2021 will go down in the books as quite a year—a year of growth, recovery, gratitude, and so much more. This year, we were fortunate to connect artists with customers in-person again at our MADE fairs after having canceled everything in 2020. Our brick-and-mortar shop in Polson has been growing in popularity, and we are adding a dozen more artists to the mix for 2022 and offering a more comprehensive selection of goods to purchase both in-store and online. We love to provide opportunities for creatives, and we have gotten feedback that this was a record-breaking year for most. We have read the surveys, emails, gathered the numbers, written checks to non-profits, and are very proud of the following numbers:
4events successfully organized and presented by handMADE Montana
412 artists provided opportunities at our events and retail store
2283pounds of food donated at our fall & holiday MADE fairs
7750dollars raised for Thrive (Bozeman) & Jeannette Rankin Peace Center (Missoula) via the VIP passes
1.6 Millionestimated dollars of revenue generated for local & regional artists at our MADE fairs in Missoula, Bozeman, and Helena and our retail store in Polson, MT
As we look forward to 2022, we are making plans to tweak events for both artists and customers attending, and we will be adding a Bozeman Spring MADE fair in May to jump-start the market season. When planning our events and selecting dates, we are often at the mercy of the facility's fluctuating sports schedules. We feel a spring show is perfectly timed to find something special for Mother's Day or that recent graduate. We are introducing a special Friday Night Preview to give those wanting a more intimate shopping experience with more details to come. Last year we raised over $3000 for Bozeman's THRIVE (support and mentoring program for children and families) via the $10 VIP pass. We will continue to partner with a local organization to offer early access shopping on Saturday morning, 9 am-10 am!
Another slight shift is changing our Helena Holiday MADE fair to a 1-day event with an evening preview the Friday before. We respond to what our artists tell us and how the community supports events. Our holiday show in Missoula will always remain a 1-day event due to a possible football playoff game on Saturday. We will be able to load in on Saturday, but we can't be guaranteed to have the whole day until weeks before.
We are often asked the following questions and thought we could answer a couple of them here:
Q:Are you going to be introducing an event in Kalispell, Whitefish, or Billings?
A: It is something we are thinking about for sure and most likely a summer event if we can find a suitable venue to accommodate all of our artists and customers. There are a few things we consider when adding new events. Will artists want to travel to participate, is there a venue big enough (50,000 sq feet is ideal + parking), and is there a customer base to support and shop the event.
Q: How do I get my products in the retail shop or on the website?
A:We recently reviewed all of the artists we support in the shop and have invited a dozen new ones to be a part of the store. If you are interested in being considered in the future, please fill out an online submission
Our summers are pretty crazy with tourists, and our visitors are eager to bring home a bit of Montana with them. We encourage visitors to choose products made by local & regional artists instead of something with just the shape of MT slapped on it. We have seen great success with functional art pieces and less so with more fine works of art.
Q:How do I get the best booth at the show?
A: This is a good one. We try to be consistent with artist placement from year to year if possible. We feel there are no terrible spaces at an event, but here are a few ways you can move closer to the front.
Fill out your contract and pay your booth fee ASAP once accepted.
Volunteer! We are always looking for folks to hang posters, chalk, set-up, clean-up, etc., and would love to return the favor with more premium placement.
Be kind. If you have had a bad experience in the past, let us know constructively.
Remember to stay for the duration of the event. We notice if people pack up early.
One more thing on the subject is presentation and showmanship. As artists, we are sometimes a shy population that don’t enjoy interacting with others. You may need to put on a different
personality for shows and talk to every customer that approaches your booth. Presentation of your goods should be inviting, and it’s always great to try and have a genuine conversation about the items you sell and your process in making them. People at events like the MADE fairs choose to be there because they want to find a unique item and know its story, so tell it.
Q: The events seem to be overwhelming, and so many artists! Have you thought about making them smaller?
A: The MADE fairs have grown in size, and so has our audience. We feel there is plenty of pie to go around, but that being said, we have decided to change things up a little. We are eliminating the smallest booth size for two reasons. One, it is pretty tiny, and we find that many artists find it challenging to sell products in such a small space and secondly, we can have fewer artists at our events and focus on a more diverse and curated collection.
Q: Why isn't attending the event free anymore?
A: It is still free to attend! Recently, we have introduced VIP shopping hours for those wanting a more intimate shopping experience. The ticket fee proceeds go directly to a non-profit and not in our pockets. We feel it is essential to give back to the community that supports our artists and shows. These VIP shopping hours are in addition and prior to published hours of the event so as not to confuse.