Archive for the ‘craft fair’ Tag

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

The Board Chronicles: Montrose Arts & Craft Festival 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.

How do people measure success?

My experience is that success is often a product of your own state of mind. If you thing that “X” is being a success, and you do “X,” then you think you are a success. In your mind. If you only do “X-1,” though, then you may feel that you failed.

It’s about what you think.

We had been highly recommended to do the Montrose Arts & Crafts Festival for 2 years before we finally got there. We’ve done the event twice now (2016, 2017), and it has proved to be a consistent event that’s slightly better than average for us.

Slightly better than average. That sounds marginal, doesn’t it? Who wants something “slightly” better than average?

However, average events are a good thing … it’s the below average events you want to avoid. This event has averaged over $2,100 in sales for us for the last 2 years, so we should be happy with that.

*Should be.*

Getting ready for the event this week, it was hard to work up much enthusiasm. I felt like I knew what we were doing, and it would be average. Hard to get excited about that, I found.

Success, you see, is all about what’s in your head. Could I fix that and enjoy Montrose?

New Ideas

  • This year’s event had rather temperate weather forecast, with Saturday in the 70s and Sunday in the mid-80s. That’s a refreshing change from the last 2 years which were both in the 90s – and 2 years ago visited triple digits. In spite of that, both years delivered … uh … slightly above average sales. Maybe we have an upside this year.

Observations

  • This is event # 9 of 10 in our 4th Annual Spring Fling.
  • Drove right to the booth, and unloaded the trailer by 6:45a. The event starts at 10a, but you have walkers long before that, of course. We were ready.
  • Mrs M had a good day on Saturday. Consistent sales – much more than me. It’s a good thing someone had a good day … and the sales kept going. I finally had a multiple board purchase in the final hour (of course) that made my numbers more respectable. We ended up with our best 1 day total at this event in 3 years of experience.
  • “Slightly above average.” Humans plan, God laughs.
  • Due to the odd curation of this event, my booth is right across the street – perhaps 25′ away – from another woodworker that does similar pieces in a different style. We each have unique products, but we have many similar ones. He sent people to me for larger Lazy Susans; I sent people to him for smaller coasters. I don’t think either of us contributed sales to the other, but we are very collegial and friendly. Good people, but it’s still odd to be neighbors. Both of our customers commented on that odd placement all weekend long.
  • As they do each year.
  • We both like our locations, though – he’s at the end of a block in a highly visible “middle of the street” kind of location, and we’re under a giant tree that keeps our booth 10 degrees cooler than the surrounding booths. I’m also on a corner, next to a walkway that’s the best access to the neighborhood ice cream store. Win, win.
  • I am concerned about this event. It’s a nice community get together, but promotes itself as all handmade. There seems to be fewer handmade vendors each year. My neighbor sold clothing (the rack next to my booth had a sign: “Sale! Everything Under $10.”  There was also a dump bin selling flip flops. Handmade? Not so much.
  • A legacy customer from 2 years ago came by to pick up a board care kit. Back in the day, I made an end grain Bloodwood board they purchased, and they LOVE it. Those conversations are the best! Paradoxically, they only cut vegetables on their Bloodwood board, but they are adults. They get to choose.

Cutting Board 16 – End 004. A spectacular board in daylight when the wood flouresces. Jarrah & Bloodwood. End grain. 16″ x 21″ x 1-1/2″.

  • Sunday started slow, but did pick up right at the end, of course. Today it was 2 multiple board purchases at the end of the day, so my numbers ended OK. Mrs M had a good day, as well, with lots of legacy customers talking about how they came to the event just to find her. Sunday ended not better than Saturday, but we were both happy with the weekend in the end.
  • We were up 15% from prior year, with our best results ever for this event. So, our slightly above average event became … a little better.
  • Requests were for a tofu press, a backgammon board, a gravity-based locking towel holder, a stove-top board and … wait for it … chess pieces (on order).
  • We were packed & I was in the Jeep in 1 hour 49 minutes. It’s been a while since we were that quick; the Spring Fling has made us get better at what we do. I think. After all, what’s the alternative?
  • I sold 11 different items at this event, and 6 of those items were touched by the CNC. I’m going to call that a win for technology.

The Food

  • Best Meal: Dinner at the Grand Panda after a surprisingly good Saturday. This is the best Chinese restaurant in Santa Clarita, IMHO.
  • Worst Meal: We wanted a breakfast burrito from Jimmy Dean’s Sunday morning, but, alas, they don’t open until 7:30a and we had to be on the road. We had to settle, and it was disappointing.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 138
  • Booth cost: $650
  • Food cost: $118
  • Travel cost: $72
  • Total sales: $2,589
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $1,749
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: none
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: none
  • Saturday alarm: 4:15a
  • Sunday alarm: 6:00a
  • # transactions: 104
  • # soap & lotion vendors: at least 4
  • # woodworking vendors: 4 cutting board makers sellers, including 3 makers, I believe. Many other sellers of wood products.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain:  24:2
  • Returning next year? Almost certainly. We like above average events.

Boards sold: 26

Coaster: 10

CNC Plaques: 3

Hearts: 2

Medium Surfboards: 2

Small Board: 2

Cheese Board: 2

Trivet: 1

Cutting Board: 1

Lazy Susan: 1

Clipboard: 1

Wine Bottle Coaster: 1

 

The Board Chronicles: Bishop Mule Days 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.

I don’t know anything about mules. Some are from Missouri, I think. Shouldn’t I know more about that?

