Lessons Learned from my First Craft Show

 

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Lessons Learned at our First Craft Show

I  like the anonymity of selling on-line. I get to wear my pajamas and not comb my hair and my business ticks along but…….I would like to reach a more local audience. Our products are the kind you need to touch and feel (and smell). A picture cannot do justice to the nuances of colors in the wool or in the wood. You can’t experience the weight of something made of wood or the softness of the wool as you run your hand over it through a picture. I can try to show how large something is by putting something next to it to compare it to but once you put it in your hands you just know.

So…….craft show! I’ve been really hesitant to venture into this venue of selling. I was worried that I might fail and failing with people watching is a little unnerving. I had so many questions and concerns. So much work! Too much to plan! But alas reason won over fear and I set off on a new adventure with Mark in tow.

We decided last year that we were going to attempt ONE craft show. We went to the venue and checked it out during the Fall craft show and I once again questioned my resolve! There were hundreds and hundreds of people. I felt swamped and all I did was walk around and get a sense of the place but we pressed on and signed up for a booth strategically located by the food and not far from the bathroom.

With five months to plan and get ready all should go off without a hitch! We both began stockpiling our wares. He made bowls, bandsaw boxes, pet dishes, salt and pepper mills and hunting calls. I washed, combed and dyed wool. I spun my fingers to the bone and started weaving. We had a lot of unique items to show and sell.

We received our paperwork and I read and reread all the rules and suggestions. We made booth displays and planned out a layout to showcase our products. We enlisted help from our wonderful family – daughter Lee and son-in-law Jon. We washed the trailer and added our logo. We put our logo everywhere. I worked to unify the booth with theme and color. I made stickers and signs and business cards and sticky notes. I measured and set up and thought about and dreamed about then panicked about the set up. So with all this thought and planning I should have had everything in order right?

NOPE!

So this is what I learned:

Lesson 1: There will always be new lessons to learn.

Lesson 2: You can plan and do dry runs and have everything ready but if you misread how large the tables are going to be you’re screwed before you even begin!

I “thought” the paperwork said that there would be one six foot table in the booth and we chose to have another six foot table added but when we got to our ten by ten square booth there were two EIGHT foot tables eclipsing the space. Shouldn’t be a problem more space to put stuff!!! Wrong….. Big problem!!! I had ordered tailored six foot tablecloths so no table coverings to unify the space. Then we noticed that Mark’s wheelchair and my chair and Lee’s chair and Jon took up about another eight feet of space. I suddenly became quite claustrophobic as the trailer was getting unloaded and all of our stuff started piling up. Lee and I quickly moved one table out but that left us with only eight feet of table and no way to use the layout that we had to carefully planned. Fortunately I had brought a four foot table that I had planned to use to put all the extras like calculator, money, bags, wrapping materials and so on. We quickly shifted gears and folded the tablecloths to make them cover the one table and used the four foot table (which had a matching tablecloth). Voila! Booth set up! Crisis averted!IMG_0810 (640x427)

Lesson 3: You can never avert all crisis’.

Too many people, too small a booth. Fortunately for us Lee was more than willing to not come and help on the day of the show and Jon left once Mark and I had our rhythm going. Love them both for being willing to change their plans for us! Our booth was still very cramped and small feeling. I felt hemmed in sitting behind my overly high tablescape. We readjusted and move out chairs and as our booth neighbor began to sell and move his things closer together we began to move ours further apart.

 

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Lesson 4: No matter how nice your layout looks it may not work.

Day one we had a very hard time getting anyone to come into our booth. I had one table across the front and one down the side but everyone walked past just looking at the front side of the table. I had even put the colorful items high and in the back of the booth and had a bin full of free items inside with a sign that said FREE but very few takers. At the end of day one I moved things around and lowered my layout but I did not rearrange the table placement. Day two fared slightly better but we still had trouble getting people to come into the booth and look around.

Lesson 5: Bring something to do!

I remember reading about this when researching how to have a successful craft show so I brought a small electric spinning wheel with me just in case we were slow and I needed something to do. Well we were in deed slow and I really needed something to do so after a couple of hours I broke out the machine and fired it up and started spinning…….and the kids started coming! And with kids you get parents. I can’t say that this increased our sales but it did get more people to come inside the booth. Day two I brought my regular spinning wheel and while the show did not have many children that day I did have a lot of adults who came to watch me spin! And I met some spinners who were so excited to find fiber to buy!

Lesson 6: Get to know the other vendors!

Some of our best sales were to the other vendors. Because the show was so slow for everyone there was time to go around and check everyone out! I made some great contacts and Mark has several new friends!

