Goal update!

Good morning!

I have to say that our whole “word of the year” (mortgage) thing is already way more effective than any resolution that I’ve ever made. I won’t say that it’s been smooth sailing during this first quarter of the year, but it has definitely helped us stay on track and say “no” to things that don’t move us towards our goals.

The biggest roadblock we hit was a medical thing that came up in February. Charlotte had had recurring ear infections since last December, and the pediatrician finally decided that it was time to send her to the ENT after they’d tried several rounds of antibiotics. Sadface. That lead to her having to get tubes put in her ears. Double sadface.

They did the surgery in early March and everything went great. We put our goal on hold and saved everything we could to try and avoid dipping into our emergency fund to cover our portion of the expenses. When I got the bill in the mail I was a little nervous to open it just in case we hadn’t saved enough, but we had saved almost exactly what we needed! We ended up having $100 left over to throw on the mortgage in April. I was so thankful that we were able to cash flow this “emergency” (which never felt like an emergency because we had a plan and we worked it) in one month, plus celebrate Charlotte’s birthday and prepare for Easter. It’s one of the most amazing feelings that we’ve ever had.

So here’s a recap of my first quarter goals, how they went, and how I’m moving forward into next quarter.

Goal #1: No spend January (I did this again in April–for the most part)

Recap of January:

I made it my goal not to shop for the business at all, and it yielded some decent returns.

You might remember my heart banners:

 

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These did pretty well at shows and in my shop. I kept on experimenting and looking forward, and created a bunny version for Easter that did even better. It is still selling for baby showers and nurseries! This was one of the things that I really wanted to come out of my no spend month–expanding my vision and therefore my product line.

Another side effect of not shopping in January was that I scoured the garage and the basement for vintage pieces that I had never cleaned, photographed, finished listing, etc., and actually sold a lot of pieces that I had previously been reluctant to list. This was super exciting as well–I have a tendency to buy something in the moment, decide it isn’t right for my shop, think about getting rid of it, and then ultimately hold onto it because I might “need it someday.” My no spend month helped me get over that a little bit.

For April:

I shopped a little bit, but mostly for new inventory. I found an amazing estate sale at the end of the month right in Rochester, and got some great pieces for my Etsy shop. My struggle last month was definitely the weather–by mid-April last year I had a huge pile of stuff going in the garage already for my late April shows, but no such luck this year. It was STILL snowing here in the middle of the month and I was stacking pieces all over the house in an attempt to still get work done and keep from freezing to death out in the garage.

I did get one or two warm days where I was able to get a new display piece finished using a bunch of stuff that I had laying around, so that was good.

Goal #2: Stock up my shop.

My goal was 200 listings by February 15–I didn’t actually keep track of when I met it, but I know it was later than that. The good news is that I’m there now, right?

I’m around 220 listings now and listing consistently really brought up my sales in March, which was officially my best month ever! I hit 900 sales and was able to save almost everything we needed for the tubes, which was super amazing.

For April:

Obviously my next goal is to make it to 300, but I don’t know if that will happen for this quarter. My more realistic goal is about 260, but we’ll see how it goes. I think one of the biggest things that has come out of my devotion to consistently posting new listings has been a big increase in sales.

The increase in activity in my shop has led to me making my biggest sales goal yet for my business in April (factoring in two shows, Facebook sales and Etsy sales), and the Richmond show put me beyond my target for the month, which was really exciting. The business part of things used to be really frustrating and time consuming for me because all I wanted to do was create things, but over the past few months I’ve actually begun to enjoy it a lot more, and I think it’s because I’m setting hard targets and then watching as I get really close or even beyond them each month.

Goal #3: Find new things to try.

I haven’t decided on the co-op yet. We tried a spring Junior League show at the Palazzo Grande in Shelby Township at the beginning of March, and it was really disappointing for a lot of reasons, none of which I want to get into right now. Maybe I’ll do a post on it if I can figure out whether it would be worth it or not.

It’s been awhile since I’ve listened to newer Goal Digger podcast episodes though I still refer back to a lot of her early ones. I’m still loving Allie Casazza’s “The Purpose Show“–there was an amazing episode about perfectionism a few weeks ago that I’ve already listened to about 3 times. I’ve also started listening to Christy Wright’s “Business Boutique” podcast, after attending a one-day event in Grand Rapids two weeks ago. I want to do a quick post about that as soon as I’m done digesting all the great information I got.

