Archive for the ‘pop up event’ Tag

How Far We’ve Come   2 comments

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Mrs M’s Handmade and what we do.

Our first event was just over 2 years ago: March 22 & 23, 2014 (see Things I Learned At The Street Fair). At that event, we constructed our booth with a borrowed canopy weighed down with cinder blocks. Tablecloths on our 3 tables (1 borrowed!) came from the collection in the dining room … and didn’t match. We had worked feverishly to create our products; I had 25 boards with a retail value under $1,000. Together, Mrs M had total sales of $420 that weekend, against a booth cost of $115. And we thought that was a big enough success to keep going.

Two years later, I’ve had single transactions over $420. I’m building as much inventory as I had on display at that first event this week. Well, that’s not true. I’m actually doubling that this week with the pieces in production. This week. And next week, I’m taking another staycation so I can get really serious about building new stuff.

One conversation at that first event was with a fellow vendor talking about her experiences growing her hobby into a business into a passion that filled her home and over-filled her evenings with production as she valiantly struggled to keep up with demand driven by pop-up events and a growing website. She described an out-of-control commitment that barely left her room to breathe.

We couldn’t believe that.

And now we are that.

I began writing The Board Chronicles series last year to entertain you with our foibles and share the lessons we were gleaning. Hopefully, we are helping some vendors and wannabes out there with our vast experience, reported by me in what’s been described as a “funny, non-funny style.” Now, with the Facebook, we’re regularly being confronted with memories of what we were doing 1 and 2 years ago, and what our booths looked like.

Humbling.

Very humbling.

Here’s what our booth looked like just one year ago, at the 2015 California Strawberry Festival:

We had very high hopes for this event – after all, it was one of the most expensive events we had ever done, with the booth cost at $390 for the weekend. It was one of our first juried events: we had to apply and then be evaluated before we were accepted. It promised to be an all-handmade event, with tens of thousands in attendance.

The results weren’t great, with sales of $1,235 against that booth fee of $390.

Not great … but look at our horrible, constricted booth display and necessarily limited inventory. It’s a wonder we had any sales!

One year later, it’s time for the 2016 edition of the California Strawberry Festival, this Saturday & Sunday. As is our current tradition, we doubled down with a double booth … which is our most expensive booth ever at $765. We’ll be setting up Mrs M’s new display, of course, and our presentation will look a lot like these:

The results will speak for themselves, of course, which you’ll read about in the next edition of The Board Chronicles. One thing I know for sure, though: we are getting better at what we do.

Thank goodness.

Today, we’ve got purpose-built display pieces. We’ve got professionally produced logos. We’ve got more inventory than we take to an event (well, usually!).

But there’s a lot we don’t have. We don’t have a good visual from outside the booth (no banner!). We don’t have a vehicle large enough to transport our inventory & display pieces. And I still don’t have chess boards on display. Or cribbage boards, for that matter.

Maybe next year.

Mrs M's Handmade Logo

The Board Chronicles: L.A. SummerFEST At Rivendale, Americana Music Festival   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.

LA SummerFEST at RivendaleI love local events, but didn’t want to do this one. It’s a 4-night free summer concert series in an off the beaten path county park.

It would be hot, so lotion was out. I needed shop time, so we would pass.

And then Velda got motivated.

doTerra essential oils is her latest obsession, and she’s a Wellness Advocate that would love to talk to you about how she uses oils to improve our lives. When doTerra offered to give her free stuff if she would only sign up new members, she got inspired. She got motivated. She got excited.

So she wanted to do the LA SummerFEST at Rivendale to promote her doTerra business. The events were inexpensive, and she could do them with her doTerra buddies. She would do it, and I only had to help her set up.

I am the hired labor, after all.

Oh, and build her a display unit.

doTerra Display

She did the day one event, which was a Latin Music Festival. Unfortunately, her posse wasn’t available to help on day 2, so I got drafted to take her place at the Americana Music Festival.

