Archive for the ‘festival’ Tag

The Board Chronicles: Almond Blossom 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..

Anticipation was building. We were very excited to be a part of the 68th Annual Almond Blossom Festival in Quartz Hill. This would be our 3rd appearance at this event in the last 3 years.

You know I love local. Quartz Hill is a community in the Antelope Valley, about 45 minutes north of us.

When we do this event, we stay with our two granddaughters, so this event has about the best side benefits I can imagine.

In 2015, we had a 10×10 booth and sales of $1,291. Last year, it rained. Nothing to be done about that, and sales dropped to $879, in spite of our 10×20 booth and expanded product selection. This year, we have Mrs M’s purpose-built display. My inventory isn’t perfect (no chess boards!), but I have as good an array as I’ve ever had. We’re ready for Quartz Hill.

New Ideas

  • Mrs M’s soap will be at this event for the first time – hardly a new idea, really, but it should help us increase sales this year.

Observations

  • Every year, there is confusion with load-in and booth placement. This year, I was on an end … then I wasn’t. There was plenty of room in the park, though (fewer vendors this year, for some reason), so it was a non-issue. There was plenty of room, and the atmosphere was very casual during set-up. Very casual.
  • This is a community event in a county park. Local dance studios perform. Local bands perform. It’s all sponsored by the Quartz Hill Chamber of Commerce, so local businesses have booths, too. It’s all about the community.
  • When the Quartz Hill queens & princesses came around handing out candy to the vendors as a thank you for supporting Quartz Hill, I was amazed. Can’t remember the last time a pre-teen gave me candy.
  • And, of course, it’s cute when a little girl strolls through a park & gives me candy. Me strolling through a park & giving a little girl candy … not so much.
  • Wine Bottle Holders were prominently displayed for the 2nd time, and for the 2nd time I had a senior citizen ask me if they are door stops.
  • They are not.
  • An artist’s work is so seldom understood.
  • The fire marshal closed the vendor section early on Saturday, the last day of standard time. It was scheduled to be open until 7pm (which was way too late). As darkness descended, the fire marshal said to close the vendor area at 6:15pm so no one would be hurt in the darkness.
  • Huh?
  • Every vendor was complaining about the low traffic this year. The weather was glorious: over 80* each day. This was our first weekend this year with great SoCal weather, in fact … maybe the weather was too good? In any event, there were slow sales for everyone, it seemed.
  • There is live music playing throughout the event, and 2 bands were noteworthy. Big Coyote sounded great this year, and happens to include one of our next door neighbor musicians as a guitarist & vocalist. Also sounding great was The Fulcos, a family act based in the AV. Both bands had excellent presentations, and even this critic enjoyed them. Good thing, as there wasn’t enough traffic to hold my attention.
  • Requests from this event were for a kitchen island top (2x), a hope chest and, once again as the # 1 request … chess boards (of course).
  • This is our 2nd event in a row where Sunday sales exceeded Saturday sales. No complaints … but has the world gone crazy?
  • In the end, sales were a disappointment. We did not equal our 2015 sales – where we had much less product, and only a 10×10 booth. Our booth expenses have more than doubled, and sales did not increase. Perhaps we have saturated this event, and should give it a break next year? There aren’t that many good March events, however, and none allow us to spend time with the granddaughters except for this one. Much to think about before we schedule 2018.

The Food

Saturday Breakfast: Bagels & cream cheese, brought from home.

Saturday Lunch: “Half a Polish,” he said. Of course, I’m not half Polish … I’m not half anything. I’m a mutt. “English, Irish, German, Dutch….”

Saturday Snack: A Twisted Spud. They look better than they taste, every time. Maybe I’ll learn someday.

Saturday Dinner: “Deconstructed cabbage rolls,” she said. Well, OK then. Tasted great.

Sunday Breakfast: See above.

Sunday Lunch: See above. I’m consistent.

Sunday Snack: Nope. I learn, too.

Sunday Dinner: A carnitas burrito from the local Mexican restaurant, La Cocina. And guacamole. And a Cadillac Margarita.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 226
  • Booth cost: $255
  • Food cost: $81
  • Travel cost: $121
  • Total sales: $1,264
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $807
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 1
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: Several, including 3 visits from 3 different people explaining to us the load-out procedure. I thought that was overkill. Been there, done that, and didn’t learn a thing.
  • Saturday alarm: 6:15am
  • Sunday alarm: nope
  • # transactions: 70
  • # soap & lotion vendors: Incredibly, just Mrs M. Maybe the soap fad is over?
  • # woodworking vendors: Just me. No fad here.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 10:1
  • Returning next year? Maybe.

Boards sold: 11

Small Boards: 3

Magic Bottle Openers: 3

Cheese Boards: 2

Wine Bottle Holder: 1

Lazy Susan: 1

Cutting Board: 1

The Board Chronicles: Fresno Home & Garden Show 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.

fresno-home-garden-showVacation’s over. Time to get to work.

I’ve enjoyed 75 glorious days since my last event … but now it’s time for some vendoring.

The Fresno Home & Garden Show (“the 3rd largest in California!”) boasts 30,000 in attendance over its three days. The private producers have 3 shows each year at the Fresno fairgrounds, and this is the largest. The show isn’t inexpensive … and Mrs M has a bad taste in her mouth with central valley Home & Garden shows after only selling $150 at the Bakersfield H&G we did last year. So, she opted out as I opted in.

After all, it fit our calendar.

Time to shake off the cobwebs.

New Ideas

  • It’s not a new idea for me to solo with just my booth, but it is new for me to drive the trailer to the event to carry just me & my stuff. I’m giving more meaning to the phrase “Go big or go home.”
  • One of the vendor comments offered as testimonial on the producer’s website described the area as “a little rough.” This is the first venue we’ve had an event in that’s surrounded by concertina wire. The Fresno fairgrounds are located near the old downtown area, and the surrounding blocks are not picture postcard pretty. The fairgrounds are in good shape, however.
  • Wine bottle holders made their debut at this event. Finally.

