Archive for the ‘end grain’ Tag

The Board Chronicles: California Strawberry Festival 2017   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.

“Do you do a lot of food events?” we were asked. The answer is no (though we’re scheduled for 4 food-based events this year!).

This year, we’re doing 2 strawberry festivals, an avocado festival and a lemon festival. We very much regret that we’re not doing Gilroy’s Garlic Festival … but that’s a story for another day.

Oxnard is about an hour west of us, and it hosts the California Strawberry Festival to celebrate my favorite fruit. This is the 31st annual event, and the organizers proudly trumpet that this Festival has raised over $5,000,000 for local charities during this event’s run.

Did I mention they sell Strawberry ale?

Did I mention they sell strawberry shortcake, strawberry parfait and chocolate-covered strawberries? You bet we love this event!

New Ideas

  • I was selected to appear on KTLA Channel 5’s morning news show to represent. Friday’s alarm was at 3:15am.
  • This is the first time that I set up our new 10×20 canopy solo … and I did it after the TV appearance. True celebrity is elusive.
  • Even though this is our 3rd annual entry into this event, it’s the first time that the elder Mrs M (she hates it when I write that) got to work the event, on Saturday.
  • On Sunday, the younger Mrs M worked this event, which is the first event that she’s gone a-vendoring in over a year. Important side note: Camdyn, Granddaughter # 2, turned 1 last month.
  • Our juggling reached a new level of chaos with an extremely important, simultaneous event: MrsMowry got her MA in Secondary English Education from Cal State Northridge this weekend … so we had to do things a bit differently. For the first time ever, a non-Mowry helped us work the booth during the 2 hours that I was absent due to the 8am Sunday (!) Commencement ceremony.

Observations

  • Our 3rd Annual Spring Fling is purring right along, and it’s time for the big events. This is event # 5 of 7.
  • Nap needed. Definitely.
  • At the TV shoot Friday morning, the PR person’s husband fell in love with the pig I had on display, so he bought it on the spot.
  • I’m out of the pig business. All my pigs have found new homes.
  • Love this event! Troy & Dana, the promoters, do a great and professional job. One huge perk: they keep private bathrooms (well, bathrooms may be overselling here) just for their 174 vendors. Much appreciated!
  • “I saw you on TV!” I heard it several times, both days. Attributable sales = $0.
  • The cutest little girl had Mom buy her a duck from ZooSoapia. That little slip of a girl approached Mrs M and solemnly announced, “I promise not to break it.”
  • Well done, Mom, well done.
  • A guy announced “It smells better in this booth than anywhere here!”
  • Our new motto: We Don’t Stink.
  • A 30-something got all excited about my small sous chef boards on display … until I explained, no, they were not pizza stones, and no, you couldn’t put them in the oven to hold the pizza as you warmed it. She genuinely thought it would be good to bake pizza on wood – in an oven with high temperatures.
  • One guy walked into the booth and got upset I wouldn’t embrace his use of pure tung oil to finish cutting boards. Other than potentially hurting people with nut allergies and the possibility that this oil imported from China can eventually turn rancid in the board … great idea. In my (sarcastic) opinion.
  • Sunday we needed help to run the booth, since Velda & I were attending MrsMowry’s commencement. Pam Leighton and her daughter Chelsea wanted to go to the festival (attending this festival several years ago, Chelsea was discovered & began a modeling career!). A BIG THANK YOU for Pam & Chelsea for the assist. We could not have done it without you! When Pam goes a-vendoring, she sells sterling silver jewelry & scarves as Dazzle Me Designs. See some of her stuff, and her upcoming events, here.
  • A lady walked into the booth, and got all excited that I was willing to make her a pig cutting board. She then bounced out of the booth to talk to her husband:
    • She said, “I got a pig cutting board!”
    • From the side of his mouth, he said, “Figures.”
  • I’m back in the pig business. It was demanded of me. I anticipate a substantial celebration among Petunia’s pals … I predict a big litter.
  • By the way, this sale was accomplished using my smartphone. I showed the lady a picture of pigs gone by, and she bought one, sight unseen, from the next litter.
  • Note to self: deduct the smartphone.
  • A lady was discussing a special order with me when my engraver, Teri Diamond of Lavene & Company, walked into the booth. Fun to introduce her to a client!
  • The new canopy definitely got noticed at the event. 2 vendors talked to me about buying one. I blogged about our purchase, here.
  • My inventory is shrinking … and that’s  a good thing? I’m below 200 pieces again. I’m out of notepad clipboards, letter clipboards, blanks for engraved boards, pigs, bears, hearts, pizza servers and large sous chef boards. I need shop time … which I don’t get any, in any meaningful way, until July.
  • Sunday was a full day of fun. Up early to go to Commencement, then on to work the event that lasted until 6:30pm. We began taking it all down then, but the younger Mrs M had never packed product with this new display. She’d never touched ZooSoapia before. For my part, the new canopy had to be taken down; it’s my 3rd time doing that … and we were down at 8:30pm. Then, I had to go get the Jeep, go to the trailer storage area, hook up, return to the event area, and commence loading. That took another hour or so. I got home shortly after 11pm.
  • Requests were for cutting board stands (The elder Mrs M applauded. Again.), a reading stand (nope), e-cig holders (double nope), a backgammon board (still nope), a knife to go with the cutting boards, a travel-sized chess board (now I’m expected to have different kinds of chess boards???), and a Lazy Susan made from Black Walnut (patience!).
  • Chess board sales = $0.

The Food

Saturday Breakfast: Bagels & cream cheese, on the run

Saturday Lunch: Velda’s cheese & crackers = no waiting in the famously long food lines at the event (which were not so bad this year. Perhaps they brought in more food vendors? That is good!)

Saturday Snack: Strawberry Ale, before 12noon. We didn’t buy it soon enough.

Saturday Dinner: Marston’s Linguine with chicken … for when you don’t want to count the calories in its creamy goodness.

Sunday Breakfast: Bagels & cream cheese, on the run

Sunday Lunch: The younger Mrs M brought me a PBJ from home. Bless her.

Sunday Snack: Strawberry shortcake. It was perfect.

Sunday Dinner: .3 miles north of the event, I stopped the newly loaded trailer, got gas at the Arco & dinner from the adjacent Jack in the Box. Back on the road, munching as I went … at 10pm.

The Facts

  • The Board Chronicles: California Strawberry Festival (2015)
  • The Board Chronicles: California Strawberry Festival 2016
  • Total miles driven: 496
  • Booth cost: $765
  • Food cost: $59
  • Travel cost: $0
  • Total sales: $3,617
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $2,793
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 2
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: several
  • Saturday alarm: 5:15a
  • Sunday alarm: 5:15a
  • # transactions: 151 … tied for our record number of transactions in a 2-day event, and exactly the same number of transactions done at this event last year!
  • # soap & lotion vendors: there were a couple of others; both had been bitten by the “all natural” kind of presentation, it seemed.
  • # woodworking vendors: several, including one direct competitor. There was also a cutting board maker selling relatively inexpensive, shaped plastic boards.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 25:3
  • Returning next year? Yup.

Boards sold: 28

MBOs: 6

Small Boards: 4

Cheese Boards: 4

Domed Cheese & Cracker Servers: 3

Custom Orders: 3

Cutting Boards: 2

Large Sous Chef Board: 1

Large Cheese & Cracker Server: 1

Lazy Susan: 1

Large Cutting Board: 1

Small Clipboard: 1

Pig Cutting Board: 1

The Board Chronicles: Rotary Art Show 2017   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.

This is about being comfortable in your own skin.

Last year, this event was our first “art show,” and I was nervous about whether or not we belonged.

We did.

This year, we were oh, so prepared for this good event. After debuting her new display and her handmade soap at this event one year ago, Mrs M made new soap just for this event.

It’s always dangerous to have expectations for an event, as you know, but we were definitely expecting to repeat last year’s success in 2017.

We’ve had 3 straight events with poor weather – high winds and rain – so we were ready for a non-stressful event. The forecast for this weekend was for blue skies and temps in the 70s.