New Ideas

  • First time we’ve used the area rug to cover the “floor” in some time. It made the booth so much more inviting than the natural wood chip carpet Mr M’s Woodshop was provided with.
  • First time we’ve used our lights in several months, too. They are bulky, but other vendors love our lights when they see how they light our booth!
  • Set up was relatively easy, as I had set up the shade structure, rug and one table the day before. I only had to bring two more tables and the boards to set up for this 3pm Sunday event.
  • Since I was prepared, my electrical cables provided power to the booths in our area. It’s good to be prepared.

Observations

  • Few events have open bars, but Velda decided we needed to support this one – probably because this was a Mr M’s Woodshop event and she had nothing to do. In any event, she went to the bar and came back asking if it was OK, since the only “bourbon” that the “bartender” had was Jameson’s. I responded that Jameson’s was certainly not bourbon, but that I would consent to drink Irish Whiskey since it was all the “bartender” had. When I know more about booze than a trained experienced designated professional bartender liquor server, then there’s an imbalance in the universe.
  • Two booths didn’t have shade structures in the blazing summer sun. Quoth Velda, the seasoned vendor pro after 18 months in the business, “Amateurs!”
  • The next time a financial services vendor walks into my booth, acts interested in my boards and then pitches me on his service, I’m going to be less kind. My booth is mine. Do not pitch me in my space.
  • Giant Flying Horned Beetles are not fun to share space with, and when our new 3″ long pet entered into a state of euphoria buzzing between all of our lights under the shade structure, it got dicey for a few moments. The Mighty Velda began to channel her inner Casey, picked up a big container lid, and swung for the fences. The count was 0 and 2 when she ignored the stop sign and struck the G.F.H.B. straight into my chest. Perhaps that was her intention. In any event, I took the lid from her and sent her back to the bench.
  • The music was very, very good. Americana is part roots, part singer/songwriter, and part eclectic, and that’s very much what I enjoy. Our neighbor was one of the featured performers, so I got to experience him in concert … just as I do in the back yard almost every night!
  • I broke rules being a vendor at this event:
    • Never do first time events.
    • Never do Sunday night events.
    • Never do music events.
    • Never do events you don’t want to do.
  • Driving home, breezing up I-5, I was surprised to see my right rear view mirror nearly blocked by the rug that I had tied to the roof. I hate that rug, but it held on until I could pull over and add another rope.
  • I hate that rug.

The Food

Sunday Snack: Jameson’s Irish Whiskey, which is not a Kentucky Bourbon

Sunday Dinner: Two sliders from the food truck and (non-garlic) Parmesan fries. Dinner was fine, but Velda didn’t like it. Her two sliders weren’t great, so she sampled mine. Luckily, I finished with my customer and was able to eat my dinner before her sampling got out of hand.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 41
  • Booth cost: $35
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 2
  • Total sales: $80
  • # containers of product taken: 7
  • # boards available: 59
  • Sunday alarm: none
  • # transactions: 2
  • # soap & lotion vendors: 1
  • # woodworking vendors: just me
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 2:0 … another end grain shut out

Boards sold: 2

Small Surfboard: 1

Small Sous Chef Board: 1

LA SummerFEST at Rivendale booth

The Board Chronicles: 4th Of July Ventura Street Fair   5 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.

4th of July Ventura Street FairRunning marathons is a mental game, I’ve found. There’s a BIG physical element, of course, but you only succeed if your head’s screwed on right during the race.

This event was also a marathon. We loaded the truck after dinner Friday evening (too hot to load earlier). Thank goodness we had the help of Christopher and the younger Mrs M. They had to help: it’s their truck.

Set-up officially began at 4am on Ventura’s Main Street, though we elected to arrive just a bit later. We left home at 5:15am.

We drove right to the booth, luckily, though the street was already clogged with vendors setting up (and not moving their empty cars out of the way so others could find their way). We were able to put everything into our space and then park the truck in a city lot about a block away. Very convenient and easy … because we arrived at 6:30am.

The official beginning was 10am, but we had walkers by the booth at 8:30am.

Then the marathon part really began in earnest. The set up was fine, but we didn’t have much down time. LOTS of people. Lots of decorated strollers with red, white & blue sparkly things. Patriotism, on parade, all day long. All good, but with the volume of people, we were busy. Along the way, we lost our way a bit.

I made an addition error in our sales record. We missed recording some sales. We ended the day disappointed in our total, but really too tired to count the money. It’s frustrating when you work very hard, but don’t feel rewarded, and that’s how we ended the day.

