by Lisa McGrimmon
A craft home party can be a great option if you're thinking of starting a handmade business and wondering how to start. It's pretty low risk, and it allows you to sell without a huge investment of time and money.
Parties also give you the opportunity to get to know how customers react to your work - what works and what doesn't - before you invest in more expensive sales venues.
Home craft parties are one of my favorite craft sales strategies, especially in the early stages of a business. They have the advantage of being fairly inexpensive. You won't have large selling expenses, just some hostess incentives. You do not have to compete with any other artists, and you don't need to invest too much time and money in building a huge inventory if you sell crafts in this way.
If you're just starting your craft business, after a few craft home parties, you'll get a better sense of your target market. You'll get a chance to see how customers react to your work. Noticing who does and doesn't buy your work, and what items are most popular will give you a sense of the characteristics of your typical customer, and your most popular pieces, and you won't have to invest a lot of resources to get this information.
A craft home party also has the advantage of having very targeted customers. The guests at your home parties will be interested in whatever you are selling, otherwise they wouldn't have attended the party in the fist place.
If you make the home party sales model an important facet of your business, keep in mind that some people find this model hard to sustain over the long term. Once you've been running craft home parties for a year or two, it is possible to get to a point where you feel you've exhausted your resources and everyone in your network has already had a party or two.
A theory behind the craft home party business model is that they are self perpetuating, in that you book at least one new party from each party you have. It will become important to offer enticing incentives to encourage party guests to host their own home party. Home parties are not always easily self perpetuating, and after a while you may need to work harder to get your next booking. It's a good way to get started for many people, but you will often need additional sales strategies to grow your business.
If the items you sell are small and fairly portable, then they lend themselves more easily to a craft home party business model. Bringing them to your host's home will obviously be a lot easier than it would be if you sell large, bulky items. However, if, for example, you sell hand painted furniture and home accessories, you might bring your smaller, more manageable pieces to a home party so customers can see and touch your work and buy items on the spot. You could then use a good quality brochure and/or photo album of your work to show and build interest in your larger pieces.
You can start booking craft home parties by networking with friends and family. Just letting the supportive people in your life know about your business and the fact that you do home parties is often enough to get some friends to host a party for you. I found that my friends and family were so supportive, I didn't even have to ask a lot of them to host parties for me. Most of them volunteered to host a party as soon as I told them about my new business.
It's been my experience that that best way to book craft home parties is through networking rather than advertising. People are more comfortable letting you into their home if they know you or at least know you are a friend of a friend. Similarly, you'll need to use your own judgment, but I personally feel more comfortable going into someone's home when they are not a complete stranger.
One option for booking more home parties is to trade parties with other non-competing business people who also run home parties. This strategy is fairly common among people who run businesses based on a home party model. For example, if you know someone who is an aesthetician, you could have a home manicure party to help her build her business, and she could in turn host a craft party for you.
The advantages of this approach are that you'll get to have a few fun parties of your own and get the hostess rewards that go along with that. You'll book more of your own home parties, and by watching how others run their parties, you'll pick up a few tips on running your own parties.
From your first parties hosted by your friends, you could offer incentives if more parties are booked as a result of that hostess' party. If you develop some marketing materials to bring to your parties which highlight the benefits of hosting a party, these will help you to book additional home parties.
Home parties can take a lot of different forms. Here are a few to consider:
FORMAL HOME PARTY
At this party you would simply sell your crafts at your host's home. You may choose to have a more formal craft home party where guests arrive at a given time, and you demonstrate your products. This approach works well when you have products that lend themselves well to demonstration or samples, such as a line of your own gourmet dips and sauces or handmade luxury soaps and spa treatments
INFORMAL OPEN HOUSE PARTY
You could have a more informal, open house style of craft home party where guests arrive at various times throughout the afternoon or evening. There is no demonstration at this type of party. Your products are nicely displayed around the host's home, and you and your customers simply enjoy some snacks and conversation while you ring up sales of your crafts.
