Archive for the ‘Craft Fairs’ Category

The Board Chronicles: Elks Craft Boutique 2018   Leave a comment

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.

Time to shake it up.

We started at events like this: table top displays in a large room. A charity fundraiser.  Local, local, local.

We still do events like this … but, rarely. We’re traveling to big events more than staying home and doing small & simple events.

We’ve done 3 events at the Elks Club in the past, and Mrs M opted to spend her day off doing their Craft Boutique (and Car Show and Chili Cook-off) this year. This is a low impact event for us … it’s harder to decide what products & display pieces to not take than it is to set up.

Simple can be nice occasionally, y’know?

New Ideas

  • Old ideas seem new when you haven’t done them in a while. A table top event? Sure, why not.
  • I did the heavy lifting, set up my stuff, and then left the Lady to handle it. I returned to the garage woodshop for the rest of the day, making, until it was time to load out.
  • More heavy lifting, you see.

Observations

  • Great to see old friends at an event. Familiar faces are a wonderful thing.
  • Though this event was not as successful for us as 2 of the previous ones, it was still fun to shake the cobwebs off and wave the flag in our home town. We used to do events in Santa Clarita multiple times a month; now we’re down to doing just a few events a year. “Progress,” we call it.
  • Check out the photos, below. I’m going to say Mrs M’s smile says it all.

The Food

  • Best Meal: I had a ham sandwich for lunch, of course. No clue what Mrs M brought for lunch, but I know it was keto. It’s her thing.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 64
  • Booth cost: $50 + 2 raffle gifts for 2 tables
  • Food cost: $0
  • Travel cost: $
  • Total sales: $173
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $88
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: several
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: several
  • Saturday alarm: nope
  • # transactions: too few, unfortunately.
  • # soap & lotion vendors: just Mrs M
  • # woodworking vendors: just me
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 3:0
  • Returning next year? Maybe, if it fits on the calendar

Boards sold: 3

1x Cheese Board

1x Coaster

1x Trivet

The Board Chronicles: Ventura Art & Street Painting Festival 2018   Leave a comment

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.

Temps were over 100* in Santa Clarita last weekend … good thing I planned on going to the beach.

Well, the harbor, anyway.

Ventura’s harbor is 50 miles west, and hosts entertainment events throughout the year to increase attendance to the area to support local business. This weekend, the Ventura Art & Street Painting Festival will have artists creating artwork on streets & sidewalks … with a few vendors to complete the experience.

This event has been recommended to me, but you never know. Do chalk art enthusiasts need cutting boards? Signs? Game boards?

New Ideas

  • I’m doing a single booth in just the Jeep … so no rolling cabinet. Several products have to stay at home, including Lazy Susans, Serving Trays, Pigs, Word Blocks, some of the serving pieces and my canvas pictures. I don’t have room for all of the signs, either.

Observations

  • Setup was as easy as can be; I had to cart in my stuff about 20 yards from the parking lot.
  • The morning entertainment was from an artist and her 2 assistants that had a new Trimline 10×10 … and decided to set it up for the first time at this event. Big mistake, though they did get it set up.
  • And it was set up in the wrong place. They had to move the canopy after they were up. Luckily, they didn’t have their ProPanels & artwork up yet!
  • A young girl saw my Large Serving Pieces, AKA Large Surfboards, and suggested they would make good surfboards for her dolls.

Large Serving Piece 18 – 19. Black Walnut, Hard Maple, Cherry & White Oak.

  • A man walked into the booth, and said, “this booth has the best smell of the day.”
  • I had no response to that.
  • This is the 2nd event in a row that I’ve had a “I want to support your art” purchase. It didn’t seem like they wanted the piece as much as they wanted to do me a favor. I didn’t ask for a favor; this kind of transaction always makes me feel odd.
  • I continue to get people that want to buy my 3D cribbage tops without the cribbage board. I may have to do some 3D carving in my spare time.
  • This event was very pleasant in Ventura Harbor. Sales, though, were underwhelming for a 2-day event. I will only go back if a lot of my promised future sales (“Let me take your card; Christmas is coming….”) actually happen.

The Food

  • Best Meal: Mrs M made keto pizza for dinner; this was a good thing.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 201
  • Booth cost: $195
  • Food cost: $0
  • Travel cost: $105
  • Total sales: $607
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $307
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 1
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: 1
  • Saturday alarm: 5:10a
  • Sunday alarm: 6a
  • # transactions: 11
  • # soap & lotion vendors: none
  • # woodworking vendors: one other cutting board maker was there (both of us were first timers at this event). Neither of us had good weekends.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 13:0
  • Returning next year? Probably not

Boards sold: 13

CNC Signs: 8

Cheese Boards: 4

Small Board: 1

 

The Board Chronicles: Faire On The Square 2018   1 comment

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.

Once you embrace the idea of doing big events, you have to get out of town.

So, knowing that I had to do something over the holiday weekend, I decided to go a-vendoring in Arizona for the second time. But, since Mrs M claimed to have to work at her “job,” I was a solo act.

And I went far afield.

Prescott (rhymes with biscuit) was the original territorial capitol of Arizona. It’s the county seat, and the courtyard lawn hosts many vendor-driven events throughout the summer & fall: the city has an elevation over 5,000′, so Phoenix comes here to cool off.

I’m told.

I wonder if they need cutting boards?

Faire on the Square is produced by the Chamber of Commerce, and features 150+ vendors. Many “professional” vendors do this event. At this point, I think I’m in that group. One thing is for sure: I won’t be considered a local at this event.