Observations

  • Drove in to the fairgrounds, in search of the unfortunately named “More Exhibits” building that I was assigned to. The map actually called my building “More Exhibits.” Here’s the problem: every building on the fairgrounds had a big banner on it: “More Exhibits.” Luckily, my More Exhibits was the 2nd More Exhibits building I tried.
  • My booth was between the Tupperware ladies and a fence builder. Problem was the fence builder had put up a 5′ spite fence blocking the view of my booth which was against the rules (vendors are limited to 3′ obstructions in the front half of their booths, which is standard for pipe & drape environments like this one). I complained … and the builder moved the fence. Wow. Rules enforced by the producer. Maybe there’s hope here.
  • “Park at the lot on the corner of Maple & Butler,” I was told. Free for vendors. I drove there … and on the 4 corner lots there were 2 fair or city developments with fencing, a park with fencing, and a liquor store. No parking lot entrance near the intersection, except for the liquor store. No signage for the fair, for parking, or for vendors. NO signage. Come to find out, the “park” was a grass lot behind a fence, and that was the parking lot. Not the other corners with asphalt. But since I couldn’t find any cars, nor an open entrance anyway….
  • Forgotten, Day 1: Left my Bubba Keg in the Jeep, so I had to survive over 10 hours without a Bubba filled with Diet Coke within 5′ of my hand. The horrors of vending.
  • We use Paypal, which pushed a mandatory software update the weekend prior to the event. I dutifully installed it. All was well until I tried to use the app for our first transaction, and the keyboard was screwy. Push 4, and it said 4. Push 5, and it said 8. Push 7, and it said 1. The numbers were randomly generated, it seemed, and I could not figure out how to get it to work. Luckily that first customer had cash … and then I found that the software update had changed my default to include sale tax in the transaction, so every time I pushed a number, the app added 8.5%. Automatically.
  • Shut that off.
  • I hear it all of the time: customers come into the booth, like my stuff, and promise to come back later. Generally, those people get lost on the way to their car, or something. All I know is they usually don’t come back. Friday, the majority of those people did come back. Friday had surprisingly good results, and I was off to a great start.
  • Forgotten, Day 2: Discovered I had left my cooler at the venue the night before, so I had to deal with getting ice & soda to the venue without a cooler. Not as bad as being without my Bubba, but still. Also forgotten was the Paypal e-chip reader, left at the hotel on Saturday. Why am I forgetting things???
  • Expectations can kill you. Saturday was totally underwhelming – barely better than Friday, in fact. My expectation for Friday was almost no sales, and I did 5 transactions, including a big board. All good! Saturday, I did 9 transactions, but they were all small. And it was forecast to rain on Sunday … hope wasn’t fleeting; it fled. Saturday had huge traffic … and few buyers in my booth. Other vendors had very good days with the traffic surge.
  • Overheard: “I can not WAIT to get tickets to go see Neil Young … I mean Neil Diamond.” I understood her excitement, since one Neil is so much like the other.
  • This event was open for 25 hours. During that time, I had a total of 20 transactions. When Mrs M is there, we have a lot more transactions … but don’t think that more transactions always result in more profits. A big difference, though, is that I have to deal with boredom. I had hours go by with few quality conversations and no transactions, and that’s just not fun.
  • During the slow times, I wasn’t even happy talking to DIYers and the ever-present shop teacher that trolled my booth to tell me of their accomplishments. Normally, those are very pleasant conversations, but here I could not avoid my frustrations that the event was not fulfilling my high expectations.
  • Although, I did note on Saturday that it was great to hear my skills lauded by other woodworkers. Translation: I’m better at hiding my mistakes than they are.
  • Thank goodness.
  • Requests: a lamb-shaped cutting board (that’s new), business card holders, a pepper mill, rolling pin (2x – but I am NOT a turner!), decorative mason jar lid covers (You know you’re in an agricultural area when….), a cutting board with a built-in drawer, a pizza peel, a cutting board with bowls built in to collect your work, a 4’x6′ island, a cribbage board, a custom gunstock, and my # 1 request was (wait for it) … chess boards.
  • Saturday was slow, but Sunday was my best day. In the rain. No other vendor I talked to did better on Sunday, but Sunday saw 2 of 3 large cutting boards sell. Sunday grew beyond expectations, and was 40% of my sales.

Best. Solo. Event. Ever.

  • Every event has the same rule: no breaking down of your booth until the event closes. In this case, that was 6pm Sunday. The event started breaking down their gear at about 4pm. When vendors followed immediately, the producers did not stop them (though my neighbor was told not to break down by a temp employee).
  • When a producer doesn’t follow their own rules, then there are no rules.
  • Strike at 6, packed by 7, loaded & on the road at 7:47pm. Only 186 miles to home….

The Food

Friday Breakfast: Best Western Village Inn free breakfast. All good with biscuits & gravy.

Friday Lunch: Granola bars, trail mix, cashews. No fair food.

Friday Snack: See above.

Friday Dinner: My MOS (Mushroom, Onion, Sausage) from Mama Mia Pizza. Definitely a good pizza, just as Yelp predicted.

Saturday Breakfast: Back to the Village Inn for a disappointing choice between “cheese” omelets and pre-cooked egg slabs (they tried to look like a fried egg, but, yuck).

Saturday Lunch: Granola bars, trail mix, cashews and a banana. And Oreos. No fair food.

Saturday Snack: See above.

Saturday Dinner: I was desperate enough to drive to Olive Garden (!), but they had a line out the door. I ended up at Carrow’s, where I was not the youngest person there, but every single table had an older person at it than was sitting at my table. I felt young.

Sunday Breakfast: Back to biscuits & gravy. Thank goodness.

Sunday Lunch: Same as Saturday, but no Oreos. No fair food … but I would have had a cinnamon roll if someone would have been there to cover the booth while I stood in line.

Sunday Snack: See above.

Sunday Dinner: McDonald’s # 1 on the road. No time to eat; I had to drive.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 428
  • Booth cost: $450
  • # of people I met during the event from the producer: 0
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: Two: one when they showed me a potential leak in the roof above my booth, and one when they dropped off a solicitation for their next 2 shows. Pass.
  • Total sales: $1,940
  • Saturday alarm: nope
  • Sunday alarm: nope
  • # transactions: 20
  • # soap & lotion vendors: a couple
  • # woodworking vendors: I seemed to be the only cutting board maker; there were 4 guys there showing furniture & such made from wine barrels. Four!
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 18:4
  • Returning next year? Yes

Boards sold: 22

Magic Bottle Openers: 8

Cheese Boards: 4

Large Cutting Boards: 3

Cutting Boards: 2

Pizza Server: 1

Large Sous Chef Board: 1

Wine Bottle Holder: 1

Lazy Susan: 1

Small Board: 1

The Board Chronicles: Valencia Summit Holiday Craft Boutique   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.

Summit Holiday BoutiqueThis will be our second year doing this event, which is staged at the clubhouse of a local homeowner’s association. 100% of vendor fees go to a charity supporting the homeless in our area. The producer is a vendor friend that does this event as a labor of love, and we are happy to support her.

It’s local. It’s for a good cause.

