Craft Show Review: St. Augustine Parish Festival

Good morning friends! As I write this, I am definitely feeling this past weekend—two different events, in two days, in two totally different areas takes its toll! I’m writing about our experience at the St. Augustine Festival in Richmond today, and next week I’ll be sharing a review of the Shed 5 Flea at Eastern Market.

St. Augustine Booth 2017

We decided to do the St. Augustine Festival back in May, and we had three reasons for signing up. The first was that we were coming off of a really good show just down the street at Junk in the Trunk, and we were thinking (since we’d never been to Richmond before) that it was a great area for our items. The second was that the booth fee was very reasonable, which is always appealing to me when I’m thinking about the third reason that I’m doing shows this summer, which is to provide resources and information about local shows and events for all of my wonderful readers!

After four years and nearly 50 events, you would have thought that I’d have learned everything there is to know about doing a craft show, but I’m so surprised at the things that I’m still learning, and this show provided some great experience. Of course, I have this sneaking suspicion that I may have already learned some of these things, but they are so much clearer now because I’m writing them down and thinking analytically about them far beyond just the moment in which they occur.

So here’s the breakdown of the St. Augustine Parish Festival Craft Show, which was held this past Saturday, August 12, 2017, from 12-6 p.m.

Price: The show only cost us $25, which, again, was a big reason for why we signed up. For that small of an investment, the festival was publicized quite well—both on Facebook and on several large signs throughout the town and on the front lawn of the parish, which is on Main Street in Richmond.

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Location: The organizers put us out on the front lawn of the church (which, incidentally, is really beautiful), for a really nice reason, they explained. They’d met us when we were in Richmond for Junk in the Trunk, and they wanted us out by the road to really attract traffic that wasn’t already flowing to the event. That’s really nice to hear, but it had an adverse effect on us in a couple of ways.

First, there was no way to bring our vehicles right up to our booth, which is pretty important for most vendors, especially those who have a lot of heavier pieces. We had to carry our items all the way from the parking lot to the front of the church, around the side of the building. There were volunteers available to help us with this, which was very nice, but I always get a little nervous handing over my pieces to someone else—just in case. That’s probably something I have to learn to let go of, right?

The second adverse effect it had on us was that the traffic was very loud. Part of this was because we were literally ten feet from the busiest road in town, and part of it was because we were also right on the corner where there was a stoplight. If a group of motorcycles or some guy with his bass up really high had to stop at the light, you couldn’t hear anything else for several seconds, which made it difficult to talk to customers during those times. As pretty as it was to be on the front lawn of the church looking up at the beautiful architecture, I would have so preferred to be in the parking lot, where nearly half of the vendors were, where it was quiet and traffic was more predictable.

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The last thing that was a little strange about it was that once we were all set up, the side of the church along the sidewalk was roped off by these colorful flags, and it had the weird effect of cutting off the flow of people near our booth and forcing customers to walk along the grass on the side of the church, which felt strange and unnecessary. It made sense to have them across the front of the lawn to let people know there was an event going on, but having them run down the side street? We had a couple of people walk by our tent on the other side of the flags and ask how they were even supposed to get into it; we responded by telling them to just hop over the banners.

Traffic: The crowds were light, and most of the people seemed to be there to shop at the very reasonably priced flea market and country store/farm market that the parish was running. We made our booth quickly with the sale of one large piece, but then for the rest of the day sales were very slow.

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Part of the reason that traffic was slow could have been that the weather was being super weird—one minute the sun was out and it was warm, the next minute the sun was behind a cloud and it was freezing, the next minute the sun was back out but it was raining, and then it would pour for a minute or two, and then the sun would come out again. It was crazy. The vintage pieces we had outside the tent must have gotten damp and then dried about four times throughout the day.

In addition, noon is a strange start time—we might have had better luck with a 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. time slot, especially since it’s usual to do most of your sales in the morning at an event like this. Apparently, services at the church started at 6 p.m., so this may have been a reason that the event was structured in the later part of the day—hoping to capitalize on that church crowd on its way in.

Especially in light of our success in April, I was surprised by some of the comments that customers made and the reactions to our prices this time around. Granted, our show in April was more vintage and antique pieces and not really crafts, so maybe it’s an unfair comparison. One customer asked for a discount on a sign as soon as he saw it, and then when I offered one,  he asked that I come down even more, stating how high my original price was. That kind of thing can be really hard to swallow, and I honestly thought about his comments for a couple of days before I was able to shake it off. It’s hard to know how to respond when something like that happens—it’s one thing to haggle over a piece that needs work or might be slightly damaged, but it’s another to ask for a discount on a finished piece (I always have trouble with the word “art”—I feel like that should apply to paintings, drawings, and sculpture—but that’s probably a discussion for another post).

That wasn’t even as blatant as the customer who came in talking very loudly about how she could do this or that herself, and about how we probably got all of our furniture for free and just marked it way up. She was particularly incensed about this headboard bench:

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She kept insisting that we must have gotten it for free and how crazy it was that we were charging $180 for it, and how easy it would be for her to make one herself. Her comments and questions were mostly directed at her mom, though she consistently made eye contact with us. Once again, it’s difficult to know how to respond, other than to offer clarification on the paint we use, the experience we have with building furniture, and the option for delivery. But this particular customer wasn’t really interested in that, so we just kind of smiled and nodded. What else can you do?


I make it a point not to leave events early, but this one was so slow by 4 p.m., and the weather was getting worse and worse, so we asked the organizers if they would mind if we called it a day. I’d been feeling sick all day anyway, and literally, all I wanted to do was take a shower and go to bed (of course, Dan was sick that weekend, too, so it was just super fun for everyone).

They were really nice about it, and once we were done packing up, my mom and I walked through the rest of the show and did a little shopping, which was nice. We should go to more events just to shop and have fun. I’m making a mental note to do that.

I’m really glad that we packed up when we did, because the two closest spaces to park (where we parked to unload in the morning) were handicapped spaces that weren’t reserved as a loading/unloading zone for breakdown—when the church service got close, parishioners parked in those two spaces for the service, and the crafters in front had to park even farther away while they broke down their booths, as we observed when leaving. The volunteers who helped carry things in the morning were nowhere to be seen, either. The set-up had been staggered that morning—they gave segments of the show different arrival times to make the whole thing smoother, but that always makes me nervous for breakdown since there’s no way to stagger that, and someone is probably going to get screwed and have to wait around forever (though it usually ends up working out in the end).

I always feel like craft shows are a little tricky in June and August, especially for smaller shows–June is graduation month and August is back to school–there’s just so much else going on. Though the St. Augustine festival was a decent enough show for what it was, I can’t see us returning next year–it just didn’t command a big enough crowd to justify the trip out there. We are still really looking forward to doing Junkstock in downtown Richmond in September–this time MI Junktiques is hosting a weekend long sale during Richmond’s fall festival, and the crowds are supposed to be very good as long as the weather holds out. Look for that review in mid-September, and let me know in the comments if you have any questions or comments for me! Thanks for reading, friends.