New Ideas

  • I’m driving the trailer across the desert with my big Trimline canopy. I’m told it does rain on occasion. I’m ready for anything.
  • As I drove into Prescott, I heard a loud sound … cicadas, I thought. But, it’s been a while since I have been around them, and it was SO LOUD, I actually rolled down the car window to make sure something wasn’t wrong with the car. Lots of cicadas in the pine trees here!
  • I’m picking up temp labor at the event to help me put up & take down the canopy. I’m told there are homeless people around to help.
  • 2 new items here: cribbage boards sets (I have 4 prototypes), and I’ve actually made stands for sale. They are here. They are available.

Observations

  • Wait, what? I’m supposed to hire homeless people?
  • Come to find out, I did find some helpers, and they were underemployed but not homeless. Nice people. Of the 5 that I talked to about helping me, I actually had 2 show up as promised. I made it work.
  • This event has a couple of quirks you have to deal with:
    • Check in is 4pm Friday, and set up can begin after the last judge leaves the courthouse at about 6pm.
    • No vendor displays, canopies, etc, are allowed to touch the courthouse lawn. Wooden blocks (2x4s suggested) must be between every canopy leg, table & product container so that the grass can be allowed to breathe as much as possible.
    • I dealt with it.
  • Set-up was fine, and I ended up having 3 people help. One helper was great, one was good, and one was annoying. Such is life.
  • Parking is a bit of a challenge for loading/unloading, but the COC reserves the parking around the square for vendors. I was there early for check-in, and parked the trailer in the perfect spot. After load-in began, I was yelled at by a vendor for parking my trailer in 5 parking spots so no one else could use them. Not accurate: I was in 2 spots, not 5. And I was actively unloading, as I was supposed to be doing. Why she was entitled to the parking spots that I had, I’m not sure, but she was ticked at me.
  • And, vice versa.
  • First sale on Saturday: one of the new 5-section servers.
  • Second sale: one of the new cribbage boards.
  • Third sale: Can I have a stand with that? Why, yes, yes you can.
  • I know I’m in the west. Cowboys are here. And … one lady saw my 3D carved cribbage board top, and wanted to buy it. Just the top. I eventually got 2 requests (and no sales at my quoted price).
  • We take shop towels to events to clean with. I dust off my boards. Mrs M cleans her soap (think about it). We use a few towels; I typically stick a few into a cutting board container; there are a few in our bag of bags as well. At the last event, we had towels everywhere. Mrs M was offended, I guess, and she, uh, got us better organized. This time, there were zero towels. None. Good thing Mrs M didn’t need one to clean her soap, since she was at her “job.”
  • Most common question of the weekend: “Did you write these signs?”
  • Hmmm. I didn’t write the quotes from Julia Child, Mark Twain, Shakespeare or Miss Piggy, no. I did write some of the others; I researched some and made them my own. One thing I do know: my signs amuse people passing the booth, and I think that’s a good thing. Maybe someday they’ll stop passing by and begin to look around to buy stuff. Maybe.
  • A woman walks into the booth:
    • “Are these canvases marked full price?”
      • “Uh … well, they are marked at the only price. Yes, that’s full price.”
    • “But there was a booth across the square that said all canvases are half off. So are these half off?”
      • No. Just no.
  • A man walks into the booth:
    • “Do you have any cat signs?”
      • “No, no cat signs.”
    • “What, you don’t like cats?”
      • “Uh, no, all of my signs are food-related. I’m all about food here.”
    • “Maybe you’ll have cat signs next year.”
      • No. Just no.
  • A woman walks into the booth:
    • “You know what sign you should make?”
      • (this will end badly, I know) “What?”
    • “Make ‘I laughed so hard that tears ran down my leg!’ Ladies will love it!”
      • No. Just no.
  • A couple walks into the booth:
    • She said, “What’s a trivet?”
      • “It’s to protect your table & counter from hot stuff. When you have hot stuff, it needs protecting.”
    • He said, “I tell her that all of the time.”
  • I have 2 plaques, “Family” & “In This House,” that I often display on a front table. I had them there on Saturday, and then moved them on Sunday to put a pig-themed display in their place, as Mrs M did last week. Changing things up can be good, right? Monday, a lady walked by with her friend and I overheard her say “It serves me right for not buying it when I saw it!” I asked what, and the Family sign was what she liked. I showed it to her around the corner, hanging on the wall, and she was surprised she hadn’t noticed that WALL OF SIGNS when she walked by them. Eventually, she bought a different sign from that display.

CNC Sign 18 – 46. Cherry. 12″ x 16″.

CNC Sign 18 – 50. Cherry. 13″ x 16″.

  • Oh, and 2 pig signs did sell. Family & In This House? Nope.
  • It rained a bit on Sunday evening, but after the event was really over at 5pm. It rained again on Monday after load out was in full swing … I was soaked by the time I was loaded. Soaked. Happily, I was going back to the AirBnB so I could dry off and have a nice dinner. Driving home, soaked to the skin … would not have been fun.
  • Requests were for wooden crosses, a magnetic chess board, a 2-player cribbage set (coming!), very small cutting boards, a smaller Lazy Susan and a board to cook a fish on (no, I don’t sell raw cedar planks to burn in a fire).

The Food

  • Best Meal: Frozen meals from the microwave were my dinner each night. I had Velda’s spaghetti, Chicken Marsala, and a travel-ready lasagna she put together.
  • Worst Meal: Driving across the desert, I couldn’t find suitable nourishment, so I settled for a gas station cheeseburger & chips. High living.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 891
  • Booth cost: $550
  • Food cost: $49
  • Travel cost: $530
  • Total sales: $2,439
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $1,310
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 3
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: 1
  • Saturday alarm: 5:30a
  • Sunday alarm: nope
  • Monday alarm: nope
  • # transactions: 29
  • # soap & lotion vendors: there were a couple I saw, but I only saw about half of the vendors
  • # woodworking vendors: there was one guy making wooden acoustic amplifiers for smart phones … very interesting little creations featuring brass horns.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 37:4
  • Returning next year? Probably

Boards sold: 41

Trivets: 11

CNC Signs: 6

Word Blocks: 5

Cheese Boards: 3

Cutting Board: 2

Coasters: 2

Custom Orders: 2

Hearts: 2

Large Cutting Board: 1

5-section Server: 1

Lazy Susan: 1

Large Serving Piece: 1

Cribbage Board: 1

Serving Tray: 1

Bread Saw: 1

Charcuterie Board: 1

 

 

The Board Chronicles: Tehachapi Mountain Fest 2018   3 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.

