Goal update!

Good morning!

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

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

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

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

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

Recap of January:

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

You might remember my heart banners:

 

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

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

For April:

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

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

Goal #2: Stock up my shop.

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

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

For April:

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

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

Goal #3: Find new things to try.

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

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

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

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


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

 

#metrodetroitmaker Goals for 2018

Good morning girl bosses!

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

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

Mortgage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

So how does that affect my goals for 2018?

So glad you asked.

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

Goal #1: No spend January.

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

I’ll give you a minute to recover.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goal #2: Stock up my shop.

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

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

Goal #3: Find new things to try.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Talk soon,

Jessie

Craft Show Review: 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:

IMG_7607Pumpkin Crate

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

DIY Vintage Suitcase Craft Show Display Piece

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

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

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

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

Anyway, on to the DIY vintage suitcase display:

 

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

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

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

vintage suitcase

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

IMG_6217DIY boutique suitcase displaychalkboard sign

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

DIY suitcase diaply

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

shelf inside suitcase display

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

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

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

upcycled suitcase boutique display

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

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

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

Thanks for reading, friends! Have a great weekend!

Talk soon,

Jessie

 

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