Bishop is a mountain community on the eastern Sierra located on US 395. They have the world’s largest annual celebration of mules each Memorial Day weekend. In addition to the events at the fairgrounds (and the vendors there), a parade is held on Main Street (AKA US 395). The Bishop City Park is there, and the local arts council sponsors their annual craft fair for vendors of handmade goods at that bucolic park with a stream, a duck pond and large shade trees.

Sounds like home.

We’re in. Well, I’m in. Mrs M had to work at her “job,” so my solo act was headed north to see if a celebration of mules was the right place to sell my cutting boards.

New Ideas

  • This is our my first 4-day event. Fridays are slow and Mondays are awful, I’m told … but it is nice to not put up early Saturday morning and take down late Sunday night. Recovery is a good thing.
  • Carved signs make their debut on the mesh walls at this event. Booth decor is now complete, for the moment: photographs of my boards in use are mixed with CNC-carved signs with a bit of sass and quotes with a bit of historical interest.

Observations

  • This is event # 8 of 10 in our 4th Annual Spring Fling.
  • My goodness, will it never end?
  • I drove up on Thursday to set up, and met the coordinator, Lynn, who showed me to my booth spaces. By the time I got there in the afternoon, many of the vendors were set up – and gone. I wasn’t late to the party, but I was certainly not early.
  • By the time I was putting up the Trimline, the late afternoon winds had picked up. Fortunately, a dad that was watching his daughters’ very long swim team meeting at the pool nearby volunteered to help me hold down the dome as I erected the framework.
  • Yes, his wife got to pick out a cutting board to take home. He was a very big help!
  • Love our new strategy of staying at AirBnB guest houses whenever we can at out-of-town events. I was in an in-law cottage that was just perfect for a couple’s getaway to the Sierra. Too bad I wasn’t a couple.
  • The forecast had thunderstorms forecast for Friday and Saturday. Can I not catch a break with the weather this year?
  • It only took a couple of hours … I was quickly asked how much for the engraved signs on the walls. But I don’t want to sell my booth decor!
  • Well….
  • #1 question of the weekend, by a wide margin: “What’s a trivet?”
  • #1 seller for the last 2 weekends: trivets.
  • You can’t make this stuff up.
  • Best visual of the first day was a pair of grandparents facetiming with their daughter and granddaughter. They had bought a stick mule (like a stick pony), and the mule kept dancing in front of the camera during the call. I can appreciate grandparents having fun.
  • Luckily, the rain stayed away. Ended the first day over $600 in sales.  I didn’t really have specific expectations at my first time for this event, but that seemed good to me.
  • Saturday, I was told to expect light crowds until after the parade, and then expect to be ‘whelmed. It didn’t really happen that way: business was steady all day. I never really got slammed, though there were a few times that transactions happened right on top of each other. I was busy all day.
  • Best t-shirt of the weekend: a lady wore a shirt that said “Don’t eat watermelon seeds.” It appeared that perhaps she had; something was growing, that’s for sure.
  • Ended the day Saturday with no rain! I had very good sales, propelled by selling 2x end grain cutting boards with a design I call “Chaos.” They are show stoppers.
  • And I’m out of them.
  • Sunday dawned with no rain in the forecast.
  • It rained on and off through much of the afternoon. I still had OK sales, though. Definitely having a good event, in spite of the rain.
  • Sold a cheese board that’s going to Essex, and then another that’s going to London. Must be a lot of English tourists here to get a taste of the old west. Or something.
  • #2 question of the weekend: “Did Benjamin Franklin really say that?”
  • The day ended with 2x twenty-something couples, and both of the guys really wanted to buy the meat carving boards. Somehow, their delay in making a decision became a discussion about how there was a lack of commitment problem at work here. I backed away. The couples strolled on.
  • And came back. I sold 2x boards. This was a very good day. Not as good as Saturday, but I got close to a good number. If I can just do a little bit on Monday….
  • I sputtered along on Monday; we only had 5 hours before we closed up. In the final hour (OF COURSE), I sold one more large cheese & cracker server that put me over $300 for the day. That put me over a very nice number … and yes!

Best. Solo. Event. Ever.

  • Requests were for a spatula, pepper mills, cribbage boards (multiple requests. I’m trying. Geez.), a backgammon set (NO NO NO), Chinese checkers (NO), a smaller “&” board, a carving board (I am out!) and a lap board for your car to eat lunch on (huh?).
  • Two more events in the Spring Fling. Four total events in June. Hope I can make it … I’m selling out of things!
  • And, yes, that’s a wonderful problem to have.

The Food

  • Best Meal: Mrs M opened the freezer, and I got meals – and a pre-planned menu – for the weekend. Chicken Marsala for the win. Of course.
  • Worst Meal: I stopped in Mojave for a Big Mac, and I was annoyed by the service. Not the best McDonald’s I’ve been to.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 504
  • Booth cost: $580
  • Food cost: $34
  • Travel cost: $854
  • Total sales: $3,532
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $2,064
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 1
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: several
  • Alarm clock: Nope
  • # transactions: 44
  • # soap & lotion vendors: there were a couple … but not Mrs M, unfortunately
  • # woodworking vendors: several. There was a turner & a maker of pine log furniture. Rustic furniture and decor was everywhere, it seemed.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 60:4
  • Returning next year? Absolutely.

Boards sold: 64

Coasters: 13

Trivets: 8

Cutting Boards: 7

Cheese Boards: 6

Word Blocks: 5

Magic Bottle Openers: 4

Small Boards: 4

Lazy Susans: 3

CNC Plaque: 3

Custom Orders: 2

Cheese & Cracker Server: 2

Wine Bottle Coaster: 1

Heart: 1

Serving Tray: 1

Bear: 1

Pig: 1

Large Cutting Board: 1

The Board Chronicles: California Strawberry 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 look forward to the California Strawberry Festival all year long. This will be our 4th trip to Oxnard; read about our past successes & frustrations here: 2017, 2016, 2015.

