And so it begins.... holiday show prep
In this world, there are art shows, craft shows and shit shows. Bet you can guess which one I find myself in most often.
In one week, we set up at both a Holiday Galleria in Wichita and a Fall Junkstock in Omaha. Prepping for one show... it's a little stressful. Prepping for two in two different cities? While our house is undergoing a big exterior project? This is a new level of insanity for me. Not my first shitshow. Or my second. I'm on at least my 6th shitshow.
Your girl is up for the challenge.
I did my first show years ago … it was a fall show over at Town Center. I had no idea what I was doing. I paid the fee which was about $300. I got a booth "inline" -- new word. I loaded up my truck with the round signs I was making and some "happy fall y'all" signs. I brought a few "funny signs" and we set up shop.
It was an outdoor show. The weather was perfect. People showed up in droves. Barnstormers were the first in line! I sold almost $8,000 worth of signs -- many of these were pre-paid orders for the family name rounds.
Wow, I thought I had uncovered the big retail secret of 2014. SHOWS. This was amazing. I'll never forget those of you that went home with signs in both hands.
But, what happens when you have a show like that is this... the next time I went to that show, there were 24 booths of people selling wood signs. Word had gotten out that signs were hot and … now everyone was a sign maker.
Also, perfect weather and outdoor craft shows? Rare.
Next I tried a local "handmade" show … these required same-day set up. Our first booth was on a grassy slope off Ward Parkway. These handmade people really upped the aesthetic aspect of the show booth. Not only were they handmade, like me, they spent a lot of time having a booth that was visually pleasing. In a single day. Usually brought via Subaru. And outside.
To me this was like dancing in high heels, backwards, to Knickelback.
This time I had signs, but we also launched Kickbadges … the fun shoe wear with unique badges on the side. From this show, also around the same cost, I learned that dealing with people trying on shoes might just be the most painful craft show idea ever. Too small. Too tight. Don't look right. We were patient, but I learned I'm more of a grab and go girl.
Yes, we sold a shit ton. A. Shit. Ton. But we also had to make an area where people could sit down to try them on. We rolled out a carpet so they could walk in them, but not get them dirty in case they were the wrong size. We had a unique sign made, made up unique tables out of turquoise sawhorses... the whole ball of wax. We had good weather but wet grass. We were on a slope. We had to pack things up at night and bring them home then unpack again in the morning.
Leaving $2,000 worth of Converse on WardParkway at night seemed like a really bad idea. But we had so much fun. Kathy Baker and I are like …. god, who are we like? I've never in my life laughed so hard as I laugh when KB is around.
It was around this time that my friend KB was explaining to me that she actually went to bigger shows and bought things "wholesale" then brought them to shows to sell. If you buy MOQ (min. order quantity) of certain "hit" items at 50 percent, then mark up and sell enough of them, it was totally worth it. But for those shows, you need at least $1000 for the booth fee. No effing way.
I didn't have that kind of money to waste on bad decisions. If I wanted to burn $1000 I'd buy an emotional support baby goat.
And, I'm totally about the math. Maybe to a fault, but then, I'm still going. (Nothing pisses off bullshitters like math.) The math did not work if you had a fail. It was like throwing good hard earned money away.
BUT, I just keep thinking about how I could make it work.
The first big show we tried was Holiday Boutique at the Sheraton. I got a booth, yes for one thousand dollars, and we set up to sell our signs and the helmet tees. We rolled in a fireplace mantle to make the signs look good. I decided to supplement my "made" stuff with those wine sippy cups. I had found "a guy" in china who could get me the good ones at a crazy low price. And, we had our pet coasters. I bought some sports totes. This was a lot of stuff for a 10x10 inline store.
The first thing I learned was, bring your own handtruck to load in.
The second thing I learned was location, location, location.
We were in a "secondary" location and next to me was a carnival barker aggressively selling windows. Next to me was the perfume guy from Dallas. And somewhere nearby was someone selling bath bombs. Basically, to a person with asthma and anxiety, this was hell. H. E. L. L. Did I mention a lady selling the best iron you'll ever own?
We made so many signs for this show in anticipation of huge sales. We racked up tons of tees and flannels … few of which sold. But you know what saved my ass, those wine sippies. We had gotten them so low that we were able to sell them much cheaper than everyone else and we let people pick out their own sticker to apply.
BOOM. Done. We had found a way to make a profit at that show when nothing else was really moving. It wasn't what I expected, but something had sold so I was good.
And we learned a key lesson: people don't really come "into" a 10x10 inline.
Or at least, they didn't come into ours.
We also learned, no matter what, pay for the better location. I just won't be near direct sales now and if you are barking at people in the aisle, I don't care what you are selling, I'm going to report you to management. Nobody wants that. Nobody.
Anyway, that was our entry into the big shows. Each show has its own rules about what you can and can't bring. This next week we will not be able to bring our snarky pint glasses to JUNKSTOCK because I don't actually "make" them myself (yet). However, we can bring them to Holiday Galleria in Wichita. One show is outdoors which requires a tent and monitoring the weather (shit it looks like rain again). The other is new to us so we'll have to decide our booth set up and how traffic flows.
You need to read the rules and adjust accordingly. We love JUNKSTOCK and JUNKSTOCK loves us back. I mean one year it was 53 degrees for three days straight and damp and we're still going back. I heard it snowed up there and people still came out.
And, it's just me, but I make some decisions about whether I will do a show not based on business. I don't go back to shows where I am not treated well even when I make thousands of dollars. I'd get hammered for that on shark tank but... it's a lot of work and TBH I'm still a creative at heart so these things ruin my vibe.
And, it's because of you too.
I have a massive and loyal following. I mean, it's not Rae Dunn but the Barnstormers show up IN FORCE. Last year it just FLOORED me how many people came to see my new stuff at all of my holiday shows. I know that when YOU show up, everyone benefits. You're buying a ticket. You're buying from other vendors. You're likely to have food and drink. And probs, you'll bring a friend too.
So, here we go again. Next week it all starts. I had to rent a van to take to Wichita and Sam and Karen are taking the show in Omaha. My living room is filled with snarky ornaments that need ribbon. My basement filled with snarky mugs, three cases that still need to be made. My garage with snarky key chains and pint glasses and coasters out the wazoo.
I need to drag out the signs, the lighting, the tent, the cash box, the paypal readers, the carpet, and omg, do not forget the zip ties. Please God help me remember to take the zip ties. Zip ties are to a craft show like duct tape is to a mechanic. I'll need more tables this time. And lighting. Extension cords.
Now that I'm writing all this out it occurs to me, this is a lot like camping with toddlers but a whole lot more expensive.
Last year my friend Viv helped me work one of the shows. After it she told me that she gets why I would love doing it. I'm going to be honest and tell you this.
It's like being the Belle of the Ball. I imagine it's like being a comedienne on stage when people laugh at your jokes.
I've put myself out there on these cups and coasters and you stand there and laugh and laugh and laugh. And it makes me so happy. Viv got a glimpse into this and … that's what makes it all so worth it.
We want to make you the hero of the gift exchange. We want to make you the "funny aunt" at the Thanksgiving get together. We want you to bring a little bit of fun to Christmas stockings. We want you to be able to buy something local that is actually still made in the garage of a woman in OP.
I know we're not for everyone. But if you need a laugh, we're here for you.