6 Tips for Getting Accepted Into The Handcrafted Cooperative

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Thank you for your interest in our market!  As you can imagine, the application process takes a lot of time, effort and courage from people like you!  Sometimes it’s helpful to get some insight on the acceptance criteria. We’ve laid it all out for you in this blog post.  

Here are 6 tips for getting accepted into The Handcrafted Cooperative

Make Original Products With Quality

Jewelry, ceramics and fine art are very saturated in the craft industry.  The Handcrafted Cooperative typically receives 20-30% jewelry submissions alone and It’s not uncommon for most of the rejections to come from that category.  It’s so important for those of you in these categories to stand out with unique designs, quality craftsmanship and above average applications.

Other saturated themes we’ve seen:

  • the use of a state’s contour, colors or common sayings

    • We can only accept so many people that use West Virginia in their product line! If you want West Virginia to inspire your product line, think of fresh ways to incorporate its essence into your work without being so obvious. Check out the examples below from Rosalie Haizlett and Base Camp Printing Co.

  • stickers and decals

  • painted reclaimed wood products

  • handmade soaps

The Handcrafted Cooperative wants its community of makers to be supportive, not competitive. Before you apply, you might want to consider how many other makers are doing the same thing as you.  If you sell unique, well produced items the chance of acceptance increase significantly.

Rosalie Haizlett,  Mushrooms of West Virginia Art Print

Rosalie Haizlett, Mushrooms of West Virginia Art Print

Base Camp Printing Co , One Time in Morgantown Postcard

Base Camp Printing Co, One Time in Morgantown Postcard

Make Your Product Line Cohesive

If you’re just starting there’s a good chance you’ve treated making as a hobby.  You’ve probably made many things as you dabble into new skills and techniques. This is fine if you want to continue with a hobby; It’s not OK for a business, though.  A successful maker business has a cohesive product line that incorporates consistent design elements like:

  • function

  • materials and textures

  • color

  • lines, shapes, patterns

Your products must show balance and compliment one another. Consistency is key.  You don’t want random ideas or designs in your product line. It will just make your customer confused.

If you’re still in the beginning stages of figuring out how to diversify your product line, we recommend studying Harvard Business Review’s 30 Elements of Consumer Value: A Hierarchy.  See where your product fits and how you can increase value to your customer.

Garner Blue  features a cohesive product line of cotton wovens and wood, indigo color, consistent geometric patterns

Garner Blue features a cohesive product line of cotton wovens and wood, indigo color, consistent geometric patterns

Create an Outstanding Brand Experience

Your brand must be truly represented in all you design, say and do.  And it should be a reflection of you. We look at many things to examine your brand experience. Here are a few:

  • Your business name, logo and e-mail address

  • Quality of business graphics

    • Printed marketing material (pricing, display signage, product photos, etc.)

    • Digital marketing (social media, website, online store, blog, etc.)

  • Visual merchandising as shown in your display photos

  • The kind of materials you use in your products, marketing, and visual merchandising

  • The personal essence that shows up in your communication; the brand story you tell

The Handcrafted Cooperative jurors first look at your submitted photos and then review the rest of your application.  Your photos must be well lit, in focus, and professional-looking. With the amount of video tutorials and smartphone capabilities these days, there is really no excuse for not providing great pictures of the products you worked so hard to design, create and sell.

Professional makers and small business owners understand the problem their products solve.  They’re able to create a brand experience around this. Owner of Coco & June, Emily Kurth, does a fantastic job at this.  She knows there is so much stress and negativity surrounding our lives, so her product line is dedicated to spreading good vibes and positivity.  Everything about her brand experience stays true to solving that problem for her clientele. If you still haven’t figured out what problem your brand solves, we recommend reading Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller. He will get you on track.

Coco & June  welcomes her customers into a great branding experience. She used  Donald Miller’s Building a StoryBrand  to create a clear message.

Coco & June welcomes her customers into a great branding experience. She used Donald Miller’s Building a StoryBrand to create a clear message.

Have an Online Presence

There are so many website hosts and social media platforms out there, it’s difficult for creatives to know where to start with online presence.  For starters, you need to have a website or on online store. You also need to use multiple platforms to connect with your customers and audience.   Applicants without a website/online store and at least one social media account cannot be accepted into the market. Without them, you cannot market the event.   The Handcrafted Cooperative wants to see that you have the ability to interact with customers, promote the event and brag about all of the awesome things you make!

Sell Products That Fit

Before you apply, do research on The Handcrafted Cooperative’s previous lineups.  This isn’t your typical church gymnasium craft show. It’s the best maker market in West Virginia.  And we curate contemporary makers that take design and craft very seriously. Look how beautifully some of our June 2019 market participants compliment one another.

Be Professional and Kind

Professional makers operate like a true business. They have a business license, professional images of their work and take a serious approach to applying for business-to-consumer markets. The application questions are very specific and we’ve even included examples of the kind of photographs expected from applicants.  It’s not professional to ask the event organizer for exceptions to any section of the application. The application window typically opens for 4 weeks. If you’re new to this process, use that time to prepare all information and photos being requested in the application.

The Handcrafted Cooperative receives so many applications that we don’t have the time or resources to review incomplete work.  Incomplete applications go right into the rejection pile. It’s important to follow detailed instructions. For example, If the application asks for a link to your social media, don’t provide just your @handle.  Fill out the application and then review it a couple of times to ensure all information is accurate before you hit submit.

Finally, be kind and positive.  The Handcrafted Cooperative community is all about supporting and lifting up one another.  If the jurors notice negativity during the review of your application and brand, they won’t let you in.  Negative responses to application rejections are unprofessional and they will not be tolerated in our community.  Our market is only open for those that want to empower the creative movement.

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Thank you for taking the time to read through these tips.  We have every intention to continue to build this event into one of the most highly respected maker markets in West Virginia.  We hope this information will support you on your handmade journey!

All the best,

The Handcrafted Cooperative