Talk soon,

Jessie

Meet Your Maker: Introducing Rita Van Scyoc of Crafty Life in Style

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Good morning friends! Today I’m talking with Rita of Crafty Life in Style, a wonderful creative small business owner who does events all over metro Detroit. I first found her on Instagram when she was the only other person using the #metrodetroitmaker, and we met for the first time in person just yesterday at the Shed 5 Flea in Eastern Market (stay tuned for my review of that event next week). Her best friend is definitely on point in describing her as fun, and I love the spirit of support that she has for small, creative business. I can’t wait to get to know her better as we continue to do events together as furniture vendors and creatives. Read on for more about Rita and her husband Bill, and Crafty Life in Style!

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mdm: Let’s start off with the dreaded question. What do you do?

Rita: Hello! First off, I wear many hats! I’ve been married 27 wonderful years to Bill! I am a spouse, wife, mother and friend to many! I’ve worked full time in Program Management for the past 17 years and I’m looking forward to retiring in the next 3 years to do what I love…CREATE!”

mdm: How did you get started doing what you’re doing?

Rita: I’ve always had a flair for creative things and enjoy home decorating. A few years back, I began an endeavor with another business partner and well, things just didn’t work out. My husband Bill was involved in the business and after circumstances changed, Crafty Life In Style became our baby, our passion!

mdm: Why do you do what you?

Rita: There are many reasons I do what I do…the main one is CREATING, making things, crafting décor and gifts that bring joy and happiness to others. I love taking things that have been discarded or thrown away and breathing new life into them, whether through upcycling (putting old and new objects together) or creating something entirely new. Crafty Life In Style has 2 sides. One is creating gifts and helping our customers get the perfect unique gifts for their gift giving occasion. The second is up-cycling vintage wood furniture by either painting or refinishing/staining. We also create seasonal items of home decor that tie in with our furniture remakes. My husband Bill is a woodworker, he repairs and refinishes furniture but also has awesome furniture building skills. He has been retired for 4 years now and I’m so appreciative of the blending of our creative skills! Our biggest challenge is that I’m still working 9-5! Crafty Life In Style is doing well now, and I can only imagine what it would be if I could consistently devote more time to our business. We are working hard to get to the time when we can solely do what we love full time!

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mdm: What does your typical day look like?

Rita: There are no typical days! For the most part, I get up and work 9-5. During that time Bill works on scheduled projects and has certain things done by the time I get home from work. Then, I work and put my touch on and finish projects he prepared for me. Oh don’t worry, we have many late nights and burning the midnight oil before shows/markets! Sometimes things do not go as planned, but that’s life! We keep on going to the next big thing on our horizon.

mdm: Do you have a dedicated work space? What is it like? How is it different from your ideal work space?   

Rita: Well, we have 2 work spaces, the wood shop and then the basement. Our office desk has turned into my work space. It’s not ideal, but it works for now. In the future our retirement home will have everything we need and then some!

mdm: What is one short-term goal that you have?

Rita: One short term goal I have is to build inventory. It’s been tough prepping for shows/markets and keeping 2 stores full with our products.

mdm: What is one long-term goal that you have? 

Rita: The main long term goal I have is to get my bills paid off, so I can build more of retirement nest egg!

mdm: How do you go about setting goals for yourself?

Rita: I’m not a put down on paper type of goal setter, but I do have a paper calendar that I write everything down in. It’s my life line. It’s like a map of where we’ve been and where we are going to.

mdm: What is your favorite part of being a creative entrepreneur?

Rita: I love seeing our customers reactions to our products! I love hearing how much they love them or how much the person they gave the gift to loved it. We hear all the time how unique our products are and how well made/finished they are. Brings joy to my heart!
mdm: What has been your most successful product, post, event, strategy, or interaction? How do you celebrate your successes?

Rita: One of our most successful events this year has been the Armada Lavender Fest, just recently held this past July. It was a three day event at Blake’s Farms. We had a steady stream of customers, loved seeing and hearing everyone’s reactions to our display. We actually sold out of all our furniture pieces except one! I would definitely say that it was a successful event. Part of that success was due to the constant promoting the event coordinators did as well as our own promotions on Instagram. We constantly are promoting events we will be at throughout the year. To celebrate, Bill and I took a short break from creating and headed out to Saugatuck for a little getaway! It’s always good to get away and recharge those creative juices!

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mdm: What was the least successful product, post, event, strategy, or interaction? What did you learn?

Rita: I’ve had to refrain from doing smaller events with lesser known promoters. Our strategy before was to fill our calendar with many events. This has not been a great strategy; it’s actually very stressful. We now know that with the right events for your product, more isn’t better. We are more discerning now, and do the events that are the right fit for the customers attending.

mdm: What is your top piece of advice for a #metrodetroitmaker just starting out who does what you do?

Rita: I would say, have a plan. Network with other makers and creative small businesses, you can learn a lot from what others have done before you. We have such a network of fellow makers, we all support each other in our businesses. Also, I rarely go to retail stores; always shop with a fellow creative maker!

mdm: What is something that scares or intimidates you about being a creative entrepreneur?

Rita: Ahh! I’m always afraid that people will not like our creations! Which is totally unfounded! We try to get ideas from our followers through surveys or we listen to their comments while they shop our booths.

mdm: What is something that inspires you?

Rita: Nature! Thrift shopping, antique hunting, picking! I love finding great pieces and then formulating my plan for up-cycling even before it hits the back of our van!

mdm: How would your best friend describe you in one word?

Rita: Fun!

mdm: You have one hour of “me” time, and, miraculously, every goal you’ve set in your business for that day is complete. What do you do?  

Rita: Get a pedicure!

mdm: What is one thing that you wish you could tell every customer, reader, or student of yours about?

Rita: Do what makes YOU happy!

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mdm: What is the question that you are asked most often in your creative business?

Rita: How do you come up with ideas to create things? or How do you do that (make certain items)?

mdm: Where are you online (or what events do you have coming up)?

Rita: We are on Facebook and Instagram and have our own website as well.

Our next event is September 17th: The Finders Keepers Vintage Market at the Chelsea Community Fairground in Chelsea, MI.

You can also find our products in Royal Oak at Made in the Mitten and in Roscommon at Made Up North.

mdm: What is the best way to get in touch with you?

Rita: Text or call/ 313-815-2535 or message through Facebook.


Thanks for reading, friends! I hope you enjoyed meeting Rita as much as I did! Click here to read last week’s Meet Your Maker, and feel free to leave any comments below!

