Archive for the ‘Simi Valley’ Tag

The Board Chronicles: Simi Valley Street Fair 2018   2 comments

The Board Chronicles is an ongoing series of articles about the adventures of Mrs M’s Handmade as a vendor at community festivals & craft fairs. Mrs M’s subsidiary, Mr M’s Woodshop, has been approved to create this chronicle for the good of vendorkind.

I know this event is quirky.

Simi Valley is a bedroom community that’s very similar to Santa Clarita, and we’ve done their Street Fair twice before (2015, 2016).

You know how much I like going to the Street Fair.

But, this event is unusual. It’s put on by the Chamber of Commerce, and they have a “required” pre-meeting for vendors. That’s where you can get your booth number confirmed, and talk about how the event is set-up with the organizers. Since I’ve done 100+ events in multiple cities and now 2 states … I’m not enthusiastic about driving to their office to hear about their event. Or be reminded to wear comfortable shoes.

Write a good info packet and I’m ready to go. Every time.

Another quirk is they don’t let people drive onto the street to set up: they make you cart everything in for some reason that’s never been clear to me. In previous years, there was enough room on the street. This year’s street is tighter, but it’s still an unusual situation to require 100% of things to be carted in, as they have in years past.

We didn’t do this event last year as it is only a 1-day event, and there was a better 2-day event available. This year, though, the Sunday of the weekend was not only Mother’s Day, it was also our 40th wedding anniversary. We agreed to take the day off so we could celebrate … so this Saturday event fit the calendar perfectly.

Which is always important to me. So, it’s off to Simi….

New Ideas

  • The new location meant going to the mandatory meeting was a good idea, I thought, and I learned that I either had to cart everything in at 6:30am, hire their UTV/wagon driver to cart things in for me or I could drive onto the street with the trailer at 5am to unload right by the booth. That’s a no brainer for me. I don’t need to sleep.
  • This year I was told that the city required a business license from me if I was to sell at the event, which I learned at the vendor meeting. What I didn’t learn is that the city didn’t have a working website to do this on, so I had to drive back to Simi a second time in order to complete the paperwork and pay the most expensive fee yet for a city’s one-day business license: $57.
  • Mrs M opted out so she could stay home and prepare for MrsMowry’s 30th birthday (a good choice, that), so I got a double booth all to myself.