Did I mention it’s local? You bet we’re in.

Here’s what happened at this event last year, when it had an unusual split weekend schedule, with one day in November and one in December. The 2016 iteration of the event will be on a single weekend, which saves a set-up and is much easier to negotiate on the calendar … but we still had to double book to do the event.

It’s the final event of our 2016. I love it before it starts.

New Ideas

  • This event was double booked with the Valencia High Choir Holiday Boutique, so Mrs M covered this one on Saturday while I was enjoying the choir sing a jazzed-up suite of Christmas carols. On Sunday, I worked on some commissions Sunday morning while she covered the early part of day 2; I joined her for the afternoon & load-out.
  • This is a table top presentation, but Mrs M gets her full purpose-built display on her 6′ table. Zoosoapia then fell onto my side of the next table.

Observations

  • Event # 11 of our 11 events in the 4th quarter.
  • Thank goodness.
  • There are only 20 or so vendors at this event, and many are friends. That makes for a fun time, which is much appreciated.
  • One nice element that adds to the camaraderie is a pot luck of munchables contributed by the vendors, for the vendors. It adds to the atmosphere, and with the kitchen set-up in the clubhouse, is very easy to do. This is a great part of this event.
  • We got several calls & emails in the week leading up to this event, with customers verifying that they could find us here for last-minute shopping. I do love local, but being local & being available are both important.
  • I arrived 5 minutes after 1p on Sunday, and one of my appointments was already there waiting. I feel like I’m late for everything these days, and I’m not late for anything. Ever. Except during the holiday rush!
  • Personalized Cutting Boards are a thing, clearly. I sold 2 more today, and now I need to adjust my plans for new boards to ensure I have boards that can be personalized (Hard Maple makes the best engravable space).
  • Only one request today, and it was for a Lazy Susan. Geez.
  • Merry Christmas!

The Food

Saturday Breakfast: No time. Gotta go. (can you tell this is not what I did?)

Saturday Lunch: Mrs M shared in the munchables

Saturday Snack: See above!

Saturday Dinner: Walnut Shrimp + Cashew Chicken at Grand Panda. Oh, and egg rolls. Of course.

Sunday Breakfast: Better bad bagels & cream cheese. Bad is still not that bad.

Sunday Lunch: Tostada salad from Baja Fresh.

Sunday Snack: a cookie!

Sunday Dinner: Burrito al Mador from La Cucina, with a Cadillac Margarita.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 65
  • Booth cost: $160
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 1 (and there’s only 1!)
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: many
  • Total sales: $1,907
  • # boards available: about half of them, but no Pigs, no Lazy Susans, no Clipboards and no Surfboards
  • Saturday alarm: 7am
  • Sunday alarm: nope
  • # transactions: 59
  • # soap & lotion vendors: there was one other, doing melt & pour
  • # woodworking vendors: just me
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 7:2
  • Returning next year? You bet.

Boards sold: 9

Magic Bottler Openers: 3

Large Cutting Boards: 2

Cheese Boards: 2

Cutting Boards: 2

 

The Board Chronicles: VHS Choir Holiday Boutique 2016   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.

vhs-choir-boutique-2016Valencia High School is about 3 miles from our house. Our kids didn’t go there, but it’s in our neighborhood.

The choir stages a holiday boutique as a fund raiser … and the choir director’s parents were both involved with teaching The Engineer in his formative years.

It’s local. It’s good people. You bet we’re doing it.

Here’s what happened last year: 2015’s VHS Holiday Boutique.

New Ideas

  • We haven’t done a table top event since April, and we haven’t done a split event since last year. On Saturday, I covered day 2 of this event while Mrs M covered day 1 of the Summit Holiday Boutique. We like both *local* events enough that we double booked ourselves for our last events of the year.
  • Haven’t used this table top, stair step display since we brought out Mrs M’s purpose-built display early this year. It’s been months since we used it; that qualifies as a new idea, right?

Observations

  • Event # 10 of 11 events we’re doing in the 4th quarter this year.
  • I love local.
  • Since we were doing a split event on table tops, neither event got full inventory. This event didn’t get MBOs, large cutting boards or Lazy Susans. I only got one request at this event … for a Lazy Susan. Sorry!
  • Every holiday boutique should have a choir perform. Valencia High’s choir is available for bookings, I am told.
  • Since I was solo at this event, that means I did the lotion bar demo many times this weekend. Benefit: my hands are now soft and plyable.
  • When you’re used to doing 100+ transactions at a 2 day event, it really feels wrong to only do 38 transactions at this event. I know it was slow, but, geez.
  • Sales were down from last year … but we really don’t do this event just to make money. We’re waving the flag, building brand awareness, and supporting a local high school’s music program. 100% of vendor fees go to support the choir program. What’s not to like?
  • What’s it like doing a local event?
    • 4:00pm – event ends. Packing.
    • 4:16pm – choir carries *everything* to the Jeep
    • 4:27pm – loaded and going home
    • 4:34pm – home
    • 4:35pm – stow boards, lotions, soaps & display pieces in the trailer (storage), garage (long term storage), dining room (for Mrs M to sort) and Jeep (one container, going to tomorrow’s event)
    • 4:53pm – bourbon in hand, writing this blog
  • I love local.

The Food

Friday Breakfast: Bad bagels & cream cheese. Even bad bagels aren’t that bad.

Friday Lunch: A ham sandwich & chips, at home. Of course.

Saturday Breakfast: A ham & cheese omelette @ Jimmy Dean’s.

Saturday Lunch: A protein bar & trail mix. Vendor lunch of champions.

Saturday Snack: Nope.

Saturday Dinner: Blackened Ribeye at Marston’s. Yum.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 13
  • Booth cost: $180
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: Just the choir director & teacher … but every single choir student came by the booth!
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: many
  • Total sales: $778
  • # boards available: about half of the inventory … no big cutting boards, MBOs, or Lazy Susans (sigh)
  • Saturday alarm: 5:35am
  • Sunday alarm: nope
  • # transactions: 38
  • # soap & lotion vendors: there were a couple of anti-aging vendors selling an array of, uh, stuff. And another vendor was selling essential oils.
  • # woodworking vendors: just me
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 5:0
  • Returning next year? Maybe. If it fits in the schedule!

Boards sold: 5

Pig: 1

Cheese Board: 1

Notepad Clipboard: 1

Small Surfboard: 1

Custom Order: 1

The Board Chronicles: Santa’s Art Shop   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.

santasartshopFor the last 2 years, Santa’s Art Shop has been our biggest event of the year. Could we repeat that performance in 2016?

