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!

 

#metrodetroitmaker Goals for 2018

Good morning girl bosses!

I love this time of year! My slow time of the year corresponds with the New Year, which makes it the perfect time for setting goals, building up inventory, and plotting out how I want the year to go (which also means planning the shows I want to do).

Yes, I said, “setting goals” not “making resolutions.” The thing I don’t like about resolutions is that they often become more like wishes rather than achievable goals. I have no idea what my New Year’s resolution was last year. I probably didn’t make one. But I also didn’t have a focus for the year like I have for this year. Wanna hear what it is?

Mortgage.

Let me back up a little. This post will eventually get around to my business goals for the year, but first I want to give you a little background on what’s going on with us and our personal goals for our lives (it’ll all make sense eventually).

When I started this business, it was to help with our debt snowball. For more on that, hop on over to Dave Ramsey’s website. His stuff is gold if you’re really ready to buckle down and tackle your finances like an adult. If you’re not into delaying gratification, driving an old car, and pretty much never eating out while you’re working his plan, you’ll probably want to stay away.

We’ve been out of debt for about two years now, and our next step has been to tackle our mortgage, but we haven’t been pounding on it like we should be. The reason is partially because I stopped paying us out what I had been so that I could build up the business a bit more—you know, investing in a better camera, a design for the shop, fancy business cards, lots of shows, etc. etc. For a little while, I was toying with the idea of really bulking up my business savings so that I could invest in renting a retail space of my own.

Fast forward to last month, when Dan and I were thinking about and planning for 2018 and doing our budget for the year (yes, the whole year. I’m a huge nerd. I can’t live without that kind of structure).

I had already decided that I wanted to pick a word for the year, and I told Dan about the idea. Looking at our budget at the priorities that we had, it was pretty easy to decide on our word.

We have an aggressive goal of paying down 33% of our mortgage by the end of this year. I say it’s aggressive because the income from my teaching job plus the set amount from Dan’s income that we’ve decided to dedicate to the mortgage will only cover about 18% as it sits right now, which means my business has to contribute an additional 15%. That’s a lot, but I know that I can do it if I stay on pace with what my business produced last year (here’s hoping that I can surpass it and contribute even more).

So how does that affect my goals for 2018?

So glad you asked.

I want to start with my goals for this quarter, which I hope to transition into each quarter (with some tweaks) as the year goes on.

Goal #1: No spend January.

That’s right. I have vowed not to darken the doors of JoAnn’s, Hobby Lobby, or my cluster of beloved thrift stores this month. AT ALL.

I’ll give you a minute to recover.

I’ll admit, this is hard for me. I get a lot of inspiration and creative energy from these places, not to mention materials for my pieces. But you know what else I get? A lot of stuff that I don’t even remember purchasing! Good stuff. Stuff that I could really use.

So that’s what I’m doing. I’m spending my January creating pieces that I already have the materials for, and I have plenty—wreath forms, felt, fabric remnants, paint, furniture, wood scraps, card stock, notions, ribbon, dowels….the list goes on. And you know what else I have a lot of? Half started projects that I never got around to finishing! I have nine dowel lengths painted and ready to be made into fairy wands. I have at least twenty (and probably more) tea wallets already cut out and ready to iron and sew. I have a telephone bench that needs to be painted. I have a wire wreath form spray painted gold and waiting for some felt flowers. I have felt flowers that are all cut out and waiting to be put together. The list goes on and on.

And do I need to go to JoAnn’s in order to complete any of these pieces? No, I don’t.

Not only will I save time and money by not visiting these stores, but I will also be decluttering my work spaces by using up materials that I already have laying around! Just this past week I finished two pillows (the forms have been sitting there for at least 6 months) and several linen heart banners for Valentine’s day from leftover fabric from over a year ago:

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It’s already the 15th, and I’m feeling the withdrawals and trying to convince myself that the excuses I’m coming up with to head to the craft store are actually really good reasons for me to break my vows and buy a bunch of new stuff. So far, I’ve been able to resist, and I’m putting a lot of obstacles in my own way by making sure that I always have a project in my face that needs to be completed.

