan, and pine boards from his stash. 

For my blank books and Kindle book cases, he designed twin foldable stands out of pegboard and scrap wood. They're sturdy, attractive and portable.
portable stand for displaying books
Also tornado-proof
And amazingly (for an engineer), he's got right-brain chops as well. He has a good eye for design and aesthetics. That's how I ended up with this bracelet display, a piece of art in itself.
bracelet display made out of puzzle pieces
The right hand does know what the left hand is doing.
(I'm hoping he'll do a guest blog post describing how to make some of these displays. But I'll wait 'til he recovers from the show.)

3) Identify your weaknesses and fill the gap.

I can't lift heavy things or toot my own horn. Luckily, my husband can do both. He's eager to talk up my products and abilities, and even thrust my business card at passers-by. So I'm glad to let him do what I can't or won't.

4) Ask for feedback, and receive it gracefully.

With new ideas and important decisions, I always take the time to ask for my husband's opinion. Should I reserve a large booth or just go with tables? Am I displaying too much stuff? Not enough? What kind of free stuff should I hand out? Is $20 too much to charge?

To get the most useful feedback, I try to ask specific questions. If there's something in particular I'm concerned about, I mention it. Instead of "What do you think of this sign?" I'll say "Do you think this font is too childish?"
Another bracelet display
Does this display make me look fat? He knows how to answer THAT question!
Then I try to listen to his feedback without arguing or taking it personally. (See, therapy does pay off.) And I accept and incorporate as many of his ideas as I can. They make my booth (and business) better, and him even happier.

5) Give thanks often and in a way that means the most to your helper.

My husband likes to hear a sincere "thank you," so I try to say it often. I mention the specific thing I'm thankful for, so my words don't sound automatic or empty. And I describe why that thing was so valuable to me. Instead of "thanks for helping!" I say "The display you made for my bracelets caught the customers' attention and let me make eye contact with them as they were browsing."
WIngman at work
Get yer own!
There are several ways of showing gratitude. Five, in fact:
  1. Words of affirmation
  2. Quality time
  3. Gifts
  4. Acts of service
  5. Physical touch
Show gratitude in the way your partner will appreciate most, which may not be what you'd prefer. So, besides lots of affirmation, I made sure my husband got a tasty dinner (take-kout, but that's ok) after the fair (#3, gift). And I'm trying to assist him with his next project (#4, act of service).

And, the last lesson I learned at the fair...