Craft Show Review: Auburn Hills, MI Summerfest 2017

typorama (1)

We were at Summerfest this past weekend and had a great time. I feel like this is a relatively little known show, and I’m so thankful to my good friend Heather for turning me on to it. It’s definitely on my calendar for the foreseeable future. I have a couple of reasons for that which I will list right away at the beginning of the post, and then I’ll go on to break down in further detail how the show went and what you can expect if you apply next year.

Here are the major details:

Summerfest is always on a Friday evening and Saturday morning in late June. This year, it fell on June 23-24 (2017). Friday set up is usually 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., and show hours are 4-10 p.m. on Friday and 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. on Saturday. Vendor parking is reserved close by, but there is no access to the show on Saturday morning; if you have to restock, you have to bring things from the parking lot.

Before I really get into things I want to do a little disclaimer: doing a show review is a little tricky because things can change so much from year to year as far as the weather, the economy, the traffic, and the interest in the show. I’ll do my best to give you all the information I can here—both the good and the bad about the show, including my particular biases (like the fact that its only three minutes from my house). It’s also tricky because vendor experiences really differ by craft–selling furniture is a lot different than selling jewelry, candles, or dog treats. If you’re out there doing those things, leave a comment and tell me how it was for you–or better yet, write a post about it! I’d be happy to feature it on my blog!

Ok, so here are the reasons I love Summerfest:

  1. It’s three minutes from my house.
  2. At $40, it’s one of the most affordable shows I’ve done.
  3. Sweets (you’ll get addicted to their ice cream, I promise).
  4. There is a ton of stuff for kids to do.
  5. The Den (this is the air-conditioned!! hangout space for vendors).
  6. Auburn Hills Parks and Rec. They are super sweet and easy to work with.

To break it down a bit more:

  1. Commute: The commute to and from a show is a big factor for me when deciding whether I want to commit to it. A long commute adds one more expense I have to make up; in addition to my booth fee and food, I also want to make up the money I spent on gas to get to the show. The longer the commute is, the more money I have to make just to break even, and that can add a lot of stress at an event like this—if you’re anything like me, you’re constantly trying to figure out where you are at for that show in terms of profit/loss. I really want to be able to relax and have fun without being super stressed about that stuff, and doing shows that are really close to where I live helps out so much with that. It’s also really easy to run home for more inventory if I start selling out.
  2. Cost: I feel like this one is self-explanatory. Shows on this scale are usually much more expensive (though I will admit, the actual number of shoppers in Auburn Hills doesn’t compare to a show like Sterlingfest or Arts and Apples. The pictures are a bit deceiving here–there are a TON of people that come through, but it’s mostly for the free stuff).
  3. Ice Cream: I can’t say enough good things about Sweets. The ice cream is to die for. Do yourself a favor and try “This $#@% Just Got Serious.” Great name, great flavor. You won’t be disappointed. We go there all the time anyway, and Dan is on a first name basis with Cathy, the owner, but being right across the street in my tent is even better than being three miles away. Plus, they use her delicious ice cream for the ice cream social.
  4. Super Kid-Friendly: This can be a good thing and a bad thing. All of the kid stuff is free, so from a parent point of view, yeah, bring the kids out and let them ride the water slide and do the inflatable mazes. Then go to the ice cream tent, get them some free ice cream, and run them back through all that stuff again. From a vendor’s point of view, that also means a lot of kids coming into the booth and touching stuff or getting impatient with the moms who came to shop a little first.
  5. Vendor Perks: The Den is such an amazing perk for vendors—it’s the kind of amenity that many shows don’t really attempt to provide. Usually, the Den is hangout for area college students, but during the show it’s volunteer and vendor headquarters. Drinks, snacks (mostly candy, but who doesn’t like free candy?), cool air and a real bathroom? Yes, please. I definitely don’t miss the port-a-potties that even the vendors have to use at the other big shows.
  6. Staff and Security: The show is so well staffed. There are constantly police officers, security guards, Parks and Rec employees, and volunteers around (this year, the volunteers wore bright orange, which was super easy to spot). If you or anyone else has a question about literally anything, there will be someone within ten feet that knows the answer. I can’t say this about the majority of other shows I’ve done–even city sponsored shows like this one.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So those are the big reasons why I love Summerfest. The proximity and the price can’t be beat by any other show I do in the summer months. Now, on to specifics about this year’s show and what to plan for if you’re thinking of doing the show next year:

Weather: I don’t know why I’m even bothering to write about Michigan weather at all, because we all know that the weather is unpredictable and the meteorologists are wrong most of the time. I always monitor my weather app pretty closely the week before a show, and the number of times the weather predictions changed in the days leading up to this show was infuriating. I should just learn to pray and let God worry about the rest.

