The Board Chronicles: Simi Valley Street Fair 2018   2 comments

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.

I know this event is quirky.

Simi Valley is a bedroom community that’s very similar to Santa Clarita, and we’ve done their Street Fair twice before (2015, 2016).

You know how much I like going to the Street Fair.

But, this event is unusual. It’s put on by the Chamber of Commerce, and they have a “required” pre-meeting for vendors. That’s where you can get your booth number confirmed, and talk about how the event is set-up with the organizers. Since I’ve done 100+ events in multiple cities and now 2 states … I’m not enthusiastic about driving to their office to hear about their event. Or be reminded to wear comfortable shoes.

Write a good info packet and I’m ready to go. Every time.

Another quirk is they don’t let people drive onto the street to set up: they make you cart everything in for some reason that’s never been clear to me. In previous years, there was enough room on the street. This year’s street is tighter, but it’s still an unusual situation to require 100% of things to be carted in, as they have in years past.

We didn’t do this event last year as it is only a 1-day event, and there was a better 2-day event available. This year, though, the Sunday of the weekend was not only Mother’s Day, it was also our 40th wedding anniversary. We agreed to take the day off so we could celebrate … so this Saturday event fit the calendar perfectly.

Which is always important to me. So, it’s off to Simi….

New Ideas

  • The new location meant going to the mandatory meeting was a good idea, I thought, and I learned that I either had to cart everything in at 6:30am, hire their UTV/wagon driver to cart things in for me or I could drive onto the street with the trailer at 5am to unload right by the booth. That’s a no brainer for me. I don’t need to sleep.
  • This year I was told that the city required a business license from me if I was to sell at the event, which I learned at the vendor meeting. What I didn’t learn is that the city didn’t have a working website to do this on, so I had to drive back to Simi a second time in order to complete the paperwork and pay the most expensive fee yet for a city’s one-day business license: $57.
  • Mrs M opted out so she could stay home and prepare for MrsMowry’s 30th birthday (a good choice, that), so I got a double booth all to myself.

Observations

  • This is event # 6 of 10 in our 4th Annual Spring Fling. Miles to go before we sleep.
  • As I drove to the event in the dark, it was misting. That turned into a heavy mist. That turned in to, “Oh, hell no, it’s not going to rain, is it?”
  • It didn’t, but it did get a little wet once during the event. No big thing, but it was a cloudy, cool day. Perfect for a Spring Fling event.
  • Plenty of volunteers – at 5 in the morning – to help me unload. A volunteer assured me they would be there to help me load as well … and they were. This event gets an A+ for having volunteers to help. The volunteers I had, though – adults and teenagers – knew nothing about event spaces, but were good to move the heavy stuff.
  • The event gets a D for how they marked booth spaces – chalk numbers faintly written on the top of the curbs. In the dark, you had to turn on a flashlight and be right on top of the numbers before they were legible. There were no marks for the boundaries of the booth: not left/right, nor front/back. I was the first in my area, so I placed my canopies centered on the booth #s. I moved a foot or so out of the gutter (nothing good comes from being in the gutter), which put the front of my booth up to the dividing line between lanes on the street. Looked good to me. No one ever commented, so I must have been OK. It wasn’t until 3 hours later that I noticed some random lines on the street that might have been booth space dividing lines, placed out of the gutter on the solid white line marking the edge of the driving lane and beginning of the gutter. Don’t know what those lines were.
  • The big issue about no front border for the booths became an issue later, unfortunately.
  • With a 5am unload, I had plenty of time to set up my double booth. Who needs Mrs M anyway?
  • I worked straight through, got set up, and did have time to sit down and have my breakfast (bagels/cream cheese from home). While I was eating, a guy walked into my booth and went straight to my chess set. “It’s $140 for the set? I want it. But I only have $4. Here, you take the money until I can get to the bank. I’ll be right back.” So, I put the chess set on lay away for $4.
  • This first sale was long before the event started at 9am. A good beginning, this.
  • Early in the day, a guy came to the booth and said he wanted to buy a cutting board. That had one of my boards, he said, but it was lost when their house burned to the ground. He wanted to get a new board, and he would bring his wife by later, he said. He did, and that was my first $200 sale of the day.
  • Not long after they left, another couple was standing by the board I had just put on display, replacing the one just purchased. I did my standard greeting, “Let me know if I can answer any questions,” I said. “Can we buy a cutting board?” he said. That’s what we in the professional sales business call a “buying signal.”
  • I launched into my standard spiel. Size. Color. I then asked, “What size are you thinking of?” He said, “Can we buy this board?” That’s what we in the professional sales business call a “shut up and take their money signal.” So, I did. In about 10 minutes, I had two different $200 sales.
  • Good, this is.
  • I was busy all day. Business wasn’t over the top, but I was on my feet, talking, working. All good. Busy is good.
  • You can’t choose your neighbors, though. Mine were annoying. And, the promoters get an F on controlling vendors.
  • On the left, I had a professional politician with an army of volunteers soliciting votes & handing out balloons. He was running for Supervisor, and he had a brigade (their word) of volunteers in front of the booth all day long. When they moved to in front of my booth, I complained, and they pretty much kept to the front of their booth – not IN their booth, but IN FRONT of their booth. They were 100% working the crowd in the center aisle. They never, ever let someone go by without stopping them. They typically had 5 volunteers in front of their booth and 3 volunteers inside of their booth – plus the candidate. No way should they have been allowed to only buy a 10×10 booth.

