Meet Your Maker: An Interview with Emma Carley from By Emma, With Love

Good morning girl bosses! Today I’m so pleased to introduce you to Emma Carley, a fellow girl boss from the twin cities and a dear Instagram friend, in a post that is part Meet Your Maker and part craft show review, plus a lot of fun.

Since I’m on a quick break from craft shows for the next few weeks, I thought it would be fun to share Emma’s thoughts and advice with you today, since she just finished her very first in person event two weekends ago.

Emma runs her Etsy shop and website By Emma, With Love, and when she was prepping for her first show, I happened to see a post or two on Instagram about it. I wanted to reach out and share my blog with her in case, by some chance, there was anything that might be even remotely valuable to her, and she generously offered to do a quick interview about her very first event, which is super exciting to me for a couple of reasons.

First, it’s been so long since my first event that I have a hard time tapping into what it was like to make that leap, and I want to be able to serve girl bosses in the early stages of their business and craft show career, as well as those who have been doing this for a while.

The second reason that I’m excited to introduce you to Emma is that I’m seriously so impressed by the time and effort that she put into making her very first event so successful. Seriously, I don’t know how her booth looks this amazing, and I am so, so glad that I don’t have pictures from my first event, which was a hot mess, friends. After 50+ shows, I still haven’t got my set-up totally figured out, so the fact that this is her very first show and her booth looks this incredible blows me away.

*All photo credits to Emma Carley.

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Without further ado, Emma Carley from By Emma, With Love:

#mdm: How did you make the decision to do your very first show?

We live in a very small town, and our neighbor is on the city council and happened to be the organizer of the vendors for our local town festival. She knows about my blog and Etsy shop, so she approached me and asked if I’d be interested in having a booth. I hadn’t really thought about it before, since typically I only make a couple pieces at a time, and do mostly custom orders for people, but I was immediately intrigued!! I decided it would be a great opportunity to build up a product inventory, get my name out there and hopefully build my little business a bit!

#mdm: What specific things did you do to prepare? What ended up being the most important thing you did to prepare?

I realized that there were so many logistical things that needed to be done for a physical sale versus my online business. I had business cards made, got set up with a Square card reader, bought tags, bags, receipts, and all the other business-type things that I would need. It was actually a great motivator to put some time into the more tedious and less creative aspects of my business!

#mdm: How did you go about putting your booth together? Did you practice beforehand? Design specific elements for display? Did you booth end up how you envisioned it?

I definitely had a picture in my head of how I wanted my booth to look, but had to get a bit creative since I didn’t want to spend a whole lot of money on the display. I set it all up in my dining room the week leading up to the show, and took pictures of it, so that when it came time to set up at the show I was able to quickly put everything in the right place.

I’m especially proud of the display wall I made out of a few plywood panels and some extra paint I had lying around – we don’t have a pickup truck, just a small SUV, so I knew that I’d have to get a bit creative with my display. I was able to design two walls that easily fold down and fit in the back of my SUV, which worked perfectly! I also used fabric buntings that I had leftover from my wedding to beautify the wall and my whole booth a little bit, which ended up being perfect for my branding and display.

I found a $15 spool table at Goodwill, and an adorable vintage folding table on Craigslist that also fit nicely in my car and worked perfectly with the aesthetic of my booth. It all ended up coming together really well, and I’m super proud of my booth display!

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I’d say she deserves to be proud about this booth!! It’s fabulous!

#mdm: Tell us about the show!

The show was a bit of a hybrid for our town festival – it was outside right on the downtown strip, and was equal parts antique car show, food trucks, craft fair, and small shop displays. A lot of the other booths were very different from mine (think LulaRoe, Pampered Chef, essential oils, jewelry, etc.) which was nice since I wasn’t really competing with anyone selling similar items. I had a 10×10 space, so I invested in a 10×10 pop-up canopy, and was responsible for bringing everything for the display myself. The downtown spot I reserved was $40, which was super reasonable!

The hours of the sale were 8 a.m. – 4 p.m., but we definitely had a slow start to the day. It was actually pretty discouraging for awhile, since very few people even stopped by the booth, let alone bought anything. I didn’t have any real customers until about 11, but then it got very busy, very fast! Most of my sales happened between 11 and 2.

#mdm: What were you surprised by?

The amount I sold!! I didn’t have a huge inventory going in: I made around 30 signs, and also had 10 mugs, a couple decorative trays, and a bunch of keychains that I made as mostly just a bonus. I went in to the sale with a very realistic approach – our town demographic, especially for a car show, isn’t necessarily my demographic, so I really didn’t know how much interest I would get. I also haven’t sold at a show before, so I saw this opportunity as a chance for exposure and research more than anything, to see what people liked most and what I should make more of.

I was pleasantly surprised! I sold around half of my inventory, and also got a lot of interest for custom orders and even from a couple local shop owners who want to buy some of my products for their stores.

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#mdm: What was the most important thing that you learned from doing your first show?

You have to know your demographic! Since I haven’t done a show before, I made a little bit of everything: a lot of cute home type signs, a few coffee and wine-related signs (of course), and some local-focused signs (Minnesota and Wisconsin art, signs about river towns, etc.). Without a doubt, my location related products sold the best. I actually had two people buy signs that were unfinished that I brought to work on during the day, and finished them while the customers were shopping!

I also definitely learned the importance of authenticity. I know that when I’m at a show as a customer, nothing turns me away from a booth faster than an over-eager or “salesy” shop owner. Instead, I tried to have very authentic conversations with the customers, and I think that’s probably the reason for my success.

#mdm: How do you think in-person events will factor into your business plan in the future?

I was approached a couple weeks ago from an event organizer who asked me to sell at an event at an apple orchard at the end of September. Since I already have my display arranged, and I figured I’d have leftover inventory from this show, I said yes!