So far, my favorite books have been Fervent and Missional Motherhood…both focused, obviously, more on faith and family than on business, but it’s all connected, right?

I’ve still been getting most of my planning, writing, and Rochester College work done in the mornings or while Charlotte is at preschool, though I’ve been sprinkling in walks with my dog and a little bit of working out, too. Starting off my day with nothing but a cup of coffee hasn’t been super effective with helping me maintain energy throughout the day (go figure, right?) so adding some physical activity has been super helpful with that. Plus, I’m super unlikely to fit that in at the end of the day…


How are your 2018 goals going? I’d love to hear about them!

 

Announcing My 100 Day Project 2018

I know this is a pretty late announcement, but oh well.

In a nutshell, I’m starting #100daysofsendingcards, in which I make a card every day for 100 days and send them out to people I know. I’m not putting any other limits on it–just one handmade card every day for 100 days.

So you might get a handmade card from me at some point between April 3, 2018 and July 11th, 2018. Chances are that if I know your first and last name, address, and have ever talked to you in person, you will. I have 100 of these to do, after all.

I learned about this project for the first time last year, when I started listening to the Elise Gets Crafty podcast. I was reminded about it on Instagram a few weeks ago, and I’ve been thinking about whether I want to participate and what I would want to do.

Reading more about the challenge helped me. I especially liked the list of questions posed on The Great Discontent website.

1. What are you passionate about? Is there something you used to do that you gave up, something you’d like to explore, something that intrigues you?

The first part of that question is pretty overwhelming to me because I am passionate about a lot of things. It’s way too broad, and I get intimidated trying to narrow it down. But the second part of the question really got me going. There are a couple of things that I used to do all the time that I don’t do now and would love to start doing again.

I used to spend hours on my bed in my room drawing/painting and listening to music. That was me in high school and to some extent in college, though I was more into writing in college. I wanted to spend most of my alone time recharging in that way–I liked to be with my friends and out doing stuff, but when I was alone, I just wanted to be creative.

Another thing I really liked to do was send (and get) letters and notes in the mail. I wrote back and forth with several people when I was in middle and high school–my grandmother in Alpena, my friend Jessica, this young couple from my church that moved away, a friend that had to go to rehab, a soldier that I’d never met–I loved writing and connecting with people in that way, and I did it practically every day for a long time.

I didn’t always make my own cards–at that point in my life it felt childish, I think–I couldn’t get past the construction paper Mother’s Day cards that we used to make–but for my 100 day project I’m going to do it–make a card every day and then every week or so, mail out a pile of them to my friends and family.

2. Pick an object or objects. What do you already have in your possession that could be used to facilitate the project?

This question really spoke to me–I have so many markers, stickers, card stock pieces, actual blank cards, envelopes, rubber stamps and other odds and ends for paper crafting that it actually sometimes makes my head swim. I’m the person that complains about how much clutter there is in the house and then goes off to Hobby Lobby because they are getting rid of two aisles of paper crafting and are having a huge clearance sale.

I’m also always psyched to have a reason to use my Cricut, so there’s that, too. Plus, if I get tired of doing one card style, I can always switch over to watercolor, drawing, or lettering.

3. Consider your location. Will you be home, traveling, or a combination? Pick something that is feasible to complete.

This was a good one to consider, too, since we go up to Bellaire so often, especially in the summertime, when the bulk of this project will be taking place. I couldn’t pick a big project that would be hard to complete on the go–one of my first (insane) thoughts was to paint a piece of furniture every day for 100 days–glad I talked myself down from that nonsense.

I also backed off of the idea to create and send a card every day–I’ll be creating one card a day and then sending them off once a week or so. I think that will make it a little more manageable (though I’m back and forth to the post office several times a week for my Etsy shop, so it probably will be oftener than once a week anyway).

4. Choose your action. What’s your verb?

They give a whole list on the website, but as soon as I read the question I knew. Connect. I’m not going to claim that I’ll be creating 100 cards that are perfectly personalized to 100 people that I know for the express purpose of connecting myself to that person on a deeper level in which we’ve never been connected before.

