Craft Show Review: Faith Troy Women’s Gala in Clinton Township, MI

I know I’m just over a month late with this post, but I’ll take a minute to explain why.

This event that we do at the beginning of each December is traditionally the last one of the year–I try not to work a ton in December because I really like to slow down and take time to make gifts, spend time with my family, and think about what the next year is going to look like. Plus, it’s hard to enjoy the season with three events every weekend between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Maybe I’ll speed up a little during this time when Charlotte is a little older, but for now, I like to be able to really savor my Decembers.

For us, 2018 is going to be focused around paying down our mortgage. If you know us at all, you know that we are pretty avid Dave Ramsey fans (step 6, baby!), and Dan and I decided that our word for the year is “mortgage”–everything that we do, especially when it comes to money, we really want to focus on knocking down that mortgage balance. We have a pretty aggressive goal of paying off 33% of it this year–I’ll let you know how that goes as we progress through the next twelve months!

That’s a small piece of what we like to do in December–I’m still working on some other goals, as well, and I’m thinking of sharing them for a post later this month.

For now, on to the last event of 2017, the Faith Troy Women’s Gala.

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This event has a special place in my heart because not only is it the biggest event that my church does every year, but it’s the very first event that my mom and I ever did with this business, and it’s one of the best events that we do each year.

As you can see, the majority of what we prepare for this show is Christmas items and gifts, and I was seriously in love with all of the fresh greens and chippy white that we brought to the booth this year. I wish I’d thought to take a picture after the event–it was so busy all night and we sold so many of the Christmas pieces that it was pretty empty by the end!

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We started collecting old wooden sleds, skates, and windows as early as we could this year–the sleds took up a bunch of room in my garage this summer, so I was happy that we sold most of them (although my favorite one didn’t sell, which I’m actually sort of happy about).

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We also brought a lot of our normal small items, especially the things that make great gifts–tea wallets, burp cloths, switch plates, coasters, and some of the new baby/toddler items that I’ve been trying to incorporate more into our events.

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The doll baby beds were very popular, as were the felt flower hair bows and felt flower hoop wreaths. Funny story about those–the first one I made was an Instagram inspiration that I made for myself, but I had so much fun doing it that I made a few more for this show. I thought they were really pretty and unique. I asked Dan what he thought of them and he was really surprised that I was thinking of selling them (which basically translates to something like he took one look at them and immeadiately thought they were a failed experiment). He was equally surprised that I didn’t come home with any of them…

Anyway, on to the normal elements that I talk about with any other craft show.

Price: This show is an easy yes for us at $40. It’s always been really reasonable (I think the first year we did it was only $25), even though the total shopping time for the event is less than 3 hours. It’s always on a Tuesday evening–shopping typically starts at about 4:30 p.m., which is a little earlier than most of the women are there, but they all trickle in by 6:30, and with almost 1,000 attendees, it gets crazy busy.

During the dinner, music, and program (which is always fantastic), shopping is closed, but it opens up again after the event, which is nice–I think it gives some of the more hesitant customers time to really think about what they want to purchase and then an opportunity to come back later. I will say that the busiest time is definitely before dinner; since it’s often snowy and cold here in early December, I think most people are eager to get home and get warm as soon as possible (especially if they have to work the next day).

Skirted tables and chairs are provided, which is a nice bonus at this price point–most shows I go to charge extra for a plain, ugly folding table, so these are far and away better than that!

Location: The Gala is held at the Palazzo Grande in Clinton Township, and the ballroom is set up with the dinner tables in the middle and the vendors along either side of the room in double rows.

As you can see from the photos, the carpet and decor are fairly generic–what you’d expect from a standard banquet center. To be honest, the pickiest thing for me about this show (which is a super little item in the grand scheme of things) is just that putting my pieces against this backdrop doesn’t always show them at their best (especially in photos). I definitely prefer to have a much cleaner palate to work with–my white tent, for example. I always feel like the carpet and wallpaper are a little distracting from my particular pieces.