In general, though, I’m not sure how many shows I’ll do. I definitely loved getting the face-to-face contact with customers, and it was really fun to set up a display, but it was also a ton of work, and between school, my blog, my Etsy site and my weekend wedding job, it took over my life for a little bit. I’ll probably keep shows on the back burner for now, as a mostly summertime way to supplement my online business and get some exposure and feedback.

In general, though, I’m definitely open to and hoping for more selling experiences!

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#mdm: What else can you tell the readers about doing an event for the first time? Do you have any advice? Insight? Encouragement?

If you’re not sure if you’re quite ready, take the leap and try it out! It’s a great way to push yourself past your comfort zone a little bit, and gain business experience and make connections. I think my biggest insight was that you never know exactly what you’re going to get at your first event. Going in as prepared as possible and with an open mind will ensure that you have the best experience possible. Also, keeping realistic expectations helps keep you from being discouraged. I went into the show simply hoping to meet some local people, get exposure for my business, see what people liked and hopefully make a little bit of money, so the sales I made exceeded my expectations. Now I know a little better how to prepare for my next show, which is so valuable.

One of the things I did during the show that ended up being really successful was bringing a couple unfinished pieces to the show with me to work on during slow times. It was mostly just out of necessity, since I hadn’t had time to finish them all in time, but I actually ended up selling two pieces before they were finished because customers saw me working on them, and wanted the finished product! If it’s possible for your business, working on one of your pieces during the show is a way to show your customers the handmade nature of the product, and they can see how much time and effort you put into each and every piece. It was also a great conversation starter!

Another of my concerns going into the show was that no one would like my stuff – putting your own artwork that you’ve put so much of yourself into on display is nerve-wracking and a bit scary, and I was nervous that I’d get criticism or at least indifference. Luckily, the people who stopped my my booth were all incredibly kind and supportive, and it reminded me that we’re all our own worst critic! If you make a product that is high-quality, and you have authentic interactions with your customers, you’ll have a great experience and also hopefully make some money!

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Isn’t she the best? Girls, I think Emma’s advice is so valuable, and the amount of effort that she put into her booth display is still so impressive to me for a very first show! I was definitely not this aware of my brand/image when I started doing this!

I know we can all also relate to the fact that we have so many demands on our time, that doing these events takes over our lives for a bit! Between creating new inventory, stocking up on things like bags, tags, and display pieces, and planning how you’re going to get all that stuff to the actual event, who has time for real life, “real” jobs, and necessities like laundry and cooking dinner? I know I don’t. Planning ahead and getting the prep work done a little at a time is definitely essential.

Is there anyone else out there who recently did her very first event? How did it go? And for those of you who started a long time ago (like, before Pinterest was really a thing and there were basically no resources), how does your very first event compare with Emma’s? Are you ladies as blown away as I am?

A huge thank you and congrats to Emma for sharing this awesome experience with us! Here’s where you can connect with her online on her Instagram, blog, and Etsy shop, since we are a little bit far apart in real life.

Until next time friends!

Talk soon,

Jessie

Not 2 Shabby Red Barn Furniture Flipping Contest

Hello friends and happy Wednesday!

Today I’m sharing a really cool project that I finished earlier this month for a contest that Kelly held up at the Not 2 Shabby Red Barn in Flint. I wasn’t able to do the September Shabby Sunday show because I was in Richmond that whole weekend, so when I saw on Facebook last month that Kelly was having a $5 and $10 sale and running a furniture flipping contest in conjunction with the sale, I knew I had to do it. Not only would it be a fun project to share on the blog, but it would be an interesting challenge and a good way to stock up on some project pieces for the fall.

I promised myself that I wouldn’t buy anything that was too similar to something I’d done lately—no headboards, for example—but I also didn’t want to go for something that I really hated, like a country crafts piece that had heart cutouts all over it. I was hoping to get a few really good pieces that I could spend some time on in September and have ready for Hocus Pocus (which is now only two weekends away!!).

Since the sale started on a Thursday morning, Charlotte had to come along, and my mom was off, so we made (most) of a day of it. We got there pretty much right at 10, and there were already pieces that were in piles all over the porch—the photos online had been pretty interesting, and there were about 5 or 6 people there ahead of us. We’d passed several garage sales on the way there as well, so I wasn’t too disappointed that there were only two pieces left that I was really interested in:

I picked the chair because it was really solid and had arms, and I love doing side chairs with arms. The veneer on the back of the chair was a little warped (I forgot to take a photo before I peeled it all off), but other than that it was perfect. All it needed was a fresh coat of paint and to have the seat recovered in coordinating fabric:

gray accent chair with arms

That was too easy to be my piece for the flipping contest, though, so I also grabbed the bench. It was falling apart and missing the seat, but I knew that I could do something cool with it. My first thought was to spray paint it black and use it as a fall planter for some mums for the deck. Since it was missing a seat anyway, I thought why not leave it mostly as it is and make it an outdoor piece?

Then I started randomly browsing Pinterest, just in case my first inspiration could be topped somehow, and I started seeing all of these benches with fluffy faux fur over the top, and my mind grabbed onto that idea for a minute. It would be super simple to cut a piece of board, screw it into the top, cover that with a thick piece of foam, and bring the faux fur down over the edges of the unfinished top of the bench—plus, it was super chic, really different than anything I’ve done before, and something that would totally fit in Charlotte’s bedroom (or mine, for that matter).

Before I made any decisions, I had to address the fact that this bench was totally falling apart.

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I got out my wood glue and applied a little to all of the insides of the joints wherever it was coming apart, and the next day it was as good as new. Well, not really, but it wasn’t falling apart anymore. To make it even sturdier, and to make the bench part possible, I cut a piece of board and screwed it into the top of the bench. I guess that gives away the project I decided to go with, huh? SHHH!! I still want it to be (kind of) a surprise. Just don’t think about it.