This will be our 4th consecutive annual trip to the mountains in southern Kern County for the 55th Annual Tehachapi Mountain Festival.

We love this event. You can read about our previous visits: 2017, 2016 and 2015. Note that when Mrs M’s Handmade was just 18 months old, the 2015 event was our Best. Event. Ever.

We love Tehachapi.

Great community. Park atmosphere. Handmade vendors are in the vast majority – and we get to set up on the grass. Live music. Oh, and there’s a carnival, a car show and fair food (we didn’t do any of those!).

We’ve been surprisingly successful at this event over the years, and got a large special order last year that really put me over the top. That’s not expected this year, of course, but we still expect to have another nice jaunt north.

New Ideas

  • After putting up our Trimline canopy last year, we return to pop-ups this year. That saves about 30 minutes or so on the set up and the tear down … and since we’re driving home Sunday evening, we thought that was a good idea.

Observations

  • Set up began at 3pm Friday afternoon. Heat of the day. We took our time, though, and worked the process until we wanted to quit. Mrs M got most of her product up, but I elected to do my product set up on Saturday morning. Opening was at 10a; we were ready.
  • This community comes to the event, and they walk the booths. There’s traffic here, and you just need to find your audience.
  • A lady came into the booth and wanted me to do a replacement board for her Hoosier. Huh? Come to find out, this is an old, freestanding kitchen cabinet that has an integrated flour mill below the upper cabinet. I have seen these, but never knew they were named after the state’s nickname where so many of them were made: in Indiana. Who knew?
  • A side note: when I write these blogs, I have an opportunity to have the website check them before publication. Basic spelling is checked (I have trained the checker how to spell Padauk, Bubinga & Morado, by the way). Grammar is checked. And, every time I use the word “lady” the checker accuses me of using biased language.
  • I’m not biased. I believe people are good, and every female that enters my booth is a lady until she proves otherwise. If that makes me biased, then so be it. I’m not changing. And I calls ’em the way I sees ’em.
  • I got a few more chaos boards finished for this event (I had been out for 6 weeks). Those boards are a stopper … but they always inspire people to tell me that they see what I do with my scrap wood. Here’s the board:

Cutting Board 18 – 724. 18 species are in this board! End Grain. Chaos Board.

  • Please note I do not make my boards out of scrap. I start with lumber, and I end up at the finish line. Each board is hand selected to be a part of the cutting board. Scrap is what I burn or recycle. Good lumber is what I use. I do get rather insistent when people tell me that I use scrap to make things.
  • The price tag on this board is $200. It is not made out of scrap. Nothing I make is out of scrap.
  • Rant over.
  • We expected this year to be down from the record-setting event last year, and we were not wrong. We didn’t want to be this wrong, however: Saturday was down about 50%. Several other vendors reported similar numbers, unfortunately. Temperatures were in the 90s … the ice cream vendor had a line all day long. Cutting Board sales? Not so much.
  • Sunday is another day.
  • A pair of ladies (yup) walked by the booth. One observed that it might be fun to get a pig cutting board. Or a bear cutting board. I pointed them both out to her (win!). Come to find out, her family had a cabin complete with a shaped cutting board from the ’30s (!) that was shaped like a pig. Or, probably a bear. They really weren’t sure which. Interesting; I told them how rare a vintage bear board is. Pig boards are out there, but bears? Not so much.
  • No sale for me, however.
  • This event is sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce. During the course of the event, 5 different board members came into the booth to introduce themselves and thank us for our support.
  • Promoters, take note. It is nice to feel appreciated.
  • We love this event.
  • Sunday sales ended up being much better than expected. It didn’t make up for our oh so slow Saturday, but our ending total was much more respectable than we feared the night before. We were down, as expected, but we had a very respectable event. We’re already planning for next year … and we’re going to get bigger.
  • Requests were for cribbage boards (2x. I am so over not having these done yet!), more boards with juice grooves, more smaller boards & a sign defining a chicken, since I’ve already defined a pig (hmmmm).

The Food

  • Best Meal: Dinner with friends. Does it matter what you eat?
  • Honorable Mention: Dinner with friends. See above.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 148
  • Booth cost: $300
  • Food cost: $104
  • Travel cost: $77
  • Total sales: $2,107
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $1,626
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: several
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: several
  • Saturday alarm: 6:15a
  • Sunday alarm: nope
  • # transactions: 95
  • # soap & lotion vendors: there was one other
  • # woodworking vendors: there was one maker and 2 importers
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 17:1
  • Returning next year? Definitely

Boards sold: 18x

Trivets: 4

Large Serving Pieces: 2

Cheese Boards: 2

CNC Signs: 2

Coasters Set: 1

Charcuterie Board: 1

Bread Saw: 1

Clipboard: 1

Custom Order: 1

Small Board: 1

Cutting Board: 1

Heart: 1

 

The Board Chronicles: Jackalope Summer Nights 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.

We’ve never done an event in Pasadena, and that seems like a mistake.

Time to fix that.

Jackalope is a promoter that does events in Denver, Phoenix & Pasadena. It’s a partnership between 3 friends in those cities, and their efforts have been on our radar for a while. The calendar hasn’t worked before … but this time, it did, so I’m going to Pasadena.