Sounds just about perfect for a SoCal weekend, don’t you think?

New Ideas

  • We have a new canopy! We have a 10×20 Trimline from Flourish (read the blog about that, here). Yes, it’s more difficult to set up than a pop-up. Yes, it’s much better. Our booth is sooo much more open & airier now.

Observations

  • Our 3rd Annual Spring Fling is getting going now: this is event # 4 of 7. We are over the hump.
  • While we were setting up on Friday, a pair of ladies stopped by to confirm that I was Henry. Uh … yes? They went on to explain that I met them 2 years ago at an event, invited them to read The Board Chronicles, and that this was the first event they’ve come to on my recommendation.
  • Wow! Hope they do well.
  • And they did!
  • A guy wanted to buy a lip balm, and handed me $8. I confirmed that he only wanted one lip balm for $3, and he said, “Oh. I thought they were $8. I figured they were handmade, so that was the price ….”
  • Prices gotta go up.
  • Saturday started strong with some lotion sales before 10a, but then settled down and was oh. so. slow. Still an OK day, but wasn’t this a good event for us last year?
  • Yes it was … and Saturday was only 29% of our sales last year, I learned when I got home. I should come with more knowledge to end any premature freaking out on Saturdays.
  • Our friend Linda sells handmade, inexpensive jewelry … and her booth was JAMMED all day long. Saturday was definitely good for her!
  • I never restocked my business cards on Saturday. What is happening???
  • Would it change your opinion to know that this dog’s mistress was wearing the same shirt?

  • After several days of vendoring where we generated all kinds of bills, on Saturday normalcy returned. We generated 5s & 20s … and ate 1s and 10s. All was well with the world
  • When we generate 1s, I take that as a bad thing. The goal is to exchange my 1s for our customers’ 20s, 50s & 100s. Please.
  • Saturday was our 39th wedding anniversary. Mrs M enjoyed showing off the wedding board display piece as proof that we were married 39 years ago. Perhaps we’ll need to choose a different celebration for next year’s anniversary, since it has a zero in it.
  • Yes, that anniversary will be on the Sunday of this event next year, which is also Mother’s Day. No, I’m not certain that we should spend that auspicious day a-vendoring. But, then again….
  • Simple banners work! One customer said they saw our banner from the road, and that made them stop and come to the event.
  • This event is always good for celebrity sightings. In my booth: Neil Flynn, AKA Mike Heck on The Middle. He contemplated the balancing act that is a Wine Bottle Holder, and then set off in pursuit of his actual family.
  • The most interesting conversation of the day was from a guy that enjoyed my work, and shared how he wants to take tree hugging to a whole new level. Trees sing, apparently.
  • Best hour of the weekend: the final hour. We sold 21% of our total in those final 60 minutes. Go figure.
  • Requests were for a backgammon board, a utility cart top, routed cracker bowls, a sink cover, a Tak gameboard and a bread board with a crumb catcher.
  • Chess board sales: $0.
  • Load out got a bit emotional for some, as vendors wrestled with the event’s very common rule: don’t bring your vehicle in for loading until you are 100% packed. Some vendors flout this rule, of course, and park their vehicles while they are packing up. By the time we were packed up, I only had to wait a few minutes to get a parking spot. It would have been better if those that had slipped through the cordon of Rotarians to park & abandon their vehicles would have been caught and rejected, but that didn’t happen. I only wish that those that flout the rules won’t be here next year.

The Food

Saturday Breakfast: Just like last year … hello, old friend.

Saturday Lunch:

We got several compliments on how good this looked. I don’t think it sold any cheese boards, though….

Saturday Snack: Nope

Saturday Dinner: The 2nd best Chicken Marsala in town, at Bella Cucina. Mrs M doesn’t always cook on our anniversary … she, of course, makes the best Marsala. Did you have any doubt?

Sunday Breakfast: The 2nd best breakfast burrito in town, from Jimmy Deans.

Sunday Lunch: A cheeseburger & chips from Troop 210, Burbank, who have been catering this event as a fundraiser for years

Sunday Snack: Nope

Sunday Dinner: Papa John’s, though Mrs M proved incapable of ordering a pizza correctly at 9pm on a Sunday event day. She ordered it to be delivered to the Papa John’s store, which even the store thought to be strange.

The Facts

  • Rotary Art Show 2016
  • Total miles driven: 184
  • Booth cost: $300
  • Food cost: $71
  • Travel cost: $0
  • Total sales: $1,857
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $1,486
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 1
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: several
  • Saturday alarm: 5:45a
  • Sunday alarm: nope
  • # transactions: 69
  • # soap & lotion vendors: two others, both of which did hot process instead of Mrs M’s cold process, apparently. Nothing wrong with that, of course, if you’re going to limit yourself. Hmmm. I must be getting snooty.
  • # woodworking vendors: Several. One guy that’s well known to me from a few previous events we’ve shared does what I do, but uses many, many more kinds of woods and does a lot of what I would call chaos boards in all different sizes & applications. Coasters, boxes for decks of cards, sushi servers … he’s got a lot of good looking stuff. There were also 3 or 4 other woodworkers making stuff from pallets, making collapsible baskets (which are unusual), and more.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 14: 1
  • Returning next year? Not sure. Is this the way we want to celebrate our anniversary?

Boards sold: 15

Magic Bottle Openers: 4

Domed Cheese & Cracker Servers: 2

Small Sous Chef Boards: 2

Small Board: 1

Cheese & Cracker Server: 1

Custom Order: 1

Large Cutting Board: 1

Large Sous Chef Board: 1

Wine Bottle Holder: 1

Pig Cutting Board: 1

Mrs M’s 100th Event: We’re Smarter Now   Leave a comment

When we started, we had a borrowed canopy using concrete blocks for weights. We had mismatched table cloths, a pocket for a cash register, and no clue what was coming next.

We didn’t know we needed storage for boxes of boxes of containers. We’d never owned a hitch carrier. I didn’t even know what a tottle was.

Today, Mrs M is just back from attending her first ever national convention … about making soap. She even took a test, and has been certified by the Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetics Guild as a Basic Soapmaker for both cold process and hot process soap. She got a certificate. It was signed. In ink.

So after years of being certifiable, Mrs M is now certified.

Mrs M’s Handmade is now 3 years old, and we have just completed our 100th event. Whatever we’re doing, we’ve done it a lot. And I can say with certainty, after 100 events, we’re smarter. A lot smarter.

We now know what it means to lose a hallway and 2 bedrooms to a “hobby.”

We now know what it means to stay up into the wee hours because you “must” have more product ready for the next day’s event.

We now know that no matter what anyone tells you, you will never, never, ever know what an event will bring until you actually set up and do your thing. There’s a reason you have to play the game, because you just don’t know until you know.

That stated, here are 13 things we’ve learned from when we go a-vendoring.

1. Going Big

When we started, we fit everything into a Jeep. Soon, everything was fitting into a Jeep & a Honda.

Barely.

Or, occasionally, the younger Mrs M would bring her truck. I learned all I know about ratcheting straps, but not before a lid blew off one container on a freeway one dark night. That’s when I knew I could only buy locking containers.

No matter. We decided that the only way to do what we wanted to do – whatever that was – was to go big. Soon, we were only booking double booths, and we had to fill a 10×20 space with display pieces, products and customers.

Packing everything into the limited space in our cars was a constant challenge … and having to drive 2 cars to events that were 200+ miles away was somewhere between no fun and a bad idea. But, it was the best we could do at the time. We thought.

Today, we have a 6’x10′ cargo trailer to haul the roughly 70 locking containers, a 5-gallon bucket, 1 tub & 5 coolers full of product, 2 rolling storage/display cabinets, a shade canopy, 5 tables, 10 display crates, 6 gallons of water, 1 fire extinguisher, 3 rolls of paper towels and 150 pounds of concrete that are in our typical load out these days.