This year, the event has moved the handmade vendor section to the other side of the event: instead of being on Rose Avenue, we’re now located on a soccer field.

More on that later.

This event has a “hard gate:” you have to pay to get in. Once in, you can sample all manner of strawberry delights, including Mrs M’s favorite, Strawberry beer.

Will we survive the change in vendor location? Will we recover from our off year in 2017 and beat our record performance from 2016?

New Ideas

  • Because we’re not on Rose Avenue, vendors can’t drive up to their spaces to unload. Rather, they must park outside of the soccer field fence and hand cart in their display. Oh, and….
  • All vendors are required to use carts with pneumatic tires only. I’ve never seen that requirement put on vendors before. Our cart doesn’t qualify – nor does my booth display cart or the shelf unit that we transport Mrs M’s display in. I asked for permission to use them, and that was denied. Only pneumatic tires were allowed.
  • I set up on Friday, so we used our Trimline with the mesh walls. Hung on those walls, for the first time, are pictures of my cutting boards & serving pieces in action. Mrs M & I staged most of the photos, but a few were contributed by happy customers.

Observations

  • This is event # 7 of 10 in our 4th Annual Spring Fling.
  • I bought a new cart with pneumatic tires, so load in proceeded OK. 10 trips in, 140 steps each way … so load in was roughly 14 times as hard as last year.
  • Yes. I counted.
  • While I counted steps, I also observed the other vendors to see what their cart tires were like. Unfortunately, I estimate only 10-20% of vendors were using appropriate carts.
  • A few vendors also used rolling carts in their booth, and not one had the appropriate tires.
  • In addition to the cart requirement, vendors were to mitigate damage to the turf by putting squares of carpet or wood between the turf and every point of contact the vendors put in place in their booth, including the canopy legs, product containers, display pieces, etc. I cut 80 squares of plywood so we would have enough for our double booth. Nearly every vendor did similar mitigation; I only saw one that didn’t.
  • Did the promoter do anything about the vendors that didn’t comply? Not in my experience. Did I get an apology because I bought a special cart, and didn’t use my rolling display pieces like the other vendors did? Nope.
  • I know I have a problem: I’m a black & white guy. I follow the rules, every time. When other vendors cheat the rules (you know, like artists always do!), I don’t know how to cope. I am very frustrated, though.
  • A lady rolled up to the booth in a wheel chair, pushed by her son. She stood, took off the cannula that was supplying her with oxygen, and walked into the booth to choose her cutting board. Her husband and son stayed on the outside of the booth while she made her choice. First time that has happened.
  • Another lady walked into the booth with her young daughter. She was Asian American, I thought … but perhaps not. She could not speak English, and her daughter was her translator. They looked at cutting boards, asked questions, and then eventually transitioned over to looking at Magic Bottle Openers. The non-English speaker touched every MBO, and opened bottles with most of them to make sure they worked! She found one she liked before I was out of bottle caps, fortunately.
  • A family with a very young daughter (4? 5?) walked into Mrs M’s booth, and the mother informed Mrs M that her daughter had stolen an animal from ZooSoapia, and had returned it. She was in the booth to formally apologize to Mrs M. Her parents stood there and made her get the words out before they would let the daughter leave the booth. Aggressive parenting, on display. Kudos.
  • We went to load out … and I discovered this:

Yes, our brand new cart with blow up tires … didn’t hold air for 2 days. 3 tires were flat after 2 days, and I had to borrow a cart to load out.

  • Requests included a board shaped like California (2x!), a backgammon board, a spoon rest and a smaller heart (who would want that?).
  • In the end, the relocation of the handmade vendor area to the soccer field was an improvement, I felt. The shopping experience was an improvement. It was a stroll across the grass, rather than a walk down the hard pavement. So, the result was good … but our sales were essentially flat to last year, which was a down year. This year, we were down again … by $29. Down 0.9%. Hard to be upset about that. But pleased? Nope.

The Food

  • Best Meal: We went to El Pescadero in Fillmore on our way home Saturday night, and it was a fabulous meal. Officially, this is the best Mexican restaurant we have found in our neighborhood. It’s better than any Mexican restaurant in Santa Clarita, without question.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 315
  • Booth cost: $780
  • Food cost: $30
  • Travel cost: $164
  • Total sales: $3,588
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $2,614
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 2
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: Several
  • Saturday alarm: Nope
  • Sunday alarm: Nope
  • # transactions: 155
  • # soap & lotion vendors: At least 5
  • # woodworking vendors: Several, but each offering was unique
  • Edge grain vs. end grain:  27:2
  • Returning next year? Yes

Boards sold: 29

Trivets: 7

Cutting Board: 4

Coasters: 4

Pig Cutting Boards: 2

Magic Bottle Openers: 2

Cheese Boards: 2

Cheese & Cracker Server: 1

Lazy Susan: 1

Bear: 1

Large Cutting Board: 1

Small Boards: 1

Coaster Holder (with no Coasters): 1

Custom Order: 1

CNC Plaque: 1

 

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

 

The Board Chronicles: KHTS Home & Garden Show 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.

KHTS, my Hometown Radio Station (I do listen!), sponsors the city’s largest trade show every spring. In Santa Clarita, it’s a don’t miss event for any business that wants to appeal to homeowners.