Mrs M is staying at home – well, not really. She’s not going a-vendoring because of her “job.” And the summer heat. Or something.

I am breaking a rule or 3 to do this event: it’s a first-time event, and those are always a risk. Doing an event in the summer heat is always a gamble, of course: no telling what the weather might do to attendance.

Just like life. Time to roll the dice.

New Ideas

  • This is my first outdoor event under the lights in a very long time. We use the lights at Santa’s Art Shop every year, but we don’t do nighttime events at this point.
  • The Jackalope team is very social media savvy. They shared multiple graphics with their 200 vendors to use on social media, which was much appreciated. And used. Given the attendance on a Friday night, I believe their efforts were successful.

Observations

  • The event is in Pasadena’s Central Park, and there is artist loading zone parking on 3 sides. I drove right up and got to unloading.
  • There are a large number of rental tents here, it seems. I’m next door to one … that is a shared booth. Two strangers are sharing; one makes dog collars and the other makes greeting cards. Much of the vendor community at this event seems to be young, relatively inexperienced with outdoor events and etsy-driven. I’m none of those things. Hmmmm.
  • I only recognized 2 vendors at this event, and only 1 of those is known to me to be successful. Lots of newbees here, I believe. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not a recommendation, either.
  • An afternoon set-up in 90 degree heat is not for the faint of heart. It was hot, hot, hot. The cart had to be drug uphill. No fun was had.
  • First event I’ve ever been to where the promoter zip tied the canopies together. Every front leg was zip tied to its neighbor. This is an order from the Fire Marshall of Pasadena, I’m told.
  • Part of a nighttime event is that I’ll have lights … and electricity. Why wasn’t I smart enough to bring a fan?
  • Live entertainment is part of the event … and I was located in the nexus between 2 competing vocalists. Nothing good happens when I must hear 2 vocalists from 2 directions at the same volume.
  • Back to the shared booth: 5 people are in the booth, plus a dog who is post-surgery and can’t use its hind legs. Too many things going on in a 10’x10′ space, and that’s before you realize that 2 different vendors are competing for that limited space to try and sell something.
  • I met a Backer from Kickstarter! Brian sought me out at this event so he can choose design of the “Best End Grain Cutting Board” that he wants me to make. Great chatting with him, and a total surprise to have a person come into my booth and lead with “I’m one of your Backers.” Wow!
  • Friday sales were underwhelming, for sure. Traffic was good for a 1st time event, I thought. Sales, though, not so much.
  • Our lights are the best (compare the booth shot below showing my booth as well as parts of the neighbors on each side. See what’s brighter!). I was complimented on the booth lighting by other vendors and customers. Lighting is important: people will only buy what they can see. When electricity is provided, there’s really no reason for a vendor to have bad lighting.
  • Saturday, I brought the fan. Life was better.
  • Given the heat, I thought I probably wouldn’t sell anything until after 6pm.
  • I was right. Too right.
  • Unfortunately.
  • My neighbor with the paraplegic dog created dog clogs all weekend. She put a dog watering bowl in the aisle, well out in front of her booth … resulting in dog/dog owner/dog petter assemblies in front of my booth, as well as her 5′ half booth, all weekend. The inter-species gathering didn’t completely cut off traffic, nor access to my booth, but it was not an asset for me. For her dog collar sales, perhaps.
  • Dog enthusiasts rarely buy cutting boards, in my experience. They walk their dogs, talk about their dogs, and generally enjoy the canine community. And, they do so in the public space in front of my booth, often for extended periods.
  • Load out was just as bad as load in, because I had to drag the cart uphill again! You’d think I would catch a break, but nope. I was sweating at 11:30pm, loading the Jeep.
  • Vending is a glamorous thing.
  • Requests were for chess sets (which I left at home due to space limitations in the Jeep), a chess table, wooden tool holders from a leather craftsman as well as a potter, platters for a restaurant & a wall art display.

The Food

  • Best Meal: Nothing good happened this weekend.
  • Worst Meal: Yup, had those.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 86
  • Booth cost: $326
  • Food cost: $0
  • Travel cost: $45
  • Total sales: $377
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $6
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 1
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: 2
  • # transactions: 7
  • # soap & lotion vendors: Oh, so many. I saw more of them than I did jewelry vendors, which is just unheard of. I’m glad Mrs M wasn’t here!
  • # woodworking vendors: There was a turner, and a hobbyist who had a couple of cutting boards mixed into the display with his wife’s ceramics.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 7:0
  • Returning next year? Nope.

Boards sold: 7

Cutting Boards: 3

CNC Signs: 2

Bread Saw: 1

Coaster: 1

The Board Chronicles: Camarillo Fiesta & Street Fair 2018   4 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.

Once upon a time, a friend told me this was a good event.

Not sure I still believe her.

Last year, I didn’t pass $1,000 in sales with my solo effort. On my birthday. That’s not a good thing, truly.

This seems like a good community event, though. Free music. Beer gardens. Carnival rides. Vendors. 30,000 in attendance projected. What’s not to like?

It’s not like there are many better events in July that I’ve found, after all.

So, I’m in for another year. I want to see if I can do better with some legacy working for me. It’ll be just me and a couple of hundred buy & sell vendors offering imported goods….

New Ideas

  • This event was marginal last year, really. It was barely OK. So what did I do? I doubled down with a double booth. I have room for everything this way. Still no Mrs M, though. She might melt in the heat. Oh, wait, I mean her lotions & balms & such might melt. That’s it.