Other items of note that we carry everywhere: 4 different paper inserts, gift tags, shredded paper, raw newsprint, a canvas bag of paper bags, scotch tape, paper ribbon, a logo stamp, and 8 kinds of cellophane bags. And that’s just for the on-site packaging of things we sell.

As a wise man once told me, be careful what you wish for.

When this is the view, you’re in trouble.

2. Hunting For Events

One of the hardest things to do is finding good events.

Unicorns, they are.

Beginners and low budget operations usually do very small, very local boutiques in churches & schools … which are impossible to find until you’re “in the know.” Networking with other vendors is the best way to find these events, though it’s important to know that everyone’s results are different. You need to find your audience – upscale, downscale, family-friendly or hipster-reliant. Will car shows work? Chamber of Commerce events? Foodie events? Art events? Swap meets? Farmer’s markets? Music events? It’s a big world out there, and I’m just getting started.

When you are a vendor at an event, you’ll often be pitched by other event producers to come to their event. The only good way to find events is to get out there … and sometimes, they’ll find you.

Mrs M is a member of FestivalNet.com, which does have a good database of events – especially the larger ones. We always use this resource to check out regional events that are outside of our experience (which would be most of them). At this point, we’re willing to drive about 250 miles for the right event … and we won’t leave home for an event that doesn’t pass our sniff test. Here are our key questions:

  • Estimated attendance? (of course this number is hyped)
  • How many vendors? (this counts all kinds of vendors)
  • How long has the event been done in this location?
  • Typical sales from other vendors? (you almost never get a straight answer to this question)
  • Is the website/marketing pitch professional?
  • How is the event marketed to attendees?
  • Does it sound like fun?
  • Does it fit into the existing personal, professional and Mrs M calendars?

There’s really only one solution: network obsessively at events. Find more experienced friends (especially those that have different products!), and they’ll share info on events that might work for you. You’ll then get to do the work and choose what you want to do.

Not our best display, but I was limited to one 6′ table. Is it good to only display half of your merchandise at a new event? If current customers see your half-baked display, is that bad?

3. Know Who You Are

And, in context, we’re not who we used to be. We used to go to every vendor event we could find – as many as 4 in one weekend! Today, we only want to go to big, weekend-long events, and the bigger the better. We may never eliminate one day events entirely, but we’re on that path. Go big or stay home.

As beginning vendors, we were ecstatic when anyone bought anything. We had so much to learn. Today, we are choosing what we want to make, and then working to find a market for those items. I’ve stopped taking one-off commissions on things I don’t really do … so you won’t see me making backgammon sets. Or counter tops. Or picnic tables. Or wine barrel decor. I just don’t wanna.

And since that which is Mrs M’s Handmade is our hobby – our serious, totally out-of-control hobby – then we get to choose what we want to do. After all, if you don’t choose, the world will choose for you, and that could be a very bad thing.

4. Sometimes, Events Require Things

We’ve been required to have a city business license for a 2-day event. We’ve been required to leave a $200 cleaning deposit in case we don’t leave a city street as clean as we found it. We’ve been told that being a couple doing 2 things in one booth is too confusing for the event; we have to register as 2 vendors, not 1.

Being unusual can be such a burden.

Every event is different, and they are sometimes, uh, creative in what they make you do to be a part of their event – you know, beyond paying 100% of your fees in advance in a “no refunds no matter what” environment. You have to pay to play this game. You have to read every application very carefully and make sure you check every little box when you send in the application.

Every time.

When your canopy is held together with duct tape, it’s time to get a new one.

5. Sometimes, You’ll Need Stuff

I knew that we’d need stuff to go a-vendoring, but I really didn’t know. Truly, what we needed was a surprise to me … and the list keeps growing.

We’ve ordered 3 shade canopies, custom table cloths and boxes by the bundle. We fret over UPS rates and pay them with an automatic monthly charge. I still weigh cutting boards for shipping on our bathroom scale, though!

I’ve broken a table, a shade structure, a rolling cart, untold numbers of plastic tubs and much more. Buy quality display pieces … and then if you keep at it, you’ll wear them out.

Don’t forget that you’ll need patience – and a lot of it. Unfortunately. I’ve dropped and ruined product. I’ve had customers drip rain on my glass-smooth finishes … and had to re-finish those boards. I’ve had customers tell me I’m doing it wrong because I’m not doing it like they think it should be done. I’ve taken on too much to do, and missed at least one Christmas delivery.

I’ve built 3 iterations of our booths, and I’m sure there’s more in front of me. We’re in search of the perfectly portable, perfectly viewable themed product display. Seen one?

We now have liability insurance that covers both Mrs M’s skin care products and my handmade wooden creations. I’ve had to submit as many as 3 different Certificates of Insurance to a single event with unique language that is always dictated by some lawyer you’ll never meet opining on what they think protects their interests. Not yours.

6. Can They See You?

It’s really important that your customers can see your products (who knew?). It took us a year to have good verticality in our presentation … and another year to have a great display for the varied products that Mrs M brings to the market. It takes a long time to figure out a good display, we’ve found, and it’s really the second-most important thing. If they can’t see your good products (those good products are the MOST important thing), they won’t buy them. Oh, and on that note, Mrs M used the google machine and found the best lights ever for events in the dark. I installed full spectrum, low watt bulbs, and our booth stays breathtakingly bright. Every time we use this setup, vendors go ga ga over our lights.

Here are our lights in use in the daytime, at an indoor event that offers less than wonderful lighting. Note the brightness of our booth compared to the one off to the right. Who do you think had the better day?

7. Prices Gotta Go Up

There are 3 ways to increase profits: increase selling prices, decrease costs, or increase your volume of sales. When you can do all 3, you’re doing it right.

When I started, cheese boards were $25. Lazy Susans were $50. I priced an end grain, full-sized cutting board at my first event for only $75. I soon learned … prices gotta go up. And they have.

I have received many compliments on my price tags, which identify the woods in each board. Some have told me my prices are reasonable; others have definitely communicated the prices are too high. Who should I believe?

Back then, I was using about 7 species of woods and my largest cutting board was 12″ x 16″ x 1″. Today, I’m using over 20 species and the largest cutting boards that I have on display are 16″ x 21″ x 1-1/2″, which is over 2-1/2 times larger than the one in my first display.

Size comes at a price, of course, as do boards that feature the most expensive woods.

The good news is that today I can give customers those options, and they now get to choose what they want.

Today, my least-priced board is $35. My highest priced board is currently $375 and I have done commissioned orders that are many times that amount.

I make no apologies for the prices as displayed (which, as I explain, are dictated by the size of the boards and the woods used). I don’t negotiate price. I’ve seen people jerk their fingers back from a board like the price tag was burning them, and I truly appreciate that many people don’t want to spend $300 on a cutting board. I have no problem with that.

When people find the price list, they are happy. When they don’t find the price list….

I also have no problem charging $300 to the people that do want to spend that amount on a quality, handmade, hardwood cutting board.

8. Helping Customers Find You

Most entrepreneurs are great at product development and terrible at marketing. They have a great idea – and expect customers to find them. That’s just not the way it works.

You have to find the customers. You have to make a great product, yes, but THEN you have to find a way to market that product. That means you’ll have to:

  • Talk to people
  • Embrace website development
  • Talk to people
  • Spend time developing marketing strategies and promotions
  • Talk to people
  • Sell strangers on the benefits of your product

If that’s not you, you’re in trouble. If you want to go a-vendoring, it HAS to be you.

9. Unending Social Media

I admit it, I’m old.

But I’m going to say it: it’s impossible to engage in every brand of social media out there and do so well. You are far, far better off to choose one or two and do them very well, rather than try and do them all … because you will fail.

In my case, I run our 3 websites (!) including this daily blog, and post on Facebook with some regularity. I am the photographer, but I don’t do Instagram. Or Tumblr. Or Snapchat. Or YouTube. Or … well, you get the idea.

I very much appreciate it when Mrs M or Little Girl does share a post on Instagram, as I know that gets reactions. Mrs M has played with Facebook videos a bit, and I have a vendor friend that does a lot of nice videos from her events (way to go, Kathy!). As Hamm said in Samuel Beckett’s Endgame, “Each to their own speciality.”