The only other thing that is a little hard is that the vendors only have three and half hours to set up the day of the event, which doesn’t leave a lot of time to make the booth super pretty, set everything up in it, go home, get dressed and ready for a fancy event, and then come back to the venue again (depending on the weather and early rush hour traffic, it takes me about 30-45 minutes to get to this particular show).

This year we had a problem that we’ve never had before, and I think it was because we had so many big pieces–there wasn’t a lot of overflow space, and when someone bought something, they couldn’t just take it with them, because they were headed back to their table for dinner. That’s definitely a challenge that is unique to this show, since usually people take their pieces with them to put in their car or to a holding tent of some kind. It got a little confusing for the customers, since the pieces were still just right there. I hate having to tell people that things are already sold–luckily, a lot of the pieces I was able to reproduce easily, and so we were able to take several special orders.

Traffic: Like I said, the traffic is crazy. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I have relationships with a lot of the women there, partly because it’s my church and partly because we’ve been doing this event for five years now, and a lot of the women tell us they really look forward to seeing what we have in our booth every year.

Since the first year we came, it has been all we can do to keep up with receipts and credit card sales in between talking to the ladies and taking special order requests–there’s no way I’d be able to do this show in particular without my mom. Our booth was so crowded with pieces and people that I was stuck in that back corner for most of the night (not even time for a bathroom break!) and my mom had to do the moving around and the answering of questions during the majority of the time.


Who else out there is with me about December events? I know that there are some really good ones out there, and of course, it’s prime time for the folks out looking for a handmade Christmas gift–if you’re out there selling until Christmas Eve, that’s awesome!

Someday, that might be me…I know December is prime time, but those weeks are too precious to me at this time in my life.

I’d love to hear about your holiday shows in the comments below!

Talk soon,

Jess

 

 

Vintage Market Review: Hocus Pocus at the Monroe County Fairgrounds, Monroe, MI

I’m a little behind in getting this review out to you guys–we were at this show two weekends ago, October 7-8, 2017–I feel like I just got back from my annual creative writing trip with my college students (it’s actually been three whole days…). Hocus Pocus was a super fun event, and a great way to close out the year of outdoor shows.

This is kind of a unique review because this is the first show where we actually stayed on the grounds all weekend camping! It was really fun and totally worth it to spend the night right there rather than driving back and forth, since the commute was over an hour. My parents stayed on the campground Friday and Saturday night, but we had a birthday party and gymnastics on Saturday, so my mom ran the market most of Saturday and then we came in the afternoon and spent just one night with them.

Hocus Pocus was hosted by The Vintage Market, LLC—they do several events throughout the year, and I was actually invited to do one of their shows last year, but I couldn’t have pulled it off with my 2016 fall schedule, even though it looked like a lot of fun. This year, I decided to try it, since my fall is a lot less crazy. When I first signed up, I wasn’t even thinking about camping, but my mom really wanted to—my parents have a pop-up camper and we hardly used it this year, so she was really itching to get it out. My parents used to camp all the time, and it was kind of sad that we really didn’t get to this summer, since it was so busy.

For me, this photo really sums up the essence of the weekend:

Clouds Over the Vintage Market

I love October skies.

Price: This show was $150 for the two days for an outside spot (which is what we had), though there were inside spaces available for the same price. They also have their own tents, spaces under which are $200.

They charged $5 admission for customers coming in to this show, which was clearly communicated ahead of time on all of their promotional material.

Camping was $30/night on the fairground campsites, which included electricity, water, and restrooms/showers. I didn’t shower there, since Dan and I only spent one night on the campground, but they looked nice—I’d say state park level. They definitely weren’t the grossest showers I’ve ever seen, was is always a bonus.