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I didn’t worry about the screws in the top because this bench had enough room around the edge that I decided to just carry the faux fur around the sides and ends of the bench to make it extra cozy. But first, I had to paint the legs, which was a bit of a dilemma…I just couldn’t decide what color to use on the bottom. I knew I wanted white faux fur for the top, but then white legs seemed too bland. But gray or pink didn’t seem right, either, and I was afraid black would be too much of a stark difference against the white top, for some reason (I feel like, in reality, any of these options would have been fine, but I was genuinely paralyzed about this choice for a few days. Once again Jessie, this isn’t brain surgery. It’s just a paint color).

Naturally, I just avoided the problem for a while, and worked on other things. Here’s a whole chair I finished during this dilemma:

coco chair

I picked this one up for $5 and painted it in Annie Sloan’s Coco. The fabric is from a piece that I picked up at the Shed 5 show from 1011 Fabric’s booth—if you have time for a little road trip, you absolutely need to check out their store in Fenton—they carry so many amazing fabrics and antiques, and it’s super fun to shop around in there, even if you’re just looking for inspiration!

Ok, back to my flip piece. Seriously, it took me over a week to decide on a color. I pushed this bench around the garage while I worked on chairs, a custom sign for an Etsy customer, and prep for the Finder’s Keepers show.

Does this happen to anyone else? I have no idea why I got so hung up on this color issue. I finally decided on French Linen, because I was driving myself a little bit crazy. I started off by washing the legs, and that became a bigger process than I’d originally thought, too—there was so much gunk on the wood that I didn’t think I could ever get it fully clean.

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I ended up washing it twice and then spraying it with Shellac just to be safe. I didn’t want any dirt or old stain to come through the paint once it was done. I also didn’t wax it right away, just in case I have to go over any spots later.

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I did two coats of the French Linen as well—I really can’t explain the color decision other than it also happened to work out that I was painting this bookshelf at the same time and I was certain that I wanted that piece in French Linen, so the bench just followed suit.

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When does gray not look good with white? At this point in the process, it seemed like a no-brainer.

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I don’t know if I’ll keep this bench in my room or not. I have another little chair that I painted a few years ago, and it’s been working out fine. The bench looks nice here, but I use this sewing machine in the winter when I’m working on tea wallets and burp cloths, and sitting for long periods on a bench with no back wouldn’t really work out. I might move it over under the other window once it’s cool enough for Dan to put the air conditioner away.

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Did you participate in the furniture flip contest? How did your piece turn out? I had a great time with this little bench, despite the fact that I had the hardest time making a choice about the color. Head over to the Not 2 Shabby Red Barn’s Facebook page to check out the other flip projects and get some ideas of your own! Have a great week, everyone!

Talk soon,

Jessie

DIY Vintage Suitcase Craft Show Display Piece

Hey friends! I’ve had so much fun with this series, and I want to shift just a little today to talk about a recent display piece that I finished for my craft show booths, upcycled from a vintage suitcase. Still in the vein of craft show how-to’s, but a little more specific, I suppose. Booth design seems like it should be a huge thing for me, but I struggle with it, especially with all of my big pieces. I just want to paint furniture and throw it in the booth (and then carry it back out)–and I don’t always think carefully about my booth or table design. I’m always trying to get better, though, and designing small elements like this suitcase display is one of them.

I’ve talked a lot about how I hate having little pieces scattered all over my furniture, and this summer I’ve been trying hard to come up with unique ways to display my smaller items so that the furniture in my booth doesn’t have to serve as a prop for my other pieces.

I really like the way that this piece helped to showcase some of my smaller items, and I’ve been positioning it right at the back of my tent in an effort to draw customers into my booth and get a conversation going. People almost always ask about the journal covers once they’ve noticed them, and it’s fun to talk about how much I love books and creating art out of old, forgotten ones. It’s rare for me to pass up a bookshelf at an estate sale without at least looking it over, and I’m a huge sucker for antique books.

It’s been a while since I’ve created a piece specifically for display—in fact I want to say that the last one I designed was almost four years ago, when I first started doing shows. I didn’t build that one—my brother did—but it was a tall lattice frame that we used to hang wreaths and signs on. I can’t remember when we stopped using it, but it might be time to figure out how to get that piece back in the rotation. I’d love to be able to display my MI signs more effectively.

Anyway, on to the DIY vintage suitcase display:

 

I picked up this handmade wooden suitcase at a killer estate sale in my mom’s neighborhood earlier this summer, and I had it for sale at a couple of vintage markets before I decided that I was going to keep it and use it for something awesome. The display I created with it worked out really well at Sterlingfest, and I was super excited for how I’d be able to use it for the rest of the year’s events, as well.

There are several small items that I make using upcycled vintage books, and I’ve been wanting to showcase them somehow for a while now, so I went in that direction with this display piece. I wanted to try and get my keychains, necklaces, journal covers, and coasters all in one spot.

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This suitcase looked like it was made in shop class or something, by M. W. H. in 1977. I was going to paint the whole thing, but I didn’t really want to cover this up, because it feels kind of special to me, and no one is really going to see this side of the display anyway. So I left the outside as is. The inside still needed to be painted eventually—I wanted it to be bright and clean so that my items would really stand out against a neutral backdrop.

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The first thing I did was attach some hooks to the top of the skinny side and to the top of an old chalkboard sign I had left over from a baby shower I styled last year. I would have just painted a chalkboard section on the inside of the suitcase lid, but it wouldn’t have been smooth enough, because the top and bottom of the suitcase was made from an old piece of paneling or something, and it has these deep grooves in it:

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I almost rethought this project when I realized that my original vision for the chalkboard section wouldn’t work, but I actually really like the fact that the chalkboard sign is a separate thing. I think it adds a little more dimension to the piece, and it’s a lot easier to change the wording of the sign mid-show if I never need to if I can just unhook the sign and leave the rest of the display set up. If the chalkboard was painted on the back of the actual suitcase, it would be a lot more awkward to try and change it (with any kind of legible writing) without laying the whole thing down flat and totally disrupting the booth.