Talk soon,

Jessie

4 Things That Are Upping My Girl Boss Game This Summer

Being a girl boss is hard work, ladies—especially when you add being a wife, mama, girlfriend, dog mom, homeowner, personal chef, and all of the other things that we ladies are constantly juggling. Hard as it is at times, certain habits and rhythms can seriously help make things a little easier.

Today I’m sharing some things that are really working for me this summer in an effort to encourage you to develop your own rhythms as we figure out this girl boss stuff together. Thanks for joining me this morning! Here’s what’s working for me right now:

Getting up Early

This is the single biggest thing that has been helping me this summer. I’ve been getting up around 5 a.m. every morning and heading to Starbucks to work for two hours before Dan leaves for work around 8. It’s been immensely helpful. I’ve been using this time to schedule social media posts, write for my blog, work on content for my Etsy listings, answer emails, and plan my days/weeks.

While I don’t come to Starbucks every single day for this, I like leaving the house in the morning as often as I can, because I don’t get distracted sitting here in a coffee shop—there’s no laundry, no dirty dishes, and no half-finished project sitting right there. It’s much easier to focus on completing these tasks if I can sit down and power through them for two hours every morning. In addition to those distractions, Charlotte is an early riser like her mama, and even though Dan is home, she will inevitably yell for me to help her with something every ten minutes or so, which is even worse than that chair sitting there. With a three year old around, I definitely get more work done when I can be away for a bit.

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Please tell me that some of your kitchens look like this, too. It will make me feel so much better!!

When I leave Starbucks to head home, I can feel good about taking the morning “off” to hang out with Charlotte, get some housework done, and get back to work later during her nap. I usually use my early Monday mornings to plan the week and make a list of the big projects I need to complete (I also browse upcoming estate and garage sales that I might want to check out and make a note of those). Every morning before I leave to go home, I plan out my nap time priorities for the day, as well as any tasks that I want to complete that night after dinner. Especially during the hectic parts of the craft show season, I usually work for at least two hours after dinner, when Dan is around to spend time with Charlotte.

I’ll confess, I’m a morning person, and the thought of getting up at 5 a.m. to start the day being productive is sickeningly exciting to me. I’ll also confess that Charlotte has a hard time falling asleep during the day without me staying in bed with her, so I almost always take a short nap at the beginning of her nap, and I get to recoup a bit of my energy then.

Setting Goals

I kind of started doing this by accident early this summer—I think it might have come about as a result of something that I listened to on the Goal Digger podcast, but I know I was also driven and working out some frustrations in some other areas of my life when I decided to set a goal for how much inventory I would have ready for the Royal Oak Vintage Artisan Market at the beginning of June 2017. I had never set a similar goal before, so I tried it. I told myself I would have at least $1000 of inventory ready for the show (then managed to exceed my goal by quite a bit), and lo and behold, we made nearly $1000. It was crazy. I got fired up about it, and I saw really amazing results happen every time as I started to set new goals (big and small) throughout the rest of the summer.

I have this chalkboard out in the garage where I keep track of my inventory progress before a big show:

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This was my progress tracker as I was prepping for the Royal Oak Vintage Artisan Market.

One small goal I set for myself at the Saline show was to make 10 sales. Again, I had never done this before, but it really kept me motivated to talk to customers and try to engage with their needs during a show when I might have been a little more withdrawn and down because it wasn’t what I was expecting. For a show like Sterlingfest, I set number goals for my email list as well as sales goals for each day.

It’s probably a psychological thing, but I feel a lot more accomplished when I meet a goal I set, even when it’s a modest one, than I do when everything just goes really well but I didn’t necessarily have a goal I was working towards.

I try to set goals for myself when it comes to screen time, too—when I set a goal not to look at my phone until 3 p.m., for example (after answering all my emails and scheduling all my posts in the morning, of course), I find that I’m so much more productive throughout the day than I would be if I were looking at my phone for 5-10 minutes every hour.

Journaling

This one is tied to both setting goals and to getting up early—my work journal gives me a place to record most of these goals and to jot down notes about what went wrong and what went right along the way. I use this journal for my work notes:

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I’d really like to invest in the Make it Workbook, but I should probably finish this journal first—I have a slight journal obsession, probably as a result of being an English professor and avid writer, and the number of mostly empty notebooks and journals I have lying around is frankly embarrassing.

Anyway, back to journaling. My journaling is definitely linked to getting up early, too—before I was doing this getting up early thing, I never felt like I had time to journal because I had to get all of this other stuff out of the way and work on projects during naptime.

Another confession: I’ve always been a journaler, so getting back into this habit wasn’t hard for me. I love looking back at where I’ve been and seeing how far I’ve come. I have a few other markers now that I’ve been doing this for about four years, but my journal is always the most tangible for me. I used to journal every day in high school and college, and I’ve missed it a lot as a (relatively) new mama. Most days, my work journal is just notes for projects, to-do lists, productivity and time tracking, and notes for Etsy listings, but I try to get my morning pages done while I’m away in the morning, too.

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Side note: Starbucks just started playing Where My Girls At? and I legit started dancing in my seat. Welcome back feels from 1999. I’ve missed you.

Events

Honestly, because of the goals I’ve been setting and the amount of inventory I’ve been producing, even my so-so events have been successful this summer. A slow event gives me time to plan and think and be creative when it comes to selling and forming customer relationships, and the great events give me the resources to save for my shop, pay for future events, and build my email list.

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Speaking of email lists, my email list is probably the thing that I’m most proud of this summer, and it’s another idea that I got from the Goal Digger podcast. I’ve always passed out business cards at my events, but I’ve never asked people for their email addresses, which seems crazy to me now. I’ve also started using MailChimp to send out a monthly newsletter to my email list, which helps keep me in front of the customers that I connected most strongly with at my shows. It feels really good to slowly build that list every month and know that I have contact information for a growing number of people that liked my work so much they gave me their information so that we could stay in touch. I’m kicking myself for not doing this sooner, but at least I started now. With at least a year to go before there’s a possibility of realizing my goal for a physical store, I have plenty of time to build a following and get potential customers interested and engaged with what I’m doing on a regular basis.


While these things are going really well this summer, there are still a few things that I’m spending a lot of time on that aren’t going so great—things like time management, social media, and inventory organization. Maybe a post on these things and how I’m trying to work on them is in my future.

What do you struggle with most as a creative girl boss? What’s working for you this summer? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you!

Talk soon,

Jessie

Craft Show Review: Sterlingfest

Guys, I love Sterlingfest. This is the biggest show that we do every year, and it’s always really fun, even when it’s super hot out (thankfully, it wasn’t too bad this year). Sterlingfest is Sterling Heights’ big summer event, and it’s held the last weekend in July. We’ve been doing this show since 2014, and as long as we’re doing shows (and they accept our application), we’ll do this one. The traffic is great, there’s good food and good entertainment, and it’s organized really well. It’s far and away my favorite show to do.