Hours on Saturday were 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., but they ended up closing the show early, at 5 p.m., due to high winds. It had been pretty windy all day, and our table/door display at the back of the booth actually blew over at one point, which was pretty scary. Towards the end of the show (which was unfortunately right when Dan and I got there), the wind was at about 18 mph, with gusts up to 30, and it was only getting worse. We haven’t had winds this bad since we did the Mount Clemens Summer Magic Festival in 2015, and we ended up taking our entire display apart and dropping our tent down to the ground for the night, which we’ve never done before, even at that show.

I was pretty freaked out that the tent would blow away at some point during the night, especially since we were right there in the camper and the wind was shaking us up pretty violently, too. I don’t know whether I was more nervous being right there, or whether I would have been more nervous leaving. We could see the tent from the camper, so that was a little bit of a relief, but it sure was hard falling asleep with all that weather happening, and feeling like I had to sit up and make sure the tent was still there after every other gust!

With all the weather going on Saturday afternoon, it almost made me wish that I had requested an indoor spot, but the inside vendors said things were really slow in the expo center, and that the traffic just wasn’t filtering in to where they were, so I guess you have to take the good with the bad, right? I’d rather have my stuff blow around a little and actually sell some things, then have everything look perfect all weekend and then have to bring it all home. Most of the outside vendors seemed to have really steady sales, although I heard from some of the vendors that the traffic was a bit slower at this show than similar events in the area.

Other than our display blowing over that one time, the only snafu was with the map—our business name was accidentally left off of the official map and never got fixed before it went to print, so there was one time when a customer had the cart go to the wrong booth for a furniture pickup. Dan was manning the booth at the time, and I’d forgotten to tell him about the mix-up–we were booth #35, but the wrong name was printed on the map for that booth number. Luckily, it all worked out in the end and the customer got his table and everything was fine. These things happen.

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Location: The fairgrounds were a little bit off the beaten path, but it was a beautiful location. The facilities were much more modern than those at the Wayne County Fairgrounds, where we were for the Belleville show, and Hocus Pocus was a lot bigger, too.

The bathrooms, again, were very nice, and there were several of them scattered throughout the show, so there was never a problem with long lines, the way there was at the Belleville and Brownstown shows. The bathrooms in the Expo Center were especially nice, and very big.

There were two big parking areas and two tractors with trailers running all day long, taking customers back and forth between the shopping area and the parking lots. Charlotte had fun on Sunday afternoon riding around with Grandma and Grandpa when the tractor had lighter crowds.

There was also a good size staff with carts to help customers with bigger purchases back and forth to their cars. Everything was very well run and organized, and I didn’t notice anything that didn’t go according to plan.

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Traffic: This show was a little bit backwards for us—usually, our best hours are always before noon, but this time around, we did the best between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. It was a little crazy. There were a few people who saw something and bought it right away, but it was more of people looking, walking around, and coming back for things later.

I totally get that, since that’s how I shop—I like to look at everything and decide what to get on the second time around, especially since my shopping budget is usually split into things for Charlotte, things for events/decorating, and gifts for upcoming birthdays (and Christmas, this time of year). I try to work in a little something for myself–I can’t wait to share my next Friday favorites post (you can check out the first one here).

In general, the crowds were lighter than I expected, especially since the weather was fabulous, except for the wind on Saturday. For a Michigan October, it was hot and sunny and totally perfect, so I’m surprised that we didn’t have more people.

We made our booth probably a third of the way through Saturday, which was nice, and we ended up doing the best we’ve done since Sterlingfest, which was a nice way to finish off the year of outdoor shows. We sold more painted furniture and small items than anything else—it wasn’t a big day for antiques. I’m not too surprised by that—the majority of booths were selling antiques/salvage, so there was a lot of competition there and some really, really good prices. I bought a few things on Sunday afternoon that were just too good to pass up, and that I’ll probably list in my Etsy shop when I’m doing using them.

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I love these avocado drawers. I’m thinking succulents…

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I really want to make these fit into Beth’s baby shower next weekend, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. Oh, well. I’ll use them eventually…right?

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These are going to be perfect for Christina’s wedding. $10 each!! Can you believe that deal??