10. Information Overload

I have a spreadsheet that simply tracks events of interest, and keeps track of where we are in the internal approval/application/payment/acceptance process with each event in real time. This spreadsheet is already tracking events into 2019. We have 2 confirmed events in 2018. Already.

I keep a copy of every application sent to every event. I have copies of the checks. Copies of the pictures of products I submitted and the forms I’ve filled out. And, I still don’t remember every single detail on every single application when I go to the next weekend’s event. I’ve got standard lists of products, pictures of products, pictures of booths and pictures of myself and the Mrs. actually making the handmade goods we propose to take to targeted events. Many of those events are juried – and if you don’t submit a good enough package, or a complete package, or the right package, then you will be rejected by the event. We’ve been rejected by one event already this year and rejected and encouraged to properly reapply by another. We get a rejection or 3 every year now, and I think that’s a good thing. It keeps us sharp.

And frustrated.

But, no worries, because we’re doing this for fun.

11. What’s Your Goal?

Thinking you can retire on your BBQ spice recipe’s sales?

Hoping that you’ll be able to make Christmas ornaments out of pine cones and make enough to buy a new car?

Good luck.

Most crafters believe if they sell 3 times booth costs, they are successful. Most professional vendors think if they’re selling 10 times booth costs, they are approaching doing it right. There’s no right answer here … but you better know what you’re trying to accomplish. Paying for an annual vacation? Possible. Paying the mortgage? You better be doing everything the right way, or you’re in trouble.

Not the best way to brand a board, especially when you’re making a few hundred of them!

12. Get Help

Mrs M’s fingers are not compatible with putting the shrink wrap tubes on the lip balm containers she uses. Little Girl can do this much more easily, thank goodness.

Labeling soap with the cigar band wrappers favored by Mrs M is a challenge for me: I type the labels and get them laser cut, but putting them on the bars? Not for me. MrsMowry is much better with paper crafts & glue sticks. She views it as therapy and an escape from the toils of teaching 13 year olds. Thank goodness.

I started making boards and branding them (literally) with an electric brass stamp. The Engineer is the one who told me that there was a better way … and we eventually found Lavene & Co. Teri Diamond has a pair of laser engravers and delivers a very professional branding to every board I make – and she laser cuts the labels on every bar of Mrs M’s soap, as well.

Mrs M is too busy making product (and doing whatever she does at her “job”) to find her almost-new sewing machine, so we reached out to a friend to help get the skirts done for our new rolling cabinetry.

You can’t be expected to be an expert at everything and do everything. Find help, and you’ll have a better result on many levels. And, possibly, a bit more sanity.

13. Do Multiple Ideas

Mrs M currently has a website, and that retail site (which costs $300/year just to start) is paying for itself, but annual sales are still less than one good event. I am getting custom orders on a consistent basis, so my “through the front door” sales are a signficant part of Mr M’s Woodshop. Do those custom orders surpass event sales? Nope.

Together, Mr & Mrs M do 30 or so events every year, and that’s the mainstay of what we do. The majority of our sales happen at these events. Is it possible that we could cut back on the events so that we’re not working as hard on weekends? Perhaps … but then where would those sales come from?

I haven’t embraced online sales yet. I just don’t have the time. I think.

Mrs M hasn’t embraced blogging yet. She just doesn’t have the time. She thinks.

We almost never do email marketing, though Mrs M was just told by a supposed-expert that 30% of her sales should be email-driven.

What should we do? What should we stop doing? Should we stop having a family life in order to excel as entrepreneurs?

Guess what my answer is to THAT one!

So, we’re 3 years in and we’re smarter … but not nearly smart enough. Here are the things we still haven’t figured out; any wisdom you can share will be most appreciated:

  • Printing labels for Mrs M’s extensive product line is a real headache. Should we go to professional labels, or stick with our semi-pro approach using our laser printer?
  • Mrs M is not always a perfect communicator, nor a visual thinker with good spatial awareness. In my opinion. The next time I have to design a display piece based on what’s in her head but not what I can hear coming through her lips, who will be willing to mediate? It will either be very entertaining or very scary. You choose.
  • Is it more important to open new markets or service the home crowd that got you where you are? Last year, we did 6 “hometown” events. This year, we plan to do 4. Is that a good trend? What should we do?

Your thoughts & opinions are welcome. I hope that these hard-earned ideas will help you, should you decide to go a-vendoring.

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Mrs M’s Handmade

Mr M’s Woodshop

Buying A 10×20 Trimline Canopy by Flourish   3 comments

When your canopy is held together with duct tape, it’s time to get a new display.

After getting thrown on the pavement, the grass and the dirt, enduring wind gusts over 30mph and getting soaked in the rain on several occasions, our original Caravan steel canopy (commercial grade!) was done. It was the California Poppy Festival that finally did it in – the canopy seemed fine, but I felt it give in a wrong way when I set it up.

I knew it wasn’t right.

The canopy still did fine at the Poppy Festival, but when I took it out of the bag for the KHTS Home & Garden Show the next week, the canopy frame was in pieces. Too many pieces. Luckily, we were in Santa Clarita so I could go home, cut some hardwood to size, and splint the broken struts. Duct tape to the rescue.

That’s a good temporary fix, but we were in the middle of our Spring Fling. Events were happening every week, and we needed shade.

Our solution to date had been to have two 10′ x 10′ Caravan pop-up canopies, both of which we purchased in 2015. They served us well … but they were both definitely wearing out. There were small holes in each roof. Velcro was ripping off of the walls, which also had small holes. One canopy frame was now broken … what should we do?

I researched the cost of a straight replacement of the Caravan, and I looked at the available alternative high quality pop-up shade canopies. Pop-ups have an advantage in that they’re easy to put up … and a disadvantage in that they break. Also, they don’t have all of the advantages that better canopies offer.

Like the Trimline by Flourish. We first saw their mesh walls at our favorite event, Santa’s Art Shop, in 2014. I was knocked out by the possibilities offered by this unique feature. So, as I researched canopies and potential solutions for Mrs M’s Handmade, I kept going back to Flourish, which offered these significant upgrades:

  • Zippered wall/roof connections protected by velcroed flaps, giving us tight weather proofing
  • Heavy vinyl walls
  • 7′ high walls (or 8′ or more), with a curved canopy roof above them for an open, airy feeling in the booth
  • A skylight in the roof itself, offering improved filtered light on our products
  • A full awning on 2 sides and the corner (!), allowing us to fully protect our products from direct sunlight
  • Quality banner holder on the awning
  • Mesh walls, offering additional filtered light on the sides and back, as well as the opportunity to hang signage and artwork – even cutting boards! – on the walls for display.

Flourish is based in Arkansas, and is a small business with 15 employees. They primarily work with 2 other local businesses to make the canopies and all of their hardware. I’m a fan of small business successes; I work for a couple of those myself.

Like me, they don’t have a “click to buy” website. They insist that you talk to one of their reps. Because everyone’s uses are just so unique, they feel all will benefit from the personal touch. I’m a fan of that philosophy as well.

After calling in to describe Mrs M’s Handmade, Bob walked me through the various decisions that I would need to make:

  • 7′ walls
  • Regular skylight in the canopy – more light than we’re used to, but not too much for Mrs M’s products
  • 54″ awnings in the front, one side, and a corner. They have a smaller option, but you know us: go big or stay home
  • Banner mount on top of the front awning for each of our banners
  • Only 3 mesh walls, not 4 (we typically get a corner booth with my side wall open, so we don’t need the 4th wall that many would need if they don’t upgrade to corner spaces)
  • No gear bags since we have a trailer. That’s a substantial savings, and Chris recommended we live with the canopy for a bit before we buy more bags. We bought vinyl bags to hold the canopy, walls & awnings. Flourish provides bungee ball cords to hold the poles together; that’s a new piece of hardware for us.