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I put another row of hooks in a line under the chalkboard sign for the key chains and necklaces. The paneling was pretty thin, so I just screwed them in by hand. The first few poked through the front of the suitcase, so I had to feel out how far to put them in without pushing through to the other side every time. I didn’t use a ruler or anything to make the line of hooks perfectly straight, which I probably should have done, but hey, nothing’s perfect, right?

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On the deeper side, I knew I wanted to do a shelf for some of the coasters at the top, and then leave the bottom for the journal covers. I didn’t buy anything special to make the shelf—I just used a scrap piece of molding that I had sitting around on my workbench. I put a couple of screws in from the sides for that, and then I was pretty much done with putting it together the way I wanted it.

The inside needed a few coats of Old White in order to be fully covered, so that took a couple of days to dry. My garage was so full of furniture ready for Sterlingfest that I couldn’t really work on big pieces anyway, so I had to spend my time getting little things ready. I was also working like crazy on my fairy wands, if you remember.

Here’s the photo of my completed and stocked DIY Vintage Suitcase Display:

upcycled suitcase boutique display

During shows, I also prop a second chalkboard under the key chains with the individual prices of these pieces, since I don’t usually bother to tag all of my smaller items, and I add two more hooks on either edge of the inside lid for the necklaces, since the chains for those are too long to hang on the same hooks as the key rings.

I love making the vintage dictionary coasters using the large engravings of insects, flowers, and plants, but I never sell as many of those as I do the Michigan map coasters—I don’t think I’ve ever done an event where I haven’t sold out of those. I’m always on the lookout for vintage and MI maps when I go to estate sales—just another one of my obsessions, I guess.

This piece is ideal for almost everything except the coasters–that top shelf is just too small to hold anything other than two sets, so I still end up having to pile the coasters around the bottom and to the side of the display, which is mostly fine. I’m almost to the bottom of my current box of tiles, so maybe once my current inventory runs out, I’ll take a break from making them for a while so that I can figure out a better display.

Thanks for reading, friends! Have a great weekend!

Talk soon,

Jessie

 

Vintage Market Review: MI Junkstock in Richmond, MI

Hello friends! I’m excited to share my experience out in Richmond this past weekend with everyone today—after this week, I’m taking a much needed break from doing shows (for three glorious weeks!!), so I am really looking forward to that, especially after a show where I was sick the whole weekend!

I am still a little burned out this morning—not to complain, but after a weekend-long show, fighting a cold (right now I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t have a sinus headache), Charlotte’s first gymnastics class (which I bought a leotard for about 10 hours before the class, which was absolutely not my plan!!) and her first day of preschool on Monday, excuse me while I sit back and enjoy an hour of just sipping coffee and doing….nothing (except editing and publishing this post, that is).

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MI Junkstock was put on by Kathy of MI Junktiques in Richmond—her store is full of great painted pieces, vintage finds, and salvage items that can be turned into amazing new pieces, so if you are into DIY and don’t mind a really pretty drive through the country, you should go check her out. I haven’t tried her line of paint yet, but I’ve heard great things from Danielle of Tillie Jean Market, and I’m excited to try it the next time I’m out that way. You know me–I love, love, love Annie Sloan, but I am also a big fan of trying new paint.

We did a show with Kathy in the spring (Junk in the Trunk), and it was probably the best one-day event we’ve ever done. I honestly can’t think of a show where we sold more—it was just wall to wall people all day, and they all seemed to be looking for exactly what we had. We even had to have my dad and Dan bring out additional pieces, and sold almost everything that they brought us during the second half of the day, too. It was basically everything that you dream of for a craft show.

I signed up for Junkstock back in July during the same frenzy that led me to sign up for about six shows at once (at least one a weekend all through August), encouraged by the fact that it was being held during Richmond’s Good Old Days Festival, which was similar to Sterlingfest, minus the art show part of it and plus a couple of parades. Here’s the breakdown of how the weekend went for us:

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Price: This show was $100 for three days (I don’t know why this sign said only Friday and Saturday, because the market was open Sunday, too), which is a reasonable price for the amount of time we spent there and the placement in the show. In the vintage market section, there were about 7-8 tents selling furniture, vintage clothes/jewelry, and antiques, and then on the side street there were some direct sales vendors, crafty items, and information tents.

The hours on Friday were 1 p.m.-6 p.m., and on Saturday and Sunday were 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. I think we probably could have done without the Friday hours (though it rained most of the time, which probably cut down on traffic quite a bit–if it had been nice, the Friday hours probably would have been a lot better).

I was probably the sickest I’d been during my cold–my nose was already running and my aforementioned sinus headache was at it’s absolute worst–of course, right? My mom had to work that day, so I was there by myself, and I couldn’t even make it the whole time. I had to close up the tent at 4 because I was getting soaked and I wanted to try and avoid getting any sicker.

Saturday and Sunday were both beautiful, though we probably could have opened a bit later, since the crowds from the parade didn’t start filtering back towards the market area until after noon on both days.

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Location: Richmond is a little under an hour drive from my house, but unlike the downriver shows we did in August, it’s north of us, which makes the drive automatically better, in my opinion. I’d much rather drive through the countryside than spend an hour on I-75, so I had a lot more fun doing this one. Of course, unlike all of those shows, this one was three days long, so there was a lot more driving time with this one than with the others.

MI Junktiques is in the north part of the downtown area, and the show was held in the park just east of there. We had a nice spot on the grass by the tennis courts. Like I said before, this show resembled Sterlingfest in quite a few ways—carnival food, a midway, craft/vintage show—with the added attraction of a parade and some historical buildings and demonstrations (hence “Good Old Days”). Dan and I took Charlotte out there on Saturday and she had an amazing time. The wristbands were only $20—a little cheaper than Sterlingfest—and the rides that she couldn’t do alone let one of us ride for free, instead of making us buy tickets just to go through and make sure she didn’t get stuck/injured, so that was the real money saver.