Even with Dan and my dad snoring and keeping us up half the night on Saturday, I’d probably camp at a show again—in fact, we’re looking at doing a couple of shows in the spring where we’ll camp out. It was really nice being just a few hundred yards away from the tent at all times, and being able to bring all the food and water with us that we would need. It was a lot cheaper and healthier than eating from the food trucks all weekend!

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We were a little lonely on the campground with no one else around, but it was super peaceful, too!

The clouds and the light were so perfect on Saturday night that Charlotte and I had an impromtu photo shoot with the Vintage Market’s signature rusty truck.

 

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Can you tell the fake smiles from the real ones? I had a stroke of genius telling her to hang off the side of the trunk with one arm out–she loves anything that has a slight hint of danger to it…

Have you ever done a show where you camped out on the grounds? What was it like? Would you do it again? Share your experiences below—and if you have any questions or hesitations, feel free to ask/share! I’d love to talk more!

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

6 Tips for Shopping Estate Sales

I love estate sales. I won’t go as far as to say that I’ve nearly been in an accident swerving in response to a little fluorescent sign on the side of the road, but I’ve been close. There. My secret is out. It probably isn’t much of a secret that a person who redoes furniture loves estate sales anyway.

Today I want to share my top tips for shopping estate sales. Even though I mostly shop for furniture, primitives, and antiques, I think these tips should be useful to anyone who is interested in finding great deals–in addition to items for my business, I’ve purchased so many things for my home and garden for so much less than retail–usually in perfect condition! So here are my tips if you’re just getting started:

1. Be Nice: I was at an Integrity estate sale in June where a guy was trying to get a bargain on one of those metal windmills that people put in their backyards. It was pretty big—probably 8 or 10 feet tall, and in pretty good condition. Integrity was asking $100 for it, which I thought was pretty reasonable. On top of that, the folks running the sale were saying “everything is negotiable today” to everyone who walked in. It was the afternoon of the middle day of the sale, when you’re likely to get things at 25%-30% off (the final day of the sale things are usually 50% off, and in the final hours of the sale you can really start asking for deep discounts).

I was out in the yard when the guy went over, looked at the windmill, and remarked to his friend that it was way overpriced, even at 50% off (which, by the way, no one had offered him). So he went back inside and I thought that was the end of it. My mom and I shopped around a little more—this sale was packed, so we made a pretty big stack of stuff—and then went to check out. As we were going through everything, one of the ladies with Integrity Estate Sales came back into the house looking frazzled, and announced that everything was now 50% off. We may have done a little arm pump in celebration.

The same lady was holding the door for us as we were making our multiple trips in and out and then followed us out to the driveway as we were loading things onto this vintage wagon we picked up:

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Isn’t it the most adorable thing you’ve ever seen? No? Well I don’t have any pictures of puppies or kittens, so just go with me.

Anyway, the door lady told us that she had wanted to give us 50% off all along (my mom had already stopped by and bought a bunch of stuff earlier in the day), but that she was waiting for grumpy windmill guy to leave, because he was being a jerk about the price and trying to get them to basically give it away. She waited on purpose for him to leave! I was a little surprised that she was sharing this with us, but I probably shouldn’t have been. It pays to be nice, friends. I’m not above haggling with people, but there’s an appropriate way to do it, which includes either walking away or paying their price if they say no. It’s their job to run these sales for their company and their customers, and being super rude just because it seems like the price won’t affect them isn’t going to get anyone what they want, least of all you. In fact, you’ll likely be sabotaging yourself, like this guy did.

2. Build Relationships: This takes being nice a step further. While my particular situation might not apply to everyone, I’m going to share it anyway. I go to a lot of estate sales. Like, four or five a week during the summer. I see a lot of the same people over and over. It has paid off to learn people’s names, remember certain epic sales, and even dig a little deeper into their lives. There’s a guy who works for Action Estate Sales that had a baby a little bit after I did, and he still remembers talking to me in line at a barn sale when Charlotte was so little that she was still in the baby Bjorn. I remember his son’s name and ask how he’s doing, and he gives me good deals, even on the earlier days when the same deals aren’t offered by a sign on the wall.