What I will say is that I’ll try to create cards that will speak to people, on one level or another. I’ll try to use what I know about a person, or what I know is going on in their life, to inspire or encourage or comfort or cheer them. I’ll be praying over every card and every brush stroke, praying for these people as the cards go out each week. I’ll be working through my own moments of insincerity and discomfort and unwillingness.

I’m trying to think back to all those notes and letters I wrote in high school. It was probably a lot of just what was going on with me. I doubt it was anything substantive. Still, the people I was writing to were going through big things. Infertility, divorcing parents, active duty, separation from family and friends. There were smaller things, too–bad grades, acne, embarrassing things done in front of crushes. I don’t remember where my head was at when I was writing all those old letters, but I do remember one specific night when one of my friends was at a dance with the boy I had a crush on at the time.

I was in a funk, right? I just wanted to be sad and grumpy and eat pizza and go to bed, but I remember pulling myself out of it to write a note to my friend in rehab. I remember wanting to turn the night around, to put something into someone else rather than to continue to think about myself and my problems all night. That’s the moment that I want to distill and keep with me throughout this challenge.


There’s obviously the creative portion, too.

I don’t know exactly what I’m hoping to get out of this challenge. I know when I started thinking about this my first thought was “what am I going to do with 100 little projects after this is over?” I have pack rat tendencies, though I try to purge every few months or so. Usually that starts with big dreams of getting rid of everything that I haven’t used in the last five minutes, and ends with me taking two tiny boxes to the thrift store because I “might use that stuff someday.” I need Marie Kondo up in here stat.

So I’m happy to have come up with a project that I can immediately release into the world.

I’m also hoping to get past some creative blocks that I’ve been struggling with. I’ve always been great at reproducing ideas–drawings, Pinterest projects, paint techniques–and I’m getting really good at coming up with variations on ideas that I’ve seen. What I feel like I struggle with is originality. This paragraph could be an entire blog post, complete with example after example, so I’ll just leave it there. I’m excited to come up with some original designs.

I’ve always struggled with perfectionism, which is probably why I didn’t just jump at the thought of doing this and run off into the sunset immediately with it. “Done is better than perfect” just never really works for me. If I don’t think I can do something perfectly, chances are I won’t do it until I think I can. I’m trying to work on that. The first week of the challenge went ok. I’m trying not to plan too far ahead (factoring in birthdays that I know are coming up, holidays, milestones, etc.), although ideas just pop into my head all the time and I have to write them down or else they will keep me up all night. Am I doing this right? Oh yeah, perfectionism. Working on it.

Are you doing the challenge? Comment with your hashtag so I can follow you! And it isn’t too late to start–you can do it anytime!!

 

 

 

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.

vintage suitcase

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:

IMG_6217DIY boutique suitcase displaychalkboard sign

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.

DIY suitcase diaply

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?

shelf inside suitcase display

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

 

Four Tips for Selling Furniture At A Craft Show

Good morning friends! I’m super excited to start a new series of craft show tips and advice for the month of September! The Meet Your Maker series will be back later this fall, don’t you worry, but for now, I’m so excited to talk to you about some of my favorite insights into doing shows as a furniture vendor in the next few weeks. Over the course of the month, I want to talk about specific tips for selling furniture, how to deal when an event doesn’t go as planned, a little bit about booth design, and at the end of the month I’m going to go over this past year and talk about overall strategies for picking when and where to do a show. Thanks for joining me today as I share my top four tips for selling furniture at a craft show or vintage market!

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Selling furniture at a craft show presents some different challenges than selling smaller items or artwork, and I’ve learned some valuable tips over the past four years that I’m really excited to share with you today. I wish I’d thought of some of these when I first started, and I’m sure that you ladies have some tips to share with me that I haven’t thought of yet. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below—I’m sure there are furniture vendors out there who would love to hear from you!

Offer Delivery

I offer free, same-day local delivery whenever I can—customers often don’t expect to find large pieces at a traditional art/craft show, and they can be caught off guard without a vehicle large enough to transport their new piece. I always come prepared to offer delivery at the craft shows I do in the areas near where I live, where I know that finding the addresses won’t be an issue and won’t be far out of my way. Offering delivery also works better if you have a partner there at the show with you–often, my husband will come by during show hours and do the local deliveries for me before the show is over, so that I can come right home after. That doesn’t always work out, but I can always make the deliveries once the show is over, too.

