#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

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?

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

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

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

upcycled suitcase boutique display

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

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

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

Thanks for reading, friends! Have a great weekend!

Talk soon,

Jessie

 

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

Craft Show Review: St. Augustine Parish Festival

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

St. Augustine Booth 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Talk soon,

Jessie

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

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

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

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

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

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

mdm: Why do you do what you?

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

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mdm: What does your typical day look like?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

mdm: What is something that inspires you?

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

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

Rita: Fun!

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

Rita: Get a pedicure!

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

Rita: Do what makes YOU happy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Talk soon,

Jessie

4 Things That Are Upping My Girl Boss Game This Summer

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

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

Getting up Early

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

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

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

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

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

Setting Goals

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

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

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

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

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

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

Journaling

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

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

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

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

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

Events

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

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


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

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

Talk soon,

Jessie