Putting this all out on paper (or the screen) like this might make it seem like I formed this relationship so that I could get something out of it, but the truth is that it actually just formed as I practiced being nice and asking genuine questions about this guy’s life instead of just badgering him for a lower price until he was practically paying me to take stuff. People are nicer to nice people, and you’re standing there waiting for them to make change anyway. It doesn’t hurt to be friendly and admit that yes, this is the 17th time you’ve seen them this summer. Making new friends is a good thing!

3. Ask for Deals: I know this makes some people uncomfortable, and honestly, it made me uncomfortable too at first! It really does take some practice to get the hang of asking for discounts at the appropriate time and in the appropriate way.

First, let’s address the appropriate time. Unless it’s a large piece and you know for sure that it’s at the top end of the spectrum when it comes to being reasonably priced, I would never ask for a discount on the first day of the sale. As a matter of fact, I rarely go to estate sales on the first day of the sale unless it’s something that I really want and I’m prepared to get there early, stand in line, pay the asking price, and muscle through the crowd to make a beeline to whatever it is I want. A lot of estate sales line up hours before the start time, and in the first couple of hours of the sale, they only let so many people in at a time. I like to avoid crowds (you’ll never see me out on Black Friday for example), so unless it’s something special, I generally wait until the end of the second day to go.

Now for the appropriate way to ask for discounts. I’m sure there are any number of ways that people go about politely asking for a discount at these things. I’ve certainly heard a lot of different approaches. The one that I use, and  that I feel the most comfortable with is:

“What’s your best price on the…”

Trust me, the folks who run these sales expect customers to ask for discounts. There is nothing rude about it (unless you’re rude). At the end of the day, the estate and the estate sale company are still going to make more money if they sell an item a little cheaper than if they don’t sell it at all. Generally, especially after the halfway point in the sale, people are going to come down on (even already discounted) items at least a little.

One last pro tip: I love going to sales that are packed with stuff—again, I go on the last day, select what I want and make a big pile near the cashier (these sales usually have a holding area for larger items, so you don’t have to try and carry everything around), and then we add it all up at the end, subtract the discount (usually at least 50% on the last day), and then I still almost always ask if they can take another $10-$20 off, which they usually do. Again, this kind of thing takes practice to get totally comfortable with. I started small figuring out my estate sale strategy, and now all these things are basically second nature.

I will say that I don’t always ask for discounts. With the companies I don’t mind, but when it’s a private sale and I know I’m already getting a really good deal on something (companies are a lot better about knowing the value of certain things than sales that are run by individuals or families), I don’t generally ask for a discount. I bought two amazing dressers at a private sale earlier this summer for $25 each—they probably would have been priced at $100 each, at least, at a company sale—and I didn’t ask for a discount on those. That was a living estate sale, where the ladies were downsizing their mother’s things so that she could move into an assisted living facility, and once I know something like that, I just don’t feel right asking for more money off of something that is already basically a steal. Again, you have to kind of feel it out and decide how you want to approach asking (or not asking) for a discount in some situations.

4. Look High/Look Low: Last month I snagged two things in a garage at an estate sale that had several people saying “where’d you find that? I would have bought it!” as I was walking to the car. That actually happens to me a lot. Have you ever heard the thing about how companies pay more for product placement in the grocery store to get their stuff on eye level shelves because the consumer scans those shelves way more often than looking down to the shelves below or up to those above, even if doing that extra scan might save them a couple of bucks?