Customers take advantage of this about half the time, and if I can offer a small bonus to help move the furniture out of the booth, I’ll do it every time. I’ll be moving it either way at the end of the day, and I’d rather move it to its new home than put it back in my garage.

Delivery orders often work out surprisingly well. This past year at Sterlingfest, I had two furniture customers who asked for delivery on Friday evening, and they ended up being in the same neighborhood, only one street over from each other.

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I come prepared with these furniture delivery slips (my custom order form is also there) so that I can have the customer fill out their information, any notes that they have as far as where to leave pieces in the event that they aren’t home, and the time of delivery. I punch a hole in the slip once it’s filled out, and tie it right to the piece I’m delivering so I don’t get the deliveries mixed up.

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I don’t do this as much at vintage markets—I think people come to those expecting that they might find larger pieces, and they seem to be more prepared. If I’m outside of a 15-20 mile radius of Rochester Hills, I’ll still offer delivery, but I start to charge for those, especially if I have to come back the next day with the piece.

I’ve actually come to really look forward to deliveries, especially during longer events—it’s a good time to decompress and relax after a long day of selling, and it’s really nice to get some time alone before going straight home. I usually crank up the tunes on my iPod and listen to all the music that I loved in high school. It reminds me of when I first started driving and all I wanted to do was just listen to one more song, just driving around town.

Be Prepared for Custom Orders

I bring custom order forms with me to every show as well, and I usually take deposits on a few custom orders per show. Mostly, it ends up being pieces that people have that they want to have redone. I used to have people fill out their information without a deposit, but I got a lot of information for people who weren’t really serious about it, and it ended up being a waste of time to try and get in touch with them just to find out that they had changed their mind.

It can be hard to do a quote on the spot for a piece you haven’t seen yet, but I try to give a range. I’m working on a cheat sheet now that gives a list of pieces and prices so that I can reference it quickly at a show if I need to, and so that customers can see a base price that’s going to be the same for everyone. For example, a tallboy dresser is going to start at around $125, but depending on color(s), actual size, number of drawers, and whether the customer needs pickup/delivery, it might fluctuate quite a bit from that initial quote.

It’s really helpful to have signage that tells your customers that you offer custom work (if that applies to your particular business). It’s one of the most common questions I get at a show, so if I can answer it with a simple sign (or two), I can move that conversation forward before it really even begins.

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Build an Email List

This is something that I never thought much about until I started listening to Jenna Kutcher’s Goal Digger podcast. I know, I talk about it a lot. It’s a gold mine of information, girls. Do yourself a favor and check out my favorite episodes, or just go listen to the whole thing. You will learn something. I promise.

It makes total sense to me now, and I don’t understand why I never did this before. I bring a sheet with me to every show, and when people tell me that they love my pieces, or that they’re buying a new home soon, or that they’re getting married next year, I point out my email list as a way of staying in touch to make sure that when they’re at the point when they need something, they still have a connection with me.

email list example

Business cards are important, but the number of times I’ve had someone contact me because they took my business card is practically zero, even though I’ll often write down the piece they were looking at, my personal phone number, or the question they had to remind them of why they picked up the card in the first place. I’ll admit, I usually throw business cards away myself—it’s just one more thing to clutter up my purse, right?

But if I can get people to sign up for my email list, I can get into their inbox every month and stay in front of them in a much more meaningful way. I use MailChimp to create a monthly newsletter that includes my upcoming shows, pieces that I’m currently working on, recent custom orders, and links to my social, email, and blog. It’s much easier to click a link and like my Facebook page than it is to take my business card, go to Facebook, look up the page, and then like it. Jenna talks about eliminating the steps that people have to take to find you—how better to do that than to send an email perfectly tailored to speak to those customers who loved your pieces enough to sign up for your email list?

Tell People About Your Pieces

I always ask people how they’re doing when they first stop at the booth, and sometimes that’s all I say. But if they stop long enough to touch or pick something up, I start talking about that piece. One of the things that caught people’s eye a lot at Sterlingfest this year was this little sewing chair:

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They’d look at it and even touch it or sit down to test it out (which I always encourage when people are seriously looking at my chairs or benches), but they’d rarely lift the seat to see the storage underneath. It’s important to me to let my customers know why my pieces are special, where they came from, their approximate age, and whether they were built from upcycled pieces (like my headboard benches). I like pieces that have a story behind them—it’s part of my brand, so it’s important for me to tell that story.