Ridgecrest, CA is the home of Santa’s Art Shop. Ridgecrest is just down the road from Inyokern, and that town announces on the sign at the edge of town that they are “100 miles from everywhere.” Ridgecrest is near the Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS) China Lake in the western Mojave Desert. There aren’t a lot of people near there outside of the military facility … which is a largely undeveloped 1.1 million acres, making it larger than the state of Rhode Island.

Lots of open spaces here.

The people may be few, but those people need to do Christmas shopping. Santa’s Art Shop sets up on the Desert Empire Fairgrounds, and thousands from the region show up, every year.

New Ideas

  • After 2 years in the Joshua Hall, we were moved to the Mesquite Hall. Joshua was unavailable this year … resulting in a cascade of booth movement throughout the event. Practically everyone was in a new space. There were more vendors outside this year, and fewer vendors over all.
  • Little Girl joined us, so we had 3 Mowrys go a-vending. We used to have 3 people at every show in our ignorant, early days … now, it’s a special occasion!

Observations

  • Event # 9 of the 11 events we’re doing in the 4th quarter. The end is oh so solidly in sight.
  • Expectations. We had them. And expectations can kill you.
  • We arrived Friday afternoon for the big set up. We do Christmas decorations for this event, and take our time getting the display just right. This is an important event: our best event for each of the last 2 years. It demands our best effort.
  • Broke a piece on one canopy that resulted in one leg not locking into place when extended. Only one fix would work: duct tape. Of course.
  • A guy IM’d me through Facebook before the event, and wanted to make sure I was bringing (wait for it) … chess boards. He could not wait to see me this year! It’s not unusual for customers to make soft appointments to see me at an event, but this is the first time that’s happened for my # 1 most requested item.
  • We woke Saturday morning to get ready for our big event, and Little Girl was sick. Food poisoning? She was a gamer, and tried … but she couldn’t. Back to the hotel for her, and she had to wait until the event was over for us to bring her ginger ale and Saltines.
  • Meanwhile, back at the Art Shop, we got ‘whelmed pretty quickly. You couldn’t walk through the aisles Saturday morning. It was busy, busy … and stayed that way until about 2pm. Even as it slowed down, there were still shoppers doing what they do. Great day … but not our best. Lotion & soap sales weren’t as good as at the record-setting California Strawberry Festival. For me, the day was not as good as last year; I was a bit under prior year. That’s how we ended day 1: down to prior year by $60. (sigh)
  • Down is never good.
  • We ended Saturday disappointed, of course. Down is down. We were so looking forward to this event, and we were very slightly down – from 2015’s best event. It’s amazing how expectations can drive you to distraction when you are having one of your best events ever, but it feels like you aren’t achieving your goals.
  • With Sunday’s dawning, Little Girl was back. She had beaten the 24 hour bug. Come to find out, many of her friends she’d just gone camping with were also suffering from that same awful bug.
  • Sunday was a slow day, as is normal. Sundays typically have late crowds, and there’s a lot more strolling and chatting than you have on a Saturday that’s chock full of ASB (Aggressive Shopping Behavior).
  • But the shoppers did keep coming.
  • The event is in a metal building, and the cell service is horrible. The only way to do credit card transactions was to go outside. Every time. This was so annoying. Luckily, however, we were right by the door. Run the card. Through the door, 10 steps, and then back to get a signature. Through the door, 10 steps, and the transaction went through. Usually. Such a pain!
  • We expect (that word!) Sundays to be 40% of Saturday, which is exactly how this event played out last year. That would have been great, had it played out that way this year. We’d have been down, of course, but only by a very small percentage.
  • ’twas not to be.
  • Expectations can kill you.
  • After 2 years at this event, I definitely have customers coming back to tell me about the board they bought & use, or perhaps gave to someone a year or 2 ago, and how much they love it. It’s really wonderful when people tell me stories. I like stories.
  • For an engaged shopping crowd, we had a surprisingly small number of conversations about alternatives. People came in, saw what you had, and shopped accordingly. They didn’t stay to discuss it: they had a mission to accomplish. This is a Christmas season event, and it’s all about the shopping. I did discuss special orders to replace in-counter boards (which can only be made AFTER CHRISTMAS), but other than that, there were few meaningful conversations about what I didn’t have on display.
  • I only got one other request at this event: display stands for my cutting boards. It’s not the first time someone has asked to buy one of my stands at an event … as Mrs M reminded me. Hmmmmm.
  • Remember The Mistake? I had that end grain cutting board as overstock throughout this event. Never brought it out to display. Showed it to one lady … sold it. Perhaps I need to make more mistakes? No, actually the lesson here is that I need to make more end grain cutting boards using Hickory. Now, that is a plan.
  • Had a couple of women in the booth, buying a board for the man of the home. They described him as a destructive force in the kitchen that destroys cutting boards. What did they buy? The unique, pretty board that I had hoped might end up as a serving piece – or even, shockingly for me, as a display piece due to its one-of-a-kind beauty. I sold it with a smile on my face and a cringe in my heart.
  • I need to make more pretty things that I don’t sell.
  • A vendor ran into the booth, said, “I have to buy a cutting board on the sly!” and ran out. I looked at the ladies in the booth: “What was that?” Eventually, the vendor came back; she was buying an anniversary gift for her husband, and didn’t want him to see it while he was sitting at their booth just down from ours. She sent her proxy to buy the board, and all ended well. Husband even smiled when he opened the board!
  • We passed last year’s Sunday sales at 2pm, with 2 hours still to go. That’s great, but the pace was slow. The event seemed to (sadly) be winding down.
  • Sold my last chess board. I finished 6 back in June, so now I see that I’m selling about one every month. I am now out of the chess board business … until next year.
  • Still in the pig business (sigh).
  • We have a standing rule: we never, ever, take down our display before closing time. That’s a published rule for almost every event, of course, and we always follow the rules (!). Vendors around us often start moving boxes and breaking down displays 15 or even 30 minutes before closing time, but we don’t. We won’t. Experience has shown that my heavy cutting boards – my expensive cutting boards – are purchases that people often make last minute, after they’ve thought about the purchase and decided they really want to do it. We never close early.
  • Never.
  • I sold 2 large, end grain cutting boards in the final hour of the event. My sales in the final hour were over 10% of our total sales for the weekend. And that, my friends, was a very good thing. I brought 211 boards to this event, but I only took home 168. I sold 20% of my inventory in one weekend.

Best. Mr. M’s. Event. Ever.