We made the commitment to buy a Trimline. The biggest downside is that the pieces come apart … with a pop-up canopy, you unfold it, pop it, and you’re done. With the Trimline, assembly is required. Every time.

Luckily, our trailer allows us to keep the structure partially assembled: the 10′ long pipes will stay assembled with all hardware already on them, so putting the canopy up will be much simpler than for those that start over 100%, every time. The videos show veterans putting a 10×10 canopy up in about 15 leisure minutes … and after putting the canopy up a couple of times, I can tell you my time is not approaching that. The 2nd assembly, with full unloading of all products & transport from the trailer 50 yards away, was 90 minutes. So, the canopy went up in perhaps 45 minutes. We will get better.

The instructions arrived written for each piece (10×20 canopy, mesh walls, 10×20 awning, 10×10 awning, etc). You have to be smart enough to understand you can’t follow the canopy instructions to their end without embracing where the awning instructions need to be followed instead.

After the first day at an event, I was still 100% certain that this canopy was a HUGE upgrade for us. My only real quibble was that we bought 7′ walls … but the awnings were about 6′ high when assembled. Had I known that, I might have opted for 8′ walls and a 7′ clearance for the awnings. Other than that quibble, I’m 100% satisfied with our purchase of the Trimline canopy.

 

The Board Chronicles: Hillside Farm Arts & Crafts Show 2017   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 found this event the best way: networking. My good vendor pal Dalinda told me this was one of her favorite events, so we signed up.

If she’s wrong, I will have to extract my revenge. After all, this is our first foray into Riverside County to do an event … who’s actually been to Norco, anyway? I’ve only been there once, to help Christopher buy a truck. Other than that … nope.

Google tells me this is an 87 mile drive, and I’m going to be doing it 4 times. Lovely.

New Ideas

  • Mrs M had been off playing at the Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetics Guild annual convention in Las Vegas earlier this week, so she has to work Friday. That means I’m driving to the event, setting up solo, and then driving back home on Friday evening through the Friday commuter chaos. Saturday, we’ll get up at O dark :30 to go set up for the event’s 9am start.

Observations

  • This is our Spring Fling’s event # 3 of 7. Miles to go before we sleep. 87 miles one way, this weekend … and Memorial Day Weekend will be farther. Miles to go before we sleep.
  • It’s always an adventure when you pull into a new event site and know nothin’ ’bout nothin’. All was good; these are good people. Many of the vendors have been doing this twice yearly event (the weekend before Mother’s Day in the spring, and Thanksgiving weekend and the first weekend of December for the holidays) for a long time.
  • Set-up was uneventful, once I got the trailer backed in. I didn’t do it well, and the men that live in this horsey community definitely noticed. And commented. One said, “You never owned a boat, huh?”
  • Nope.
  • Lots of woodworkers here, though none are as single-minded as I am. I’m very comfortable being “the cutting board guy.” Another vendor commented that he had more than just bread boards.
  • And he did. As Hamm said in Beckett’s Endgame (say it with me), “Each to their own speciality.”
  • Many customers assumed that I was the guy they bought a board from last year at this event (I’m not). One couple came to me, upset that their board had warped. I gave them the “some other guy did it” explanation, and then told them why their board did what it did. I showed them my thinnest cutting board with bread board ends to ensure it didn’t warp. They left frustrated they bought a board from some other guy.
  • Things you don’t see every day: a lady walked by the booth, and kissed the chicken she was carrying. Live chicken. Kissed.
  • Lots of vendors at this community event – 74, to be exact. That’s too many for this event’s traffic, IMHO. We did OK, but not great on Saturday.
  • We had time to go walk about on Sunday, and we always introduce ourselves to vendors that do what we do. I met all of the woodworkers, and they were a nice bunch. We all do something different, and I enjoy encouraging my peers by recognizing their good work. I will note that I try to visit their booths, and only 1 visited my booth.
  • Mrs M did the same thing, and had a rather unpleasant conversation with a long-time soaper at this event. This other soaper was, uh, marking her territory when she talked to Mrs M. This other vendor lied about the science involved and was rather imperial in her attitude as an obviously accomplished soaper. In her mind.
  • Good thing Mrs M hadn’t visited her website yet to see the medical claims and outright falsehoods that are included there. Best practices of soap making were clearly being ignored in addition to the flouting of the FDA regulations. We’ll always have snake oil salespeople, it seems. It’s a pity they have to act like the snakes that they are.
  • I think I was madder about it than Mrs M.
  • Sunday, there was a forecast for thunderstorms throughout the day (yikes!). Luckily, that did not happen, but the downpour did arrive shortly after the event closed at 4pm Sunday. We got drenched for about an hour, and then the sky cleared and we were able to quickly load the trailer. We don’t think that we lost any product to the wet … well, except for one monkey that escaped from the zoo and was later found, face down in a puddle, drowned.

  • Requests were for a cribbage board, a top for an island, and a surfboard-shaped MBO.
  • Chess board sales: $0.

The Food: The Lost Weekend

Saturday Breakfast: Bagel & cream cheese at home. Yum.

Saturday Lunch: A hot dog, which came from a high school group that was doing a fundraiser selling lunch. Somehow, they managed to get the hot dog bun both soggy and crunchy. Not recommended.

Saturday Snack: Some fabulous soft molasses, ginger bread cookies. Warm from the oven. Fabulous.

Saturday Dinner: We went to Con Amore Ristorante in Corona, which had absolutely rave reviews on Yelp and Google. Many, many reviews with an average of 4-1/2 stars. We were seated quickly, and that’s the only good thing that happened. Velda wrote a Yelp review giving it one star (only because they require one star. You can’t give a review zero stars). She had a pesto gnocchi, and it was truly tasteless. She swears that the warm bread (or was it stale?) was served with a canola/olive oil blend, not true EVOO. And when her flavor analyzer says it, I trust it. Interestingly, the owner of Con Amore messaged her within 3 hours of her review posting, citing a personnel problem resulting in him being alone in the kitchen on a Saturday night (!) and offering a free meal for us to go back … not going to happen.

Sunday Breakfast: We stayed at Corona’s Holiday Inn Express, and Sunday’s breakfast was the dreaded plastic cheese omelette. Velda intervened: an English muffin, pork sausage, an omelette and mayo made a much better sandwich. It was like I was on a Cub Scout campout again. It was definitely good for the pork and mayo to hide the taste of plastic. Almost.

Sunday Lunch: We switched to burgers from the Chuck Wagon fundraiser, and they were better … though Velda fetched the meal this day, and didn’t remember that burgers taste better with ketchup and mustard. Oh well…. At least they were better than the hot dogs.

Sunday Snack: More cookies, saved from yesterday. Still fabulous.

Sunday Dinner: We went to Wolf Creek – that is open until 9:30p on Sundays! That’s an important find for us. I had the sun-dried tomato pasta with chicken, whatever they call it. Best meal of the weekend, and it wasn’t close.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 342
  • Booth cost: $220
  • Food cost: $123
  • Travel cost: $179
  • Total sales: $1,452
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $930
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 2
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: several
  • Saturday alarm: 4:30a
  • Sunday alarm: nope
  • # transactions: 28
  • # soap & lotion vendors: several – 5 soapers; a couple of people with other skin care products. Please note that if medical treatments for acne or eczema are offered, don’t buy their soap!
  • # woodworking vendors: 5 or so. 3 turners, a scroll saw artist; a couple that made toys. Several sign makers, of course. One guy made cheese boards and handled cutting boards with juice grooves (that’s a thing?).
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 6:3
  • Returning next year? For the holiday event, it’s our plan. For next spring … we’ll see, but probably. We think it’ll take a while to become part of the in-crowd of vendors here.

Boards sold: 9

Magic Bottle Openers: 3

Large Cutting Boards: 2

Cutting Boards: 1

Letter-sized Clip Board: 1

Large Sous Chef Board: 1

Cheese & Cracker Server: 1

The Board Chronicles: KHTS Home & Garden Show 2017   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.