At 5pm, we had to close the booth (according to the rules), and be gone by 6:30pm. This event allowed any vendor to set up for 6 hours, but only allowed you 90 minutes to get out. We did that basically … but we also had 5 transactions, comprising over 10% of our day’s sales, happen after 5pm. The event closed too early.

We didn’t quite make it off the street by 6:30pm – we were gone by 6:45pm and home by 8pm to unload (solo). I had everything back into the house by 8:30pm.

I was able to recover enough the next day to count the money, and that’s when I found the errors in my sales records (and I NEVER make errors).

(Well, normally.)

(According to me.)

When I examined the records, found the missing transactions and counted the money, that’s when I found out how we really did.

Best. Day. Ever.

Too bad it didn’t feel like it when we lost track of things!

New Ideas

  • Double booth, one for Mrs M and one for Mr M … and only two of us were there to handle the thronging masses. Two people, double booth. What could go wrong?
  • We traveled very heavy to this event (and remember who is writing this. Traveling heavy is normal for us. When I say very heavy, be afraid. Be very afraid.) We loaded the truck with more product and more display pieces than we have ever taken to an event.

Observations

  • “Clipboards,” they asked. “Any clipboards?” I’ve never made clipboards … but I had 2 people asking for them within 30 minutes of each other. That was weird. And then it got weirder. A few minutes later, I had a woodworker wander into the booth to check out my work. I asked him what he did. His reply: “I make clipboards.” Timing is everything, and his was just a bit off.
  • You can’t choose your neighbors, as I’ve complained before. Our neighbors to the left and back were great, actually. It was the neighbor across the aisle to my right that was a problem. They were a doggie daycare business, and they had employees with their dogs out in the midway, stopping every dog walker (and there were many) to chat about their pet and their business. They did block passage, and did end up having dog owner gatherings in front of our booth on a couple of occasions. That’s annoying. The fake fire hydrant they put on the other side of their booth … that was plain bad. When you invite public urination, it just can’t end well.
  • I only sold one cutting board on this day, which is very odd. That I still sold over $1,000 in boards in 11 different styles, though, is a testament to the broad range of boards that I brought to this show. Traveling very heavy has its rewards: lifting & sweating being two that I don’t particularly favor.
  • 15 of the 22 boards sold were completed in the last week. I’ve been working on broadening my inventory, and it worked. Thank goodness.
  • This is a regional event, but there were a lot of people embracing the beach lifestyle here. Ventura is different from Santa Clarita, even though it’s only an hour away.
  • The holiday resulted in a party atmosphere most of the day. We made some happy people very happy when they discovered our lotion products and cutting boards. Givers of joy, that’s us.

The Food

Saturday Breakfast: Jack in the Box # 24. Velda had the same.

Saturday Lunch: Velda did a good thing. She packed cheese & crackers along with her favorite cheese board. That was laid out on top of the wrapping station for our lunch … just as a rush hit. No customers ate our lunch, but several commented on it. This was a good idea – and a better idea because we never saw real food booths at the event. But then, we didn’t get out much, either.

Saturday Snack: Roasted nuts. We seem to buy them at most events.

Saturday Dinner: Leftovers. Oh, and bourbon.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 99
  • Booth cost: $375 … and $10 for the application. That’s so much better than $385 for the booth.
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 1
  • Total sales: $1,526
  • # containers of product taken: 20
  • # boards available: 126
  • Saturday alarm: 4:00am
  • # transactions: 48 – 31 for lotion, 17 for boards
  • # soap & lotion vendors: at least one other within 200′ of us, but really, no clue
  • # woodworking vendors: at least one other that close, but again, no clue
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 22:0 (Can you believe it?)

Boards sold: 22

  • Small Surf Boards (all new!): 5
  • Cheese Boards: 4
  • Sous Chef – Small: 4
  • Large Cheese Servers (previously known as surf boards): 2
  • Sous Chef – Large: 1
  • Custom Order: 1
  • Engraved Board: 1
  • Bread Board: 1
  • Lazy Susan: 1
  • Chess Board: 1
  • Cutting Board: 1
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