The radio station partners with the city to highlight their Arbor Day celebration, and free trees are handed out to those attending the event. I’ve done this event for 4 years now; Mrs M has joined me for 3 of those years.

So – stay with me now – I get to do an event in my hometown, sleep in my own bed, and meet people that want to improve their home and, uh, garden.

You bet we wanted to be a part of this year’s event, the 9th Annual. Can we continue our hot streak and have another good event?

New Ideas

  • For only the 3rd time ever, we have a triple booth. It’s a funky L shape, with me getting a double end aisle (3 open sides), and Mrs M getting her typical 10×10. I get space to show everything I’ve got.
  • First event we’ve done in Santa Clarita in 4 months, and the first significant event we’ve done in 5. When we started, it seemed like every event was here, but not today!

Observations

  • This is event # 4 of 10 for our 4th Annual Spring Fling.
  • I love local.
  • Set up seemed to take forever Friday afternoon, but maybe that’s just because I was setting up a triple booth. I used the Trimline 10×20 along with an Undercover pop-up canopy, so there was plenty of work to do to get everything up.
  • Velda started Saturday with mismatched shoes … discovered before we left the house, thankfully. Still, she almost got the day off on the wrong foot.
  • I started Saturday by putting the awnings & banners up on the Trimline, which is absolutely my favorite setup for a large outdoor event. As people lined up to get their free trees and enjoy the opening ceremony with the local politicals representing, we were in the middle of it.
  • And then the wind came.
  • Across the aisle, in a protected location with neighbors on all sides and while facing away from the wind, a young lady setting up her canopy left it alone without securing it to terra firma. She went to get the weights, she said. In any event, moments later, her canopy was upside down and on top of a neighbor’s canopy. Fortunately, the only damage was to the flying canopy. It was destroyed. In a minute. It just takes one malicious gust … and that’s why she stood in the sun all day.
  • It sucks to be the windbreak. Or, perhaps I should say it blows. Doesn’t matter. When you are the one breaking the wind (which is very different from breaking wind, for the record), then it can be bad. That was our role at this event: we were in an unprotected, prominent position, with nothing between us and the wind sweeping across the valley. Wind was a steady 14-17 mph for about an hour … with a few gusts that were less pleasant. When the wind came, we got hit.
  • We survived … but there was one large gust (must have been 30-40 mph) that lifted the Trimline off the ground. Only an inch, mind you, but oh my goodness, it makes your heart stop. And yes, our big, heavy Trimline had additional weights attached to every leg. However, with the big canvas dome plus the 135 square feet of awning, that’s a lot of sail to catch the wind. And we did catch it.
  • I took the awnings down. I secured the Trimline to the cart with ratchet straps, adding several hundred pounds of weight to hold down the canopy. Be Prepared. There was no further incident, thank goodness.
  • The event finally got going at 10am, and there was a steady flow of people through the booth. Many commented that “they had some of my pieces,” or that “my work is beautiful.” Very artistic statements. I must be an artist.
  • I’m good with that. Finally.
  • Mrs M sold some soap; she quickly sold about half of one new batch that she had just labeled. New stuff sells … and it gets scary when your inventory is not deep. It’s a good problem to have, though!
  • Busy. We were busy. Love that.
  • I absolutely love to stand in my booth, point to the northwest and tell the shopper in front of me that I make the boards in our home about 3 miles that way. Local sells. There’s really nothing like selling what I love to make in my hometown, and several times during the day, buyers told me they love supporting local artists.
  • Thank goodness.
  • I didn’t have many transactions on Saturday, really, but activity was constant all day. Sales were steady. Fortunately, several sales were over $100. Sold a big cutting board. Sold another. Had a couple of people purchase multiple items. There were buyers in the crowd, and the crowd walking by at least looked at what we had to offer. Saturday was a very good day.
  • It’s important to wave the flag, especially when you’re local. It’s how you build a brand, and we build at this show.
  • But, you can’t choose your neighbors. Mrs M’s neighbor sold bamboo sheets, and spent all weekend telling every customer passing by, “50% off!”
  • Not our vibe.
  • More wind on Sunday, unfortunately. Not much, really – but it was enough. Mrs M is dealing with her PTSD as best she can, but there’s still that Flying Dry Soup Canopy to remember. This show, the booth behind and to the left of her booth (right behind the 50% off guy), launched at about 3pm. The owner had gone to pick up her daughter, leaving her booth unattended. It appeared the canopy was totally unweighted and unsecured. It launched, flipped, came down in our aisle, and rolled towards unsuspecting patrons sitting in the next booth over. Mrs M screamed at them to look out. No one was hurt. I ran to the canopy with many others, helped collapse it, and carried it back to its abandoned home.
  • Amateurs are dangerous.
  • The mistakes of amateurs not understanding that Wind. Blows. did mar an otherwise very pleasant weekend. Thankfully, no one was hurt. I don’t know if anyone gained wisdom from their experience or not.
  • Requests were for Cribbage Boards – 3 different requests! (I hear you, I just need more development time, and then more CNC time….), Coaster sets (I just sold out, and I need more shop time. See a pattern?), different colors of cheese & cracker servers (I NEED MORE TIME), and pizza peels (alright, alright, it’s on the list).
  • It’s not like I have anything else to do.
  • There just were not enough local crafters at this show. I know the show is viewed as being expensive – it’s not cheap! – but this is an essential Santa Clarita show. Highly recommended.
  • Sales analysis is a wonderful thing. It’s my thing. This is our 53rd event in Santa Clarita, which is 41% of our total of 130 events. As amazing as that is to me, here’s what’s more amazing: this was our best one yet.

