Crowdfunding a Trade Show Booth

Potters Rowan and Charles Hughes wanted to enter the wholesale marketplace, and needed to raise some capital. They found it on Kickstarter.


Hughes Pottery custom mugs


After retailing their pottery for a few years, Rowan and Charles Hughes of Hughes Pottery in State College, Pennsylvania were approached by a local coffee shop to make some custom mugs. Other orders followed from restaurants and pubs, and they began to consider whether wholesaling their work might be a good business strategy.

There was a lot of appeal in spending less time on the road doing retail shows, and less money on gas and fees. They also liked the idea of producing only what has already been ordered, so they started planning how to enter the wholesale market. “It’s been quite a revelation,” says Rowan. They set a goal to make wholesaling half of their business.


Trade Show Booth


A big part of this plan was to become exhibitors at the Buyers Market of American Craft trade show in Philadelphia, and they turned to Kickstarter to raise funds for the project. Having participated by backing other people’s projects, they understood the concept.  “I thought Kickstarter  would be the perfect platform for the kind of fundraising we wanted to do,” says Rowan, “It’s geared toward creative projects and has the most recognizable brand name in the crowdfunding world.”

Take a look at their Kickstarter page, which has an accompanying video and humorous approach to asking for donations to their worthy cause. They were wildly successful, and raised over $9,000.00 for their project  even though their original goal was only $5,000.00.

Pressing onward to the Buyers Market in February, 2013, the Hughes couple set up their booth, getting lots of compliments along the way. They came away with good information about what buyers expect from them as sellers, ways to tweak their pricing structure, and ideas on show specials. They also learned how to put together a lighter, more packable booth display.


Handthrown pottery


Could a Kickstarter campaign work for your art business? Rowan Hughes has some good advice for others who may want to follow in their footsteps. “Get a solid network of supporters/fans before you even think of launching a project,” she says, “Whether it’s an active fan page on Facebook or a well-followed Twitter or Pinterest account, or an email list (or all of these), most of the people who will back your project come from your own pool of supportive people.”

She stresses that only 10% of their backer money came from people who stumbled across their Kickstarter page. The other 90% came from their Facebook fan page.

“Don’t make the mistake of thinking that once you launch your page you can just sit back and watch the money roll in,” she cautions, “You have to actively promote to friends, family and fans the entire time to keep the momentum up.”

Kickstarter has tutorials on how to create a solid fundraising campaign. Rowan suggests researching other people’s projects for good ideas so that you can create your own appealing campaign.

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