Doing that extra scan at an estate sale will find you some awesome stuff. One of the first things I saw in that garage was a long, primitive hinged wood box on the floor at the very back. I think something may have been on top of it, but I don’t remember for sure. That box was the first thing that went in my pile. Another item that had people lamenting as I left was a chippy carpenter’s stool that was over in the corner of the garage, holding up a box fan that the estate sale company had set up to get some airflow going in the garage (it was a little musty in there). I think a lot of people just walked by and assumed that the stool wasn’t for sale, since it was being used in that way, but there was a price sticker on it, and I asked as soon as I saw it if I could move the fan and take the stool. I would show you a photo, but it sold in Saline, and I never got a good picture of it. 

I typically do two passes at the sales that I go to. The first one I grab anything that obviously has to come with me and stash it in my pile, making sure to look underneath tables, on top of cabinets and shelves, and behind and around any bigger pieces that might have treasures hiding in back of them. On the second pass, I tend to go more slowly, contemplating bigger pieces and examining the questionable ones closely. Waiting on some things until the second pass gives me time to really think about whether I can fix/sell that item, whether it really fits with my brand, and whether I’ll regret buying it in a few months.

5. Shop Strategically: I’ve already touched on this a little bit, but I’ll do a quick recap of my strategy. Depending on what you’re into and what kind of work you do, you’ll develop your own strategy as you go along doing this estate sale thing. Hopefully you’ll only have to develop a strategy for looking for one type of thing (say, furniture). I’m constantly looking for primitives, small vintage pieces for my Etsy shop, craft items, and solid, quality furniture to redo…it gets a little exhausting (but still fun!).

As I said before, I rarely go on the first day of a sale unless I see something in the pictures that I really want that will probably go fast. For example, I’ve been looking for a telephone bench to redo this summer—I almost always have at least one for Sterlingfest—but I haven’t found one anywhere! That is an item that might bring me to a sale on the first day as they seem to be really popular right now.

Typically, I like to find a packed sale and wait until the very end of the second day, when it’s likely that I can ask for last day discounts a little early, without dealing with the last day scavengers.

I use estatesales.net to find the sales that I want to go to—when I know I’ll be in town for any given weekend and I’m not doing a show (or sometime even if I am), I’ll go through the site on Monday or Tuesday that week and write down the sales that I’m interested in. I try to find at least two or three on the site (then, as I’m driving around, I look for private sales that may not have been listed online). I look for a mix of old and new in the photos, a little heavier on the old. If a sale is 80% or more new stuff, I usually won’t bother. It’s just not likely that anything I’d be really interested in will still be there at the end of the second or third day. On the other hand, if the sale is really heavy on older pieces, it’s unlikely that you’ll get the best deals there. Sure, the prices will be better than they would at an antique store, but not as good as at a typical sale. Again, those sales might tempt me if there’s something really cool (I went to one in May that had a letterpress cabinet that I really wanted but knew I wouldn’t buy because it would be too expensive—I did buy a few other things, though), but I go to them more to enjoy looking at the pieces than with a serious intent to buy (at least for now).

6. Avoid Impulse Buys/Examine Pieces Closely: Guys, there have been many times when I saw a piece from afar (or a few feet away—usually when my hands are full of other treasures) and fell in love with it, especially after seeing the price. Embarrassingly, this just happened to me the other day—I was walking out of the Utica Antiques Market, had my hands full, saw a Victorian corner chair for only $20!!!!  and bought it without even touching it. Once again, I’d show you a photo, but it’s already gone.

Sometimes this turns out fine, but often, the piece ends up having structural flaws, a smell, or some other issues. My Victorian chair was super wobbly on the top—it needed a lot of extra loving to get it to a piece that I could re-imagine. I bought it to redo and resell, but once I got it home, I discovered that it wouldn’t really be worth the trouble. If it was a piece I was doing for myself, it wouldn’t have been a big deal, but the time it would have taken me to really make it an awesome piece for my booth wouldn’t have been worth it, so I let it go as it was on Facebook, which made me a little sad. 

This whole story has a point, I promise. Examine the pieces that you buy! Sit on chairs, test the wobble factor, smell upholstery, open and close drawers—make sure that piece is solid before you invest in it, even it’s only $20.