I brought the EZ-UP on Saturday and Sunday, too, so we had a similar set-up with a relaxing second tent where one of us could chill while the other one talked to customers. My mom took Charlotte on a bunch of rides at one point and Dan legit fell asleep on the blanket for a good 45 minutes. That’s how nice it was.

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Traffic: There were a ton of people at the festival—I think estimates were around 10,000, but, again, like with a lot of these shows, a good chunk of the traffic were people there to watch the parade or do the rides with their kids. Crowds were slow in the mornings and didn’t really pick up until it was almost time to close—my mom ended up staying open until 7 p.m. on Saturday night because the crowds were just starting to pick up at that time and the other vendors were hanging out, too.


Overall, this was a decent show. We made our booth partway through Saturday, but about broke even when you add up food, travel, and time. The best part of the show was how relaxed the vibe was, and how nice the weather turned out to be on Saturday and Sunday.

My biggest pet peeve was definitely about parking for the show—vendors weren’t given any kind of identification or any special place to park, and the show was so crazy that people were walking for blocks and blocks to get there. When we got there on Saturday, I ended up just blowing off the barricades and driving through a blocked off part to go and park across from the historical buildings, which was the closest I could get to our tent. It was a good thing that no one stopped me—without any kind of identification, I was afraid that we were going to get kicked right out of there. But again, it was pretty chill, so no one seemed to care.

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We were able to set up on Thursday night–I love anytime we can set up the night before– and break down pretty smoothly right after the show ended on Sunday. With such a small number of vintage market vendors, there wasn’t a big hold up getting vehicles in and out.

I should mention that the Good Old Days staff was really on top of their game, too. There was a lot of effort put into making sure that the festival goers had a good experience—there were programs detailing all of the events and times for the weekend, a special barn where the volunteers hung out and where you could get emergency services right away if you needed them, and a huge signpost that listed everything that was going on.

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As far as festivals go, especially if you’re looking for a super fun day as a family, this one would be at the top of my list–it’s late enough in the year that you don’t have to worry about the weather being super hot, there’s plenty of kid food available, the rides are reasonably priced, and there’s a ton to do.

From a vendor perspective, I’m not sure that we’ll do this one again–if I were going to choose between doing the Peachfest in Romeo and doing this show again next year, I’d probably pick the Peachfest (even though it always falls on the weekend of my wedding anniversary). For the Romeo show, people come expecting to shop, whereas at the Junkstock show, it really seemed like the bigger draw was the rides and food.

What did you think of Good Old Days? And what are your favorite September shows to do? I’m very intrigued by the DIY Street Fair in Ferndale coming up the 22-24, and I’ll be sure to share my thoughts on being there as a shopper (I’m really looking forward to picking up a few things for my October favorites post as well). There’s also a show at the Canturbury Village next weekend that I’m hoping to go check out. Danielle will be there with Tillie Jean Market in case you’re interested in shopping for some amazing furniture and decor pieces!

Have a great week everyone!

Talk soon,

Jessie

How to Deal When an Event Isn’t Going Well

Hey friends! Today I’m sharing a not so fun post in my craft show tips series, about how to deal when an event doesn’t go so well. These are always hard to go through, and maybe even harder to talk about, but hopefully we can all work through those hard events together and learn a little something from each other about how to deal.

I won’t propose to be an expert about how to deal when events don’t go as well as I’d hoped. I’ve have my fair share of days when the morning goes really slow and I just sit down in my chair, open a book, and call it a day at 11:45 a.m., when there are still three or four hours left in the event. My most vivid memory of that happening is at a Chippewa Valley spring fundraiser a few years ago—it was the first nice day of the summer, and no one in Michigan wanted to be doing anything inside that day (including me, actually).

But even though I’m not an expert, I will share the things that I try to do and keep in perspective when I’m at a slow show. It can be really frustrating to go into an event with really high hopes, just to discover that nothing is going to happen that day, or that weekend, or at least not happen the way that you hoped. I’m not going to pretend that doing any of these things will take that frustration away, because they won’t, but I at least try to practice these things and bring something positive out of what would otherwise be a “wasted” show.

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Plan and Reflect

Writing for this blog has helped me a lot, even over the past few months, with reflecting on how events went and how my expectations might have been out of line with reality. I’ve gotten into the habit of bringing a notebook with me and making little observations about shows throughout the day so that I don’t forget the little details of the show (again, mostly for the benefit of this blog), and I wish I’d been keeping that kind of a journal for longer.

Even though I’ve been experimenting a lot this year with different shows and branching out into doing events with new promoters, I have been trying to do a bit more research into the events that I’m signing up for, which is a lot different than how I used to do things. When I first started out, I was very susceptible to promoters who would walk into our booth at a show and say things like “I’m doing an event next month and I love your booth. You’d be a perfect fit! Do you want to join us?” It’s always nice to be wanted, and I did a lot of shows back then that were terrible, because I just went with that feeling and signed up basically on the spot.

Things are a lot different now than they even were four years ago, too—Facebook is a huge way that I do research for my shows, and the event page for a show is usually a pretty reliable way to gauge the projected traffic and figure out if an event is worth doing or not (of course, it’s not an exact science).

When I’m at a show, and it’s slow, I tend to have a lot of time to reflect, because I really resist pulling out my phone when I’m in the booth, other than to check the weather or make a quick Instagram post about the event. I like to disconnect for that time and just be alone with my thoughts, which can be hard, especially if I’m super frustrated. On the other hand, that “quiet” time has also been the source of some good ideas for the blog and for new projects that I want to start.