Observations

  • I left home at 5:08a on my way to the Golden State Freeway … and my ramp was closed. No problem; the GPS will get me there on the 126. I’m told. I arrived at my booths at 6:18a, and was unloaded 30 minutes later. Same location as last year, so it’s easy.
  • This event does not send out formal confirmations, maps, booth #s or anything to help you find your booth or your customers to find you. Things may change up until the last minute, they say. At check in, they don’t give you a map, they just show you about where your booth is on a spreadsheet that has business landmarks on it that are years out of date.
  • No clue why they think that’s OK. It’s annoying, in my not-so-humble opinion as a well-seasoned veteran.
  • Canopies were up at 7:30a, and the booth & products were set up at about 9:30a. I was still putting pricing up at the official opening, 10a.
  • I looked across the street at 10 booths, most of which were community businesses (bath remodel, new windows, insurance agent, etc). Of the 10 booths, 8 had canopies that were totally unweighted. 1 had 20 pounds of weight, total. One had sandbags of undeterminate weight. I hope there’s no wind this weekend.
  • 11:40a: first sale of the day. I try to not every make duplicates of the same cheese board blanks, and I did make 4 of the same pattern in the last go round. Finally, finally, I sold one of them in this sale.
  • 1:03p: second sale of the day … and it’s another copy of that same cheese board. Huh?
  • I’m a monkey in a cage. Seems like it, anyway. Since I’ve added the signs on the mesh walls … people stop in front of the booth, look, point & laugh. And I just sit there looking at them.
  • Me. Monkey. Cage.
  • I did not expect that to happen.
  • Saturday ended barely ahead of last year … but I doubled my booth size. Did sales double? Nope, they were basically unchanged.
  • The drive home was an adventure. I followed the GPS, and it sent me through farmland. I drove a canyon to get to Fillmore. Why has the GPS forsaken me?
  • Sunday opens at 12n for some reason. I arrived a bit after 10a, and was open by 11a. I had walkers immediately.
  • No buyers though. First sale was at 12:45a.
  • But something did happen early: the insurance agent across the way brought a sound system. They turned it up so they were broadcasting to a 100′ radius above speaking volume, and proceeded to chat to everyone about their raffle.
  • I was that guy. I called the organizer to complain. She showed up 15 minutes later and had them turn down, thankfully. For some reason, they shut down the sound system & it left at 2p. No problem from my perspective.
  • A lady walked into the booth.
    • She said, “I have a cutting board. I got it from your competition. I love it. It’s my favorite thing. I got it from your competition.”
    • I said, “Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. It’s good to have a favorite thing.”
    • She said, “I got it from your competition.” And then she left.
    • Before I was unkind to her.
  • At the end of Sunday, sales were barely ahead of prior year, and far, far below my expectations for a 2-day event and my double booth. Very disappointing.
  • The drive home was another adventure, but I at least drove a different canyon. Why is Camarillo so hard to get home from?
  • This is my last July event before the end of my Kickstarter campaign, and I did mention it to several customers in the hopes of garnering a bit of support. The campaign is currently at 93% and just $329 away from goal! I know that I’ll bring it home, but it is oh so close. Here’s the link: Handmade Cutting Boards & Wooden Serving Pieces.
  • Requests were for bigger chess pieces (nope), a cheese slicer (on the list!), a cookbook stand, a horse tack shadow box, a coffee table top, knife cases and the 10 Commandments on a plaque. Bilingual, too. Oh, and a chicken shaped cutting board. That’s a trend. And I still haven’t made it.

The Food

  • Best Meal: I tried to order take out ahead of arriving back in Santa Clarita … and a lousy cell connection resulted in a bad order. Oh well, I guess we will eat 5 side Caesars. Eventually.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 220
  • Booth cost: $500
  • Food cost: none
  • Travel cost: $114
  • Total sales: $1,092
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $478
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 1
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: 1
  • Saturday alarm: 4:20a
  • Sunday alarm: nope
  • # transactions: far too few
  • # soap & lotion vendors: no clue
  • # woodworking vendors: no clue
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 23:0
  • Returning next year? Nope. Nope. Nope.

Boards sold: 23

Word Blocks: 5

Cheese Boards: 3

Magic Bottle Openers: 3

Cutting Boards: 3

CNC Signs: 3

Trivets: 2

Heart Board: 1

Coaster Set: 1

Wine Bottle Coaster: 1

Sous Chef Board: 1

The Board Chronicles: 4th of July Street Fair 2018   Leave a comment

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.

It’s become our tradition.

This is our 4th year celebrating our nation’s independence through vendoring on Main Street in Ventura, CA. Read about the first 3 events here: 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Ventura’s a beach community, about an hour due west of our home in Santa Clarita. History has taught us that it’s definitely a great place for us to go a-vendoring.

We don’t do fireworks on the 4th, but we do watch the parade of Red, White & Blue go by our booth. It’s a wonderful thing.

New Ideas

  • I’m embracing my inner foodie. I’ve made a new batch of signs that are all food themed, and I’m going to put up all of my mesh walls so I can hang them. That means my traditional open corner that allows 2-sided viewing of cutting boards will go away … now, I’m using the open corner for sign display on the outside of the booth. That’s how a traditional 2D artist displays their work. Just sayin’.
  • The new worry: will curbing the cutting board display hurt those sales? Is trading sign display for cutting board visibility a bad thing?