This is the 8th annual Home & Garden Show in Santa Clarita, sponsored by KHTS 1220 AM. For the first 6 years, the event was at the Hyatt, but it outgrew that facility. Now, the event has a partnership with the city’s Arbor Day celebration, and takes place in Central Park with big tents for the corporate clients and and a large empty soccer field for the rest of the vendors & attractions to fill.

I did a lot of AYSO soccer games on this field. Ah, memories.

The event has grown into Santa Clarita’s largest vendor-driven event, with attendance of 15,000+. It fills the available parking to overflowing – something Santa Claritans are not that used to. It’s my 3rd time doing this event: I did the last iteration at the Hyatt as a solo act (2015), and then Little Girl & I ran the first Central Park event last year (2016).

I love radio. I love local. How can I not love this event?

New Ideas

  • 2 new rolling carts premiere at this event. One is the large centerpiece of our booth with  4 drawers, 3 doors, and storage for large cutting boards, Lazy Susans & MBOs. This is a big idea.
  • The 2nd cart is an upright cart with 4 shelves that store most of the crates that make up our display, and then holds products in my booth during the event. Now, the crates are not chased all over the trailer; they are all in this one cart. This is a big idea.
  • Velda found a young man to work with me to do booth set up. Now, he does the heavy lifting, so I need a new joke to tell people.
  • Cut a deal with the owner of KHTS, and got a last-minute 3rd booth adjacent to our regular 10×20. We’re in an “L”shape; this is our first ever triple booth.
  • Little Girl is back! Mrs M is taking the weekend off to make product (she says) and go to Vegas for a soaper’s convention. She says.
  • Our booth is an official stop on the KHTS Passport Game, so everyone filling out a game card needs a stamp from our booth … and about 15 others.

Observations

  • This is event # 2 of 7 in our Spring Fling. It’s the only event scheduled in Santa Clarita … until November.
  • Whoa. That’s different.
  • Set up the canopies … and one was broken coming out of the bag. I guess the wind in Lancaster was just too much for it last week. This is our oldest canopy, now 3 years old. And, it’s done.
  • I needed the canopy this weekend, of course. I splinted the broken struts with hardwood from the shop, and duct taped everything in place.
  • Lots of duct tape.
  • Of course.
  • Another windy weekend, with gusts above 25 MPH during set up. I had 150 pounds of concrete on the canopies … and then I drove in stakes & roped the canopies down.
  • Wind. Blows.
  • I love, love, love the wonderful display space when I own a double booth. I had 5x 6′ tables, plus my 2 new cabinets. I did not display 100% of my inventory, but I had great space to display every kind of piece that I have in inventory. I could have used more cutting board holders. Another item on the work list, unfortunately.
  • Wind gusts persisted until about 2:30p on Saturday. We survived another windy one, though I fear one of our portable awnings is also wind damaged. We may need an upgraded solution, but that’s a problem for another day.
  • Loved the Mom who took my business card, and told me she was giving it to her kids with specific instructions for a Mother’s Day present. Always happy to be a part of a family’s celebration!
  • Overheard & busted:
    • She said: “These are nice.”
    • He said: “$125? Not that nice.”
    • She said: “But they’re handmade!” (Turning towards me.) “Do you make them?”
    • I said: “Yes I do.”
    • He said: “Well, your time is worth something, right?”
    • I think: ‘Not according to you!’
  • A lady asked for a quote for an in-counter custom board, and I quoted $125. She walked away, thinking about it. She came back saying a neighboring woodworker would do it for $50, and would I negotiate? I said no, the price was $125. She walked away.
  • Eventually, she came back, and bought the custom board (at $125) as well as a Lazy Susan. Sometimes, it’s just not about price.
  • Oh, and my promised delivery was July 4 at the earliest. Sometimes, it’s about the product, not the wait.
  • I saw 2 shade canopies carried away in pieces at this event, and both were the cheap, aluminum, consumer versions. Those are not meant for constant use in high-wind environments. You know our motto: Go Big or Go Home.
  • Requests were for a table-size Lazy Susan (like they have in India), a cribbage board (2x) and a backgammon board.
  • Chess board sales = $0.
  • My sales were down this year, but Mrs M’s sales were up from prior year. In total, we were down at an event with attendance that was up. (sigh)
  • If just one or two of those promised follow-up sales happen, then this event will have been well worth it. If I don’t have follow-up sales, I’ll definitely be frustrated.

The Food

Saturday Breakfast: Bagels & cream cheese. At home.

Saturday Lunch: Mrs M made a surprise appearance and went to the food truck to deliver some sort of mac & cheese & shrimp & tri tip concoction. No complaints! The food trucks at this event are very good.

Saturday Snack: Nope.

Saturday Dinner: Papa John’s. Mrs M forgot how to order pizza, though, so our order was a bit, uh, off. I felt like I was at a 6 year old’s birthday party (because isn’t that when you eat plain cheese pizza?).

Sunday Breakfast: See Saturday.

Sunday Lunch: A dry Panini. Not a good thing.

Sunday Snack: Kona Ice. A good thing.

Sunday Dinner: Stonefire. Their carryout is always a good thing.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 16. I love local.
  • Booth cost: $525
  • Food cost: $152
  • Travel cost: $0
  • Total sales: $1,581
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $904
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 2
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: several
  • Saturday alarm: 6:15a
  • Sunday alarm: nope
  • # transactions: 48
  • # soap & lotion vendors: at least 3, but none of them were handmade.
  • # woodworking vendors: 4, one of which makes cutting boards, cheese boards, bottle openers & bears (sound familiar?). One is a local scroll saw artist, one is a local turner/woodworker, and the 4th is also local, and works with wine barrels.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 12:2
  • Returning next year? Yes. Gotta wave the flag at this local event – that is the biggest vendor event in Santa Clarita!

Boards sold: 14

Cutting Boards: 4

MBOs: 2

Medium Surfboard: 2

Cheese Boards: 1

Small Boards: 1

Cheese & Cracker Server (AKA Large Surfboard): 1

Bear: 1

Lazy Susan: 1

Custom Order: 1

The Board Chronicles: California Poppy Festival 2017   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 had a good event two years ago when we did the California Poppy Festival 2015 … it was actually our first-ever event where we did a double booth.

It was our 30th event all-time … and set a record as our Best. Event. Ever.

That record held for 4 months. Today, 2 years later, those sales from 2015 were below our average event in 2016. Still, though, we had very good sales at this event in 2015. But oh, my, that wind. After a weekend “out in it,” it felt like we had been camping. We were covered in grime – just like the product was. There was a definite downside to doing this event, no matter what the sales were.

But there’s a big upside as well: we stay with the Granddaughters when we go a-vendoring in the Antelope Valley.

Given our history & the side benefits, who wouldn’t want to go to the California Poppy Festival?

New Ideas

  • At long last, the new Lip Balm dispenser premiered at this event. It’s only a year late.
  • At long last, the ZooSoapia display premiered at this event. It’s only 5 months late.

Observations

  • Our 3rd Spring Fling has begun: 7 (hopefully) big events in 7 consecutive weeks. This is event # 1.
  • This event always gives me fits with their requirement for a certificate of insurance. In 2015, they had very specific language that they required, and then changed. They rejected my COIs, and I redid them after receiving conflicting instructions. Very frustrating. This year they had a clear clause in the contract with instructions for the COI to name as additionally insured:

“City of Lancaster, its elected officials, officers, employees and volunteers are included as additional covered parties, but only insofar as the operations under this contract are concerned”. The name and date(s) of the event must also be included on the certificate.

I did precisely that … and got a call that my COI was unacceptable. I asked for specific instructions, as I had followed the contract, and they sent me the same instructions. I decided to play their game. I submitted the same COI to them a 2nd time.

