The Board Chronicles is an ongoing series of articles about the adventures of Mrs M’s Handmade as a vendor at community festivals & craft fairs. Mrs M’s subsidiary, Mr M’s Woodshop, has been approved to create this chronicle for the good of vendorkind.
Produced by the Simi Valley Chamber of Commerce, but with a lot of help from business, organizations, the City of Simi Valley and the community, the Simi Valley Street Fair has sold out of street space in past year’s events. This year will be no exception!
That is the complete event description. No photos, no hype. Just … 2 sentences.
So, please, let me be a bit more verbose.
This is the biggest single-day event in the city of Simi Valley. 300+ booths are promised, along with 5 entertainment stages and more. We did this event in 2015; you can read about my experiences as an overwhelmed solo act here. I found the event exhausting, but worthwhile.
This event is a little quirky for us as “experienced” vendors. After all, we’ve had 2 whole years of experience, so we practically feel like senior citizens now.
But then, we are.
This event requires all vendors to attend one of their pre-event information sessions to hear how the event will work, and get their booth assignments live. Part of that presentation is a very rudimentary discussion on how to maximize the opportunity that the Chamber of Commerce is affording you (“Know your goals!” “Wear comfortable shoes!”). I was insulted last year, and called in to decline the opportunity to attend this year. I was cleared to not attend, and was sent an email after the final meeting, giving me our booth position, which was on the opposite end of the string of 300 booths from where we were last year.
That’s no big thing, but it is certainly not a benefit to move positions unless last year’s position was BAD. Ours was not: last year, working solo, I had what was at the time the Best. Day. Ever. Given that, OF COURSE we were going back in 2016. And, as always, we doubled down with a double booth (doubling our expenses). Because of Mrs M’s new display, we rented a U-Haul trailer for 2 days (again, increasing expenses).
Our expectation was that we could have a great event, even if we didn’t set records. After all, we had space for a better presentation – we had Mrs M’s new booth working for us. We were ready for a great day.
This event is a little quirky. It’s a Chamber of Commerce event, so you can expect a lot of local businesses with giveaways (bags, fans, buckets and much more). You can expect senior citizens walking the event to get the freebies with no purchase intent whatsoever. You can expect local politicos to have campaign booths. And, you can expect an overwhelming number of booths & vendors (300+ is a big number!).
We arrived on site at 6am, and got in the queue to unload our gear. This event is unique in that it requires all vendors to unload with the assistance of the Simi Valley High School football team (!), who transfers your gear to all-terrain utility vehicles (that people own in LA?) pulling small trailers. Mrs M went with the first load to our booth spaces, and the 2nd load completed our load-in. I went to park the Jeep + trailer, got lost, and ended up parking on a residential street. I walked back to the site, and we were ready for set-up.
- Double booth this year with Mrs M, versus a single booth exclusively staffed by me last year.
- We needed a trailer (rental) to bring Mrs M’s new display + all of the product. Last year, everything came in the Jeep.
- A license was required from the city of Simi Valley this year. One more one-time expense….
- Spring Fling #6 of 8. Are we done yet? Please?
- Be wary of expectations. They’ll kill you.
- It seemed that many more people were price sensitive this year … I even had one lady complain about the absurdity of paying $40 for a cheese board. And if that price point is unacceptable, I have nothing to offer her.
- Mrs M had a steady stream of interest, though a limited number of transactions, it seemed. We spent the day wondering why business wasn’t stronger … and many of her transactions were for a single bar of soap. It’s hard to make much headway $6 at a time, though she clearly sold some soap.
- Same level of activity on my side of the booth. No big board sales, and only one sale above $100. Last year, I sold 4x cutting boards. This year … none.
- Lots of people talked to me about their bamboo cutting boards. All were surprised at the negatives that I cited; most had been lied to by either their bamboo cutting board sales person, or the internet. Unfortunately.
- We saw a cat in a bag, a cat in a stroller, a corn snake, and an iguana worn as really funky jewelry. Simi Valley is an unusual place. Oh, and dogs were everywhere, so perhaps Simi’s not so unusual.
- We got ‘whelmed a couple of times in the booth, and lost track of the sales tally that I obsessively keep track of. No big deal: it happens. At one point, I counted 4 different groups on my side of the booth. Velda had the same level … though it seemed just about everybody looked & kept walking.
- We finished the day thinking we were down $200 to prior year.
- I came home, counted cash, and discovered that we were actually up a whole $4 versus prior year. That’s better … but booth costs went up $150. And then there’s the trailer rental, so we definitely lost money compared to last year. The insignificant increase in revenue wouldn’t cover any increase in expenses, much less ours which more than doubled.
- Requests included cabinet doors, RV sink covers, cheese knives, a cribbage board, cutting boards designed to help amputees, and chess boards (4!).
- I’m thinking I should make some chess boards.
- Four people took pictures of my work, with my permission. “I don’t want to forget what I am looking at” was the typical reason … which implies residual sales will crop up. We’ll see.
- We travel heavy, and one day events are a lot of work. For this 8-hour event, I had to rent a trailer, load the trailer, drive to the event (3/4 hour), set up (2 hours), do the event, tear down (1-3/4 hours), drive home (3/4 hour), unload the trailer … and get ready to do it again in a week. I don’t like one day events. Especially ones that disappoint.
- Vending is glamorous.
- Expectations can kill you.
Saturday Breakfast: Jack In The Box # 23. They’re open all night, so I figured they were a safe bet for breakfast at 5:15am. We were 3rd in line, in fact.
Saturday Lunch: Mrs M did a cheese & cracker plate. Wonderful, though I never eat a full meal before I get distracted, the food gets dry, and consumption ends. But it was wonderful while I was engaged.
Saturday Snack: Mrs M found year-old flavored almonds to foist on me. They tasted as good as that sounds, too.
Saturday Dinner: The Dodgers scored 5 runs yesterday, so we got cheap Papa John’s pizza this evening. Low impact, low cost nourishment.
- 2015 sales: $1,424
- Total miles driven: 72
- Booth cost: $315
- # of people we met during the event from the producer: 0
- Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: 1 (“Here’s your welcome packet” … which I never looked at.)
- Total sales: $1,428
- # containers of product taken: No clue. I’ve lost control of the process …
- # boards available: All of them (not a good thing).
- Saturday alarm: 4:18am
- # transactions: 55
- # soap & lotion vendors: no clue … at least one other soaper that has an online presence that implied “we’re just getting started.” Been there, not so long ago.
- # woodworking vendors: no clue, as I didn’t have time to go walkabout … but our neighbor made gnome houses from wood. I’m sure there were others.
- Edge grain vs. end grain: 14:1
- Returning next year? maybe
Magic Bottle Openers: 4
Cheese Boards: 4
Small Boards: 2
Custom Orders: 2
Small Sous Chef Board: 1
Lazy Susan: 1
Cheese & Cracker Server: 1