What’s important to you? Is it the paint that you use? The specific pieces that you create or curate? The memories attached to a certain style or technique? Something someone taught you? I don’t sell a ton of dishes in my Etsy shop—it’s basically limited to ironstone, which I love, and a specific set of Pyrex bowls—the primary colors one. Why? Because I have this memory of my grandma Charlotte teaching me to make chocolate chip cookies in that big yellow bowl. I can’t resist a set of reasonably prices primary color Pyrex at a garage or estate sale. And I like to tell people why.

Again, the longer someone stays in your booth, the more likely they are to buy something. It was the end of the night on Friday at Sterlingfest this year and I was about to start closing when a lady stopped and started talking to me about the kind of paint that I used. We talked about Annie Sloan for a bit, which thrift stores were our favorites, what kinds of pieces we loved to do, and how much furniture we had sitting around in our garages. She came into the booth because she loved a Chateau Gray piano bench that I had sitting outside, and by the end of the conversation, she purchased it. It doesn’t always happen that way, but if she had just admired it as she walked by, it might be sitting in my garage right now rather than in her house.


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And here is one of the pitfalls of selling furniture at a craft show–people sometimes assume that it’s cool to just hang out for a bit–with no intention of buying anything. You just have to laugh about it, right?!?

So those of my tips for selling furniture! Do you have anything to add? Have you tried these things with any success (or had anything backfire on you)? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you!

Talk soon,

Jessie

Vintage Market Review: Shed 5 Flea at Eastern Market

People have literally been telling me to do this show for years, and I honestly couldn’t tell you why I haven’t tried it before. My dental hygienist, of all people, was the person who finally put the flyer in my hands this past summer and somehow that translated to me finally signing up for the event. Life is funny.

Shed 5 Booth

I was a little nervous about having enough inventory ready for this show, since we’d gone on vacation for a whole week after Sterlingfest, where I’d basically sold out of all my furniture, and we had St. Augustine’s out in Richmond the day before. Luckily, I finished two of the bigger pieces that I’d bought up north, and another bed bench before Shed 5, and we only sold one big piece on Saturday, which meant that our booth was full for the event in Eastern Market. Unfortunately, we came home with nearly everything, though we did hand out quite a few business cards.

Shed 5

This show was organized by Mercantile Fairs, which hosts three “fleas” throughout the summer in Eastern Market. This was the last one for the year, and I had high hopes for it. Eastern Market is one of those unique places that you just don’t think about a lot unless you’re often in Detroit, and it’s still surprising to me that it’s both the largest open air market and the largest historic market district (the original sheds were built in the 1800’s!!) in the United States. The vibe as we were setting up was amazing, and I got really excited to shop, once we started selling a few things. I was disappointed overall, but not every show can be an amazing show.

Here’s the breakdown of how Shed 5 went for us:

Price: This show cost $150, which seemed perfectly reasonable when I signed up for it. Mercantile Fairs does a good bit of promotion around Detroit with flyers, posters, and online marketing, and the shows are well-staffed and well-organized. I hadn’t done a show with them since a downtown Northville market in fall 2014, but I knew that they did a decent job. For a one day event it’s still pretty high, and the thing that I’d forgotten about the show that I did in Northville was that they’d put me at the end of a side street rather than in the main part of the show, which they did again this time. But that’s more for the location part of the post.

Location: In theory, there almost couldn’t be a better location for this event. Like I said, there’s the history of Eastern Market that draws people there to hang out no matter what is going on; in addition, there was an antique car show, farmer’s market, food truck alley, and, of course, the Shed 5 flea. The sheds are enclosed, with bathrooms and large garage-type doors on either side that they open for air-flow. Between the sheds, open air pavilions stretch across the blocks, making a walkway for the crowds where the food trucks, smaller booths, and produce guys can just pull right up. The pavilion area in back of Shed 5 was where most of the furniture vendors were, and where I would have preferred to be—instead, the organizers put us up front on Russel Street, with the flea market section, and where it really didn’t seem like there was as much traffic.