Sterlingfest is also held at the Sterling Heights city hall, which is right around the corner from my mom’s house and only about 15 minutes from where I live in Rochester Hills, which makes it super convenient for us. It also happens to be sentimental for me for a couple of reasons—it’s right by the library where I grew up checking out armfuls of books every week, and it’s also the same property where the historic Upton house is located, which is where Dan and I took our wedding photos. I get all the feels when I come back to this area, and it’s super awesome to be able to bring Charlotte here now that she’s old enough to really enjoy the food and the fun.

All month long, I’ll be breaking down the shows in a similar way, discussing cost, location, advertising, crowds, and vendor perks as we move through the reviews of the shows I did in late July/August. I’m stoked to let you know how these shows went, and I’m hoping that the information is helpful to you as you plan for events in the coming year. As always, if you were at this show and would like to leave a comment or question, please feel free to do so in the comments below.

Sterlingfest Booth

Price: At $230 for a 10’ x 10’ space, this is definitely the most expensive show that we have done thus far. I’m not going to sugarcoat it—that’s a lot of money, and it’s a huge consideration when you’re just starting out. It is a three day event, so if you divide it up, it’s about $75/day. That’s a little bit better—I regularly go to shows that are $100 for one day, so I try to think about it like that. I’d be more nervous about signing up for Sterlingfest if I knew I had to make back my booth with a lot of little pieces, but because I have large pieces of décor and furniture, I’m not usually too worried about making my booth and then making a profit.

Location: Just because I have a sentimental attachment to the location doesn’t mean that it’s not a great spot. The show is situated up and down the front of the city buildings, and then along part of the west side of the buildings as well. The tents in front of the buildings set up on the pavement, but we’ve always been on the grassy strip between the police station and Utica road. The application gives you space for any special requests, and in that space I always ask to be put on the grass, since it’s usually a bit cooler, and we have easy access to our booth just by pulling out onto Utica road, which makes it really easy for us to offer delivery all three days. It does seem like the traffic in the front of the buildings is always a bit heavier—I’m not sure that people come down the grassy area quite as much. This year, there were a lot fewer tents over on the grass, apparently because the organizers accepted a lot fewer applications than they usually do. This is actually a good thing, in my opinion—I like the fact that they are serious about keeping the quality of the show high.

Right behind the grassy spaces, across Utica road, is Dodge Park, where the food vendors and carnival area is always set up. There’s enough space between these two areas that the sound from the games doesn’t carry so much that you can’t have a decent conversation with your customers, and the real music doesn’t start until after the craft show portion is mostly closed (hours are from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day). If you’re up closer to the corner of Dodge park and Utica road, which we were this year, since there were fewer spaces on the grass, it can be a little louder even during the day, since the smaller stage is set up right across from the tents up there.

Advertising: Sterlingfest is a big deal in Sterling Heights, and beginning in July, you start to see signs for it everywhere. It’s so well established that there would be huge crowds even without the signs—since it’s a city event, it’s also advertised in the newsletter, city paper, neighborhoods, library, parks, and local businesses. Over the three days, it feels like almost everybody in the city comes and brings their kids, friends, and families from all over. It’s a very popular event.

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Crowds: Like I said, tons of people come. Not all of them are shoppers—like with the Auburn Hills show, there’s a lot for kids to do, there’s a beer tent, and there is entertainment throughout the day, so the craft show portion is not the only thing going on.

Thursday and Friday are always a lot slower, especially before 5 p.m., as you can imagine, with a lot of people still working the last two days of the week. That being said, we can usually still make our booth fee on Thursday night, even with the slower weekday crowd.

One of the best things about doing a show consistently for several years in a row is that you see a lot of the same customers over and over, and it’s amazing for me to hear that my customers are still loving the pieces that they purchased from me. I sold Alyson and Matt a china hutch in 2016 that they used as the centerpiece for their nursery—it was the first piece they bought after finding out that they were pregnant (with twins!!), and she was only a few weeks along when I met them last year.

Later, they ordered two custom dressers for me, and I saw them again that fall when I delivered them. It was so fun to see their twin baby girls this summer after doing those special pieces for them last year. I also caught up with Maria, who ordered a custom painted rocking chair last year, along with several others who purchased smaller things and came back to tell me how much they looked forward to seeing what we had each year and how much they loved our booth. I even customers who had bought pieces from me at other shows, and recognized the style and some of the designs, which just goes to show that this is a huge show that makes it onto a lot of people’s radar, even outside Sterling Heights.

Vendor Perks: The only downside to this show is that there isn’t much in the way of vendor amenities. During the day, the library is open and there’s an indoor bathroom available, but for the evening hours you’re stuck with the Porta-Johns.

There’s no food or water available for the vendors, either—you have to bring everything that you think you’ll need. We always bring a big cooler full of water and snacks. There are a lot of great food vendors open all day—somehow we always end up across from the toasted almond tent and have to buy about a hundred bags of them, they’re so good. The Sterlingfest organizers also host a breakfast with coffee and pastries on Thursday morning, but I’ve always been too busy with set up and last minute prepping to be able to go.

The staff is always around when you need them, and they send volunteers by regularly to see if anyone needs anything. This year, they even provided two cell phone numbers that you could call if you needed a quick break, which was really nice. Like in Auburn Hills, there is security overnight and all throughout the day, and it’s not unusual to see officers walk by the tent at least once an hour.

Because we have some extra space over on the grass, we asked if we could set up an EZ-Up behind our tent for some extra shade, and they were totally fine with it, which was great. It’s the first year that we did the extra little tent, and it really helped out to have the extra shade and space to hold furniture that people had purchased. I don’t know why, but having a sold pile back there always makes me so happy. There was some concern that it would rain on Thursday (thank goodness that didn’t end up happening), so it was also nice to have a little extra piece of mind that we could put things back there if we needed to. It’s also so fun, now that Charlotte is old enough to do the rides and games, to have a little hangout space for her to come back to and have a snack and a drink with Dan before they head back to the carnival rides.

It can be hard to get a read on Sterlingfest from the point of view of the other vendors. There really isn’t another booth like ours at all—there were a few selling signs and one really great booth selling reclaimed wood art. Check out Ironwood Fab when you get a chance—I usually don’t buy a lot at craft shows, but I bought two wall sconces from them for my bathroom in the Bellaire house.

We’ve had years where people get so frustrated with the traffic on Thursday that they pack up and leave that night, or, what’s worse, they wait through Friday and then leave right before the crowds start to get really good on Saturday. The jewelry category is always saturated, and there are a few soap/lotion booths, but other than that it seems to be a good variety—some clothing, kid’s items, fine art, and sculpture round out the show really well and make it worth it for the people who come to shop. I don’t think anyone left this year, but that could also be because it was the nicest July weather we’ve had in a while—on Friday night we were wearing jeans in the booth, it was so breezy and cloudy.