The weather on Friday morning was spotty, so I wanted to get there right at 9 a.m. to set up the tent and get everything inside and zipped up before it started to rain. When we bring mostly furniture, like we did this year (we’re slowly moving away from bringing a bunch of little things with us), set up takes barely any time at all. Just throw everything in there because you’ll be rearranging it later anyway. My mom and I had enough time to set the tent up and unload the cars (plus I had enough time to go home and get another small load and still be back to the tent, unloaded, and in the car) before the rain started a little after 10 a.m. I told you it was close to my house.

It poured, but our tent kept everything dry and safe, and by the time the show opened at 4 p.m., the rain was done. Saturday was touch and go for awhile according to the weather peeps, but it stayed clear (if a bit windy) and cool, especially compared to last year.

Traffic: There were a lot of people on Friday night, but not a lot of shoppers. I get it–there’s a lot to do. I always think it’s hard to start a show at 4 p.m. on a weekday, since there are still people at work, or coming from work, or eating dinner. Traffic doesn’t really pick up on a day like that until about 6 p.m.

Saturday shows are usually busy in the morning and slow down later in the day. Because this one is open so long, it tends to be a little more spread out. Plus, the beer tent opened at 4 p.m., so that was a big draw.

Sales: The first goal is always to “make your booth”–to make back the money that you spent on your spot. At this show, it isn’t hard, though it took a couple hours longer than usual. We made it by the second sale on Friday, and sales were pretty steady from 6 p.m. to about 8 p.m., when activity started to drop off a bit.

Our average sale at this show was about $12, which is pretty slow for us (our typical average is about $25-$30). Because so many people live close by, we get a lot of folks that walked to the show, and they seemed to be on the hunt for smaller items that were easy to carry. A couple of people bought larger pieces and came back to pick them up later, but not as many as usual. The benefit for us really lies in the contacts that we make at this show and the follow-up orders we get (I’ll be picking up a custom order dresser and mirror next week from someone who saw our work at the show) rather than the actual sales the day of the show.

If you are planning on applying to Summerfest for 2018, that’s awesome! I’d love to see you there. It’s always great to meet and get to know new crafters and small business owners! Here are a few final things to know about this show if you are planning on trying Summerfest next year:

It’s a big show on a rather small scale:

Everything is crammed onto Main Street in a condensed space–at one end is the stage and food/ice cream tent, and at the other is the kid stuff (inflatables, face painting, balloon animals, etc.). The craft show is sandwiched in the middle, which forces traffic to move around it all day, which is good, but also means that on either end of the strip of tents, it’s pretty loud. Plan on getting there early to nab a spot near the middle.

Summerfest is organized a little differently than a lot of other shows:

To piggy-back off of that last thought, set-up is different in that there are no assigned spots. It’s first come, first served (no assigned numbers or spaces), and parking and maneuvering vehicles can be a little tight. That’s another reason I like to get in and out early so that I don’t waste time waiting for someone to move their car. Also, because the show hours are so long, electricity is provided for free, which means at some point, Parks and Rec will be in your tent to provide a work light that they attach to the top of the tent with zip ties along one of the supports.

The show is super dog friendly:

There’s a pet parade on Saturday morning, and people are allowed to have their dogs at the show all weekend (vendors included!). If you have a laid back dog, bring him or her! This year there was a great dog treat vendor, too, and there are bowls of water all over the place. I love dogs, so it’s super nice to go to a show that’s dog-friendly.

You’re provided with two vendor ID cards for the Den:

There’s usually someone in The Den monitoring who goes in and out since it’s not open to the public. You’ll get a pass at check-in; make sure that you always take it with you, just in case the person on duty doesn’t recognize you as a “staff member.” There’s a lot going on, and a lot of people in and out of there, so it just makes things a lot easier!

Honestly, if this show wasn’t so close to me, I don’t know if I’d do it, since my big pieces don’t really move well and there are a lot of things that distract people from the craft show part of the event. The hours are long and sometimes it’s really hot, and I don’t really meet a lot of what I’d designate as my ideal clients there (more on that in another post). However, since I’m building my email list right now and trying to get the word out to other vendors about this resource that I’m trying to build for my readers, it was still a really productive show for me, and we got some leads on a few custom orders for later in the summer. That’s another thing about doing shows–even if your sales are low, the cards you hand out and the emails you gather could lead to big jobs down the road, so even if you barely make your booth that particular weekend, you could still make a big profit from that show down the road a bit.

Stay tuned later this week for my review of the Shabby Sunday Vintage Market in Flint, MI. I’m excited to share that experience with you very soon!

Email metrodetroitmaker@gmail.com if you’d like to collaborate by sharing a post from a show you’ve done, or leave a comment below letting the readers know what your experience at Summerfest was like! As always, use the #metrodetroitmaker on Instagram to connect with our community and keep everyone updated on what you’re working on!

 

 

 

More About Me

 

If you made it past my About page, you might be part of the tribe. That’s exciting! Whether you stick around for a couple of posts or you’re in for the long haul, I’m so glad to be on this journey with you.