The balloons were given out by members of the politician’s horde … they never stood in the booth, as the rules said they should.

  • I actually heard one of the organizers of the effort say, “It’s better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.” When that is the philosophy of management, what they’re really saying is “the other vendors are too stupid to do what we’re doing, and the organizers don’t care if we take advantage.”
  • I. Hate. That.
  • On my right, I had a professional buy/sell vendor with leather purses & such. He set his canopy up 1′ in front of mine, and then did a waterfall display off of his grid wall that was 1′ in front of his canopy. The result: he had a 2′ corner jutting out in front of my booth. He also had tables set up back to the gutter and boxes on the planter behind, so he had about a 16′ deep booth going.

The 2′ corner in front of my booth. I actually had one lady come into my booth wanting to buy a purse.

  • The net result of all of this was that customers were directed by my neighbors to walk away from my booth. I did push back against the politician’s minions when they were standing IN FRONT OF MY BOOTH, but, overall, I was confident that my 20′ of frontage (which neither of my neighbors had) got me the attention that I had paid for. Had I had only 10′ of frontage – if Mrs M would have been there – then we would have had trouble. I would have become “that guy.” I would have insisted the organizers step in.
  • Oh, and that $57 business license I had to buy? No one ever checked. I’m going to bet my buy/sell neighbor didn’t have it. Following rules may be frustrating at times, but I have to live with me.
  • The final hour came, and my sales picked up. Once again, the final hour of the event was very, very good to me.
  • Requests were for a 6″ Lazy Susan (it was an archery thing, I was told), more chess sets (AARRGGHH!!), a horsey wall hanging, skateboard decks (x2), something in a golf theme and an actual pastry board with side walls and bread hooks.

The Food

  • Best Meal: Birthday cake with MrsMowry, as she celebrated her 6th 5th birthday. Of course!

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 218
  • Booth cost: $350 + $57
  • Food cost: $0
  • Travel cost: $113
  • Total sales: $1,735
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $1,215
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 0
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: 0
  • Saturday alarm: 3:50am
  • # transactions: 20
  • # soap & lotion vendors: no clue
  • # woodworking vendors: no clue
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 22:2
  • Returning next year? Probably not

Boards sold: 24

4x Trivets

3x Magic Bottle Openers

3x Cutting Boards

2x Medium Surfboards

2x Lazy Susans

2x Custom Orders

1x Chess Set

1x CNC Wall Plaque

1x Cheese Board

1x Serving Tray

1x Heart

1x Word Block

1x Small Board

1x Pig

 

2 responses to “The Board Chronicles: Simi Valley Street Fair 2018

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  1. I really appreciate your insights into cutting boards and especially your honest breakdown of your costs and sales. I also play around in my little shop making cutting boards but only sell a few to friends and give most away as gifts. I do have a question for you, what type of CNC router did you purchase and would you buy the same if you could to do it again. The price seems to range from $2000-20000 or more.

    • I bought a Probotix Nebula. I wanted a plug ‘n play model … I did not want a DIY project. I’m happy with the machine, but was not happy with the ease of set-up … though I was up and running after 48 hours. The problems were managed! Search for “Probotix” on this blog and you’ll see a couple of posts about the machine & the process.

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