Observations

  • Why do events always start at 4 in the morning?
  • On the road shortly after 5a. We can do this. We have done this.
  • We’ve got the routine pretty much down at this point. We arrived at the event at 6:10a, and both of our neighbors were already well into their set-ups. We were able to load in with a minimum of trouble. From there, it was a rush to set-up, because we know this is an early crowd. The 10am official start means nothing.
  • The signs are an immediate hit. 3 are sold before set-up is done.
  • I have no inventory to replace signs when they sell (sigh).
  • My neighbor, across the aisle, is a direct competitor for Mrs M with bath bombs, lotions, and such. Direct competitor. Apparently the promoter (the city of Ventura) does not care.
  • At all.
  • Such is the case at many city-sponsored events. They may know how to stage a vendor event, but that doesn’t mean they know/care about the subtleties of managing vendor relationships.
  • I had a manly encounter with a woodworker:
    • He walks into the booth.
    • He fondles a board.
    • He fondles another board.
    • He looks at me, smiles, nods.
    • I reciprocate with a smile and a nod.
    • He leaves.
    • We communicated everything we needed to communicate, right?
  • The stream of humanity by the booth was impressive. People are definitely here … but here to shop? Vendors always try to count shopping bags as they walk by the booth … and there are never enough, it seems. We were busy throughout the day, thank goodness.
  • Lady holding a plaque: “Can you cut on this?”
  • AAARRRGGGHHH!!!
  • For reference, Mrs M’s all-time favorite question, from a customer holding a boar of soap: “How do you use this?”
  • When appropriate, I did mention my Kickstarter campaign to anyone that might care. Former customers, walk-in prospects … I did talk about supporting my Kickstarter campaign. Wasn’t this a good transition for my naked pitch? If you’re interested, see the video & read all about it, here.
  • We never had time to go walkabout, which is a good thing, I guess. Therefore, we have no idea who else is at this event beyond our small circuit for lunch & such around the neighborhood. We did hear that there are a lot of soapmakers.
  • Woodworkers? No clue.
  • We began tearing down at 4:45p. Banners. Price tags. A “soft close,” which is totally against our nature. Sales, though, had largely stopped before 4pm. We had no late surge on this day.
  • Sales were down a bit from last year, but far beyond the 2 years prior. Not a record setter, but definitely worthwhile.
  • Requests were for a rooster board (sigh), smaller Lazy Susans (sigh) and a dachshund board (NO. Why do people want to cut on dogs?).

The Food

  • Best Meal: Velda bought sushi for herself & teriyaki chicken for me from a nearby Japanese restaurant. Very well done: not fair food.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 115
  • Booth cost: $385
  • Food cost: $41
  • Travel cost: $60
  • Total sales: $2,099
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $1,613
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: none
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: several by the anonymous “block captain”
  • Wednesday alarm: 4a
  • # transactions: 71
  • # soap & lotion vendors: Many, we were told
  • # woodworking vendors: No clue
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 33:0
  • Returning next year? Yup

Boards sold: 33

CNC Signs: 9

Coasters: 5

Trivets: 4

Hearts: 3

Magic Bottle Openers: 3

Cutting Boards: 3

Custom Orders: 2

Cheese Board: 1

Sous Chef Board: 1

Clipboard: 1

Lazy Susan: 1

The Board Chronicles: Ojai Lavender Festival 2018   Leave a comment

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.

Ojai is a community in the mountains above Ventura. It is a little over an hour west of my home, but I’ve never been there.

Their annual Lavender Festival has been on our radar for a while (this is the 15th edition), but Mrs M has always opted out since her products are temperature sensitive and … well, it’s summer. It’s hot out there. Or, can be. Might be.

No matter.

I have a more robust product, so summer heat doesn’t scare me. Time to leave Mrs M at home and get to it. I wonder what Ojai will have for me?

New Ideas

  • I got a single booth, which is unusual these days. I’m driving in the Jeep with my hitch carrier, so no trailer. No rolling cart. Just me and what I can fit in the Jeep.

Observations

  • This is our 15th event of the year. It’s my 5th solo event and the 3rd one-day event that I’ve done. I’m not sure I can say not doing one day events is a rule if 20% of the events have been one day only. Hmmmm.
  • I so overpacked for this event. I barely fit into the Jeep. I had to leave the 16×20 photographs at home: no room. I thought I brought the smaller photos & signs, but that container got left behind (sigh). Limited signs in the booth, unfortunately.
  • Lavender Lemonade. It’s a thing, apparently, and was all the rave at this event.
  • The setting is really great. It’s a city park, filled with large oak trees. I was in the shade all day. There’s a gazebo; they had live music throughout. I really enjoyed the bluegrass … but then they went to local folk artists and the music went dark. Take the bad with the good, apparently.
  • The day started very well; the first transaction was for a large custom order. It all ended, though, when an immigration protest took over Main Street. I didn’t sell another item after 1pm. Other vendors had sales, but several reported down sales from prior years. The protest took the life out of this event.
  • The reality is I paid money to be a vendor at this event, and the protest interfered with my small commercial opportunity in Ojai. I am dead certain that I paid money to be there, and the protestors did not.
  • Free speech has a cost, and on this day I was made to pay it out of my pocket. It’s hard for me to feel good about that.
  • Good news, though: my Kickstarter campaign had a good day, and is now 41% funded. On my way!
  • Requests were for a cribbage board, boxes, a cook book stand and a board with bread hooks.

The Food

  • Best Meal: Lunch was a ham sandwich from home. High living in Ojai.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 103
  • Booth cost: $185
  • Food cost: $0
  • Travel cost: $54
  • Total sales: $640
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $401
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: none
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: none
  • Saturday alarm: 5a
  • # transactions: 7
  • # soap & lotion vendors: several, but no Mrs M
  • # woodworking vendors: I know there was another cutting board maker as well as a toy maker. I didn’t see the whole event, though; there may have been others.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 9:1
  • Returning next year? Maybe

Boards sold: 10

2x Cheese Boards

2x Trivets

1x Custom Order

1x Medium Surfboard

1x Lazy Susan

1x CNC Plaque

1x Small Board

1x Clipboard

The Board Chronicles: Lompoc Flower Festival 2018   Leave a comment

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.

We went to the 2016 edition of the Lompoc Flower Festival and loved it. At the time, that Flower Festival our 3rd best event ever, with sales over $3,000.