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Set Goals

I did this at the Saline show first thing. Communication had been rough, the show was misrepresented, and I was feeling like not much was going to happen for me that day, especially after I sold my first piece (the only chalk painted piece I had and the one that fit in best for that particular show).

So I set myself a goal—I wanted to make 10 sales that day. That might seem like a lot, but I was expecting to do even better than that when I first signed up for the show, so I was really lowering my expectations. Now, I think I know what you’re thinking—what good is setting a goal when traffic is slow and you have a bleak outlook about what you’re going to do that day?

If I hadn’t set that goal, I might have just sat down in my chair to stew and read and mentally check out of the whole deal. But having that goal forced me to stand in the middle of my booth, to greet the people that walked by, to talk to those who came in even more (I always ask if they are looking for anything in particular and if I can answer any questions), and to offer prices on things that people were eyeing or picking up so that they didn’t have to look at the tags.

The longer someone stays in your booth and the more you talk to them, the more likely they are to buy something. And if I was sitting down in my chair not greeting people or talking to them or drawing them into the booth, I wouldn’t have made half the sales I did. Having the goal of 10 sales really helped me to stay positive and keep my head in the game. And guess what? It worked. I actually exceeded my goal and made 11 sales (I might have beat it by even more if it hadn’t started raining at 2:30). Again, I don’t always make my goal (see the Shed 5 post), but it really helps me to stay motivated, positive, and on task during the event if I have a clear vision laid out for what I want to accomplish that day.

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Dream

I have to be really careful with this one because dreams often turn into thoughts like “when I have my store I won’t have to worry about [insert show-related concern—like rain, for example—here]…” It’s easy to think about what I won’t have to worry about and see that “obviously” things will be much easier *when* I have my store, but in that moment I’m not thinking about how difficult it will be to deal with increased overhead, employees, the stress of running a retail store, etc. etc.

But if I can avoid getting entrenched in that line of thought, dreaming about the future is probably my best defense against a slow show. I’m doing these events for multiple purposes, after all, and everything I’m doing, even at a slow show, is moving me towards that goal. Making money only seems like the most important part, but other really valuable things are happening, too—I’m expanding my client base, getting exposure, building my email list, and meeting new artists. All of these things fit into my dream in some way, shape, or form, and keeping that in perspective and being positive about the future really helps when things aren’t as positive as they could be in the present.

Talk to Customers

I mentioned this already in the setting goals paragraph, but it’s so important that I’ll mention it again. People will stay in your booth longer if you actually talk to them, and the longer they stay in your booth, the more likely they are to buy something from you.

It’s hard for me to always remember my prices for everything from show to show, so as I’m setting up, I try to look over the tags so that I can just offer prices as people are shopping. Sometimes tags get lost or ripped anyway, so it’s always good to offer so that the customers aren’t searching around looking for the tags on everything.

If they seem interested or comment about how they love the style of the pieces, I tell them about the paint I use and how much I love it. If it’s a newer piece, I tell them that it might feel a little tacky (especially if it’s a hot day) because the wax hasn’t cured yet, and I let them know that it will just take a little time for that particular texture to go away.

Sometimes they will tell me that they’ve tried a certain paint or technique, and I’ll ask them more about that—I’m always interested in learning more about other paints and products anyway, and I almost always ask them where their favorite place to bargain shop is—I’ve found several great new sources for furniture that way, which is always fun.

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Work on Your Email List

I put my email list front and center in my booth, and if someone comes into the booth and has a positive reaction to my pieces, I always direct them to sign up. I send a newsletter once a month, so they don’t get totally spammed with useless emails, and I let them know where I’ll be in the coming weeks, what I’m working on, how to contact me, and any other news that I have.

I’ve talked about how important my email list is in a previous post, and I love Jenna Kutcher’s podcast episode on why this is such an important aspect of small business ownership—if you want a refresher on why email lists are so awesome, check out those two places for more info.


How do you deal when an event doesn’t go as planned? Like I said, I am nowhere near the point where I am able to keep it all in perspective, and I have those moments of utter fear and despair that I will ever have a good event again at times, but I’m always trying and learning and figuring it out fresh. Leave a note in the comments about how you deal with slow shows to let me know your tips and tricks!

Talk soon,

Jessie

Christina’s Rustic Summer Bridal Shower

Hey everyone! Today I’m sharing a bridal shower that I styled last month for Dan’s cousin Christina, who is getting married in October (be sure to stay tuned for the post on her wedding preparations—it’s going to be a beautiful event!).

Dan’s mother and step-father have a lovely vacation home in Bellaire, MI, and we have at least two big family gatherings there every year, one in August and one over the break between Christmas and New Year’s. Dan has a huge family, and there is almost always a new baby or a new wedding every year—when we are all together, we try to have showers and celebrations for these events as much as we can, so we planned Christina’s shower for the first Saturday in August, at the end of our first big family trip of the year.

One of the things that I love about Dan’s family is that, as big as they are, they make a huge priority out of getting together for these types of events as much as possible. We’ve never had an event like this with less than twenty family members, and this summer we had close to thirty here. Even some of our extended family made the trip.

I had just finished doing Sterlingfest the day before we left Rochester to come to Bellaire, and I didn’t think to bring any of my décor pieces with me for the shower decorations. I had to come up with a good plan kind of on the fly, which was actually really fun. I love visiting the thrift stores all around northwest Michigan, and I found some awesome treasures and one great new store (more on that later) as I was hunting for things for the shower.

Because it was late summer and Christina is having a rustic barn wedding anyway, I pretty much immediately decided to use wildflowers for the centerpieces. This meant I needed little vessels for the centerpieces instead of big vases. I started my hunt close to home, at the Nifty Thrifty in Bellaire. I found a small white creamer and a few medicine bottles, and that became my inspiration for the centerpieces.