Best. Santa. Clarita. Event. Ever.

  • Nothing like having a good weekend to improve your outlook on Monday.
  • Great being out in our hometown. I saw young & old friends that were soccer referees. Scouters. Vendors. School teachers. And, of course, customers. Great weekend!

The Food

  • Best Meal: Saturday dinner at Pho Shure. S5, hold the squid, please. Delightful. Parting shot: the host told me to have a wonder-pho day. Good meal, served with humor.
  • Worst Meal: We ate from the food trucks for lunches this weekend, and Saturday was a teriyaki bowl that was both overpriced and unsatisfying. Sunday’s Polish sausage was very good, thankfully.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 18
  • Booth cost: $525
  • Food cost: $105
  • Travel cost: $9
  • Total sales: $2,686
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $2,047
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 3
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: several
  • Saturday alarm: 5:30a
  • Sunday alarm: Nope. Went to bed early (and tired), so I woke up early (but refreshed).
  • # transactions: 69
  • # soap & lotion vendors: There was one other soaper, and am essential oil person, I think. A few “soap and body products” people, but no one does soap like Mrs M does soap. IMHO.
  • # woodworking vendors: Only three that I found this year, and all do very different things. 2 are SCV artists that are well known to me. Good guys; one’s a scroll saw artist and the other does a lot of turning and makes home decor. The 3rd woodworker makes adjustable patio furniture out of redwood that’s really fantastic. All of them were in my booth chatting, and vice versa. Comradery is a good thing.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 23:1
  • Returning next year? Yup.

Boards sold: 24

4x Cutting Boards

4x Cheese Boards

4x Hearts

2x Lazy Susans

2x Coasters

1x Wine Bottle Coaster

1x Large Cutting Board

1x Clipboard

1x Chess Board

1x Magic Bottle Opener

1x Small Sous Chef Board

1x Large Sous Chef Board

1x Custom Order

More

KHTS Home & Garden Show, 2017

KHTS Home & Garden Show, 2016

KHTS Home & Garden Show, 2015 (for a good dose of humility!)

The Board Chronicles: Vintage Days 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 don’t know what I was thinking.

When I put together the calendar for this year – consulting with Mrs M, of course – I scheduled 3 events in Fresno in 8 weeks.

That’s a lot of Fresno.

However, the first event proved to be my best solo event ever, and the 2nd event proved to be … wet. Can’t win them all.

We’ve been told by people for years that we should do Vintage Days: “It’s perfect for you!” Finally, the stars aligned and it’s time to see what all the buzz is about.

This event is the largest special event put on each year by Fresno State University: it’s a community outreach event for them, done right. Free music. Beer garden. Fun for the kids. Vendors with – only – handmade goods. They invite thousands to come onto the campus and see what they’re about.

They even invited us.

New Ideas

  • I drove up on Thursday to set up Thursday afternoon. Mrs M followed after work: she didn’t want to drive up with me. Or her “job” was important. Or something. In any event, I drove up and set up the basic booth on Thursday, and then we went to the event early Friday to set up the product displays.
  • The event is on grass! I set up the booth on luxurious green grass.
  • We again stayed at an AirBNB for this event. This time, we were in a townhome. The cost is not less than a motel, really, but it is private and you have access to a full kitchen, so we did not eat out. That’s where the saving were: eating leftovers & frozen stuff from home.

Observations

  • Load in was about as easy as it could be. I drove to my booth on wide sidewalks, and unloaded. I only had to carry the stuff about 30′. Lovely.
  • You don’t choose your neighbors at events, and I wasn’t happy with mine.
  • No, I’m not talking about Mrs M. I did choose her, a long time ago (though not as a neighbor, come to think of it).
  • This event is exclusively for handmade goods, and the artist is to be in residence. My back door neighbor, though, was a reseller of very artfully made intarsia wall art & veneer-top tables. They are really very pretty … but he is not the artist, and the company that makes them (or, perhaps, imports them?) is famous in the art show business for reselling their work. I’m offended by lying liars getting into shows they don’t belong in.
  • Thankfully, my neighbor seemed to be the exception. I saw one other booth that had too much buy & sell merchandise for my taste (including a big display of sports team key fobs), but all of the other vendors at this show I looked at seemed genuine. Love that.
  • Love the vibe of this show. Love being in a handmade show.
  • The Lady said she came to Vintage Days to buy 2 things: a large cutting board, and a toe ring. I could help her with one of them.
  • Best t-shirt of the weekend:
    • Haikus are easy
    • Sometimes they do not make sense
    • Refrigerator
  • What is it with Fresno? When I came to the Home & Garden Show in March, I sold 6 chess boards. Way, way beyond expectations! This time, I sold zero chess boards … and sold out of coaster sets. Go figure.
  • Requests were for Magic Knife Holders (hmmmm), an expandable board for over a sink (nope), a “breakfast in bed tray” (nope), a magnifying glass (sorry, not a turner!), a mah jong board (nope), and many requests for a backgammon board (nope).
  • We had big hopes for this show … and we didn’t quite get there. I did some checking though, and this show is actually the best show we’ve ever had in April! Funny how everything else in April has been an underachiever. This show is definitely on the calendar for 2019.