To sum up, I can’t see a scenario where we wouldn’t do this show. It’s close to us, the crowds are good, and, even though the price for a booth is obviously higher than we pay anywhere else, we usually make back our booth fee the first night, and always have a great day on Saturday when the crowds are the biggest.

Please leave a comment below if you’ve been to this show and have anything to add from the perspective of another type of vendor. If you’d like to submit a review of a show you’ve done, a Meet Your Maker interview, or a DIY post, please email me at metrodetroitmaker@gmail.com and we’ll make that happen!

Thanks for reading.

Talk soon,

Jessie

 

 

 

Meet Your Maker: Introducing Danielle Lee of Tillie Jean Market

Hey friends and happy Monday! On this week’s Meet Your Maker, I’m super excited to introduce another awesome girl boss that I have done events with, but haven’t actually connected with in real life. It’s only a matter of time—we’ve done two events together already this year, and at least my mom got a chance to talk with these girls in Richmond at Junk in the Trunk. That kind of counts, right?

tillie jean logoI’m talking with Danielle today, who runs her business along with her sister, her husband, and her dad. I’m so inspired by her philosophy of just jumping in and trying things out without looking back or second-guessing—as someone who is constantly overthinking things (I have a bed frame in the garage that I’m so scared to ruin I haven’t touched it in three months), I definitely aspire to be more like Danielle in this area!

 

I can’t wait for you guys to meet her and get to know more about her shop and process. Here’s Danielle Lee of Tillie Jean Market:

#mdm: Let’s start off with the dreaded question. What do you do?

Tillie Jean (TJ): I’m a mama – girl boss – business owner who LOVES the creative side of our business.

#mdm: How did you get started doing what you’re doing?

TJ: I used to work full time (45+ hours/week) at a corporate job. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I was laid off in March. This jump-started our business. My sister, Mallory, and I started Tillie Jean Market earlier this year.

#mdm: Why do you do what you do?

TJ: I didn’t realize how static my mind was until I was laid off. It was almost like someone finally turned the light on. My creative juices started flowing and I was REALLY excited about my work! I was motivated to start THRIVING in life and not just SURVIVING.  

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photo credit: Danielle Lee

#mdm: What does your typical day look like?

TJ: We are usually up at 7am, have breakfast, play a little (my husband and I have a 3 year old daughter), then we go to the workshop and work on projects. My daughter has her own table where she works on her projects. She loves to paint with watercolors. It’s fun to have her there because she tells me she wants to paint like mama when she gets “big big”. Some days when I really want to push out some product, my dad will watch our daughter. He retired when I went back to work, and after she was born he watched her full time. He is a huge help and will frequently contribute his carpentry skills to our projects!

#mdm: Do you have a dedicated workspace? What is it like? How is it different from your ideal workspace?

TJ: Our dedicated workspace is our garage! It works … for now. Ideally we will have a storefront with a workshop in the back.

#mdm: What is one short-term goal that you have?

TJ: Our current short-term goal is to rent space from a local business owner. We would like to be able to have larger pieces of furniture such as; tables, chairs, and dressers available for our customers. It is hard to do that just at vendor shows. Having a presence in a shop will help move the ball forward for us.

#mdm: What is one long-term goal that you have?

TJ: Our long-term goal is to open our own brick and mortar store. We love helping others pick out the perfect décor for their homes!

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photo credit: Danielle Lee

#mdm: How do you go about setting goals for yourself?

TJ: I really just see what I want to do and start doing it. I never really look back or second-guess it. I figure if I “fail” then I can learn something and change it. There really isn’t anything you can ruin, just opportunities to make something different. Don’t get me wrong…I do get frustrated if something doesn’t turn out just right, but it’s short lived.

#mdm: What is your favorite part of being a creative entrepreneur?

TJ: Being creative is very freeing! YOU get to decide what works for you and what works for your business. It takes a lot of dedication and time but you are not limited. If you don’t get in your head too much and just let the creative side happen, it’s very rewarding. I felt so blessed when I was laid off. I know it sounds weird someone saying they were happy to be laid off, but I was! I was limited in my corporate job and I wasn’t allowed to use my creative side to its fullest potential. Being a creative entrepreneur gives you the freedom to do what YOU think is best. It is like therapy!

#mdm: What is your least favorite part of being a creative entrepreneur?

TJ: My least favorite thing about being a creative entrepreneur is that you don’t have a magic ball. Everything is trial and error in the beginning. You have to find your niche and keep working it. Don’t give up! It can be a bit discouraging when you go to a vendor show and don’t sell a single thing…believe me…it happened!

#mdm: What has been your most successful product, post, event, strategy, or interaction? How do you celebrate your successes?

TJ: Our Facebook page has been really successful. Most everyone has Facebook page and we have a QR code on our business cards. Our customers can go right to our business page and like/follow us. It’s a fast, easy way for people to follow and make comments. I had a piece once that I wasn’t totally in love with, but someone gave it to us and it was REALLY heavy. I thought “oh great! Now I have to lug this thing to all these shows”. I quickly reminded myself that the Lord sent this piece to me for a reason…someone would LOVE it. Wouldn’t you know it, the next show we had someone come back twice to look at it and just HAD to take it home. She loved it and has become a repeat customer! We celebrated a LOT with that sale. I was so happy that someone loved it and loved our work!

#mdm: What was the least successful product, post, event, strategy, or interaction? What did you learn?

TJ: Our least successful event was one that we thought was a no brainer. It was in a big city at a huge event. We were so excited! It was our first two day event and thought it was going to be awesome! It was a BUST…I mean a BIG BUST. We didn’t sell a single thing the first day, and there was a huge thunderstorm at the end of the day, so we had to pack everything up as quick as possible. It was horrible. I almost cried. I knew it was an opportunity to learn something, so I kept it together. We learned not every show is for everyone…we have to be selective; we have to ask questions… “What advertising is being done for the event?” “What signage will you have for the event?” KNOW what you are paying for in your vendor fee. For example, if you are paying $100 for a 10 x 10 space, you should expect advertising, marketing on social media, signage by the entrances to let customers know the event is taking place, etc.

blue chair

photo credit: Danielle Lee

#mdm: What is your top piece of advice for a #metrodetroitmaker just starting out who does what you do?

TJ: Don’t give up! It’s not easy or for the faint of heart. I’m sure anyone can paint a piece of furniture so you have to accept that not EVERYONE is going to LOVE your work. It’s ok. They don’t have to. Someone WILL love it.

#mdm: What is something that scares or intimidates you about being a creative entrepreneur?