  • It was approved.
  • Friday set-up, and they handed me a manila envelope with my receipt, 4 vendor name tags, and one parking pass at check-in. When I commented that I needed 2 parking passes for my double booth, the reply was, “Did you put that on your application?” I did not remember, of course … and after the event, I found there was no place to put such a comment on the application (since I wasn’t applying for overnight parking). Luckily, our good friend Jan had an extra, so it all worked out.
  • This is a big city-sponsored event in a big city park. There are 210 “arts & crafts” booth spaces & probably more “commercial” booths for area businesses, charities & such. There’s a carnival. Farmer’s market. Kid attractions. Performances by local dance groups. A car show. Lots of fair food. A beer garden (which must have made a lot of money, given the number of beer cups I saw walking by the booth). The city website boasts 55 acres of activities; there’s a lot going on here.
  • First question of the day: as I was walking back from parking my car, a vendor stopped in their truck and asked me, “where is the vendor parking?” I told her, “Just drive 50 feet forward to where that sign says ‘Parking,’ and you are there.” 50′. Jeez.
  • One of my pet peeves at big events is a vendor selling the wooden boxes, ships, tanks & military logos that are imported from China. The work is not that good, but the prices are really cheap. It’s woodworking, but not anything that I enjoy seeing. There were 2 vendors with these products, and one of them was our backdoor neighbor. (sigh)
  • Across the aisle from us was a quadruple booth for LuLaRoe. That must be a thing. And, of course, the Mrs M’s went shopping.
  • Saturday was hot, but not as hot as projected. With a gentle breeze, it was a great day in the park. Except for the buyers staying home. Some vendors had good days, some didn’t. We didn’t.
  • For some reason, the city didn’t put trash containers out anywhere but near the food booths & bathrooms. If you were walking through the vendor area and finished your food or drink … there was nowhere to put your trash. And that doesn’t end well for the vendor area, let me assure you.
  • I got to go walk about Sunday morning before the crowd arrived, and was disappointed to see that handmade goods were such a small part of this event. The vast majority of booths were for cheap imports. There were some of the normal buy & sell vendors, but even they were not well represented, I felt. Perhaps 25% of the booths were for handmade goods (and I’m probably being kind with that estimate). Given our poor Saturday, I was not in a wonderful mood … but this event seemed to be more swap meet than craft fair. The city of Lancaster, though, bills the vendor area as the “arts & crafts section.”
  • Some gentlemen from another culture visited the booth, and they enthusiastically commented that my boards were tight. They were dope. I believe they liked them, but it was hard to tell. They didn’t buy anything.
  • Huge attendance at this event, though I’m told Saturday was down 9,000 from prior year. I don’t know the actual attendance number, but it’s very big. I can’t complain about the attendance, I just wish there were more buyers in the crowd. But that’s me; I know other vendors were happy.
  • Sunday, we remembered why this event was so hard 2 years ago.
  • Wind. Blows.
  • There is nothing good about a constant wind with 25 MPH gusts that rocks the portable, pop-up shade structure that is our booth. I’ve got about 150 pounds of weight holding down our shade structure, so it’s really not going to go anywhere … but under the canopy, almost everything can blow over if the wind catches it wrong.
  • Big wind is pretty normal in Lancaster, but it is not fun as a vendor. Packing the booth was a real challenge – everything wanted to blow away while being packed. Containers, lids, packing materials … and don’t get me started on taking down the canopies while keeping them from blowing away. The load-out was over 2 hours because of the wind.
  • Requests were for gun grips, a cribbage board, clipboards (which, sadly, I left at home), a board to cut beef jerky with – a first!, a backgammon board and the # 1 request of the weekend … I just can’t type the words.

The Food

Saturday Breakfast: Hello, old friend.

Saturday Lunch: Velda’s cheese & cracker plate was a tasty alternative to fair food.

Saturday Snack: A soft serve ice cream that really put the soft into soft serve.

Saturday Dinner: BLTs with Christopher & the girls. Excellent.

Sunday Breakfast: A burrito from Primo Burgers. Excellent … though it would have been nice had their parking lot been large enough for the trailer. Or even had a way to escape that didn’t involve backing up.

Sunday Lunch: Cheese & crackers, of course!

Sunday Snack: Nope.

Sunday Dinner: In ‘N Out. It’s what eating at 9:30pm on a Sunday is all about.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 257
  • Booth cost: $350
  • Food cost: $46
  • Travel cost: $0
  • Total sales: $1,722
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $1,306
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer:
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative:
  • Saturday alarm: 5:30a
  • Sunday alarm: 6a
  • # transactions: 78
  • # soap & lotion vendors: There were at least 5 soapers other than Mrs M. None had as complete a skin care line, but that’s a lot of handmade soap in one place, I believe.
  • # woodworking vendors: There were a few. A toy maker, a carver & small box maker that I spoke with. There was a professional redwood sign maker with a trailer custom rigged for him to route your sign on the spot. And me.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 9:4
  • Returning next year? I hope not.

Boards sold: 13

Magic Bottle Openers: 4

Cheese Boards: 3

Cutting Board: 3

Small Boards: 2

Small Surfboard: 1

The 250th Cutting Board   Leave a comment

I’ve been working on this board for 2 years.

In my head, anyway.

As my faithful readers know, I’ve been wrestling with building inventory for a very long time, and I’ve been up & down & up & down from the line in the sawdust that I’ve drawn at the 200th cutting board.

Today, I’ve reached a new milestone, as this colorific cutting board is my 250th piece in inventory.

The pictorial below shows the board in all of the stages of production, which did actually take me a couple of months. In the beginning the original boards were picked & processed, and then glued together. That “blank” then got smoothed, sliced, and then re-glued into the final configuration for the cutting board. More smoothing and then final shaping on the table saw and router table followed. Even more sanding came next, and then the board was ready for oiling and waxing. Non-skid rubber feet were then installed with stainless steel screws, and the board was finished. Final step: photography!

Join us this weekend at the California Poppy Festival to see the board in person. Plus, you’ll get to see the beginning of our annual Spring Fling!

The Board Chronicles: Champagne On Main 2017   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.

Mrs M has this theory that events featuring alcohol should be good for me. Alcohol. Magic Bottle Openers. Cheese Boards. What’s not to like?

This event happens on Main Street in Ventura – a beach town an hour to the west. It’s the same location as the July 4th event we’ve enjoyed the past 2 years, so this seems like it could be a good choice for us.

Except it’s a one day event. We don’t like those.

Except it’s a day when Mrs M has to work at her “job.” So I’m solo .. and my solo events tend to be under-achievers.

Time to see what I can do solo on Main Street. No lotions today; it’ll just be my stuff & me.

New Ideas

  • This will be my first solo event using just my Jeep to carry product since last November’s Affair of the Arts in Culver City. After that event, I vowed to go big or stay home. That vow lasted 5 months, apparently.
  • No trailer = limited cargo space. I have to leave a lot of product at home.
  • Rain was forecast for Friday about midnight, so I didn’t load my trailer hitch Friday evening. That way, the canopy would not get soaked. Hopefully.