  • The load-out was bigger than normal, since we had Christmas decorations to take down as well as a lot of vendors to dodge that were loading out through the narrow door directly adjacent to my display. We had 3 people attacking the problem, however, and we were loaded & ready to move the trailer down the road after only an hour and 39 minutes. We were home shortly after 8pm, and then turned immediately to go out to dinner.
  • The next step, of course, was to begin analyzing the event and actually counting the money. And it was wrong.
  • I keep a tally of the event, as you know, and the tally is sometimes off a bit. When we get ‘whelmed, I don’t always get to write down transactions. Sometimes, we just miss things. Humans. Mistakes. It happens. But our tally was not equaling our cash count. We were off. We weren’t short, luckily. We were long. Way long.
  • Long is good. Way long is very good.

Best. Weekend. Ever.

Best. Event. Ever.

  • Now, a new problem. How are we going to top this? Luckily, that’s a problem for next year!

The Food

Saturday Breakfast: Scrambled eggs & toast at Best Western.

Saturday Lunch: A Polish Dog. With ketchup & mustard.

Saturday Snack: nope.

Saturday Dinner: A delightful dinner at Charlie’s with our friends & fellow vendors that run Souper Dip.

Sunday Breakfast: Scrambled eggs … and biscuits & gravy at Best Western.

Sunday Lunch: Chicken fingers & fries. The food is not great at Santa’s Art Shop.

Sunday Snack: Cinnamon & sugar coated almonds & pecans. Yum.

Sunday Dinner: Chicken Marsala at Santa Clarita’s best Italian restaurant: Bella Cucina.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 279
  • Booth cost: $407
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 4
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: several
  • Total sales: $4,833
  • # boards available: all of them = 211
  • Saturday alarm: 5:50am
  • Sunday alarm: 5:50am
  • # transactions: 130
  • # soap & lotion vendors: there was another on our aisle, and a lotion guy (?) that was asking ladies as they passed, “Can I do your hands?” Mrs M politely declined that opportunity when asked.
  • # woodworking vendors: 3 other vendors had cutting boards! One was really a furniture maker with a few cutting boards on display. Another was really a turner with a few cheese slicing boards on display. Finally, there was a coop venture between 3 woodworkers that had a very large, impressive double booth display. They had many cutting boards … but no end grain. And very few boards of size except for a curious design with a bread hook, a juice groove, and a back rail. Now, that was an unwieldy board! In my humble opinion. It even confused Mrs M, so I know it was an odd design.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 40:4
  • Returning next year? With bells on, if I can figure out how to wear them.

Boards sold: 44

Magic Bottle Openers: 10

Cheese Boards: 10

Small Boards: 4

Large Cutting Boards: 3

Hearts: 3

Chess Boards: 2

Cutting Boards: 2

Pigs: 2

Small Sous Chef Boards: 2

Large Surfboards: 2

Custom Order: 1

Small Surfboard: 1

Large Sous Chef Boards: 1

Lazy Susan: 1

 

 

The Board Chronicles: Carpinteria Holiday Faire 2016   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.

carpinteriaThe Carpinteria Valley Museum of History hosts a monthly swap meet-style event on their grounds in their city. In November, the event transforms into a handmade-only holiday boutique. We’ve done the event for a couple of years, and have thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere of this community event.

Here’s the Board Chronicles from last year: Carpinteria Holiday Faire 2015.

OK, so doing an event on a holiday weekend is a bit crazy.

OK, so doing an event on a holiday weekend when we could be making product for next week’s biggest event of the year might be a bit crazy.

But we like the feel of this event! It’s community. It’s handmade. It’s what we do.

We’re in.

New Ideas

  • We asked for a booth on the front side of the museum (the city street) instead of our traditional booth on the other side (the parking lot, which is cramped quarters). No double space was available on the street, but the museum director assured us he would help us get the trailer through the unloading/loading process. We’re in.

Observations

  • We checked the forecast Friday … and it was bad. Rain was forecast throughout the event. In fact, the forecast said it would rain 10a – 3p … the entire span of the event! Rain would continue through 6pm, so we would not have any respite for the load out.
  • I just did a wet event last weekend.
  • Velda’s recovering from a bad cold.
  • We became 2 of “those people.”
  • I learned the phrase when I was running marathons: DNS DNF. Did Not Start, Did Not Finish. We stayed home.
  • We made product.
  • And the weather was awful; raining as predicted. We made the right call, IMHO.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 0
  • Booth cost: $150
  • Total sales: 0
  • Returning next year? If we continue down the path of not doing one day events….

Boards sold: 0

The Board Chronicles: Affair Of The Arts   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.

affair-of-the-artsWe decided to take this weekend off.

And then I changed my mind.

We had an opportunity to do a big, highly recommended craft fair in Orange County, but we declined that opportunity. The Lady had to work this weekend at her “job,” and it seemed like a stretch to do another event in November. However, this event popped up and seemed tailor made for my solo act. It’s set in Culver City which is an up-and-coming kind of neighborhood – Sony Pictures is just around the corner. The promoter has done a few of these art shows in this location for a couple of years, it seems.

I decided to take a flyer into the unknown.

New Ideas

  • Just me doing a one booth presentation from the woodshop at an art show.

Observations

  • Event # 7 of the 11 events we’re doing in the 4th quarter. Countdown mode engaged.
  • There were 40 booths (some shared between 2 artists) at this event. Live music. The plaza area we were in was alongside the ArcLight Cinema, Chipotle, a Mediterranean restaurant, an iconic hotel and Cold Stone. Trader Joe’s was across the street, and the event signage & canopies were visible from a very busy street. Traffic seemed to be built in – which is good. Booth traffic seemed to be more happenstance than generated by the event.
  • Without Mrs M’s offering there, the number of transactions plummeted. Only 8 transactions on Saturday, spread over 7 hours. (yawn)
  • Sooo slow on Saturday. Too slow. Not good.
  • And then it rained on Sunday.
  • Nothing to be done, of course, so I just sat there, moved the tables closer to the center and the boards away from the front of the booth … and tried to stay warm & dry. Traffic to the movie theater continued, and there continued to be traffic through the booths. Sort of.
  • Sunday was busier. And wetter.
  • A young boy in rain gear came into the booth and shook his umbrella, getting water everywhere. I immediately went to drying. The father said nothing at all. Thanks, Dad.
  • A woman in rain gear kept her umbrella up while accompanying her charge, a senior citizen with mobility issues. Her umbrella dripped all over everything, and she was oblivious. What is it with people? But then, when they left the booth, I noted that the umbrella covered her more than it did the senior citizen. (sigh)
  • When it rains, it drains … downhill. I only lost one cardboard box and a lot of packing paper, in the end. No damage to any boards that I was aware of, luckily. I’ll un-pack and re-pack everything – everything – to make sure.
  • So, I sat in the rain. It was consistent, but light, through the afternoon. I had a couple with credibility say they were going to a movie and would come back after to buy a Christmas present (never heard that one before) … so I waited, and resolved to pack up in an effort to be gone by 5pm when the rain was supposed to get heavier.
  • I waited.
  • The couple came back a little before 4pm, on schedule. Booth was closed by 4:05pm.
  • 25% of my total sales happened after 3:30pm on Sunday. In the rain.
  • Breakdown started at 4:05pm. It’s no fun packing when everything is wet. The only way to pack the side walls and table cloths was to wring them out, put them in plastic bags, and shove them into the car so they could be dried out tomorrow when it stops raining.
  • Ever been working, or perhaps camping out in the weather, and just gotten to the point where you gloried in the beauty of the rain and the feeling of doing work and being out in it?
  • Not me, not today. I think it was the third time I got water down my front while working on the walls overhead…. Or, maybe it was when the pool of water dumped on me from atop the canopy. All I know is when I finally got in the Jeep to drive home, I was soaked to the skin.
  • This is the 5th event I’ve done this year as a solo event with no Mrs M products. Four were one day events, and all 5 were in the bottom 8 for sales net of booth cost this year. I’m pretty sure there’s a lesson there.
  • Go big, or go home. Or, more accurately, go big or stay home. That’s my mantra for 2017.