TJ: I’m not really scared or intimidated by anything. I’m not saying that because I think I can do anything, but because I am not afraid to fail. There is not ONE SINGLE piece of tangible item that I cannot live without. I’m only ever scared of losing my loved ones. I can replace or redo any of our products…they just aren’t that important to be scared by. I certainly don’t want to fail in our business…but it doesn’t scare me…it drives me.

#mdm: What is something that inspires you?

TJ: My inspiration comes from many places; my family, faith, flowers, an awesome display in a shop, farm houses, barns, owls…

#mdm: How would your best friend describe you in one word?

TJ: Oh boy…let me call her…either “organized” or “loyal”.

#mdm: You have one hour of “me” time, and, miraculously, every goal you’ve set in your business for that day is complete. What do you do?

TJ: Probably read or write. I love to do both.

#mdm: What is one thing that you wish you could tell every customer, reader, or student of yours about?

TJ: We love to help you enhance your home décor, if you don’t see something you love we can custom make something for you. Most people assume that what they see is what we have. We want them to know we can do anything they want!

#mdm: What is the question that you are asked most often in your creative business?

TJ: We are often asked where our store is. Unfortunately, we aren’t quite there yet…hopefully it’s in our near future.

Bench

photo credit: Danielle Lee

#mdm: Where are you online (or what events do you have coming up)?

TJ: Our website and Facebook page are great ways to find us or get in touch. We will also be at Shed 5 Flea at Eastern Market on Aug 13, and Finders Keeper’s Vintage Market on Aug 27 at the Wayne County Fair Grounds!

#mdm: What is the best way to get in touch with you?

TJ: Message us on Facebook or send us an email at tilliejeanmarket@gmail.com.

#mdm: Tell the readers one last thing about you, your business, or your philosophy that is a consistent part of how you conduct your life or business.

TJ: Don’t be afraid to do something wrong. What is literally the WORST thing that could happen? You have to do it over? You have to try something different? It is not the end of the world and it will hold you back if you live in fear. If you are afraid to fail then you are afraid to learn and grow. Don’t be afraid to learn and grow!


Thanks for reading everyone! Catch last week’s Meet Your Maker here.

DIY Fairy Wands

 

Today I want to share my latest distraction/obsession/way to avoid the more mundane aspects of being a creative entrepreneur. I really should have been working like crazy last week to finish up some bigger pieces for Sterlingfest. Instead, I obsessively made these fairy wands for three days. It’s what I love and what I hate about being a creative entrepreneur all in one crazy fun activity.

I struggled to title this post, because it’s about more than just DIY fairy wands. I thought about calling it “DIY Distraction,” or “Why I Love What I Do,” or even “What I do When I’m Avoiding ‘Work,’” but I figured a focus on the DIY would be easiest to start off with.

I also struggled with this post a little bit because it almost seems off-brand (more on that in a later post), but the truth is, it might just be what pushes me to expand what I do a bit more. On the surface, especially to me, that sounds like the worst thing ever because I feel like I already have way too much going on, but I think more children’s items in my particular style have the potential to really round out my products in an organic way.

I love making children’s items. Remember how I didn’t get into the DIY home décor stuff until I was married with a house? Well, I never thought much about children’s items until I had a baby. Then I started making all of this stuff for Charlotte—car seat snuggly, baby blankets, bibs, burp cloths, hair bows, painted nursery furniture—and it was all so adorable and lovely that I made a bunch of it to sell at shows and in my Etsy shop.

My baby line did really well, too, but for some reason, I got tired of the items almost as soon as they were made. I hate having little items scattered all over my larger pieces—it always makes me feel like I’m saying to my customers “here, focus on these little things,” when what I really want to showcase is my furniture. Smaller items are important at shows—if there is something small that a customer can pick up and hold in their hand, even if they don’t buy it, the chances are they’ll stay in your booth longer, and the longer they stay, the more likely they are to buy something, place a special order, or at least sign up for my email list. So the little items are super helpful–I just don’t want them piled all over my bigger pieces. Hopefully this display we’ve been working on will help with that this summer:

 

Anyway, what you’re really here for is DIY fairy wands, right? Sorry about the detour we took getting here.

The seed of this project appeared with the advent of the Rochester Explorer’s Club, which Charlotte and I signed her up for during Sidewalk Sales this year. I love downtown Rochester, as you all know from reading my About page, and I feel like they are always coming up with awesome things for the community to do. The Explorer’s Club basically consists of an adventure guide that has a bunch of suggestions for activities (a little like scouts, but less involved), and you go around town collecting badges for each activity that you complete.

One of the first ones that caught my eye was sponsored by Haig’s jewelry store (incidentally, this is the jewelry store that made my wedding ring for me, so that’s fun), and the activity consisted of designing and making your own fairy wand and then bringing it in to the store to cast a spell and claim your badge. As soon as I read it, I got inspired with this project—I knew it was something Charlotte would love doing and could help me with most of.

I already had a bunch of wooden dowels in the garage leftover from some chalkboard signs I made for a baby shower last year that would be perfect for the wand part. I let Charlotte pick out a color for the wand first, and set her to work painting that. I have this little bucket of paint samples in my paint cabinet, and she’s always pulling that out asking to help with projects, so I let her pick one from there, and she of course chose blue. Perfect for a fairy wand.

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The next thing I did was go through this amazing bag of vintage fabric scraps that I bought at a garage sale earlier this summer (it was supposed to be listed on Etsy as craft supply by now, but I’m sure I’ll get there). I am a sucker for fabric, friends. I can’t resist an adorable vintage print. I’m not even a huge sewing person—that is just not my gift—but I buy SO. MUCH. FABRIC. At least I know my limits with it, and I know what I can do. In this case, I knew the star on top of the fairy wand needed to be made from one of these gorgeous fabrics, sewn and stuffed to give it a little dimension. I could do that.

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I pulled out a bunch of fabric in blues and let Charlotte choose which one she liked best. While the stick part was drying, we went inside, found a star outline online, and printed it out to use as a pattern. Charlotte did some coloring while I cut out the two stars and sewed them together, then I put her back to work getting the stuffing in while I pulled out my HUGE ribbon collection. I’m the kind of sick freak who saves the ribbon and rope handles off shopping bags, so I have a lot of ribbon (though I have a lot less after making 45 fairy wands!!). It’s basically a disaster.