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We were able to pull right up onto the sidewalk to unload—basically right up to the back of where our booth was, which is always really nice—the spots in the front and the back were both like this—for the booths on the inside of the shed, there was a little more walking/carrying involved in the set-up.

Traffic: Whenever I went into the shed during the busiest part of the day, it was packed. Like, wall to wall people. I made a mental note to come very early if I ever plan to shop—there were so many people that it was difficult to really concentrate on looking at the amazing wares available. In the back, where most of the furniture was, it was busy, but not quite as busy as the inside. But at the front, we never had the masses of people pressing by the booth the way they were inside. If I do this show again next summer, I’ll definitely request a spot that’s either inside or at the back, where the furniture and décor people were better represented–that was my top takeaway from this event.

*Side note: I was slightly justified in my rationalization that we were way out of the traffic pattern a few days later, when I was chatting with a friend who had gone to Eastern Market not knowing I would be there, and had totally missed our booth. When I told her where we’d been, she couldn’t even picture the front of the shed. The flow of traffic just really wasn’t moving people out that way (at least, not that day).

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It seemed like many people were shopping for small items and Christmas gifts, though I did see furniture being loaded out in front of our booth, and I know that at least one of the other vendors almost sold out of her big pieces, so it’s not that people weren’t shopping for larger items. I had two very big pieces (my buffet and the Graphite bed bench that I also had at St. Augustine), and I didn’t bring any of my smaller items. With our two sales, we didn’t even end up making our booth fee, which is always very discouraging, especially at a show that I just assumed would be a slam dunk for us. We had several people comment that the prices on our pieces were very reasonable, which is encouraging, especially after our experience with that in Richmond, but no one was in the market for a buffet, I guess.

You can see from the photos that we had a trash can in the middle of our booth—one of those ones that’s cemented to the sidewalk, so you can’t move it (they came by and said that they’d given us a bit more space to make up for it), and I’m glad that it wasn’t a super hot day because it would have been way stinkier. The worst part about it was that, for about two hours in the afternoon when the crowds had even started to die down inside the shed, no one came into our booth at all except to throw stuff away. It was rough.


I’ve been working on a post this month for a series that’s starting in September about how to deal when an event isn’t going the way you’d planned. Shed 5 really tested me—all I wanted to do was lock myself in one of the bathroom stalls (or in my van) and cry for awhile. It feels embarrassing to me when I go to a huge event and barely sell a thing—like I’m losing touch with what people are looking for, like no one will ever buy a piece from me again. At first, I put it all on myself, and then I try to explain it by analyzing external things (where they put us, how my prices line up with the rest of the show, the time of year). I saw a ton of my ideal customers at the show, but hardly any of them came into the booth—they were all inside the shed. Sometimes, there’s no good explanation–like I said earlier, not every day can be THE day.

I waited to cry until I was driving home. During the day, I tried to plan, to dream, to look towards the next event. None of that worked out too well, though I did come up with a few ideas for upcoming blog posts. It was really hard not to do the thing where I start thinking about how this kind of thing will never happen once I have my store. Like, there won’t ever be a month where I don’t make my rent. But that’s not reality. I know retail is hard. I know retail is dying (in a lot of ways), especially brick and mortar retail. How much harder will it be when there’s slow month where nothing is happening and I don’t sell enough to make my rent? It sounds like I was depressing myself even more with these kinds of thoughts, but I’m really just trying to keep things in perspective. Some months, and some events, for whatever reason, will legitimately stink. It’s fine. Well, it’s not fine, but I’ll get over it. On to the next challenge. But all of this is fodder for a different post.

Shed 5 was a great event, but just not for me (at least this one wasn’t). I wish I had gone just to shop—there were a ton of great vendors there and I didn’t really get to buy a few of the things I wanted to because I just didn’t make enough to do it. I did pick up these awesome metal 1950’s juice cans for my succulent centerpiece idea for the Bible Journaling event.

Succulents in Juice Cans

How did you do at the Shed 5 Flea this August? I know that there were a ton of people who had a killer show there, which is amazing! What shows are on the horizon for you? I’m super excited about the fall—it’s my favorite season and such a great time for doing shows, shopping for my Christmas list, and, of course, wearing sweaters!!

Talk soon,

Jessie

 

 

 

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