Do you have any estate sale shopping tips to share? What is your best strategy for asking for deals? Which impulse buys have worked (and which haven’t)? Do you have any horror stories of rude customers making a scene while you’ve been shopping? Let me know in the comments below, email me at metrodetroitmaker@gmail.com, and connect with the community on Instagram using the #metrodetoitmaker!

Thanks for reading, friends. Talk soon,

Jessie

Vintage Market Review: Shed 5 Flea at Eastern Market

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

Shed 5 Booth

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

Shed 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Succulents in Juice Cans

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

Talk soon,

Jessie

 

 

 

My Creative Entrepreneur Identity Crisis

I’ve already shared with you a very brief snapshot of my identity issues in my first post, but I really want to dive deeper into it today. The reason for this is partly because I think we all struggle with this to some extent as creative entrepreneurs, and partly because I think I might just need to get it out on paper (or screen) in order to deal with it completely.

Fun fact: I actually do a lot of writing by hand, especially my first drafts. A lot of these posts come from my own journal entries, or excerpts of them. Someone once told me that when you type words, you’re writing with your head; when you physically write them down, you’re writing with your heart.

I’m trying to avoid talking about this. Can you tell? I’ve basically been writing versions of this post in my journal for about the past four years, but I’ve been really resistant to even talk about it to anyone but Dan. So this is a bit of a leap for me–so much so that I even wrote this post in two parts, having given up on it back in June after I wrote the first part, and then coming back to it recently (but still a little while before I could bring myself to hit the “publish” button).

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I think, to some extent, I’ve always been creative. I did an exercise a little while ago that asked the question “How would most people describe you if they only had to use one word?” and I immediately wrote down “talented,” but “creative” would be a close second. I was really into art and music in high school. In college, I got into theater (incidentally, I still use a lot of the skills I learned building sets when I’m building my furniture). After Dan and I bought our house, I started to get creative with decorating it, since we were on a budget and trying to get out of debt. When people ask me to help with things like weddings or events at church, there’s almost always a creative element to what they are asking me to do, because that’s what I’m good at.

It feels hard to talk about this, though. I think so often, especially as women, we are conditioned to be humble and defer to others and say things like “oh, anyone can do that.” It’s hard for us to take pride in the things that we are good at without feeling like we are hardcore bragging on ourselves. So many times I’ve given a variation of “anyone could do that” in response to people telling me I’m talented, when the reality, when it comes to my particular vision for the furniture that I recreate, is this: someone else could do something like it, but no one could do exactly “it” because I found the piece, saw its potential, and carried out my design (sometimes through several revisions).

I think realizing that is so important to realizing your value as a creative entrepreneur and realizing that the things you as an individual have to offer to the market and to the creative community have value as well. Girl bosses, #metrodetroitmakers, no one else can do exactly what you do!

Here’s the other part of my identity crisis. As silly as it sounds (or maybe it doesn’t sound all that silly to you–if you’re reading this, maybe you feel the same way), being a creative entrepreneur doesn’t feel serious to me, especially when you compare that to being a college professor. Or a doctor, medical engineer, EMT, nurse, attorney, or executive, which I happen to be surrounded by in both my family and my husband’s family. I feel like an underachiever extraordinaire when I hang out with these people and hear about travels to Russia and Africa, emergency C-sections, rubbing elbows with Dick Cheney, or saving someone’s life with CPR and a plastic pen.

Often, I feel like a hobbyist rather than a businesswoman, especially because all I have is an online shop, an occasional weekend outdoor booth, and a garage full of broken furniture that hardly anyone sees as having any value (that is, until I finish a piece).


Note: The above all pretty much came out without a lot of self-editing–drawn from journal entries and emotions and comments that have built up over the past few years. The problem is, once I had it down, I was like “No one will ever want to read this.” So I put it away for a bit. Then early in July I came back to it.