Observations

  • This is event # 6 of 10 in our 4th Annual Spring Fling. Miles to go before we sleep.
  • As I drove to the event in the dark, it was misting. That turned into a heavy mist. That turned in to, “Oh, hell no, it’s not going to rain, is it?”
  • It didn’t, but it did get a little wet once during the event. No big thing, but it was a cloudy, cool day. Perfect for a Spring Fling event.
  • Plenty of volunteers – at 5 in the morning – to help me unload. A volunteer assured me they would be there to help me load as well … and they were. This event gets an A+ for having volunteers to help. The volunteers I had, though – adults and teenagers – knew nothing about event spaces, but were good to move the heavy stuff.
  • The event gets a D for how they marked booth spaces – chalk numbers faintly written on the top of the curbs. In the dark, you had to turn on a flashlight and be right on top of the numbers before they were legible. There were no marks for the boundaries of the booth: not left/right, nor front/back. I was the first in my area, so I placed my canopies centered on the booth #s. I moved a foot or so out of the gutter (nothing good comes from being in the gutter), which put the front of my booth up to the dividing line between lanes on the street. Looked good to me. No one ever commented, so I must have been OK. It wasn’t until 3 hours later that I noticed some random lines on the street that might have been booth space dividing lines, placed out of the gutter on the solid white line marking the edge of the driving lane and beginning of the gutter. Don’t know what those lines were.
  • The big issue about no front border for the booths became an issue later, unfortunately.
  • With a 5am unload, I had plenty of time to set up my double booth. Who needs Mrs M anyway?
  • I worked straight through, got set up, and did have time to sit down and have my breakfast (bagels/cream cheese from home). While I was eating, a guy walked into my booth and went straight to my chess set. “It’s $140 for the set? I want it. But I only have $4. Here, you take the money until I can get to the bank. I’ll be right back.” So, I put the chess set on lay away for $4.
  • This first sale was long before the event started at 9am. A good beginning, this.
  • Early in the day, a guy came to the booth and said he wanted to buy a cutting board. That had one of my boards, he said, but it was lost when their house burned to the ground. He wanted to get a new board, and he would bring his wife by later, he said. He did, and that was my first $200 sale of the day.
  • Not long after they left, another couple was standing by the board I had just put on display, replacing the one just purchased. I did my standard greeting, “Let me know if I can answer any questions,” I said. “Can we buy a cutting board?” he said. That’s what we in the professional sales business call a “buying signal.”
  • I launched into my standard spiel. Size. Color. I then asked, “What size are you thinking of?” He said, “Can we buy this board?” That’s what we in the professional sales business call a “shut up and take their money signal.” So, I did. In about 10 minutes, I had two different $200 sales.
  • Good, this is.
  • I was busy all day. Business wasn’t over the top, but I was on my feet, talking, working. All good. Busy is good.
  • You can’t choose your neighbors, though. Mine were annoying. And, the promoters get an F on controlling vendors.
  • On the left, I had a professional politician with an army of volunteers soliciting votes & handing out balloons. He was running for Supervisor, and he had a brigade (their word) of volunteers in front of the booth all day long. When they moved to in front of my booth, I complained, and they pretty much kept to the front of their booth – not IN their booth, but IN FRONT of their booth. They were 100% working the crowd in the center aisle. They never, ever let someone go by without stopping them. They typically had 5 volunteers in front of their booth and 3 volunteers inside of their booth – plus the candidate. No way should they have been allowed to only buy a 10×10 booth.

The balloons were given out by members of the politician’s horde … they never stood in the booth, as the rules said they should.

  • I actually heard one of the organizers of the effort say, “It’s better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.” When that is the philosophy of management, what they’re really saying is “the other vendors are too stupid to do what we’re doing, and the organizers don’t care if we take advantage.”
  • I. Hate. That.
  • On my right, I had a professional buy/sell vendor with leather purses & such. He set his canopy up 1′ in front of mine, and then did a waterfall display off of his grid wall that was 1′ in front of his canopy. The result: he had a 2′ corner jutting out in front of my booth. He also had tables set up back to the gutter and boxes on the planter behind, so he had about a 16′ deep booth going.

The 2′ corner in front of my booth. I actually had one lady come into my booth wanting to buy a purse.

  • The net result of all of this was that customers were directed by my neighbors to walk away from my booth. I did push back against the politician’s minions when they were standing IN FRONT OF MY BOOTH, but, overall, I was confident that my 20′ of frontage (which neither of my neighbors had) got me the attention that I had paid for. Had I had only 10′ of frontage – if Mrs M would have been there – then we would have had trouble. I would have become “that guy.” I would have insisted the organizers step in.
  • Oh, and that $57 business license I had to buy? No one ever checked. I’m going to bet my buy/sell neighbor didn’t have it. Following rules may be frustrating at times, but I have to live with me.
  • The final hour came, and my sales picked up. Once again, the final hour of the event was very, very good to me.
  • Requests were for a 6″ Lazy Susan (it was an archery thing, I was told), more chess sets (AARRGGHH!!), a horsey wall hanging, skateboard decks (x2), something in a golf theme and an actual pastry board with side walls and bread hooks.

The Food

  • Best Meal: Birthday cake with MrsMowry, as she celebrated her 6th 5th birthday. Of course!