Dan and I drove over to Gaylord the next day for a little lunch date and some more hunting, and we found several more medicine bottles in the half off tent outside The Resale Store, and then a few more tiny white creamers inside. I also bought a nice chair there for only $2:

The Gaylord Salvation Army was a bust that day, but I love the Habitat for Humanity ReStore there, and even though I didn’t count on finding anything for the shower, I scored this amazing headboard and footboard there for my newfound bed bench obsession:

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Hobby Lobby supplied tiny bags and Thank You tags for the luxury soap favors that I found at Mrs. B’s, as well as a little chalkboard sign for the favor table and some burlap for runners. I splurged and bought some pre-cut linen hearts as well, to sprinkle over the runners.

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The next morning I drove over to Mancelona to check two thrift stores there. The first was the Mancelona Food Pantry and Resale, where I found a couple of bottles, some small milk glass vases, and a vintage gossip bench, which was my first of the summer and something that I’ve been dying to find this year.

I love this particular shop because their prices are amazing. I spent $0.40 on a set of eight glass tea light holders for the table, so, basically nothing. The gossip bench was only $15.00, which was also a great deal. The only other time I’ve found one that inexpensive was at a random garage sale in Armada on the way to my brother’s wedding rehearsal five years ago. It was pretty special. I may have done a happy dance.

The second store was on my way back to Bellaire, the Community Lighthouse. This one is hit or miss for me, but I did find a few more bottles and a small white bud vase (that was later broken by a stray soccer ball before I got to use it–these things happen in a house full of happy cousins), so this time was a success.

Here’s my array of tiny glassware for wildflower centerpieces.

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I wasn’t completely happy with the burlap runner idea because I felt like it was too predictable, but with limited options for creating something awesome (I had no access to a sewing machine or hot glue gun), I broke down and bought a little roll of it. What I was really hoping to find was some chippy painted barn wood or rustic wood slices.

Enter Deer Creek Junk, my new junk store find of the year.

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It was one of the best salvage stores I’ve ever been to, and there were so many cool pieces and different ideas and inspiration I got from walking around. I’ll definitely head back there before long. I had to limit myself to what I would buy for the shower, and I ended up just grabbing some wood slices and three letterpress Q’s, since Christina’s new last name will be “Quick.” I wasn’t sure exactly what I would do with them, but I thought they would be cool.

I still feel like the wood slices were a bit predictable, but at least they aren’t as ubiquitous as the burlap.

Every time I felt like I was done shopping for the shower, I managed to find one more cool piece that I couldn’t resist buying. I justified the wood slices by telling myself that I’d also use them at church for the tables at the Bible Journaling event I was in charge of last month (which I ended up using something else for–ha!), so I wasn’t buying them for just one purpose.

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A few days before the shower I soaked all the bottles in warm, soapy water to get the stickers off and get them nice and clean. I played around with the design until I figured out something I liked—of course I had overbought for the centerpieces, but I used the rest of the pieces for other areas. Some of them ended up going up on the mantel—we piled the gifts all around the hearth as people arrived.

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The biggest bottles I planned on using for the favor table, along with the letterpress Q’s. The last thing that I really needed was something to prop up the bottles and letters so that they could be easily seen. I was thinking a small wooden crate or a stack of books with the covers ripped off, which would be simple to find if I just went back to the Nifty Thrifty on Friday if I couldn’t find anything better.

Fortunately, on the way out to Friske’s Farm for a day with the cousins, we found one last garage sale that we didn’t even know we needed, and that supplied the final element for the favor table–a cherry lug (that’s the wood box in the photo). In addition, I picked up a few more medicine bottles, including some really tiny ones that ended up being absolutely perfect and a few vintage hankies for my Etsy shop.

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The last thing I was in charge of was the cake, which I ordered from a bakery in Central Lake, A Touch of Class. I told Tracy about the theme of the shower and that we were doing rustic favors and decorations, and she came up with the idea for a naked cake with flowers from the Bellaire Farmer’s Market. Everyone absolutely loved the cake–even Christina, who is not much of a cake person. I must have been subconsciously remembering her wedding board on Pinterest–she’d pinned a naked cake there before she ultimately decided to go with cupcakes.

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It fit in so perfectly with the theme that I decided to use it as the centerpiece for the biggest table, with two of the smaller set-ups on either side, and it looked really beautiful. I loved being able to use items that I gathered from around the Bellaire area, and I’m actually glad that I didn’t plan out a bunch of pieces ahead of time, because it gave me an excuse to drive around and do a little junk shopping, which is one of my favorite things ever.

The wildflowers mostly came from the side of the road right in front of the house–there’s a hill there that slopes down from the golf course, and only the edge of that gets mowed, so there were plenty to choose from. Charlotte helped me pick the flowers and fill the little bottles with water–she loves anything that has to do with water or the sink–even doing dishes!! We also used some of the hydrangeas that grow like crazy in the front and on the side of the house–no one really sees the ones on the side anyway, so I grabbed them from those bushes–they get so heavy with blooms in July and August that a lot of them droop over onto the ground!

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We had great weather, played some fun games, and had a really good time together celebrating Christina’s upcoming wedding.

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Thanks for reading everyone!

Talk soon,

Jessie

Vintage Market Review: Finder’s Keeper’s in Belleville, MI

Good morning ladies! Today I’m reviewing our last official summer show, the Finder’s Keeper’s Vintage Market in Belleville, MI. This show was held at the Wayne County Fairgrounds, which was a great venue for this type of event, and we had a pretty nice day weather-wise as well—it’s been cool here for a Michigan August (about which you will hear no complaints from me!!), and the shows have been nice and mild this month.

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This show was a great mix of DIY, antique and redone pieces (in the furniture category anyway), and I brought a mix for my booth as well. My expectations were about what they were for the Shed 5 show—I had some pretty high hopes, and while we did better at Finder’s Keeper’s than we did in Eastern Market, our booth wasn’t nearly as busy as I’d hoped it would be, though the traffic overall was great in the morning.