One side effect of this experiment that I didn’t anticipate was that my creativity has been engaged in a different way than it has been lately–by forcing myself to use only materials that I have, I’ve been seeing the items in my basement and garage in a whole new light, and seeing new ways to use materials without even having to browse Pinterest for inspiration. It’s been fabulous, and I can’t wait to share more of the pieces I’ve been creating lately!

Goal #2: Stock up my shop.

As I’m going through bins and boxes of materials and pieces that I’ve purchased for one project or another, I’m discovering some amazing things that I no longer need but are going to be great additions to my shop. As of writing this post, I have 113 listings in my shop, and I’m on a mission to get to 200 by the middle of February (that’s about 2.8 listings/day, which is more aggressive than I’ve ever been in the past. The number one thing that I’ve found that consistently drives people to my Etsy shop is consistent postings, so this is a really good goal for me, and one that I actually have time for right now!

Stocking my shop is always on my radar, but during slow times when I’m at least a month out from my new craft show I can really buckle down and focus on getting as much new inventory photographed and ready as possible.

Goal #3: Find new things to try.

This one is still developing. There are at least three new shows that I’m planning to apply to this quarter, and I’m also toying with the idea of renting some space inside a larger co-op type store. There are several places where I’ve thought about doing this in the past, but now there’s a new place opening in downtown Rochester, and that is almost too close not to make it worth it.

I’m still an avid Goal Digger podcast listener, and I’ve recently added The Purpose Show to my playlist, as my new podcast material. It’s a little more focused on motherhood than on small business and goals, but it’s a nice way to round myself out and make sure that I’m focusing on my family and not just on my business for the better part of the day.

I also want to add a few books to my reading list for this year that have to do with my business, and I’m hoping to start with Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. I haven’t come across any other business related books for the list yet, though I have TONS of fiction books that I’m hoping to get into this year.

I’m also shaking up my morning routine (I’m just now getting back into my routine of heading to Starbucks at 5 a.m. on non-preschool mornings) by adding morning pages to at least a couple of my mornings each week. I typically brain dump into my planner each week, but my planner is a bit tight on space, and my brain is a wild jungle full of scary gibberish which is a little overwhelming for those neat little lines and boxes. I’m hoping that doing a massive dump will help me to streamline so that I don’t overwhelm my poor little planner.


What are your goals for 2018, both personal and business related? Do they overlap at all? I’m hoping to get some of my fire back with a solid goal that will really affect our family’s life going forward into the next two years. When I started this business, that fire was there, and it fueled some major growth!

I’d love to hear from you about some of your strategies for a productive year, month, and week, too! Do you bullet journal? Use a planner? Do morning pages? How do you release all that extra “stuff” from your brain so that you can be free to concentrate fully on the most important tasks for your week?

Here’s hoping to a wonderful January and an even better 2018! Get your goals on, girl bosses!

Talk soon,

Jessie

Craft Show Review: Ray Township Fall Festival in Ray Township, MI

Good morning friends!

I have been having a wonderful and relaxing past few weeks—I know I should really be gearing up for the winter, but it’s always hard to keep going full force once the school year begins and I’m back at Rochester College—even with reduced hours. I’m only teaching my creative writing workshop this semester, and I really couldn’t be happier. It was a struggle for me to turn down part of the schedule that I was offered, but it’s turned out to be the best thing about my fall.

After Junkstock, I didn’t have anything planned until the first weekend of October, but when we were in Richmond someone came by our booth to invite us to the Ray Township Fall Festival. I wouldn’t have thought twice about it, but she also happened to mention that the event was free.