Lompoc was good to us … except for that first night restaurant. But, I digress.

We definitely wanted to return to Lompoc when it fit into the calendar, and 2 years later, we’re returning for the 66th Annual Lompoc Flower Festival.

It’s a classic event in a city park. It’s truly a community get-together, with many high school reunions keyed to the event. Once you get there, it’s a paid gate (increased this year from $3 to $5), live music throughout, and a beer garden. Food booths are for local charities. It was a good time in 2016 …

New Ideas

  • This event sells booths that are 10′ wide x 20′ deep. We bought our typical double booth … so we had our first ever quadruple booth, 20′ x 20′. We brought 2 pop-up canopies and the Trimline 10′ x 20′ canopy. 4x mesh walls. We were stylin’.
  • We got there Friday morning for set-up, and asked the organizer if she knew of any teenagers that might want to help us. Her 2 teenagers just happened to be nearby….

Observations

  • We had low expectations for Friday; 2 years ago sales were only $245. No worries … but sales this year were only $119. Board sales were $0. Yuck.
  • We had family in town, and Aunt Sis (maker of Aunt Sis’ Exfoliers) and Dr H (author of the Harbstreit method of routing fingerholds on an end grain board) came to visit us in Lompoc. We had a great couple of days with them … the event, not so much.
  • Saturday started slow, as expected: no one comes to the park until after the parade is over. Once it’s done, the people flood into the park to set up their lawn chairs, see their friends, and enjoy the music.
  • Oh, and shop. We hope.
  • Unfortunately, Saturday stayed slow. Sales were less than half of 2016.
  • This has never happened to us before. Sales down more than half? Well, there’s Sunday. We hope.
  • Nope.
  • Sunday sales totaled $200. Total sales were 40% of 2016. Our neighbor reported their sales were 42% of prior year. 2018 was just way, way off.
  • Vendors always talk about how it used to be better. Nostalgia is always a positive thing, right? People always enjoy talking about the “good old days.” At this event, we heard some of that … but we heard it from the customers, as well. We were told that the Flower Festival used to have many local artists vending at the park: good, handmade artists like Mrs M. Multiple customers told us this. They also told us that in the last few years, the purveyors of cheap imported merchandise have seemed to crowd out the good vendors.
  • Yup.
  • In the artist community, there’s a lot of chatter about how “non-artist vendors will always ruin an art event.” When the likes of solar power companies, LulaRoe & vendors with cheap imported merchandise are allowed into an event, the crowd-sourced wisdom goes, then the quality of the art will always decline. Perhaps that’s what happened in Lompoc. I don’t know – though I will say that their vendors of cheap imported merchandise are hardly the equal of credible multi-level marketing companies like Pampered Chef or Origami Owl.
  • In the end, it doesn’t matter. This was a lost weekend.
  • Requests were for a backgammon board (sigh), anything with a dog on it, a Word Block I didn’t have in stock and both larger and smaller Lazy Susans (sigh, sigh).

The Food

  • Best Meal: Mrs M loved her Pork Belly Tacos at the Solvang Brewing Company.
  • Worst Meal: A treat we looked forward to was La Botte in Lompoc, a wonderful Italian restaurant we enjoyed in 2016. We made a reservation for 8p, and arrived to find the wait staff was ‘whelmed. We were barely acknowledged for 10 minutes, and then the busboy (who was funny) became our waiter because the real wait staff was still ‘whelmed. Food was pretty good, but the service was truly insulting.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 268
  • Booth cost: $394
  • Food cost: $151
  • Travel cost: $789
  • Total sales: $1,249
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): -$85. We lose money for the first time ever.
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 1
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: several
  • Saturday alarm: nope
  • Sunday alarm: nope
  • # transactions: 59
  • # soap & lotion vendors: There was one other … making medical claims. Did you know soap could cure hair loss? I sure hope the FDA catches wind of these snake oil sellers.
  • # woodworking vendors: There was one turner, and a couple of vendors of import, uh, crap.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 23:1
  • Returning next year? Nope.

Boards sold: 24

Trivets: 7

Word Blocks: 3

Hearts: 3

Cheese Boards: 3

Small Boards: 2

CNC Signs: 1

Lazy Susan: 1

Coaster: 1

Soap Deck: 1

Clipboard: 1

Medium Surfboard: 1

The Board Chronicles: Palos Verdes 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.

There was a time that I was staging promotional events on the road. It was a big idea. I hired a staff in 7 markets and we created over 200 night club music events during a 6 month period. After that project ended, I rolled right into another promotional project that was staging music events in 35 markets. All told, I saw a lot of this country, visited several states for the first time and logged 180 hotel nights in 1 year.

What did I learn? I don’t want to travel for a living. No amount of points or free stuff from Marriott or American Airlines or whatever could compensate me for the tough travel time.

So, here we are, at the glorious end of the 4th Annual Spring Fling. we’ve had some great events – and a couple of clinkers. We’ve gotten wet more than once. The main thing I’ve learned, though, is that doing 10 events in 11 weeks while balancing a real job is not for the faint of heart.

But, we still have one more to go. What’s in front of us?

The Palos Verdes peninsula is a landform between Redondo Beach and Long Beach. The event itself is in Rolling Hills Estates. It’s not easy to get there from here – I have to brave the Friday commute on the 405 again! – and we’ve never been to this event. We booked it kind of blind … it’s a big deal in the community and it’s a pretty nice neighborhood. But do these people need lotions & cutting boards?

New Ideas

  • This is an event “in LA,” but we still opted to get a hotel & avoid the 90 minute commutes to and from the event. It was a good decision.
  • We’re using our pop-up canopies for this Saturday morning set-up, but we are now adding mesh walls to the pop-ups. Made by Flourish who also made the Trimline canopy and its mesh walls, these new walls are sized to fit the pop-ups. Sta-Bars – rigid bars at the bottom of the legs – are added as well. These add to the structural strength of the canopy, stretch the mesh walls, and provide a nice unobtrusive place to put our weights. Importantly, artwork & signage can now hang on the walls at every event.

