July 26, 2009

Crazy Show Season, part 2

... the cliffhanger continues...

So Greg and I arrive back in one piece from Atlanta, and I was a little panicky about not having enough jewelry to take to San Francisco. I also had no idea how I was going to fit a display inside a suitcase! This was the first show I would be flying to, and I had just been procrastinating in thinking how it would really work.

For starters, I borrowed my parents humongous suitcase that is always over the 50 pound limit whenever they fly with it. I assumed I would fill it to over 50 pounds as well, but I had no idea it would cost me a $90 surcharge! What a rip off! We repacked it on our return trip and got it down to 49 pounds. Boo-ya!

Before I could even begin to fill the suitcase however, I assessed the jewelry situation. The one thing I didn't want to do was pull all of the jewelry off of my wholesale display canvases, since I would have to hang them all back up again when I got back for the Philadelphia Buyers Market of American Craft, and it's not a very fast process. However, Greg and I realized that we would have to reconfigure them anyway since I will be on a corner in Philly, so off they came. Greg was given the arduous task of removing all the jewelry, adding chain tags, pricing, and bagging. Not fun for him, but he was a champ and did a great job.

While he did that, I started making lists of what needed to be made and it was surprisingly small! Apparently, I had created a stockpile of earrings and other things before Atlanta when I was in a zombie-like state of mind. It seemed a little like Jesus was there feeding the 5,000, except that it was not bread and fish, but necklaces and earrings! Jewelry was multiplying before my very eyes and it was miraculous!! The weight was lifted, and I definitely had enough jewelry for San Francisco. Praise the Lord. For reals.

We arrived in San Francisco at last! The trip I had planned for for months was officially starting! Thanks to my trusty guidebook, we already had plans. We went straight to Chinatown and ate at the Oriental Pearl. Of course we had Dim Sum which was good, but I don't know what the big deal is - it tastes just like shumai which you can get at any sushi restaurant. Their entrees were really fresh, though.

The next day, we got up at the crack of dawn, which luckily wasn't too early for us since we were adjusted to Eastern time. We headed to the show at Fort Mason Festival Pavilion in a taxi and of course were one of the first people there. It was cool to see the transition of empty pavilion...

to bustling craft show...

There was a lot of talent in that room! Unfortunately some of that talent was jewelry competition. :( I had a good show, but it was not as good as I had expected and I wonder if it was because there was just so much good stuff and so many vendors to choose from, and unfortunately buyers only have so much money. And I'm definitely more accustomed to southernors who are not very picky. San Franciscans are a picky bunch. Even though I had a ton of jewelry, so many times customers would ask if I had A but a little more like B or with a longer/shorter chain, and if I couldn't make it happen, they would walk away. Southernors would be like "okay!" and pick out something else. Of course this is a gross overgeneralization...

One thing I was not prepared for, was how cold San Francisco was! The forecast said 70 but it did not account for the wind chill! And of course I brought a white denim jacket that got dirty almost immediately. That jacket and my Squasht by Les hat were my uniform for the show. I also bought some groovy hand warmers that helped a lot by Texture. And speaking of indie peeps, I met a lot of people I had admired for a while or just discovered, and acquired some other new purchases. Such as: Rock Scissor Paper, Birdy Botanicals, Appetite, Ink Lore, Invita, and Cosmonaut. People were very friendly, and everyone in that building from Tennessee said hit to me, which was great!

Our last day in San Francisco was spent in a GoCar, which was fantastic. Not only did we get to drive a three wheeled car, we got a gps guided tour! It was a beautiful, scenic and easy way to see San Francisco without getting lost. I kinda wish we had a GoCar tour in Nashville so I could learn new Nashville trivia!

We looked kinda dorky, but everywhere we went, people were taking our picture, which made us feel like celebrity tourists. The best part? During the entire 2 1/2 hour tour, I did not think about jewelry once, and that was a vacation unto itself.