Once the star was stuffed, the stick was dry and we put the whole thing together. I used hot glue to attach the star to the top of the wand, wrapped two skinnier ribbons around the wand underneath it, and then tied a larger ribbon underneath the star over the two skinnier ones. I probably should have secured the bow and ribbons with a bit more hot glue (lesson learned for the later versions), because after about 30 seconds of what passes for spell casting when you’re three, the bow had already come halfway undone. By that time, of course, she was way too attached to it to give it back to me to fix, so I just had to wait until she got tired of it to fix it. Luckily, we got a good picture before the unraveling happened. Look how proud she is:

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Thanks Rochester Explorer’s Club. Seriously, though, I was just as giddy. It was a super fun project and I wanted to do more. Like, forty-five more. Which I did over the next three days. The only thing I changed about the subsequent wands was the size of the star—I felt like I made the one for Charlotte’s wand a bit too small, so for the next 45 wands I just made it a bit bigger—about four inches across, which ends up being more like 3-3.5 inches when it’s sewn and stuffed.

Since I didn’t take step by step photos when we were making Charlotte’s wand (totally didn’t anticipate this becoming a thing, friends), here are some step by step photos of different wands throughout the process:

Step 1: Cut and Paint the Dowel: The wand handles are 1/4” dowels cut to about 19” long. I used chalk paint for the wand because I have it and I love it and I’m trying to use some old stuff up, but obviously anything would work. I like the idea of staining them, too, for a more woodland fairy look–maybe for the next show. Dark stained wood with white fabric and ribbons?? Get out. So pretty. If you do one like that, leave a photo in the comment or on my Facebook page for sure. I want to see it!!

Step 2: Choose a Fabric and Cut Out Your Star: I just doubled the fabric, pinned the pattern to it, and cut it out (see above links for the star I used. I copied and pasted it into Paint and adjusted the size until I was happy–again, the star was about 4″ across when I started sewing):

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Step 3: Sew the Star Together: Right sides together, begin sewing at about the middle of one of the arms of the star—you want the opening you leave to be right in the middle of two of the points, so make sure that you start with the end in mind. I back-stitched a couple of times at the beginning and the end, since I was turning this inside out:

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Step 4: Turn the Star Inside Out and Stuff: I used the eraser end of a pencil to help push the star points out gently, and just regular Poly-Fil to stuff the stars:

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Step 5: Attach Star to Wand with Hot Glue: I folded the edges of the star under as best I could to conform with the rest of the seam, and then stuck a little dot of hot glue inside, twisting the wand as I pushed it in to spread the glue around the whole opening, and then pinching the fabric against the wood to hold it in place until it cooled:

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Step 6: Attach Ribbons: I liked the look of the three ribbons, but this is the part where you can really get as crazy as you’d like. When I cut the skinnier ribbons, I just made sure that they weren’t the same length, and that they weren’t exactly centered when I put them together, either. I liked the imperfect look for these. When I tied the larger ribbon on, I did the same thing—I made the thicker ribbon a bit shorter than the other two, and if the two sides ended up the same length, I just trimmed one slightly:

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Part of the reason I went with three is because I had a lot of ribbon to use up, and part of it is that I like odd numbers for things like this.

Here’s my fairy wand display ready for Sterlingfest 2017:

Vintage Fairy Wand DIYHandmade Fairy WandsFairy Wands DIYDIY Fairy Wands

Pricing these was a little hard for me, because I got really attached to the different fabrics and designs as I went. I’m also a sucker for vintage lace and trim, and as I developed this design, I broke out some of that, as well. I get paralyzed sometimes when it comes to using some of my materials—my thought is always, Is there a better project that I could have used this on? And the answer is, probably, but who knows when that project will come along and what I might find in the meantime? Basically, self, chill out. It’s just pink floral vintage trim. It’s not brain surgery.

When I asked Dan about it, he was like “Yeah, I’d pay $5 in a heartbeat for one of those for Charlotte.” I was shocked and a little offended for half a second, but I followed his suggestion. While he’s not my ideal customer, Sterlingfest, in particular, is a family event, and dads are likely to be involved in the shopping on their way to doing other activities with their kids.

The pricing strategy ended up working out really well–I put the wands out in front of the tent on the kids table I had on display (until it sold on Friday, anyway) for Sterlingfest, and it was the perfect height for getting them right in front of the kids. I had a few teenagers even look at them and purchase a few, which I maybe should have expected, so that was really fun. The mason jars with the wands sticking out were the only small items I put out on the furniture–the rest of the small stuff was in the back of the tent on our display rack and checkout table.

The wands were inexpensive enough that most parents didn’t think twice about picking one up; as an added bonus, I could easily give them away to kids whose parents bought bigger pieces from me, which was really fun, too.

I hope you have a lot of fun making your own DIY fairy wand! Let me know how it turns out in the comments, and if you have a project you’d like to share, email me at metrodetroitmaker@gmail.com. I’d love to hear from you!

Talk soon,

Jessie

Craft Show Review: Saline Indoor and Outdoor Crafter’s Market

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Hey there metro Detroit makers! I’ve been going crazy doing shows the past two weekends, and I have a few more coming up in August, so you can expect a different show review every Wednesday this month, and all four are in very different areas of metro Detroit, which is really exciting. I’m always pumped to try new shows, and I’m even more excited to share the results with you and hopefully help you as you plan your craft show year!

The Saline Indoor and Outdoor Crafter’s Market was a different show experience for me in that I couldn’t do a lot of research about it before I applied. I found it on Facebook, I didn’t know anything about the area or the organizer, there wasn’t a lot of information online about previous events, and it was over an hour away from my house. These were the exact conditions under which I applied to Junk in the Trunk in Richmond earlier this year, and that show exploded on me (in a good way). So I wanted to try another experiment. This one definitely did not go as well, though it wasn’t a total disaster.

I want to break these August shows down by price, location, advertising, crowds, and vendor perks to give you an idea of what the experience was like for me at the shows I’m sharing this month.

As always, I want to preface this review by stating that I’m writing from the perspective of a furniture vendor, and my experience isn’t necessarily representative of all the other sellers (though in this case, I didn’t see a lot of selling going on except at the other furniture booth, right across from me—her prices were insanely good. If I’d sold more big pieces, I totally would have bought this gorgeous bed frame she was selling for only $35).

 

I also want to say that this was one of the first shows organized by this particular group, according to what I found online and what I heard from shoppers and vendors. I think there was at least one other show before this one, in Plymouth. Normally, I don’t do first-time shows, but almost 4,000 people were interested in the Facebook event, which was about what the number was for Richmond, and so I thought I’d give it a try.

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See the $35 bed frame? So gorgeous!!

Here’s the breakdown by price, location, advertising, crowds, and vendor perks:

Price: One reason that I took a chance on this show was that the price for a 10’ x 10’ booth was only $50. That’s a decent vintage market price; any higher and it wouldn’t have made the trip worth it. The reason I say ‘vintage market’ is that that’s how it looked from the photos that were posted on the event on Facebook—it actually turned out to be more of a craft show (check out my Shabby Sundays post for a quick breakdown of the difference)—but more on that later.