The Food

  • Best Meal: Mrs M cooked breakfast on Sunday. Always a treat.
  • Worst Meal: We ordered pizza from a Fresno pizza chain called Me & Eds, and that was a mistake. Not my style.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 937
  • Booth cost: $565 (which includes $50 discount for a first-time vendor, as well as a $30 overnight parking fee for the trailer)
  • Food cost: $21
  • Travel cost: $815
  • Total sales: $2,020
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $619
  • # 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: 103
  • # soap & lotion vendors: There were several. No one does soap like Mrs M, IMHO, but there were many alternatives.
  • # woodworking vendors: Again, several. Noteworthy was a box maker that did very nice work.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 31:1
  • Returning next year? Absolutely

Boards sold: 32

23x Coasters

1x Magic Bottle Opener

1x Large Cutting Board

1x Cutting Board

1x Cheese & Cracker Server

1x Bread Board

1x Serving Tray

1x Trivet

1x Cheese Board

1x Cribbage Board

The Board Chronicles: Big Hat Days 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.

April is a big month for our family: 2 birthdays for the granddaughters are in April. That means events take 2nd place to them.

As they should.

We did Big Hat Days when we were babies, way back in 2015. We had a single booth and no clue. At the time, that event was our Best. Event. Ever. It wore that crown proudly for all of 7 days, until it was surpassed by our first time at the California Poppy Festival – another April event that we don’t get to do very often.

This year, we carefully planned with the other Mrs Mowry, and decided to do Big Hat Days on the weekend between the 2 girls’ birthdays.

When a birthday party eventually got scheduled.

I’m not bitter. But I was in Fresno to try and recreate our early success.

New Ideas

  • The most different thing about this event was that the Lady & I obsessed over checking the weather. We were both checking the weather multiple times a day leading up to our trek north. Rain was forecast for Friday & Saturday. It was pretty clear we were in for it.

Observations

  • Event # 2 of 10 of the 4th Annual Spring Fling.
  • Our 6th event of the year … and 5 of those have been wet. I’m done with rain. Please.
  • This large vendor event (500 vendors!) takes place on a main street in “Old Downtown Clovis.” It’s full of what we, in a nice moment, call buy & sell vendors that are re-selling imported items for a few dollars. In the vernacular, we call it Chinese S***.
  • It is. When an event gets to where almost every booth seems like it’s offering imported goods for less than $10, then the event is probably not a good one for us. On the other hand, there is SO much traffic at this event (30,000+ I am sure), you’d think success would be there, even for vendors of handmade luxury items.
  • And then rain happened.
  • Load-in was at 5:30am. We just about got both canopies up when the rain started. I was wet until the rain stopped 7 hours later.
  • Wet & miserable.
  • We bought a new canopy to replace them one crushed by the Flying Dry Soup Canopy, but we decided to use the old top to see if we could get some use out of it. We could … and learned the difference between waterproof and water resistant. Both canopy tops are about 7 months old, and they did repel water. Unfortunately, there was enough falling from the sky that the fabric saturated and we had drips just about everywhere.
  • As we were setting up, I looked across the street to the vendor setting up his booth of wind spinners – made in China, naturally. He had a canopy of sorts, but all of his product was getting wet. He didn’t care. Made me think I was in the wrong business. Thankfully, sanity returned quickly.
  • There was really nothing to do but close the walls in a bit, move everything away from the walls as much as possible and just endure. Mrs M’s front corner, with the samples, was soaked. My back table with my biggest boards was soaked, too. Good thing I put rubber feet on them; they were up away from the table cloths.
  • We were on a city street, remember, so water ran from the crown down to the side of the street all day long. Everything on the ground was wet – all of the tablecloths were wicking up moisture. It. Was. Wet. Thankfully, we could set up away from the gutter.
  • Mrs M didn’t put out ZooSoapia because of the, uh, advanced humidity. I cut down on my display, too. In the end, I have a few boards that want to be resurfaced (really not a big thing), and Mrs M will have to launder all of the table cloths. But, honestly, we endured.
  • First sale of the event was from a guy I met at the Home & Garden Show a month ago; he came looking for me to buy his cutting board. In the rain.
  • There was still business to be had, thankfully, and even in the rain there were customers walking down the street eating ice cream. But, of course, the day was impacted by the rain and many, many people stayed home. We were far below our expectations. Far below our results from 2015.
  • Sometimes, it rains.
  • The rain stopped about 1p, and the crowd did grow until the end of the day. Sunday, the forecast was for clouds – but no rain – and we hoped for much bigger results.
  • Nope. We ended the event lower than we did in 2015. When we were babies in a single booth. This year, as drenched veterans in a double booth (twice as expensive) with some pride in our accomplishments, we were quite disappointed in the event. But, there’s nothing we can do about the rain, so all we can do is pack up, drive south … and prepare for our next event, which just happens to be in 2 weeks, right back in Fresno.
  • Sold the chaos board recently chronicled as the 300th Cutting Board, 2nd Time ‘Round. It sold on the 2nd day I showed it, and it had already been touched by oh so many people that walked by and had to feel it. Thank goodness I have a 4 more boards with a similar design on the way….
  • Requests were for an ocean-themed cutting board (you know, like a starfish. HUH?), a grill cleaner (that’s a first), knife blocks (2x, but no) and a backgammon set (nope).