That, of course, made me take a closer look. What gave me the most pause about the show was that the hours were 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., and we usually have more luck selling in the early part of the day. I was nervous that we’d drive out there, set up, and then listen to crickets for four hours. I guess the reason for the later hours was that the organizers also run a farmer’s market in the early part of the day, so there was a conflict doing the festival in the morning.

I didn’t end up signing up to do the show until a few days before, but I’m glad I did. It was a relaxing event, it wasn’t too far away, and we did decent business. I also actually got some work done, so it was a win-win-win.

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Price: When I heard that the show was free, I thought two things (besides “how awesome!”):

  1. This must be the first event of this kind.
  2. They probably aren’t expecting a big turnout.

Even with those potential negatives, however, my mom still really wanted to give it a try, and since the weather was so nice and we already don’t mind driving out to that area, we decided to go for it.

I guess there’s not much else to say about the price–free is free, right?

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Location: The event was held at the Ray Township Hall and Park, and it was really a lovely little spot just north of Wolcott Mill (one of my favorite fall destinations). It’s about a half hour from my mom’s house, and forty-five minutes from mine, but again, I love driving in the country, so that’s really not a downside for me. We also really like this area because we spent a lot of time out here as a family when we were little, and because my brother and sister-in-law live out here now. It’s a really pretty part of southeast MI.

The park had a walking path and some wooded trails, which I walked a bit during the 5 o’clock hour. The event also boasted live music—the band kept busy doing covers of mostly 60’s hits, which was fun, and they had pumpkin decorating for the kids and an array of vendors that were mostly farmer’s market type things. There were also some clothing booths and Big Time, Bag Time— my mom met these ladies back in the summer at a one-day Frontier Town event and they are super sweet (and happened to be our neighbors for this show, which was fun).

 

Traffic: Nothing really started happening until after four, and then we had a few sales between four and six. We made a grand total of $50, which wasn’t bad for a free show.

Overall, traffic was slow, but steady, especially from four until six. There were a lot of folks there with their kids, getting faces and pumpkins painted and playing on the playgrounds. They had a food truck and a coffee truck, which drew in a lot of people, and probably the final number of attendees was around 200 or so.

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I managed, for the first time since 2015, probably, to get quite a few projects done during the show:

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I always go back and forth about whether to work during a show—sometimes it’s really distracting for me, and I want to just focus on the piece and not stop to talk to customers. On the other hand, sometimes they just want to stand there and watch, which means they stay in the booth longer, which means they have a greater likelihood of making a purchase.

Because they let us leave our cars parked right behind our booth setup, it worked out really well for me to get some work done that I could then just stash back in the car. We set up a blanket behind the booth and hung out back there for most of the night:

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Another great thing about this show was that it gave me a chance to work on a new display for my MI signs:

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I’ve struggled with how to display these for a while—when I first started making them, they sold really well just out in crates on the ground, but lately, people haven’t been noticing them as much (or maybe the market is just so saturated now with MI products—it’s probably a bit of both).

Dan pulled these closet doors out of the trash on our street for me a little over two years ago, and they’ve been sitting in the garage ever since. He actually recognized them when I brought him out to look at the new display the other morning.

I’m especially happy to have that out of the way and ready for the show next weekend—it’s one less thing I have to do to get ready for The Vintage Market.

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The event was put on by the Bruce Township North End Market, which, again, hosts a weekly farmer’s market every Saturday in Romeo. They invited us to come on Saturdays through October, but I think we are busy every weekend, sadly. Apparently, it’s been free all year and the other vendors that have been doing it say it’s been working out well. They don’t just have farmer’s market items, either–she said they accept a variety of vendors and items.

The Ray Township show also gave me a chance to set up and play around with the display for next weekend in my head a little bit—I have a few good ideas for how I want to set up that booth since it’s a two-day event and I put a little more time/effort into designing the booth.

Have you ever done a last minute event just because it was free or really, really cheap? How did it go? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

Talk soon,

Jessie

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

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?

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

 

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