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 218
  • Booth cost: $350 + $57
  • Food cost: $0
  • Travel cost: $113
  • Total sales: $1,735
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $1,215
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 0
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: 0
  • Saturday alarm: 3:50am
  • # transactions: 20
  • # soap & lotion vendors: no clue
  • # woodworking vendors: no clue
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 22:2
  • Returning next year? Probably not

Boards sold: 24

4x Trivets

3x Magic Bottle Openers

3x Cutting Boards

2x Medium Surfboards

2x Lazy Susans

2x Custom Orders

1x Chess Set

1x CNC Wall Plaque

1x Cheese Board

1x Serving Tray

1x Heart

1x Word Block

1x Small Board

1x Pig

 

The Board Chronicles: Anna’s Boutique 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 week I decided to hurt myself. Or, try to hurt myself. Whatever.

In any event, I’m doing 3 Boutiques in 3 cities in 5 days. I’m writing this the night before the first setup, and I hurt already. What was I thinking?

New Ideas

  • A Tuesday afternoon set-up for a Wednesday/Thursday Holiday Boutique in a hotel ballroom. What could possibly go wrong?
  • This event has a central cashier … my first such event in a year. As is normal for such events, the booth fee for our double space is relatively low ($250) but the event producer then keeps 20% of total sales. Since my normal sales on a Wednesday/Thursday are zero, perhaps this event – even at a high cost – will be worthwhile.

Observations

  • Event # 4 of 14 in our 4th quarter schedule. Yes, we added another event. Yes, I’m crazy.
  • Arrived for setup to find that my booths were in a peninsula configuration. OK, this setup will be unique. I also found that my single neighbor had decided that she need 6″ of my space, so she ignored the border & set up her backdrop on my peninsula. I moved the backdrop; it’s not my fault there’s no room for her to sit in her space now. Tuesday setup’s done.
  • 6am: I’m up. Aren’t vacations wonderful?
  • 7:04am: Hello, old friend.
  • 7:57am: At the event.
  • 9am: Doors open … lots of folks. Everyone’s carrying a shopping basket, provided by the promoter. Looks good.
  • ZooSoapia is SO popular at this event! The location is better on the peninsula … but we’ve never had sales like this for ZooSoapia, nor the other shaped soaps that Mrs M creates. This week, it’s Employee of the Month Judy that’s helping with ZooSoapia, and the holiday-themed soaps flew off the table.
  • Wednesday, I solo at the event and am bored much of the day. There was a constant flow of people, luckily, but many were not customers. The business crowd expected at lunch never appeared.
  • For the first time ever, the LA Dodgers are playing in November. It’s game 7 of the World Series … and I’m in a Simi Valley ballroom while the game is happening. Customers that aren’t baseball fans? No chance. Wednesday was a big disappointment (on every level!). No one to blame; baseball just got in the way. Even the post game customers that came to shop away their disappointment weren’t customers for us!
  • Thursday had Velda & Judy come to take my place at the Boutique while I went to set up our next event in Westlake Village. Sales did not improve appreciably, unfortunately.
  • This event has been around a long time, and the promoter has a large mailing list. People definitely come to the Boutique, but they seemed to be a bit older than my normal buyers. Partner that with the collision with baseball, and this event just didn’t meet expectations. But no worries … this is just the first 2 days of events in my Week From Hell. Stay tuned for the Gingerbread Boutique!

The Food

Wednesday Breakfast: Hello, old friend.

Wednesday Lunch: Booth delivery from the hotel, who definitely makes it easy to be at this event. There’s a special menu for vendors, and service was perfect. This is a big plus!

Wednesday Snack: Nope.

Wednesday Dinner: A burger from the hotel bar … and a bourbon to drown my boredom in.

Thursday Breakfast: Hello, old friend.

Thursday Lunch: A taco on the road as I drive to the next setup for the Gingerbread Boutique.

Thursday Snack: Nope.