The Food

Saturday Breakfast: Hello, old friend.

Saturday Lunch: A burrito bowl from Chipotle

Saturday Snack: Yes, I know guac is extra

Saturday Dinner: Chicken surprise not cooked in the crock pot, because there was no time.

Sunday Breakfast: I went to Carl’s & learned 2 things: 1) the canopy over the drive thru window is just big enough that the drips from rain run into your open car window, and 2) their breakfast is messier to eat while driving than that from my old friend.

Sunday Lunch: See Saturday

Sunday Snack: See Saturday

Sunday Dinner: Leftovers. And a baked potato. And bourbon.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 162
  • Booth cost: $335
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 2
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: a few
  • Total sales: $1,230
  • # boards available: a Jeep load
  • Saturday alarm: 6a
  • Sunday alarm: nope
  • # transactions: 17
  • # soap & lotion vendors: none
  • # woodworking vendors: me & a toymaker
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 19:2
  • Returning next year? Doubt it.

Boards sold: 21

Magic Bottle Openers: 9

Cheese Boards: 4

Small Boards: 2

Medium Surfboard: 1

Small Surfboard: 1

Large Cutting Board: 1

Cutting Board: 1

Lazy Susan: 1

Cheese & Cracker Server: 1

The Board Chronicles: Fine Craft Show 2016   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.

Fine Craft ShowCity-sponsored events can be quirky. Few cities are genuinely staffed to run craft fairs or art boutiques, and this event has suffered from some of that lack of institutional knowledge.

This is Santa Clarita’s 24th iteration of the Fine Craft Show. The event started before the city incorporated, though, and used to be a much bigger deal. The event was founded by a member of the community (by the effervescent Linda Hollingsworth, in fact!), and then ownership eventually passed to the city … who offers the event as a revenue generator for itself. The event’s not intended to provide entertainment, and it really doesn’t. It’s got 40 vendors with their handmade goods in a nice park … and that’s it.

Still, it’s the oldest & largest boutique for handmade goods in Santa Clarita. It was our best Santa Clarita event by far in 2015 (read about the 2015 event here). In 2016, though, we’ve upped our game by a significant margin. Will this show keep up with us?

New Ideas

  • Who needs me? After selling nearly all of my remaining Magic Bottle Openers, I’ve been given this weekend off from vendoring to stay home to get to making. Mrs M & Little Girl are running the booth this weekend at one of my favorite hometown events (sigh).
  • Who needs her? Mrs M decided she would prefer getting sick to giving me 2 days off, so she stayed home on Sunday to try and deal with a cold. Local events make life so much more flexible! My 2nd day off? Dead by virus.
  • It’s hard to get good, reliable help these days.

Observations

  • Event # 6 of the eleven events we’re doing in the 4th quarter. Finally. Over the hump.
  • I love local.
  • Load in was a bear. I ended up having to park about 70 yards away from the booth, and then pull 9 rolling cart loads of stuff up the hill to get it to our space. I did this in 90* heat, just after getting my flu shot. At the end of it all, I was whooped. Capital W Whooped, in fact.
  • Yes, it was 90* in November. Deal with it.
  • Perfect weather for this weekend event!
  • Mrs M & Little Girl knew I was not at the event on Saturday, so they were tasked with keeping track of sales and giving me information so I could write this blog. Here’s a message I received from Mrs M: “parrot handlebar of bike.”
  • Make of that what you will.
  • A toddler on a leash graced the booth with her presence. She was cuteness personified. Dad lifted her, and she grabbed a sous chef board on her way up. Dad tried to take it, and she said, “Mine.”
  • Love her.
  • Dad didn’t buy it for her, however.
  • Several people in the booth talked about how they just drove by the park, saw the canopies, and thought they would drop in. Traffic was not that great … and if a significant percentage were walk-ins that didn’t know of the event in advance, what does that say about the effectiveness of the marketing?
  • It was great to see some old friends – and Santa Clarita residents – come by. I worked with Jill for many years, but we haven’t seen each other for, uh, quite some time. A Cub Scout family came by (well, most of them) … 20 years after I hung up my Cubmaster patch. Great memories.
  • Vendors can provide effective marketing when they invite friends, families & customers to events, as we do. Social media works, and that helps everyone … but promoters who rely on vendor marketing as a replacement for traditional event marketing are not really promoters. This event was promoted (banners were up & ads ran in local magazines, I know), but ultimately, we needed more traffic.
  • Another couple came by that actually gave me my first custom order at Mrs M’s 2nd event in April of 2014. They told me their in-counter board still looks great, and promised pictures!
  • I love local.
  • 9 loads in = 9 loads out. Load out was no more fun, though it was down hill. Sort of.
  • Some other vendors reported down sales, and some said they had a great weekend. And so it always is. Several jewelry vendors said this was a very good event for them.
  • I wish this event had more community in it. I mean, you don’t have an event at a high school without high school students helping. A community event should have family fun. Or a parade. Live music. A beer garden. A Christmas theme. Support of local charities. Something to inject some personality, IMHO. This event feels as generic as it can be. There’s just not much “there” there.
  • The event disappointed this year. It went from being 2015’s best event in Santa Clarita for us … to being no better than 3rd best this year! In fact, sales dipped below our average event this year. Do we need to go farther afield in 2017 to keep upping our game, or will we find happiness by staying local?
  • Note I said the event disappointed, not that it was bad. We still made almost 5x booth fees, which is good. Good, not great. And who doesn’t want great?