Observations

  • The rain was gone by 6am, so my delayed packing strategy worked. I was still on the road before 7.
  • When I arrived at the event at 8am, the queue of vendor cars was 10+ long waiting to get onto Main Street.
  • As I got to my booth space a few minutes later, it started to mist. Not a lot of moisture, but it was wet.
  • Great.
  • Luckily, the rain subsided within a few minutes. My boards didn’t get wet at all. I took a risk & didn’t even put up my side walls. The forecast for the day actually came true, and we had blue skies by 10am. Thank goodness!
  • Limited cargo space meant I left stuff at home. Unfortunately, I left the surfboards at home. My mistake.
  • Oh, and I left the Wine Bottle Holders at home, too. Same container. My goodness, what was I thinking???
  • Knowing how the 4th of July event works, I came to this event early to be ready for walkers on Main Street before this event officially began. I was set up by 9:30 … and had people in the booth almost immediately. The event officially started at 11am, but that time was meaningless.
  • At 10am, I had a person engaged with the largest cutting board on the table. She lifted it (no small feat), talked about it … and put it back. That’s an auspicious beginning, however.
  • No serious conversations about big cutting boards happened for the rest of the day. (sigh)
  • This is another event that gave vendors no information about the event layout, times, etc. When did the sampling of alcohol begin? No clue. Where were the restrooms? No clue. What vendors were there? When did the event end? How would I know? They didn’t even give me my booth number until after I arrived, which I always think is bad form.
  • Come to find out, the alcohol sampling happened in the store fronts on Main Street. Those shop owners made space for a sampling station and put signage on their door … and drunk people came into their shops throughout the event. If there was sampling in the, uh, temporary vendor area, I didn’t see it.
  • We had blue skies, but we had a breezy spring day. Gusts to 20 mph, I was told. Lots of wind. I didn’t see a canopy take flight, but it definitely could have happened. Most vendors aren’t that serious about using weights, and that’s a dangerous problem, IMHO.
  • Vendors started exiting in the 3 o’clock hour. One veteran vendor told me she’d done this event for years, but this year’s sales were about 1/3 of her normal. Every vendor I talked to was unhappy.
  • My best hour, with 45% of total sales, was the 5 o’clock hour.
  • Happy Hour.
  • When my MBO demo is met with cheers as the magic is revealed, you know it’s Happy Hour. # 1 seller on this day: Magic Bottle Openers.
  • One request was from a Lady asking if I had a bigger heart. There’s just no way to respond to that question seriously. Other requests were for a cribbage board … and that other game board that people ask about. Yes, it was my # 1 request. Again. As always.
  • I need more shop time.
  • A side note: an interesting article that ran this week describes how the city of Ventura is significantly increasing the cost of events held on city property due to liability concerns. Unprecedented cost increases are resulting in producers moving events (and not just vendor events!) out of Ventura, it seems. The producer of this event (who also does the more popular Winter Wine Walk) indicated that alternatives are being researched, so this event may not be here next year. If you ever do events in Ventura, you should read the article, here.

The Food

Saturday Breakfast: Hello, old friend.

Saturday Lunch: A ham sandwich from home – the same lunch I have at home 19 days out of 20.

Saturday Snack: A $3 chocolate cookie, and that was well worth it.

Saturday Dinner: Leftovers at home. Easy, quick.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 100
  • Booth cost: $275
  • Food cost: $11
  • Travel cost: $0
  • Total sales: $670
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $384
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 1
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: 2
  • Saturday alarm: 6a
  • # transactions: 10, over 9 hours. Luckily, there was enough activity (just not sales activity!) so I wasn’t bored after about noon.
  • # soap & lotion vendors: I saw a bath bomb vendor & a buy & sell lotion vendor on my walkabout 90 minutes before the opening. There may have been others.
  • # woodworking vendors: There was a turner and 3 people doing wine barrel constructions of various sorts. The lady making American Flags was doing interesting work, in my opinion.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 10:1
  • Returning next year? Maybe. Probably not.

Boards sold: 11

MBOs: 6x

Cutting Boards: 2x

Small Boards: 1x

Cheese Boards: 1x

Hearts: 1x

 

The Board Chronicles: AV Home Show 2017   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.

Going into this event, I knew 2 things:

  1. I love local.
  2. Mrs M hates Home & Garden shows.

She’s got a bad taste in her mouth after a frustrating Home & Garden experience last year – she even passed up a trip to Fresno a couple of weeks ago to do that Home & Garden Show. The Fresno H&G turned out to be a good show for me … not to mention a bachelor weekend in Fresno. Apparently, Mrs M endorses that.

With the AV Home Show, however, she gets to spend the weekend with the Granddaughters. That’s a winner, regardless of the event results. She’s in.

This is the 29th Annual AV Home Show in Lancaster. Will it meet Mrs M’s expectations, or mine?

New Ideas

  • The show talked about an open presentation in their vendor materials – nothing above 36″ in the front 5′ of the booth. That’s common in pipe & drape environments, but not so much in open craft fair environments. I opted to not use our canopies, so we went with our 6 tables at the event & no sides or backdrop. No signage, either. The booth felt naked.
  • The only way the canopies would have worked would be to either take off their tops and just leave the bones … or use the canopies as is and use our lights to better display our stuff. The neon-like lights in our building were pretty garish. The light was very blue, which washed out a lot of color in the boards. However, I decided it wasn’t worth it to put our lights up.
  • Note to self: negative thoughts are a bad thing.
  • Come to find out, this was the 29th Annual AV Home Show … but the first time that they’ve added a craft fair to the event. That was a surprise. First time events are seldom great. Unfortunately.

Observations

  • The craft fair building was located perhaps 100 yards from the two main buildings that housed the Home Show. There were a few outdoor exhibits to walk by while you were going to the craft fair … but not many. And since there was limited signage that announced the craft fair and pointed the way, some people came to the Home Show & had no idea that we were there (which I confirmed by talking to actual attendees). There were 2 or 3 portable signs, but if you missed those … you missed it.
  • I knew this event was going off the rails when our craft fair had booths for Damsel in Defense, LuLaRoe and a few vendors offering unbranded imported merchandise. Though most of the vendors were showing handmade goods, more than a few were not. I really don’t like it when I have to sign a 15 page contract, provide insurance and jump through multiple hoops to be a part of a “craft fair” … and I’m not.
  • Friday was a waste of my time. Only 5 hours for the event, but sales were a puny $131.
  • Saturday was worse.
  • This was our 2nd event with a major pet adoption presence near us, and it was again an irritant. One common rule for all events is that you’re not allowed to solicit outside of your booth: you can’t wander the aisles harassing customers. The volunteers showcasing the dogs weren’t harassing customers … but the dogs were. Volunteers actually sat in the aisles holding dogs. Aisles were clogged. Since the dog cages were located right next to the entrance (mistake!), the entrances were clogged as the dogs were taken on walks.
  • The first vendor to leave early & load out on Sunday was in the booth directly adjacent to the pet adoption chaos.
  • I like dogs. I support pet adoptions. I have always had pets. But when pet adoptions from an organization that doesn’t pay for their space interfere with the “craft fair” that I’ve paid money to be a part of, I get a bit less enthusiastic. And, for the record, a “craft fair” has nothing to do with pet adoptions. Just sayin’.
  • 50% of the vendors broke the 4th wall of their booths and extended their displays into the aisle. Most of these infractions were minor, but it bugs me when vendors don’t follow the rules that are there for the common good. Some just think they’re more special than that … about 50% at this event, come to find out. When people take unfair advantage of the public space, I’m irked.
  • Not to mention when event producers don’t enforce their own rules.
  • Breakdown could not begin before the event closing at 5pm Sunday, per the rules. The cages & such for the animals, though, were broken down beginning at 3pm Sunday – with a truck parked right beside the entrance for their gear. This was a very visible sign that the event was over, and traffic fell precipitously and predictably at that point.
  • The event was OOTW.

One. Of. The. Worst.

  • Requests were for a board with metal handles, a banana holder, a paper plate holder, really big juice grooves, and, to complete my bad weekend, the # 1 request was for … chess boards.

The Food

Saturday Breakfast: Bagel & cream cheese. Toasted, of course.

Saturday Lunch: A hot dog & fries. The only reasonable choice, it seems. Oh, and the cheapest one, as well.

Saturday Snack: Nope.

Saturday Dinner: No motivation = no good food.

Sunday Breakfast: See Saturday.

Sunday Lunch: See Saturday.

Sunday Snack: See Saturday.

Sunday Dinner: Brisket at the Southern Smoke BBQ & Brew in Newhall. This is a delightful place.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 116
  • Booth cost: $200
  • Food cost: $151
  • Travel cost: $0
  • Total sales: $473
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $122
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 0
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: 1
  • Saturday alarm: 6:15a
  • Sunday alarm: 6:15a
  • # transactions: 20
  • # soap & lotion vendors: There were at least 5 vendors offering soap; a couple offering lotion. None had the complete presentation & varied group of products offered by Mrs M, IMHO.
  • # woodworking vendors: There was a turner and a scroll saw artist. Several wooden sign makers, of course. And me.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 3:1
  • Returning next year? No. Hell no.

Boards sold: 4

Small Boards: 2

Magic Bottle Opener: 1

Small Surfboard: 1

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