The calculated financial impact of the three-day Indie Craft Parade 2018 on the Greenville area was nearly $900,000, according to the organizers.
That’s no small number for a festival launched 10 years ago by Greenville creatives and founders Erin Godbey, Jen Moreau, and Lib Ramos who were looking for a way to support local and regional makers.
“In 2010, we told ourselves that if the festival was well received then maybe we would do it again the following year,” Ramos says. “Little did we know how supportive Greenville was going to be of Indie Craft Parade and our artists.”
This year’s 10th anniversary festival Sept. 13-15 is expected to have even more of an impact, and to accommodate continued year-over-year growth, Indie Craft Parade (ICP) is moving locations again.
Spending eight years downtown at Huguenot Mill and in 2018 moving to the newly renovated Southern Bleachery makers space at Taylors Mill, ICP will host the 2019 festival at Furman University’s Timmons Arena, the site of the former Hills Skills craft festival that ended around 2008.
“Last year, we moved the festival to offer more artists more room to exhibit, and this year we’re excited to have more space for attendees too,” Ramos says.
The long lines and parking woes of years past should finally be assuaged with this move, she says, and give the festival a permanent home that can accommodate continued growth.
The continuity of returning a celebration of local makers to Timmons Arena is also important for the community, Ramos says.
Additionally, ICP is moving its year-round operations to that side of town. Ramos says they’ve signed a lease for an 1,800-square-foot office/pop-up retail space at 2909 Old Buncombe Road and will make the move in July. This will be the new location for ICP’s popular annual holiday pop up shop in November and December and eventually be available for artists to use the space for trunk shows, pop-ups, and equipment rentals.
This is an effort to continue our support of artists, Ramos says.
“We’re always exploring new ways to support artists, and while we’ve got some fun things in the works, Indie Craft Parade is one of the biggest ways we make that happen. I don’t see that changing anytime soon,” Ramos says of their future plans.
That original desire to support artists has helped transform new makers’ efforts from an experiment into full-time businesses pulling in five-digit profits over the festival weekend alone, not to mention the exposure to thousands of people that leads to year-round online sales increases.
Bill Mitchell, founder of Billiam, which makes custom jeans, shirts, and plans to branch into accessories this Fall, set up a table at the first Indie Craft Parade with folded jeans and nothing else. He didn’t even have the business formally formed, nor was he there to sell anything. It was a way of gauging interest in his new venture and get his name out there.
The second year he formed his LLC and was officially in business.
“It taught me that I was good at what I did,” he says.
Being one of the few men in the craft scene then, he would joke that all of the female attendees’ husbands were at the Clemson football game while they shopped his booth. Now, he pulls in five-figures each weekend with a steady stream of 50 regulars each buying a pair of jeans every year, on top of all the new business. His customer base is also no longer single gender.
Sarah Mandell of Once Again Sam applied with her jewelry and needle-felting work in 2011 and was accepted for needle-felting, which she says she had only dabbled in prior to applying. She spent the summer working on her new craft and at the fall festival had incredible success with a spike in Etsy sales continuing months after handing out thousands of business cards.
What began as a hobby has now turned into a three-quarter-time job for Mandell, who also works part-time as an interior designer for LS3P. She recently hit the 100 craft show mark, and credits ICP with boosting her interpersonal communication and selling skills along with the business.
Allison and Jamie Nadeau of Ink Meets Paper based in Charleston, and first-time ICP jurors this year, specialize in wholesale paper crafts, yet set aside the festival weekend each year to attend as vendors. Wholesale accounts keep them busy and away from much personal interaction with customers, so a weekend of seeing responses to their work real-time is invaluable research and development, Allison Nadeau says.
She also says the way ICP is run, with special attention to vendors’ needs and their comfort, is a main reason they continue to attend even though they don’t do many other craft shows.
“Indie Craft Parade is one of only craft shows that we do,” she says. “It says a lot about them. The caliber of the event is so detail-oriented and makes it so wonderful as a vendor.”
Deb Potter of Merciful Hearts Farm, has sold her hand-spun yarn at the downtown Greenville Saturday Market since its inception. She jumped in to join Indie Craft Parade the first year and has continued to support the effort through the years.
“The first year was stunning,” she says. “You couldn’t throw a nickel across the aisle. The crowd never let up. I had a ball.”
She continues to take that particular Saturday off of the famers market to attend ICP instead because of the huge financial benefit.
“I make a month’s worth of income in a weekend,” Potter says.
For Potter, also, ICP is the only craft show she attends as a vendor and credits the founders and dozens of volunteers for making the experience a pleasure rather than the horror stories she’s heard about other shows.
“On paper, anybody could pull it off, but they do it with so much grace and so much heart. It 100 percent goes back to who those women are,” she says.
10th annual Indie Craft Parade
Admission: $6, 12 and under are free