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Price: The normal price for this show would have been $125, but I went through a frenzy of signing up for August shows in mid-July, and I was too late to get in at that price and had to pay an extra $25. Definitely on the high end for a one-day vintage market, and on top of that, they charge customers $5/head at the gates, which seems like a lot to me.

From a customer’s point of view, I’m not sure it’s worth that much—the variety of the booths and food trucks is pretty much the same as it was two weekends ago in Brownstown (there were a lot of repeat vendors from that show, actually), and Brownstown was free. I’m guessing that Finder’s Keepers had to charge admission to help pay for the venue and staff (which there were a lot of, I’ll admit), but again, it didn’t seem worth it.

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From a vendor’s perspective, I’m always uncertain of the effect that an admission fee has on sales. On the one hand, I would expect that if you’re going to pay just to get into the show, you’re going to be serious about shopping, but on the other hand, it’s also pretty cheap for an hour or so just to walk around and get inspiration. Plus, since you’ve already spent money to get in, you might be more careful about what you’re going to spend on purchases…again, I have no idea how that all actually works, but that admission fee has got to have an effect somehow or another, right?

There wasn’t a ton of advertising as far as signs along the route towards the show, and I don’t know how much was done outside of social media for this one. The market seems to have a large following, so I didn’t worry about it too much, but again, for such a high fee, it seems like there should be some extra promotion going on.

Side note: another slightly annoying thing was that they held my check for weeks before cashing it, which I don’t understand and is always a little irritating. I mailed the check the first week of August, and they didn’t cash it until after the show. I don’t know if that’s a normal policy, but if it is, it’s really inconvenient.

Location: The fairgrounds were easy to get to—pretty much right off of I-94, and they had the market set up with a petting zoo and pony rides on one side, and a food court, stage, and food truck fleet on the other. There were three rows of tents packed pretty tightly into the main space, however, and with all the room at the fairgrounds, it really seemed like they could have spread the show out a bit more to make loading and unloading much less stressful and congested. Getting out wasn’t a huge problem for us, since we got in right away, but we had to wait for a bit when we got there in the morning, even given the fact that at least half of the tents were already set up, and appeared as if they’d been so since the night before. There were a lot of campers set up on the other side of the barns where the food court was, and it seemed like the market had allowed quite a few people to come and set up the night before. This option wasn’t made clear on the contract, which stated that set-up wouldn’t begin until 7 a.m. the day of the event.

Overall communication wasn’t that great. I filled out a preliminary application on their website, after which they sent me an email with the contract attached. That was pretty much it. They did not email me to confirm acceptance or that they had received my check, and since they didn’t even cash it until after the show, I couldn’t tell whether I was accepted or not that way, either. I also never got any reminders or information the week of the show, which I would assume would be standard for an event this big. The only thing they did was post a map of the show on the Facebook event—I found my name and booth number on that map three or four days before the event. I know what you’re thinking: “if you were that stressed out about it, why not email them?” I probably should have. Next time.

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Traffic: The morning traffic was a little lighter than I’d expected, but busy enough. We made a few sales right away, but then it dropped off considerably and never really recovered. Again, I’d brought mostly big pieces, and we didn’t sell a single thing that was priced higher than $50. People were negotiating, too, and asking for steep discounts (one customer offered $10 on a window that I had priced at $25!). This, of course, makes me think that my prices were too high, and they might have been for that market. There were quite a few booths that were almost giving things away—the same furniture vendor from Saline was there with her insane prices (once again, I was tempted to buy several of her pieces)!!

After 1 p.m., traffic was barely a trickle, and my mom and I took turns walking around and shopping. It’s my birthday week, and I’m already thinking ahead to future Friday favorites posts and to Christmas and some birthdays of friends that I have coming up, so I was in the mood to shop a little.


There were indoor restrooms here, and plenty of volunteers to help us unload. They came around to all the vendors with big pieces and let us know that there was a cart available for customers to move large pieces from the show area to the parking lot, and one lady who bought a coffee table from us took advantage of that, which was a nice bonus for us and for the customer.

There was live music as well, and it was nice because the band was inside one of the barns, and even if you were close to where the stage was, it wasn’t so loud outside that you couldn’t hear your customers, because the barn contained the sound pretty well.

I don’t know how many more of these downriver shows that we will do—I would like to try the Plymouth show in the spring, and possibly go back to Brownstown, but this particular market didn’t really do it for me. Doing a show for the first time is always hard—we almost always do better the second time around than we do the first, with just a couple of exceptions. It’s always a learning curve in a new area, and it’s hard to know what kinds of things will do really well and what things will flop.

With the exception of Shed 5, I think the reason these August shows were so slow is partly due to the fact that it is August and partly because I just didn’t have the right mix of pieces. June, July, and August are always pretty slow months in my experience, but I know the right shows for those months are out there. We’ve found one good one in July–we’ve never had a bad year at Sterlingfest–and I’m looking forward to finding a few more shows this fall that will stay on our calendar for good.

Here are some shows I’m looking forward to attending or applying to this fall/winter:

Junkstock, Richmond, September 8-10

Michigan Antique Festival, Midland, MI, September 23-24

Hocus Pocus, Monroe, October 7-8

Detroit Urban Craft Fair, Detroit, Dec 1-3

Faith Christmas Gala, Shelby Township, December 5

My schedule is a little light right now, but I’m looking for a few more quick shows to add in there–I’d like to do at least two in November. There’s a small show in Auburn Hills that I’m considering, and a few more that are rattling around in my brain that I can’t think of right now. Fall is my favorite favorite season, so I love to be out and about during it!

What shows are you doing this fall? Have you done a Finder’s Keeper’s market? How did it go? Leave your questions and comments below, and have a great week!

Talk soon,

Jessie