The Food

Saturday Breakfast: no information available

Saturday Lunch: no information available. But, there was a food truck.

Saturday Snack: no information available

Saturday Dinner: Velda’s legendary Beef Barley Soup. Be afraid of the legend. And that’s all I’ll say about that.

Sunday Breakfast: Hello, old friend.

Sunday Lunch: Del Taco. It’s Little Girl’s fave, and the closest food source to the event on Sunday. No food trucks.

Sunday Snack: nope.

Sunday Dinner: Grand Panda takeout. Yum.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 72
  • Booth cost: $350
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 2
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: several
  • Total sales: $1,720
  • # boards available: all of them
  • Saturday alarm: nope
  • Sunday alarm: 6:30a
  • # transactions: 68
  • # soap & lotion vendors: there were a couple of others, but they didn’t have Mrs M’s complete product line
  • # woodworking vendors: 5 others. The Santa Clarita-based scroll saw guy was here, as always. There were 2 others making decorative pieces from wine barrel staves, and one newbie that is a very direct competitor to me. He was at his 5th event; had a nice, clean display shared with the sewing offered by his wife. Exactly the way we started!
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 13:0
  • Returning next year? Maybe

Boards sold: 13

4x Magic Bottler Openers

3x Custom Orders

2x IDKWIWSS (I Don’t Know What It Was, She Said)

1x Cutting Boards

1x Cheese & Cracker Server

1x Notepad Clipboard

1x Pizza Server

The Board Chronicles: Boutique Fantastique 2016   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.

boutique-fantastiqueI want to love the Boutique Fantastique, put on by the Saugus High PTSO. It’s the high school my kids graduated from, and this event raises about $10,000 each year to help fund scholarships for students from my neighborhood. This is an event I want to support.

However, last year, the results were down from our first year, and our first event with a double booth. 2014 sales were just over $1,400, and 2015 sales were only $1,311. This event has the reputation of being the best holiday boutique in the valley … but is this the best we can do on this prime time first weekend in November?

New Ideas

  • ZooSoapia premieres for Mrs M: soap for kids. The soaps are in molded animal shapes and are really quite spectacular. When we first posted a picture of the hedgehog on Facebook, we got immediate, positive feedback. We got orders for a product Mrs M had barely begun to make.
  • Also new at this event are Mrs M’s Bags of Coal Soap. If someone you know has been naughty….

Observations

  • Event # 5 of the 11 events we’re doing in the 4th quarter. Still not half way. Still not close to done.
  • I love local.
  • Event load-in was scheduled to begin at 6:30am, and some vendors began showing up in the parking lot at 5:30am. I got there at 6:03am … and they started letting people in a few minutes later, well ahead of schedule. When I got to the gate with my Jeep + trailer, the only comment from the guard was “You’re large.” Thank you very much. I was directed to the far side of the loading zone, where there was room for me. I was unloaded and students were carrying our stuff in by 6:30am. Amazing help from student volunteers.
  • I had gotten away from saying that we were from THIS TOWN … because we haven’t been for several events. However, at this event, I made a point of saying that the boards on display were made in my garage workshop … 2 miles that way. Local, local local.
  • After a run of events that were not in Santa Clarita, this event felt like we were enjoying the fruits of building a brand. People talked about seeing us at this event for 3 years. People talked about buying local. People talked about seeing us at another event 2 years ago, and buying from us several times.
  • I love local.
  • I got a large custom order on Saturday from a guy that stalked me … right to this event. After emailing me on Thursday (which I returned at midnight that day, explaining I was in the middle of 4 event days, and couldn’t talk to him until next week), he followed my advice and found me at this local event on Saturday. And ordered 8 boards for corporate Christmas presents. He first saw my work a couple of years ago at a local event at the Elks Lodge … and now, he’s talking about what we could do next Christmas. Sometimes, you just have to be available. Oh, and be willing to do the work.
  • Which I am. And I do.
  • Dinner proved to be an adventure Saturday evening. After we completed our salads, the manager approached the table and apologized. And apologized. Our waitress, we were told, had lost our order and could not find it. The manager apologized, and assured us that she would buy us dinner, dessert, and whatever we wanted. We placed our order (and Velda didn’t get her chicken pot pie, as they were now out), and the waitress apologized when she came to refill our drinks. The guy delivering our dinners – eventually – apologized. The manager apologized again. We got it: everyone was sorry, and a mistake happened. We got a free dinner, and free muffins to go. Why get angry? No big thing.
  • Mrs M had her single biggest event sale ever on Sunday. The lady decided Mrs M products would make great Christmas presents for a lot of people, and she bought a large shopping bag full of soaps, lotions, scrubs, lotion bars, lip scrubs, lip balms….
  • I love Christmas.
  • Several people talked to me about special orders … and I honestly believe they will come through. This event had value beyond the sales we gained Saturday & Sunday. I hope.
  • (Note to self: expectations can kill you.)
  • Load-out had rules that you must follow: take down your booth, carry it all to the loading area curb, and THEN ask for a pass to bring in your car to load. I went to the lady in charge when we were packed up, and asked where I should carry our stuff to, since I was driving a Jeep + trailer. She told me to get help, organize my student volunteers, and drive my trailer in immediately. Suddenly, we had a bevy of volunteers, and we were home 2 hours after tear down started.
  • Did we tip the volunteers? You bet.
  • I love local.
  • Requests were for a Mickey Mouse cutting board (I don’t emulate licensed products without a license) and a coffee table.
  • I think we’re in a lousy location at this event, which fills the Saugus High gymnasium with vendor spaces. We’re in the back of the gym on the right side … and it sure seems like most vendors in the front of the gym have better sales than we do. After trending down in year 2, we were way up in year 3, thanks to the big custom order that I got. The custom order wasn’t really driven by the event, but it did happen at the event, and that’s how we look at the business. We had a great event in year 3.

The Food

Saturday Breakfast: Velda made egg sandwiches & brought them to the high school; we ate before completing set up

Saturday Lunch: Jersey Mike’s 4″ sub. Mike’s way.

Saturday Snack: the chips from lunch

Saturday Dinner: Mimi’s Cafe … for meatloaf with all of the other old people

Sunday Breakfast: bagels & cream cheese. And a banana.

