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Celebrating Craft and Conserving Time Go Hand in Hand

Porter Flea’s one-of-a-kind handmade goods market said goodbye to stressful spreadsheets and hello to streamlined vendor application review, thanks to Submittable.

Based in Nashville, Porter Flea is a curated market of modern handmade goods from talented and diverse designers. Each semi-annual event requires an intricate application and jury process that was exasperating to manage and nearly impossible to scale before the organizers discovered Submittable.

Our jury process, looking at hundreds of applications, is a bear. Submittable simplified review so much, especially being able to communicate in-app with other jurors if there’s a question. It's been a complete time-saver.   

Katie Vance

Porter Flea Co-founder

Focusing in on excellence (and not Excel)

Katie Vance and Matt Alexander launched Porter Flea in 2011 with 35 vendors and a panel of guest jurors. Katie drew from her experience participating in craft events as a designer—large festivals where handmade goods were upstaged by beer and music, for example—to envision something new. 

“I wanted to create a market that was vendor-forward, that was totally focused on makers and on shopping,” she says.

She quickly found, however, that overseeing the process manually was untenable. 

“We were using a spreadsheet to jury and it was terrible,” Katie says. “Tracking who was voting yes or no, and making calculations while trying to review applications, was a total nightmare.” 

Because jurying applications was such a headache, scalability was out of the question. As Katie recalls, “Even our first event, which was small, was crazy to keep track of.” 

Moving Porter Flea’s vendor process to Submittable in 2013 simplified review while better serving applicants. “As we kept growing,” Katie observes, “there's no other way we could have organized each event.”

Saving time without sacrificing precision

Since 2016, Porter Flea has received over 300 applications for each market, of which they accept two-thirds. Katie and her team consider applications in 13 categories, including jewelry, paper goods, ceramics, apparel, beauty products, and food. The assessment process is rigorous, requiring jurors to balance vendor-type, price point, branding, seasonality, and giftability. 

Submittable saves Porter Flea at least eight hours per reviewer, with additional time saved by convenient features such as easy exporting and the ability to duplicate forms. Katie and her team also enjoy the flexibility and ease in scheduling afforded by the platform. 

“Before Submittable, it wasn’t as easy to begin—we had to wait until after our deadline to jury,” she says. “Now we can start as soon as applications open so that’s really helpful. We can review at our convenience.”

Simple form creation is essential to the process, and extra useful for Porter Flea’s shared vendor application which requires duplicated steps. 

“The drag and drop form builder helps us streamline the process,” she says. “It’s really user-friendly and easy to manipulate the different options to get each vendor’s information.”

Yair Monley Rodriguez of Tierra Sol Studio, a vendor at Porter Flea

Yair Monley Rodriguez of Tierra Sol Studio, a vendor at Porter Flea

Encouraging artisans, from start to finish

Porter Flea is dedicated to ensuring an outstanding experience for every vendor, offering unique perks like a pizza party, complimentary breakfast, discounts, and swag. An excellent applicant experience is also essential to meeting this goal. 

“Submittable definitely gives a professional presence and we’ve had zero issues with the application process,” says Katie. “I honestly don't think I've gotten a single email about it. And I've gotten crazy emails.” 

A user-friendly application is especially important given the ever-growing popularity of Porter Flea—they’ve received over 4,100 applications from more than 2,300 artisans since moving over to Submittable. 

Nurturing new talent is another important objective for Katie’s team, furthered by initiatives such as a vendor application for emerging artists powered by Submittable. 

“It’s a way to celebrate folks that are up and coming,” Katie says. “One year we had a 13 year old painter and he almost sold old. It was really cool.” 

Porter Flea also keeps their talent (and shoppers) well fed by using Submittable to process food truck applications for the market.

Pursuing authenticity with smart technology and great support

Given Porter Flea’s high submission volume and the importance of quick, seamless review, the team appreciates easy access to Submittable’s first-rate technical support. According to Katie, “There have only been a couple of times I needed troubleshooting when, for example, someone applied twice. I got super quick responses back from the support team—plus they were really nice and helpful.”

Katie is a partner in an architecture and construction studio in addition to managing Porter Flea. The more energy she can focus on event quality, rather than administrative tasks, the better. 

“Because it isn’t my full time job,” she says, “anything that saves me time with Porter Flea, my part time labor-of-love job, is helpful.” 

As Porter Flea’s expanding popularity and reach can attest, these efforts have definitely paid off. 

“People say the market reminds them of old Nashville and we really liked that aspect of it,” Katie says. “Our event doesn’t need to have the latest band performing—we're keeping it simple. The whole show is dedicated to the quality makers and their craft.”

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