Thursday Dinner: I had pasta in the hotel bar while the ladies took over the booth. I brought them dinner when I was done … high living.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 249
  • Booth cost: $250 + 20% = $516
  • Food cost: $114
  • Travel cost: $129
  • Total sales: $1,331
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $572
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 2
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: many
  • Wednesday alarm: 6a
  • Thursday alarm: 6a
  • # transactions: 64
  • # soap & lotion vendors: There was an all-natural goat milk soapmaker – who milks her own goats! She was not happy with her sales, but then her booth was unattended, so at least she didn’t have to spend all of her time at the event.
  • # woodworking vendors: Just me.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 10:1
  • Returning next year? Nope.

Boards sold: 11

Cheese Boards: 4

Word Blocks: 2

Large Sous Chef Boards: 2

Small Sous Chef Board: 1

Magic Bottle Openers: 1

Small Board: 1

The Board Chronicles: Simi Valley Street Fair   3 comments

The Board Chronicles is an ongoing series of articles about the adventures of Mrs M’s Handmade as a vendor at community festivals & craft fairs. Mrs M’s subsidiary, Mr M’s Woodshop, has been approved to create this chronicle for the good of vendorkind.

Simi Valley Street FairWhen you go to the Simi Valley Chamber of Commerce’s site for this event, here is what you see:

Produced by the Simi Valley Chamber of Commerce, but with a lot of help from business, organizations, the City of Simi Valley and the community, the Simi Valley Street Fair has sold out of street space in past year’s events.  This year will be no exception!

That is the complete event description. No photos, no hype. Just … 2 sentences.

So, please, let me be a bit more verbose.

This is the biggest single-day event in the city of Simi Valley. 300+ booths are promised, along with 5 entertainment stages and more. We did this event in 2015; you can read about my experiences as an overwhelmed solo act here. I found the event exhausting, but worthwhile.

This event is a little quirky for us as “experienced” vendors. After all, we’ve had 2 whole years of experience, so we practically feel like senior citizens now.

But then, we are.

This event requires all vendors to attend one of their pre-event information sessions to hear how the event will work, and get their booth assignments live. Part of that presentation is a very rudimentary discussion on how to maximize the opportunity that the Chamber of Commerce is affording you (“Know your goals!” “Wear comfortable shoes!”). I was insulted last year, and called in to decline the opportunity to attend this year. I was cleared to not attend, and was sent an email after the final meeting, giving me our booth position, which was on the opposite end of the string of 300 booths from where we were last year.

That’s no big thing, but it is certainly not a benefit to move positions unless last year’s position was BAD. Ours was not: last year, working solo, I had what was at the time the Best. Day. Ever. Given that, OF COURSE we were going back in 2016. And, as always, we doubled down with a double booth (doubling our expenses). Because of Mrs M’s new display, we rented a U-Haul trailer for 2 days (again, increasing expenses).

Our expectation was that we could have a great event, even if we didn’t set records. After all, we had space for a better presentation – we had Mrs M’s new booth working for us. We were ready for a great day.

This event is a little quirky. It’s a Chamber of Commerce event, so you can expect a lot of local businesses with giveaways (bags, fans, buckets and much more). You can expect senior citizens walking the event to get the freebies with no purchase intent whatsoever. You can expect local politicos to have campaign booths. And, you can expect an overwhelming number of booths & vendors (300+ is a big number!).

We arrived on site at 6am, and got in the queue to unload our gear. This event is unique in that it requires all vendors to unload with the assistance of the Simi Valley High School football team (!), who transfers your gear to all-terrain utility vehicles (that people own in LA?) pulling small trailers. Mrs M went with the first load to our booth spaces, and the 2nd load completed our load-in. I went to park the Jeep + trailer, got lost, and ended up parking on a residential street. I walked back to the site, and we were ready for set-up.

New Ideas

  • Double booth this year with Mrs M, versus a single booth exclusively staffed by me last year.
  • We needed a trailer (rental) to bring Mrs M’s new display + all of the product. Last year, everything came in the Jeep.
  • A license was required from the city of Simi Valley this year. One more one-time expense….