Observations

  • This is event # 10 of 10 in our 4th Annual Spring Fling.
  • Quoth Hamm in Beckett’s Endgame, “Finished. It’s finished.”
  • The Fling’s over, and I get a week off from events. Thank goodness.
  • This is not a cheap event for a spur of the moment kind of booking. Our double booth cost $700, plus a city business license of $39. I sure hope these people want some handmade soap….
  • We arrived Saturday morning to find a stainless wash station & big water tank in the middle of our booth. “Oh, that was for last night,” the volunteer told us. What in the world were they doing last night?
  • After I helped move the leftover infrastructure, we set up … right next to the entrance to the carnival. We were on the midway next to a carney thrill ride. We were in ‘tween central, and just downhill from the Domino’s Pizza trailer and its diesel generator. Pop music was booming all day. A perfect location … for what, exactly? Not selling soap. Not talking to customers in a relaxed setting. Not for Mrs M’s sanity.
  • Set up took a long time today … 4 hours later, we still weren’t done. Having to move the trailer to one location and then park the Jeep a block farther away didn’t help. Not an auspicious beginning.
  • The head of the Chamber of Commerce visited us first thing to verify we had a Rolling Hills Estates business license! Apparently, the city had threatened the COC if they didn’t police their vendors. The city didn’t have the staff for enforcement … so the Chamber of Commerce was responsible? Very odd.
  • A lady walked into the booth. “Excuse me, do you have a petting zoo?”
  • Uh….
  • Something I never expected to hear from Mrs M: “I guess you get used to the screaming after a while.”
  • I have 2 carved plaques right up front, and a nice moment was when a Mom was reading the sentiment on “In This House” to her brood and using it as a teaching moment. Very cute.
  • Dad asked the price … no sale, unfortunately. But I was entertained.
  • This event has a lot going on in a very compact space. It’s all parking lots and roadways, but they cram in a carnival, a concert stage, a beer garden, an “International Food Court” (AKA Fair Food) and 150 vendor spaces. Activities, drinking, music, people … but this year, there wasn’t much shopping. An excessive number of vendors were first-timers, too, and that’s never a good sign. If vendors don’t come back, there must be a reason.
  • A couple was in the booth shopping in Mrs M’s, uh, department, and the discussion turned to beard oil. Before long, I had the lady – and the guy – fondling my beard to see if it was soft. I was objectified while minding my own business. In my booth. That I paid for.
  • The things I must do to support Mrs M’s totally out-of-control hobby.
  • Saturday ended with an underwhelming number. We were OK … but not impressed.
  • And the screaming. Oh, the screaming.
  • A lady admired the product shots hanging on the wall. “Do you have this piece?” she asked. No, I’m out of that one. “How about this piece?” No, I’m out of that one, too.
  • Great. Now I have to manage my cutting board inventory because of the photography.
  • A guy walked into the booth. “I think you’re the guy my wife told me about.”
  • Uh….
  • A shade stealer (you know, a person more interested in the shade of your canopy then the products it shelters) came into the booth and started talking to me, then switched to Mrs M. He was a former biochem major, and they talked soap. It was a highlight of Mrs M’s day, actually. Later, his wife & 2 daughters showed up and they bought some stuff. Not all shade stealers are bad … you just never know who you need to be nice to … sometimes you just want to say “get out of my booth.” But, it’s better to be polite, every time. In my experience.
  • The weekend moved Oh. So. Slowly. Was it the screaming? Was it the engine fumes? Was it the long hours? Was it that most people were not there to shop? I don’t know. The final tally was really OK, but we certainly didn’t have fun at this Street Fair. Unfortunately.
  • Requests were for Cribbage boards (2x) (sigh), Chess pieces (2x) (sigh), a Pegs & Jokers board, larger Lazy Susans, lighter cutting boards and more photographs to be on sale.

The Food

  • Best Meal: Saturday dinner was at Gaetano’s Restaurant in Torrance. It was simply fabulous. Mrs M had found the place on Yelp … “I knew we were coming to the right place when one of the reviews said they use too much garlic.” She had the seafood special; I had the Marsala (naturally). We even had the bruschetta and a dessert. Exquisite. The best event of the weekend, by a country mile.
  • Honorable Mention: Sunday breakfast was at the Pinwheel Cafe & Bakery. Again, fabulous. French sourdough to die for.
  • Worst Meal: Friday dinner was at a horrible iteration of Mimi’s in Torrance. The only good thing was that parking the trailer was easy. Maybe that shouldn’t be how we choose our restaurants.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 164
  • Booth cost: $739
  • Food cost: $275
  • Travel cost: $283
  • Total sales: $2,202
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $905
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 2
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: several
  • Saturday alarm: 4:15a
  • Sunday alarm: 6:15a
  • # transactions: 77
  • # soap & lotion vendors: There was a booth that had mainly bath bombs, but no one else.
  • # woodworking vendors: There were a couple of buy & sell guys (imported crap). One turner might have been a real woodworker instead of an importer, but I didn’t get a chance to talk to him. Not sure. Certainly no other cutting board makers.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 28:2
  • Returning next year? As a solo act, maybe. Mrs M won’t touch this event again.

Boards sold: 30

Magic Bottle Openers: 6

Trivets: 5

Coasters: 4

Cutting Boards: 3

Small Boards: 2

Lazy Susans: 2

Chess Boards: 2

Cheese Boards: 2

Carved Signs: 2

Clipboard: 1

Medium Surfboard: 1

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