During our stay, we ate at the Monk's Kettle which was delicious despite the snarky waiter and the sketchy location. Their beer selection was almost as good as the Brick Store Pub in Atlanta, and that's saying a lot!

lemon-glazed asparagus with proscuitto and ricotta salata at Monk's Kettle

Cafe Claude was also amazing - thanks to Amy of Olaria for the recommendation! We also ate really yummy sushi at Sanraku, which was right down the street from our hotel, the Hotel Vertigo, which I highly recommend too.

sushi at Sanraku

The show paid for the trip, although I didn't make much on top of that, but who's complaining? I would consider flying to a show again, but I would definitely make a longer trip out of it so that it could justify the expense of renting a car. Taxi's get expensive fast, but in San Francisco it would have been too expensive to park our car and rent one. I definitely would not recommend only giving yourself two days between two big shows, though. That was a little stressful, and not the smartest thing I've ever done. It was all worth it, though!

July 25, 2009

Crazy Show Season, part 1

Where do I even begin? I feel like I've been whirled around inside a pressure cooker for the last three weeks of my life!

I'll go back to Chicago, June 26th when we left for the Fountain Square Art Fest in Evanston, IL - it took us over 9 hours to drive there due to many annoying traffic jams. We set up in the middle of the street, and had to make fast decisions about how to maximize our set up where people could come in on either side of the booth. Then, we had some tasty dinner at the misleadingly named Flat Top Grill - doesn't that sound like a place to get a panini or a burger? Turns out, it was one of those Mongolian Grill type of places and it was really good, but a little difficult to make my own stir fry after I was so fried from our extremely long day.

Anyway, the Fountain Square Show in Evanston that weekend was great. It was what craft shows are supposed to be like - lots of great people, great weather (except for the scary wind gusts blowing everything around), and great sales! I find that my most successful shows tend to be street festivals like this one, but of course that's not always the case.

in the booth, slightly different setup that worked great

I knew that the Atlanta Gift show and the San Francisco Renegade Craft Fair were rapidly approaching, and I was feeling a little like a black hole was getting closer and closer to swallowing me up! I kept telling myself "Get through the Chicago show" and then I could focus on my next two big shows. So when we returned home Monday night, I only had one week to prepare, plus a day and a half between the two shows to get ready for San Francisco. Getting ready for a wholesale show is intense - you have to have one of everything made. You have to have the right number of catalogs, order forms, pens, tools, postcards, business cards, signage, etc... And then you have to be very certain how you are going to display it all once you get there.

We give ourselves two days to set up our display at the show, but some people take 4 or 5 to set up their temporary display. Some of these displays get really inventive and elaborate, but that takes $$. Even my simple canvas displays made with felt and paint cost almost $400. For canvases and felt, I tell you! That doesn't even include the cost of the jewelry supplies, the foam core wall, the floor, the chairs, the catalogs, order forms, promos, etc! The first wholesale show I did cost me about $7000 before the hotel, advertising, and not including jewelry supplies. Seriously people. This is what it takes to bring Freshie & Zero to the masses. And then I get to spend about 4 or 5 thousand more each wholesale show I do. Fun, right? Who wouldn't sign up for this?

Anyway, I'm bitching a little but it's really just the money part that is kind of staggering. So when people ask me for a discount at a craft show, my first reaction is to school them on how much money I have paid to be standing before them. Then I just smile and say "I'm sorry, I don't offer discounts at shows". But that's a whole other blog post all together and wholesale accounts never ask for deals (well, almost never).

I digress. We miraculously got prepared for Atlanta on time (many late nights of hammering and lots of help from Greg!) and set up was pretty easy, except for the fact that there was a huge air duct obstructing my ceiling, which I knew about beforehand but I did not realize that it would obstruct my track lights I brought. So I had to pay the floor rate ($200!!!!) to rent 6 track lights. Sigh.