Once I was at the show, the $50 booth fee seemed a bit high. It was a much smaller show than I expected, and there was no signage on the main road advertising the event (contrary to what the website said, which was that there would be “signage all through residential areas and busy roads.”) I always get a bit nervous when I’m on my way to a craft show and can’t find my way the last few miles just by following the signs posted by the organizer of the event. If I can’t find it that way, potential customers can’t, either.

Location: Like I said, this show was about 65 miles from Rochester, which is normally a little farther out than I’d like. It was hard to earn the booth fee back and make up for mileage, time, and food. We barely did it, which means that this show was a break-even for us at best. That is, of course, totally on me—I signed up for this show knowing how far away it was and having no way of reasonably predicting how it would go. I’m very grateful that it went as well as it did (though even if it had been worse I still would have had a lot to write about!).

It was held at the local UAW, with booths available inside and outside, which made the event a bit more like doing a high school show—that’s what it felt like more than anything else. Again, the Facebook event made it seem like there would be tents out on the property in back, sprawled out, with a flea market type feel. Instead, there were about 15-20 tents in the front of the building, and then about as many tables inside.

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Advertising: I touched on this a little bit already, but I’m not sure that the website was exactly genuine when representing how the event would be advertised. It may be because they didn’t get enough vendors to register for the show and didn’t have the budget for the advertising they promised, but the lack of signage on the day of the show seems inexcusable, especially when it was clearly promised by the organizers. The only banner that they did have was a generic “craft and vendor show” banner—nothing with the name of the event or in the style of what I feel like people would expect after finding the market on social media.

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I mentioned above that the Facebook page misrepresented the event, and that was really reflected in some of the customer comments to me. The event page advertised the show as follows:

“This Market will have a lot of Handmade Items, Vendors, Vintage Pieces, Food Truck/Food Trucks, and more.”

The photo for the event page looks like it was pulled from someone’s “Dream Market Booth Display” Pinterest Board, and it looks beautiful—well decorated, well curated, vintage and shabby chic (you can see why I was attracted, right?). In reality, the show was heavy on the direct sales vendor side, with at least four LuLaRoe sellers alone! I get that all the LuLaRoe vendors have different inventory, but at such a small market it was overwhelming—as a customer I feel like it would have seemed as though I was bumping into a LuLaRoe rack every other booth.

Like I said, a few customers remarked along these lines to me, asking why I was the only booth selling vintage pieces (like I said, there was one other booth with furniture, but she had more of a consignment store feel with clothing, signs, and small goods as well) and complaining that the event wasn’t what they’d expected. Someone had driven an hour expecting a large flea market and was pretty upset. To be fair, the event wasn’t marketed in print like a flea market, but I think the photos used in marketing are just as powerful (if not more so) than the copy for the event, and I understand why customers would have had this perception of the market from the event page.

If I had known that it would be more of a craft show, I never would have brought my vintage pieces—I would have focused on my painted furniture. The very first item I sold was the only chalk painted piece that I brought, and quite a few people were interested in it before it sold.

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Crowds: This show didn’t start until 11 a.m., which is a little later than normal. I’m used to shows that start at 9 or 10—usually you make the most sales before noon, so starting at 11 doesn’t give you a lot of time. Fortunately, shoppers started coming even before 11, and the dry sink sold at 11:04 a.m. (I keep track of when and which items sell on a simple receipt book from Office Max). I immediately felt better despite the misgivings I was already having about the show—it’s nice to start the day in the black and then just relax and know that at least you didn’t lose any money on your booth fee.

I didn’t see a ton of my ideal clients at this show, which I was surprised by—I thought that being close to Ann Arbor, the crowd would be a bit more similar to what I’m used to in a place like Royal Oak. I did see a few young couples and young professionals, but mostly families and older women and couples.

I was also surprised that my prices seemed to be too high for a lot of shoppers—a few even came right out and said that my things were too expensive, which is the opposite of what I’m used to hearing, and even more shocking to me because I priced a lot of my mid-range pieces $10-$15 cheaper than I did out in Richmond, and dropped prices on a few of my bigger pieces $20-$50 for this show. I don’t know a ton about the Ann Arbor area, but I was really not expecting my prices to be a problem to the extent that they seemed to be.

Vendor Perks: The biggest perk at this show was indoor air-conditioned bathrooms. I’m always stoked when I don’t have to use a Porta-John, friends. Aren’t you?

Around 12:30, one of the staff members rolled around a cart of drinks and chips. I had Dan with me to help with breaks, and I was talking with a customer when the volunteer rolled by, so I just waved the cart on. They had food for sale inside and a couple of food trucks, too, and I’m sure if I’d needed it the volunteers would have watched my booth while I ran inside to take a break.

Speaking of staff, I only met the head organizer by accident when I was walking around inside taking photos. She and the parking lot volunteer were both wearing bright orange STAFF t-shirts, so she would have been easy to find, but it always seems weird to me when the organizer of the event (especially one as small as this) doesn’t come by at some point during the day and just ask how everything is going.

The form said that vendors needed to be set up and ready to sell by 10:50 a.m., which would normally be strictly enforced—but then a trailer pulled through the market at 11:30. As a customer, I would have felt like that was a little disorienting and distracting—not to mention disruptive to the traffic flow and a bit unprofessional. I guess the ability to set up late could be considered a perk…

Though this was purely an accident and probably doesn’t count as a perk, we had some great neighbors in the Leather Hound USA—one of the best parts of the show was getting to know them a little. Their leather goods (all hand-stitched!! it makes my fingers hurt just thinking about it) were beautiful.


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Overall, I’d give this show a 2.5 out of 5 stars. I’d actually be interested to try the show in Plymouth and bring more of my shabby chic pieces—I have a feeling I’d do a lot better with those, especially judging by the fact that the only big piece I sold was a chalk painted piece.

One of the reasons that I went into this show a little more nervous than usual was that it seemed disorganized before it even started—the website sign up form asked whether you wanted to be indoor or outdoor, but somehow didn’t record that response, so when I got the confirmation email, it said I would be inside. I immediately emailed back requesting an outdoor space, and got a confirmation that it wouldn’t be a problem. Then two days before the event, the head organizer called me asking if I would need a table at my space, and I had to remind her again that I wanted to be outside, at which point she offered me a double space at no extra charge, because she’d underestimated the amount of space she had, which comment I read as “I didn’t get as many vendors as I wanted.” That may be unfair, but in my experience, it’s usually true, and really seemed to be the case when I got to this show.

I’ll keep you posted on the status of the Plymouth show in September and whether I decide to try it or not. It might already be out of the running for me, since they appear to be charging $85 for that market, which is really high for this kind of show, especially if they aren’t going to invest in more signage for the event.

Stay tuned on Wednesdays for the rest of the month to hear how things went at Sterlingfest, the St. Augustine festival in Richmond, and the Shed 5 Flea at Eastern Market!

Talk soon,

Jessie