The Food

  • Best Meal: We stayed in an AirBnB cottage behind the owner’s home that was really quite lovely. Mrs M planned our meals so we could eat in and save money, thankfully. Meals came from the fridge & freezer, so you ask me to choose between Velda’s Chicken Piccata (leftovers) and Velda’s Spaghetti (from the freezer). Not going to happen. Both were excellent, as always.
  • Worst Meal: It’s sacrilege, I know, but lunch on the road at the Arvin Black Bear Diner was not satisfying. Too much steam table, not enough comfort food. Should’ve had the omelette.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 412
  • Booth cost: $750
  • Food cost: $76 (we don’t count food brought from home)
  • Travel cost: $414
  • Total sales: $1,561
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $321
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: none
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: none
  • Saturday alarm: 4:15a
  • Sunday alarm: 6a
  • # transactions: Not nearly enough.
  • # soap & lotion vendors: No clue.
  • # woodworking vendors: No clue.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 17:1
  • Returning next year? Maybe

Boards sold: 18

Coasters: 4

Trivets: 4

Magic Bottle Openers: 3

Cutting Boards: 2

Small Board: 1

Lazy Susan: 1

CNC Engraved Board: 1

Custom Order: 1

Soap Deck: 1

The Board Chronicles: Champagne on Main 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.

The 4th Annual Spring Fling is upon us … so it’s time to break some rules.

Apparently.

Last year, I found the event to be underwhelming, and I put it on my “don’t do it” list for this year.

And then I broke the rule.

After all, it fit on the calendar. There wasn’t an attractive alternative … and I remembered that many seasoned vendors last year said it was well below average for them. So, maybe there’s an upside?

Let’s see.

New Ideas

  • A solo, one-day event means I fit everything I can into the Jeep, and that’s what goes to the event. I left many things at home … like the keys to the hitch carrier. Ooops.
  • Also left at home were engraved pieces, the Word Blocks, chess pieces, cheese knives and most of my cutting board inventory. I had 5 pieces in back stock below the table. Roomy, it was.
  • I broke another rule: I had no demo of bottle opening and cap catching to propel MBO sales. No crate to put the MBOs in. I did grab some bottle caps to stick on a few of the display MBOs to show their magic … but that was it. Maybe less is more. Maybe.

Observations

  • Event # 1 of 10 in the 4th Annual Spring Fling.
  • Nice to have an event with no rain in the forecast. This is our 5th event of the year, and the first one without rain!
  • Mrs M packed the table cloths for me, but she shorted me a couple. I needed a tablecloth for another 6′ table, not a 4′ … so my back table was sort of partially covered by a too-short cloth. Also, I needed a covering for my container stack that’s used as a platform to wrap boards on. I borrowed a cloth from our good friend Delinda of Sweet Spot Home Decor, and all was well.
  • I arrived at 7:30a, and was setting up by 8a. I was ready to go at 9a … and immediately had people in the booth. The event was “scheduled” to start at 11a, but when you’re on Main Street and it’s open to the public, you’re open when they wander by.
  • My first sale was at 10a … the only Cheese & Cracker Server, AKA Large Surfboard, that I brought. Perhaps I should have found room for more.
  • I get annoyed when people look at my work and talk about how I must use scrap lumber. I do NOT use scraps when I do what I do. Every board is hand selected by me for the piece it goes in. Every time. Scraps are what I recycle, or put in the pizza oven stack to burn.
  • I don’t use scrap in my cutting boards & serving pieces & such.
  • Annoyed, I am.
  • Met another fan of this blog at the event. That’s getting to be a regular occasion … and that’s a good thing!
  • I identified 5 kinds of people that were walking Main Street during the event:
    • People going to the Farmer’s Market, who walked by the booth going to & fro. Produce buyers seem like a good target audience for me, but people that go to Farmer’s Market don’t generally impulse buy a handmade cutting board … in my experience. Today, a few stopped in the booth, but they did not buy from me.
    • Easter Egg Hunters … there was an egg hunt nearby, apparently. Young families are not a particularly good target audience for me, and with kids & baskets in tow, not one stopped in my booth.
    • Dog walkers were on the street throughout the event … not one came into the booth.
    • Restaurant goers and other people on Main Street for reasons having nothing to do with the event were in my booth throughout the day, and they were my primary source of sales.
    • Champagne Drinkers are the reason for the event, on its surface, but they were not the main source of booth traffic all day. The event was officially on 11a – 6:30p, but the drinking was only 3p – 6p. On this day, not one person holding a sampling glass was in my booth. I’m not saying the Champagne Drinkers were not buyers, but they were Secret Shoppers if they were.
  • If your event is not the primary reason that buyers are coming to your booth, then I think there’s a problem with the event. Random traffic & walk-up business is appreciated, of course – but it is not predictable nor repeatable. I do not think it’s a reliable source of business, ever: I am there for the audience of the event that I paid my money to.
  • And on this day, it wasn’t worth it. I heard that same story from other vendors up and down the street. This event is too expensive for the results generated.

The Food

  • Best Meal: Leftovers for dinner – meatloaf. Yum.
  • Worst Meal: In the spirit of the day, I broke a rule and had Jack in the Box for breakfast. Mistake. Again.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 103
  • Booth cost: $225
  • Food cost: $0
  • Travel cost: $54
  • Total sales: $567
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $288
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 1
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: 2
  • Saturday alarm: 5:45a
  • # transactions: 10
  • # soap & lotion vendors: No clue
  • # woodworking vendors: No clue, though I did see a wine barrel products guy.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 14:0
  • Returning next year? Nope.

Boards sold: 14

5x Coasters

3x Magic Bottle Openers

2x Cheese Boards

1x Cheese & Cracker Server

1x Lazy Susan

1x Medium Surfboard

1x Small Board

The Board Chronicles: Almond Blossom 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.

The Almond Blossom Festival in nearby Quartz Hill has become one of our traditional first quarter events: this will be our 4th year doing this event. Sales have never been spectacular, but it’s close, it’s easy, and we spend the weekend with the Granddaughters. What’s not to like?

Well, I have a few answers to that question, as you shall see. But we were committed, and we were off to the 69th Annual Almond Blossom Festival!