Observations

  • Spring Fling #6 of 8. Are we done yet? Please?
  • Be wary of expectations. They’ll kill you.
  • It seemed that many more people were price sensitive this year … I even had one lady complain about the absurdity of paying $40 for a cheese board. And if that price point is unacceptable, I have nothing to offer her.
  • Mrs M had a steady stream of interest, though a limited number of transactions, it seemed. We spent the day wondering why business wasn’t stronger … and many of her transactions were for a single bar of soap. It’s hard to make much headway $6 at a time, though she clearly sold some soap.
  • Same level of activity on my side of the booth. No big board sales, and only one sale above $100. Last year, I sold 4x cutting boards. This year … none.
  • Lots of people talked to me about their bamboo cutting boards. All were surprised at the negatives that I cited; most had been lied to by either their bamboo cutting board sales person, or the internet. Unfortunately.
  • We saw a cat in a bag, a cat in a stroller, a corn snake, and an iguana worn as really funky jewelry. Simi Valley is an unusual place. Oh, and dogs were everywhere, so perhaps Simi’s not so unusual.
  • We got ‘whelmed a couple of times in the booth, and lost track of the sales tally that I obsessively keep track of. No big deal: it happens. At one point, I counted 4 different groups on my side of the booth. Velda had the same level … though it seemed just about everybody looked & kept walking.
  • We finished the day thinking we were down $200 to prior year.
  • I came home, counted cash, and discovered that we were actually up a whole $4 versus prior year. That’s better … but booth costs went up $150. And then there’s the trailer rental, so we definitely lost money compared to last year. The insignificant increase in revenue  wouldn’t cover any increase in expenses, much less ours which more than doubled.
  • Requests included cabinet doors, RV sink covers, cheese knives, a cribbage board, cutting boards designed to help amputees, and chess boards (4!).
  • I’m thinking I should make some chess boards.
  • Four people took pictures of my work, with my permission. “I don’t want to forget what I am looking at” was the typical reason … which implies residual sales will crop up. We’ll see.
  • We travel heavy, and one day events are a lot of work. For this 8-hour event, I had to rent a trailer, load the trailer, drive to the event (3/4 hour), set up (2 hours), do the event, tear down (1-3/4 hours), drive home (3/4 hour), unload the trailer … and get ready to do it again in a week. I don’t like one day events. Especially ones that disappoint.
  • Vending is glamorous.
  • Expectations can kill you.

The Food

Saturday Breakfast: Jack In The Box # 23. They’re open all night, so I figured they were a safe bet for breakfast at 5:15am. We were 3rd in line, in fact.

Saturday Lunch: Mrs M did a cheese & cracker plate. Wonderful, though I never eat a full meal before I get distracted, the food gets dry, and consumption ends. But it was wonderful while I was engaged.

Saturday Snack: Mrs M found year-old flavored almonds to foist on me. They tasted as good as that sounds, too.

Saturday Dinner: The Dodgers scored 5 runs yesterday, so we got cheap Papa John’s pizza this evening. Low impact, low cost nourishment.

The Facts

  • 2015 sales: $1,424
  • Total miles driven: 72
  • Booth cost: $315
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 0
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: 1 (“Here’s your welcome packet” … which I never looked at.)
  • Total sales: $1,428
  • # containers of product taken: No clue. I’ve lost control of the process …
  • # boards available: All of them (not a good thing).
  • Saturday alarm: 4:18am
  • # transactions: 55
  • # soap & lotion vendors: no clue … at least one other soaper that has an online presence that implied “we’re just getting started.” Been there, not so long ago.
  • # woodworking vendors: no clue, as I didn’t have time to go walkabout … but our neighbor made gnome houses from wood. I’m sure there were others.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 14:1
  • Returning next year? maybe

Boards sold:15

Magic Bottle Openers: 4

Cheese Boards: 4

Small Boards: 2

Custom Orders: 2

Small Sous Chef Board: 1

Lazy Susan: 1

Cheese & Cracker Server: 1

The Board Chronicles: Simi Valley Street Fair   4 comments

The Board Chronicles is an ongoing series of articles about the adventures of Mrs M’s Handmade as a vendor at community festivals & craft fairs. Mrs M’s subsidiary, Mr M’s Woodshop, has been approved to create this chronicle for the good of vendorkind.