Sunday Lunch: Jersey Mike’s 4″ sub. Mike’s way.

Sunday Snack: the chips from lunch (see a pattern here?)

Sunday Dinner: Bella Cucina for Chicken Marsala. Best Italian restaurant in Santa Clarita. Fabulous.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 16
  • Booth cost: $265
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: none
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: none
  • Total sales: $2,269
  • # boards available: all of them
  • Saturday alarm: 5am
  • Sunday alarm: none
  • # transactions: 63
  • # soap & lotion vendors: one other
  • # woodworking vendors: two others, both had turned objects. One had a few cutting boards & such.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 22:0 … NO end grain!
  • Returning next year? Definitely

Boards sold: 22

Custom Orders: 8

Magic Bottle Openers: 7

Small Surfboards: 1

Medium Surfboards: 1

Cheese & Cracker Server: 1

Domed Cheese & Cracker Server: 1

Cutting Board: 1

Small Board: 1

Cheese Board: 1

The Board Chronicles: GingerBread Boutique 2016   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.

gingerbread-boutiqueI met the vendor coordinator for this event at the Westlake Village Street Fair; Michelle was my neighbor and told me I should be a part of her November event.

I listened, but I was sceptical. After all, the GingerBread Boutique was happening on a Thursday evening and a Friday … successful weekday events aren’t just unusual. They don’t exist.

In my experience.

But, Michelle kept after me, patiently answered my questions, and assured me that Mrs M’s Handmade could be successful at this event.

She wore me down. We’re in for the 35th Annual GingerBread Boutique, which is staged at St Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Church in Westlake Village as a fundraiser for the Westlake Village Junior Women’s Club. The event proceeds are 100% donated to local charities.

New Ideas

  • Who needs Mrs M? I solo’d at the event with our double booth. I drove the trailer to the event with all of our product, but only used some of our display pieces due to the limited space.
  • This is an indoor booth, and booth spaces are about 8’x7′, the instructions say. I got there, and my space was by the back door, and wrapped around a stairway to the stage … and my job was to make it work. OK. This was going to be an unusual layout. Can do.

Observations

  • Event # 4 in our parade of 11 events in the 4th quarter. I can only see more from here.
  • Who needs Mrs M?
  • I finally filled out & sent in my application for this event in September … 7 weeks ago. Every time I had a question about how the event worked, I found the answer in the application. With my required initials beside the passage. Excellent application; excellent information in it. My retention of that information: not so good.
  • This is a central cashier event. Good news: I don’t handle any money at the event. Bad news: I have to hand write a receipt in triplicate for every transaction, and then keep the purchased items until a receipt stamped “paid” is returned to me by the customer. Not my favorite way to handle cash at an event, but it did give Mrs M an accurate representation of how many lotion bars I sold. But what scents, she asks?
  • I do have my limits.
  • The Thursday night event was a cocktail party. Wine. Women. Me. What’s not to like?
  • I was a bit under dressed, though, as many of the ladies were at a cocktail party and wore their heels & little black dresses. I was at a vendor event, in shorts. They tolerated my presence, but I should have thought through the whole Wine, Women & Me thing.
  • … when I initialed the passage on the application, no doubt.
  • One of the legendary moments at the Mowry table was when I instructed our growing family to no longer discuss underwear during our family dinners. The boys had brought their girlfriends to our table, and eventually those young ladies were fiancés, and now wives … but somewhere early in the process, I was uncomfortable with the discussion of under garments. I figured boys’ minds were focused enough on such things without added discussion. In my presence.
  • The girls decided that discussing U-wear was perfectly fine, since they couldn’t discuss underwear. I took exception to that opinion, and a family legend was born. Now, many years later, both the boss of me (the younger Mrs M) and MrsMowry were delighted, however, with my story from this event: one of my vendor neighbors sold, uh, ladies underwear. During her sales pitch, she shared her cup size with her customers. And with me, a very few feet away. All of the time.
  • Sometimes I just can’t catch a break.
  • No free lunch, apparently. Vendors were supposed to get a coupon for a free hot dog from the cart, but somehow the person handing out the coupons missed me in my double booth. I should have gotten 2 lunches. Free. And I got nada.
  • Part of the Mrs M tradition is the packaging that every purchase gets, complete with a bow around a pretty cellophane bag. Mrs M gets lots of props for her post-sale presentation, but she wasn’t at this event. My packaging got big props. One lady told me that I have a very feminine side. Well, OK, then.
  • Own the demo. When Mrs M is not available, I excel at demo-ing lotion bars. I explain the advantages of Mrs M’s lotion bars, and the relative disadvantages of regular lotions. I own the demo. I effectively sell lotion bars.
  • Must be my feminine side.
  • Nope. It’s my speech degree from Mizzou. In my humble opinion.
  • I’m a communicator. That’s me.
  • The application told me that I had 90 minutes to strike the booth … and I included on the app my note that 90 minutes would be tough. It was. I was packed in 90 minutes, but it took me another 30 to cart the stuff out to the trailer and begin loading. The organizers were patient with me … and good communication was key. They knew what I was doing, and I asked for their guidance. As you should.
  • This charity event takes 20% of your sales in addition to a $400 booth fee for a 12 hour event. Our sales were really very strong for a Thursday night/Friday event, but with that 20% take by the house, the fee for our strong sales ended up being $895 (according to my calculations. I won’t get the actual check for 3 weeks. Sigh.). That’s a huge fee – our 2nd largest booth fee EVER. However, we did end up doing sales of three times that booth fee … and it was a Thursday/Friday event. I could have been sitting at home, with no revenue. Or, I could have been with the women & wine.
  • You know what I chose.

The Food

Thursday Dinner: Subway

Friday Breakfast: Hello, old friend.

Friday Lunch: A Polish Dog from a cart. And chips.

Friday Snack: Nope

Friday Dinner: With leftovers like Velda’s Chicken Piccata, I am always OK. Oh, and bourbon.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 192
  • Booth cost: $400 booth fee + 20% of sales = $895. Oh, and a $30 raffle prize.
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: several
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: several
  • Total sales: $2,661
  • # boards available: almost all of them
  • Thursday alarm: nope
  • Friday alarm: nope
  • # transactions: 56
  • # soap & lotion vendors: just us
  • # woodworking vendors: just us
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 19:2
  • Returning next year? Probably

Boards sold: 21

Magic Bottle Openers: 10

Medium Surfboard: 4

Custom Order: 2

Notepad Clipboard: 1

Bear: 1

Large Cutting Board: 1

Domed Cheese & Cracker Server: 1

Cheese & Cracker Server: 1

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