I have personally found this type of party to be the most lucrative option for my own jewelry business. It doesn't involve a lot of preparation time, and if you're comfortable meeting new people in a party setting, it can be really fun. It works well for crafts that don't really require demonstration. Because people come and go throughout the day, it allows your host to invite a larger number of guests than they might otherwise be able to invite at a more formal type of home party.
Keep in mind the image you create both to your host and her guests. I make a point of keeping my displays simple and streamlined so my host doesn't see me dragging piles of 'stuff' into her home (this also makes my life easier). I also consider what I wear to home parties, keeping in mind the image that I want to portray to my customers. Particularly for an open house party, you might consider bringing along some good music to set the mood. Your host may already have some available, but if she doesn't, she'll be impressed by your preparedness, and the right ambiance can help to boost sales.
TEACHING HOME PARTY
At this type of party, you teach the guests to make a project related to your own craft. Typically guests pay a specified fee to cover materials and your time. This type of party is appropriate if your craft uses fairly portable tools and inexpensive components. Although I bring only quality materials when I have this type of party, I leave my most expensive components at home in order to keep costs at a reasonable level.
You'll need to consider whether your craft lends itself to allowing people to make a satisfying product by learning a few simple skills. I wouldn't recommend a teaching home party that requires customers to learn too many difficult skills. Most people attend this type of party because they want to have fun with their friends and learn something new, but they usually don't want the lesson to be too intense. Keep it light and fun.
Although I have taught for years, I had never taught jewelry making before my first craft home party. So I made sure I was well prepared.
I did a practice run by teaching a few family members to make the jewelry projects I had planned for the home party. It was helpful to get their feedback and have a bit of practice before I got up in front of my paying customers. I learned a lot from my practice run and it helped me gain a lot of confidence before my first party. The time spent paid off in ensuring my host and her guests were happy, and my first party was successful.
I would recommend bringing your own products to sell at a craft making party in order to make the party more lucrative for you. I have noticed at my own jewelry making parties that people will often buy a pair of earrings that I have made, and then they'll make a bracelet or necklace to match. Whatever your craft is, finding a similar way to connect the craft your customers are making with your own finished work can be a good way to boost sales.
On a related note, I always make sure my own finished work uses more advanced techniques than those that I'm teaching at the party. I don't want to minimize my own work by implying that anyone can learn to do it in a couple of hours!
Another option for boosting sales at this type of party is to allow customers to buy kits. Allow them to choose enough raw materials needed to make the same craft that they have learned at the party. You might have an instruction sheet available in case they want to give the kit as a gift to someone who was not at the party. Some nice but inexpensive packaging would finish off the kit.
Here are a few strategies you can use to make things easier for people who host craft home parties for you:
Prepare invitations with everything a guest would need to know. Include your company logo and some photos of the craft they will make or your own finished work (depending on the type of party) to make it look really professional. Leave space to fill in the date, time, and host's contact information, and she can hand them out to her friends and family.
You can also prepare an email version of your invitation or use a site like Evite to send invitations online. Email invitations are great because you can send them for free, and they make it extremely easy for your host to invite her friends who have email access. Keep in mind, some people (like my mom!) are not email users, so it's wise to have a few paper invitations available as well.
Many people will advise their hosts that they need to invite twice as many people as they want to attend. For example, if you want 8 people at your party, you need to invite 16. That has not been my experience with home parties. You do need to invite more, but I've found that about two thirds of all people invited will attend. So if you want 8 people to attend, you need to invite 12.
Particularly if you're new to teaching, this difference can be important in the teaching home party model, because if those parties get too big, it can be difficult to give everyone enough attention to help them have a positive experience.
I really am a big fan of the craft home party model as a way of starting a home craft business. It can help you to build your home business on a small budget and while limiting risk.
Craft Home Party