ShowImage.aspxBest. Day. Ever.

I had very low expectations going to the Simi Valley Street Fair. After all, it had rained Friday.

For those of you not in Southern California, let me translate that for you.

The weather was HORRIBLE on Friday. There was a BIG storm! Stay Inside! No telling what Saturday will bring!

Much as we need the rain, Angelenos don’t react well to wet weather. It’s like, wet. Desert dwellers avoid stuff like that.

Happily, the weather was perfect on Saturday. The crowd came to the Street Fair (after carefully peeking their heads out early on Saturday to make sure they wouldn’t get wet. It was a late crowd.). The results: best one day event we’ve I’ve ever done.

About that: Velda was still a bit under the weather, so I was again a solo act on Saturday. I’ll just let the results speak for themselves.

New Ideas

  • The Street Fair event had a mandatory pre-event meeting vendors were required to attend. It was a waste of my time … but I did learn that it’s important to wear comfortable shoes to the event. Oh, and to know who’s working your booth. And it’s important, I was told, to know what your key points are when talking to customers.
  • I hate it when people think I’m stupid. And I really hate it when they think I’m that stupid.
  • First event I’ve done where all gear was delivered to your booth by volunteers driving carts towing little trailers. Apparently, it’s too dangerous to let vendors drive their own gear in their own transportation to their booths. It worked, but geez. Really?
  • Local events work for us. Chamber of Commerce events work for us. Community events work for us. In the craft fair community, all of those things are sometimes rejected as “bad” events by some vendors. You simply have to find your own way; you can’t always follow the herd.

Observations

  • The weather impacted some vendors: my neighbor to the left and two neighbors to the right were no shows. I was an island. I was a lonely, lonely man.
  • Another woodworker, a turner, was also there. He had lots of pens and bottle stoppers, and a few peppermills. Didn’t meet him; no clue how he did. I do know, though, that his wife let him sleep late and she’s the one that set up the booth for him. Just sayin’.
  • If half of the people that tell me I’m making Christmas presents for them follow through, then I may not be sleeping in November.
  • One of the engraved board examples that I have is of a last name on a maple board. Last week, I (incredibly) sold the “Mowry” version of this board. This week, I had a new one made saying “Rodriguez.” Yup, sold it, first day.
  • This “hobby” began to feel a lot like “work” today. A couple of people complimented me on creating a business out of my hobby … I corrected them. This is not a business, as I do not get paid. It’s strictly for fun at this point. Though today, not so much.
  • I went to bed before 10pm. Still a long day.

The Food

Saturday Breakfast: McDonald’s # 4, drive thru at 4:55am. That’s too early for breakfast.

Saturday Lunch: no time.

Saturday Snack: warm, sugar coated almonds. Yum.

Saturday Dinner: Pho Sure, # S5. I did stay awake through dinner, and aside from getting some much-needed nourishment, that was my main accomplishment.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 128
  • Booth cost: $150
  • # of people I met during the event from the producer: 0
  • Total sales: $1,454
  • # containers of product taken: 16
  • # boards available: 72
  • Saturday alarm: 4:30am
  • # transactions: 47 – 35 for lotion, 12 for boards
  • # soap & lotion vendors: no clue … did not see any
  • # woodworking vendors: one turner was there for sure
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 12:1

Boards sold: 13

Engraved Boards: 4

Cutting Boards: 4

Cheese Boards: 2

Sous Chef Boards: 2

Small Board: 1

Simi Valley Street Fair 01

Simi Valley Street Fair, 2015. The truck in back of me was setting up a long, tall pinewood derby track. Extreme sports come to a Southern California Cub Scout invention.

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