I want to dedicate my very first post to telling you a little bit more about my life right now, and a bit more about what I want to do with this blog and how I want to help you (whether that’s with painting furniture, figuring out life/motherhood together, or starting your own small business). I won’t claim to be an expert in any of these areas—far from it, really, but what I will claim to be is a friend, an encourager, and an honest sharer of my experience. Hopefully you are looking for the same thing I am: someone who is doing what you are doing; a community; a friend.

Life as a girl boss is exciting and I absolutely love what I do, but it’s also a little lonely. #metrodetroitmakers is my attempt to reach out into the void and pull other women into a place where they don’t feel like they have to figure it out all by themselves. There are so many things I would do over again if I could go back and start at the beginning, and I want to help as many women as I can avoid some of those pitfalls of starting out in a creative business.

So, without further ado, here’s a little more about my journey to this point:

I’ve been a creative entrepreneur for about four years. When I first started adulting for real, after I was done with grad school, I began working as an adjunct professor, which is fun and rewarding and infuriating and a million other things, but also doesn’t pay very well. So I did a lot of other jobs at the same time; I taught piano lessons, walked dogs, tutored, and started an Etsy shop. By far, my Etsy shop was the most fun, rewarding, and lucrative of these, so I slowly let go of the other things (while getting pregnant in the process and preparing to become a mama) and embraced a dual role as professor and creative entrepreneur.

I always told myself that I would work both jobs until one of them started going really well, and then I would narrow my focus again and let go of one of them. But that hasn’t happened. Both roles have developed in lovely and wonderful ways, but neither of them provides enough of a consistent challenge to where I’d be totally happy to let one of them go. On paper, my furniture and home décor business, Wild + Daisy Vintage Home, is a bit more profitable, but I love the relationships and community I have with my students at Rochester College. They truly are the best thing about my job there. If they weren’t, my choice would be a lot easier. Being an adjunct is a wonderful job in a lot of ways, but there is virtually no job security, there are strict limits right now on how many credit hours you can teach in a given year, and with all the grading, reading, lesson planning and adjusting, commuting back and forth at random times, and actual time in the classroom, you make less than the average burger flipper (at least, that’s the way I feel as an English professor—there are just so many papers!!).

The other thing that makes it difficult is that I’ve worked hard to be a college professor, and I really like that part of my identity. In my head, “college professor” sounds a lot better than “mompreneur” or “stay-at-home mom,” and it’s a little more concrete and easier to picture than “small business owner” or “creative entrepreneur.” There’s a legitimacy attached to the more professional part of my identity that my pride really wants to hold on to, even though I’m so happy and satisfied with the success I’ve have with my small business.

That’s where I’m at right now. I feel a little stuck. It’s a good stuck, but it’s still a little stuck.

Back to the past four years as a creative entrepreneur. I feel that I’ve learned a lot (which I want to share!), but also that I still have a lot to learn (and I want to go on that journey together). In many shops and booths that I stop in around metro Detroit and at craft shows and markets, the women who I find seem hesitant to share, as if they are hiding their successes (and failures), not sure if what they are doing can possibly be valuable to anyone but them. I think part of it is a carryover, too, of the old “trade secrets” mentality, like if you give away any of your tips or tricks, you give away your success.

That’s terrible!

I want to change that. I want this blog and my *future* store and myself and everything I do to be a HUGE encouragement that what creative entrepreneurs in metro Detroit are doing is valued and valuable and worth sharing! I want everyone to experience success (and be able to define what that looks like for you, because it IS different for everyone), and to feel comfortable and ready to share her successes, and what she’s learned from the experiments that didn’t work out so that we can encourage new creative entrepreneurs and learn from each other every day!

I want #metrodetroitmakers to be about women creatives in metro Detroit building community, sharing the journey, and helping each other so that everyone is more successful. I want to provide a resource for makers in metro Detroit to succeed at shows and markets, share their DIY projects, and build an encouraging and productive community. Ideally, I want to have a group of women around me at Starbucks every week talking and sharing and helping each other. I’m sitting here at a huge table writing this post and there are nine empty chairs around me. If even four of them were filled up with women who needed a group of people to share life and work with, I think this idea would be a success for me.

Here is what to expect from my posts if you’d like to stick around:

  1. Tips on specific shows in and around metro Detroit—reviews, if you will.
  2. DIY tutorials and ideas from my very own home.
  3. What I’m learning about how to implement new business strategies in my Etsy shop, show and market experiences, and social media.
  4. Guest posts from other awesome girl bosses about their business strategies/experiences at craft shows.
  5. My personal journey through career decisions and non-work life, and my attempts to figure out how it all works together.

If you’d like to join in the adventure, follow my blog to get email updates about new posts, craft show reviews, and DIY tips.

I’d love to see us start building community as soon as possible! As of right now (6:26 a.m. on 6/20/2017), there are eight posts on Instagram with the #metrodetroitmaker, and all of them are mine. Join the community by using this hashtag when you post your products, your journey, and your shows. Let’s support each other and share life together on social media, since we can’t always be together in real life!