New Ideas

  • The forecast was very clear: rain throughout Saturday, with more rain Saturday night. We opted for our best weather protection, and put up the big Trimline canopy. It takes more time to put up, but it is dry inside.
  • I now have an array of cheese knives (one individual knife and 4 different sets are available) I can offer to people wanting a “complete” cheese & cracker gift set. I also have chess & checker pieces for those that want a “complete” game set.

Observations

  • This event has a problem with communication. They have no social media presence, and don’t provide any tools for vendors to promote the event for them. Emails sent to the venders vendors had grammatical errors, factual errors, and were just plain annoying to wade through. They’re trying … but with the long legacy of this event, they should have the details right by now.
  • They should know how to use spell check, too.
  • Can you tell I’m annoyed?
  • Two years ago, our booth cost was 1/3 less. They’ve taken a 33% price increase in 2 years. Wanna bet my sales don’t go up that much?
  • I arrived at 11am to set up, only to be told that I had not understood the instructions. Well, I was actually told that they were sorry that their English wasn’t correct. I had to go away because some RV might show up to be parked in the next hour, so they weren’t letting anyone else in until the 12noon start time they had tried to announce.
  • This event does have many youth volunteers that are eager to help you. Unfortunately, they were not available when I most needed them, since they were pulled off to do duties for the event itself. And, as supervision waned, the attention of the youth wandered as well. Still, I appreciate the effort to provide youth volunteers.
  • The weather heavily impacted vendor participation. Many vendors were NCNS: No Call, No Show. That resulted in the aisles being very spotty due to all of the empty spaces. That made the event much less than it might have been had the positions been tight.
  • Another stalker reader of this blog found us on Saturday, and we had a great conversation with Catherine about going a-vendoring with her horseshoe art. Always nice to meet people that already know us because of The Board Chronicles.
  • Philosophy that was shared with me: “I always tell my kids to do what you love. If you like selling a bucket of rocks, then do that. Someone will be looking for that!” And, indeed, that is true.
  • My neighbor was hawking a solar company, and he was standing in his booth and saying “How’s your electric bill?” to every person that passed his booth to engage them in conversation. Every person. Most people just kept walking, but if they acknowledged him, he kept talking to them as they walked past my booth.
  • One lady reached Mrs M’s booth, and then turned and said to us, “I hate solar people. I hate’m.”
  • As a vendor, those kinds of aggressive sales techniques truly lower the quality of the event. The promoters take the booth fees … and vendors like us have to endure potential but lost customers running down the aisles to escape the obnoxious sales pitches.
  • My favorite events are all handmade. Events that mix in some buy & sell vendors can be fine – especially if they keep handmade vendors in a dedicated section – but if there are “professional” hawkers in the mix, then the quality of the shopping experience deteriorates rapidly. IMHO.
  • It started raining on Saturday in mid-afternoon, and didn’t stop. It rained all night, and was still misty/wet in the morning until about 10am.
  • Sunday morning, we were hit by the trifecta: 1) bad weather, 2) Sundays are for church, and 3) it was the day to jump ahead for Daylight Savings Time, so everyone lost an hour’s sleep. No one was at the event at 10am … including many of the vendors. I read most of a book on Sunday. Everything finally got going at about 1:30pm.
  • The Trimline canopy generated a lot of comment from other vendors … one thought it was a car port that I re-purposed as a vendor canopy.
  • Uh, no.
  • From one of Mrs M’s customers: “When you hang out with drag queens, you learn a lot of tricks.”
  • Uh, OK.
  • A lady came by and wanted to talk about the use of a wooden board. She had been told by one of her bosses to never wash a wooden board: only apply mineral oil to it. WOW. That is such incredibly bad advice. OF COURSE you should wash your cutting board! After every use, in fact! For complete instructions on how to care for your cutting board, go here. For a summary of cutting board research done at UC Davis & the University of Wisconsin that shows why wooden cutting boards are the most recommended – by science! – then go here.
  • A guy walked by the booth, and thanked us for being at the event. “You’re classing up the place,” he said. He went on to suggest that he’d once seen a guy making wooden ties, and that perhaps I should make some. He’d take me to the prom if I was wearing a wooden tie, he said. I declined the offer to go to the prom with him – to the relief of everyone present, I expect.
  • In the end, this event was weather-impacted so you should not draw firm conclusions from this one event. However, we’ve done this event 4 times, and 2 of those had heavy weather impacts (2016 was even worse!). 2017 had better weather, but sales were still disappointing. It’s clear after 4 years that this is a convenient but annoying local event that’s significantly below average for us. Time to move on.

The Food

  • Best Meals: Dinners with the Kids & Granddaughters.
  • Worst Meal: We decided to eat lunches at the event … Fair Food, as we call it. Both of them were overpriced and not that good. But, they were easy.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 152
  • Booth cost: $365
  • Food cost: $252
  • Travel cost: $79
  • Total sales: $1,078
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $382
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: none
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: nope
  • Saturday alarm: 5:15a
  • Sunday alarm: 6:45a
  • # transactions: not nearly enough
  • # soap & lotion vendors: There was one other, who is also a member of the Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetics Guild! I looked her up on the member directory, and then reviewed all of the listings for California. I found that Mrs M is one of only 15 certified soapmakers by the HSCG in the state of California.
  • # woodworking vendors: Just me.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 8:0
  • Returning next year? Nope. We’re done.

Boards sold: 8x

2x Custom Orders

2x Cheese Board

1x Small Board

1x Clipboard

1x Chess Board

1x Cutting Board

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