I really wanted this show to be a big success, so I spent a little more on advertising this go-round. I did a pre-show mailing to every business that had ever contacted me, which was the least expensive form of advertising I did. Then I rented a little floor space in one of the Mart buildings where you can set up a "vignette" display of your products. It sounded a little steep ($672 for 9 square feet) but I took a deep breath and booked it. Then of course, I had to buy a table, fabric, displays for that space but it was all worth it. A very healthy amount of customers came into my booth who said they saw my display. I am 80% sure that I would book it again. I keep going back and forth - I'm trying to gather a tally of how many sales were directly or indirectly related to the vignette. And if I did it again, should I revamp it a little and change it up? Mo money mo money?

I also took out my ad in the Market Magazine again, which is the best advertising dollars that could ever be spent. So worth it every time. It's over $1000 but if your ad is good, it will more than pay for itself, and quickly too!

Greg prepares our morning coffee in our little booth.

You never know who you'll be next to at the show, either, and the vibe of your aisle can really affect your show and your sales. In January, I was across from a very corporate booth that held many sales meetings for their reps across the country. It was a little distracting, and they were really rude to their neighbors, which was totally unnecessary. So I got myself moved to a different spot this time and I loved it! The aisle was really narrow, so people had to get close to your stuff. And my neighbors were awesome! I met Leigh and her mother Susan of Leighelena, who makes beautiful enamel jewelry and who was also heading to Renegade San Fran. Then Karin and Kat of KBD Studio who were also very cool and sold me some of their groovy handmade clothes. I also met Caroline Pate who is another jewelry designer living in Nashville. It was her first wholesale show and she experienced all the mart has to offer - meeting nice people and fending off nasty comments from naysayers. I also chatted with Maria of Lua Chea again and she's a total sweetheart, and her jewelry line is so fun and made of recycled materials! I met many more wonderful people, too many to list here!

So after all of my preparation and advertising, I ended up selling less than I sold in January! What??!! You have to look at the big picture, people, and overall, it was more successful. I opened up mostly new accounts, when in January a lot of my sales were reorders. Freshie & Zero is now officially in 24 states (once I get all of those orders shipped!). I got a lot of solid leads, and Greg and I learned so much about marketing and how many things we were already doing right, but also some things that needed improvement. We even went to a couple of seminars to try and become better business people! We left the mart totally happy and ready to tackle new ground.... and then we had to get ready for San Francisco in two days... to be continued...

July 23, 2009

My desk revolts

My desk has officially thrown up its contents everywhere. I usually have the right side somewhat clear but at the moment, I've given up. There's just so much.... stuff. And it's all important. I just need a better way to file things for later without putting them in my filing cabinet, because once it hits the filing cabinet, it's pretty much forgotten forever. At least Greggles emptied the trash for me today...

I got all of my Mart orders entered last night - over a week later. I just can't believe we made it to San Francisco and back in one piece! It was a nice trip, and I'm glad we went, even if my sanity is paying the price a bit. I have so much on my to-do list, I'm having a hard time prioritizing. So I'm writing a blog. And procrastinating. I guess I should get back to my list....

July 15, 2009

Zero, wet from the pool

Zero, wet from the pool, originally uploaded by Chewieez.

Zero is all smiles in my mom's backyard, after taking a dip in the pool. I'm trying to train him to not be petrified of the swimming pool. He's a great swimmer, but he HATES the water. The first time he saw the ocean as a puppy, he tried to climb onto my head to escape it!

July 02, 2009

ad for SF weekly

Check it out, San Francisco! Look for my ad above in the next issue of SF Weekly. Part of the marketing machine that is Freshie & Zero. :) I thought it couldn't hurt to advertise on the West Coast for the upcoming Renegade Craft Show since I've never taken Freshie & Zero there! In the next issue, I'll be sharing an ad with the lovely Olaria studio. Of course, the timing isn't great since I had to close my website down for the month of July since I'll pretty much be out of town the whole month... Le sigh.