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photo credit: Pexels

7/9/2017

None of these issues are helped at all by well-meaning comments and questions like “how’s your little business going?” or “that furniture painting thing; are you still doing that?” My business isn’t little—many months I bring in as much or more than Dan does with his “serious” finance career—but it feels little when compared with something that is easily recognized and firmly established, like a medical or law practice. Those comments and questions are part of the reason why I’ve gotten in my own way when it comes to my business, and part of the reason why I’ve held on so long to this idea of a career as a college professor when, in reality, that is looking less and less like my best option for fulfilling my career and life goals.  

Luckily, Dan is my biggest supporter, and he’s constantly telling me how much he values everything I’m doing to try and make this business work. I don’t think I’d be pursuing this seriously at all if he weren’t on board with the idea. He’s always told me that he wants to work at his job and provide everything we need so that I can do what I’m most passionate about, whether that’s teaching, running my business, or raising our family. The hardest part for me has been figuring out exactly what I want to pursue—again, partly because of my own identity issues.

As a Christian, it’s super hard not to get wrapped up in defining myself by what I do, or how much I make, or whether or not I have a white slipcover sofa like all the other home décor bloggers out there do (or at least, seem to). The thing is, when I’m in my garage, painting and listening to worship music or podcasts, or when I’m out with Charlotte, exploring the park or playing at the library, or even when I’m in front of a computer screen blogging or invoicing or lesson planning, it’s not that hard to rest in my identity in Christ. I belong to Him first and foremost, and the most important part of my identity is that I am His child.

But that’s hard to talk about (for me, anyway). It would be weird as a response to the question “what do you do?” And when I’m in my booth during the summer, or in front of the classroom in the fall and winter, or sitting around the dinner table with family, it’s the last thing on my mind. I’m trying to navigate and respond to whichever identity is uppermost in my mind at that moment, whether it’s business owner, professor, wife, or mother.

It’s really easy for me (and I think for all of us creative entrepreneurs) to think that things will be better when I make X amount of money from my creative business, or when I have X amount of followers on social media, or when I have my physical store, or…or…or…

But I’ve met goals before. Goals on Etsy, goals for inventory, goals for the number of shows I’d do in a given year. I’ve exceeded plenty of goals, too—goals for the year, goals for a particular show, goals for income in a set period of time…and exactly none of those times was my overall happiness or sense of identity in the least affected. At the end of the day, they were just numbers, or dates, or pieces finished. They were just arbitrary things. I still fall into the trap of thinking that the next goal achieved will be different, somehow, but getting all of this out on paper helps me to keep that feeling in check.

So where does that leave me in my struggle with my identity as a wife and mama, girl boss, and part-time English professor? I’m not sure. I guess my best answer is: I’m working on it. It’s funny, because in almost every other area of my life, I actually feel ok. I’m a natural introvert, and I’ve always struggled with that part of my personality—I just work better in small groups or one-on-one, and I feel a bit awkward interacting with large groups of people (unless I’m in charge, like in front of a classroom—then I’m in my element, for some reason). I’ve struggled with my body image too, and I always feel like people are judging me for being super unhealthy or unattractive. I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about what people think of my personal style, or the way that I parent, or the things that I believe.

I think all that has really started to change over the past couple of months. Suddenly, I’m not really thinking about everyone else so much. I’m oddly focused on what’s best for our family, what’s best for my business, and what’s best for me. What other people think seems so much more insignificant to me now than it ever has. It’s not that I don’t care at all about other people—I do. I just don’t care what they think.

Maybe that means that resolving my identity crisis when it comes to what I should “be” or “do” is right around the corner. Fingers crossed!

 

Do you struggle with the same things I do? How does your family respond to your small business, dreams, or goals? What do you see as your primary identity, and how did you get to that point? Tell me about it in the comments below—I’d love to get some more perspective on this!! As always, feel free to email me at metrodetroitmaker@gmail.com, or follow me on Instagram and use the #metrodetroitmaker to connect with the community.

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