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Lesson 7: Well lesson 7 is I’m going to do this again in the fall.

I’m going to be in the same booth with the same eight foot table (for which I’m going to get the right sized tablecloth). I’m going to open the booth and not have something blocking the front so people can walk into to see what we have to offer and I’m going to spin, spin, spin.

 

 

In Front of the Camera

MarkNeither Mark nor I like to be in front of the camera. Both of us are very comfortable behind the scenes but owning a business requires us to do things that are outside of our comfort zones. Today was one of those days. We had a photographer come to the house to take some photos for us. Thank you Dana from DanaNDesign – check out her shop on etsy: https://www.etsy.com/shop/DanaNDesign

We had a lovely fall day for the pictures. Dana did a great job making both of us feel comfortable and got some amazing pictures.

Another item completed off our check-list! Stay tuned for more updates.

 

 

Spinning Cotton

I went to a spinning group at the beginning of the summer and several veteran spinners were talking about spinning cotton. One of the ladies brought me a small little bundle and told me that it was seed cotton. I was immediately fascinated!

Cotton on the seed that I brushed out with a cat brush
Cotton on the seed that I brushed out with a cat brush

Cotton seed with the fiber removed

 Cotton seed with the fiber removed

I ordered a Tahkli spindle and bags of seed cotton and practiced and practiced. I spent a lot of time fussing because the cotton kept breaking. It is a very short staple fiber so it has to be spun with more twist. Being a new spinner I had no idea on how to make that happen. You-tube is a wonderful resource! I watched a lot of videos. I finally figured out how to spin the cotton thin and have it not drift apart.

Spun cotton on the Tahkli Spindle
Spun cotton on the Tahkli Spindle
Very thin!
Very thin!

After my body’s break from the spinning wheel I sat back at the wheel to try to spin the cotton on it. Once again a steep learning curve! Practice and more practice and then……cotton yarn!!!! I also decided to extend my learning and triple plied this yarn….it was like herding cats. It doesn’t look as pretty as I hoped but it’s done!

3 ply Cotton Yarn
3 ply Cotton Yarn

Stay tuned…..I’m going to figure out how to spin silk next!

The Day MK Unique Designs Closed…..(for the day)

Little black and white, furry, low to the ground, stinky balls of “your not going to work today” blocked the entrance to the wood shop! Where is that written in any “Start Your Business” books?

It’s hard to open a business. There are a lot of things to work out. What products? How to make the products? Where to market the products? Etsy? Ebay? Amazon? Brick and Mortar? Internet? Web page? and once you figure all that out….branding? themes? concepts? packaging? space? buildings? Then production. We are well on our way in those departments. My wood shop puts in about 8-10 hours a day building and creating unique one of a kind bowls, vases, boxes, hunting calls and many other wood items and the wool shop averages 3-4 hours a day.

In a new business even a small break affects the amount of goods being produced so we take very little time off right now. In the heat of the day we work on the computer in doors since neither shop is very cool during the day. We have a goal to have enough products by next fall to start going to craft shows to try to get some local business coming our way also.

As we pour every spare second into the business and we jump hurdle after hurdle. Read books and articles and realize what we could be doing better or different and then go back and change, update and rearrange. Frustration builds. We keep finding things we didn’t know or didn’t think about that cause us to slow to a crawl. Well this week we hit a full on STOP! In all our careful planning and preparation no book or article or wise words of wisdom prepared us for what was coming!

SKUNK INVASION!

Little black and white, furry, low to the ground, stinky balls of “your not going to work today” blocked the entrance to the wood shop! Where is that written in any “Start Your Business” books? We had been smelling skunks in the neighborhood and one was in the yard one morning when I was leaving to go to work. Not so unusual. Then one in the driveway. Also not that unusual. The wood shop started to smell of skunk…..okay still not worrisome until…………..a  little skunk poked its tiny head out from under the ramp up to the shop. FULL STOP! ENGINES IN REVERSE! RUN!

Time to regroup and rethink this business plan……

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For all the animal lovers in my life the skunks were humanely trapped and relocated to a place where they will be able to run free.

Picking a theme….

I’ve spent hours trying to pick a theme. This is tougher than I thought. I have so much to do and yet I want to be able to start telling my story……IMG_7928 (640x427)

So this is the latest fiber….. a soft blue, pale purple and light sage green. I was hoping to get something like sea stone but I don’t think I made the colors rich enough…..so now I need help…..What name would you give this set of batts?

Welcome to my first blog post……

So where to start……March of 2015 I decided to start a business. I fell in love with all things wool – washing, carding, combing, spinning, felting….. In an effort to support my hobby I decided to share my love of all things wool. Etsy seemed liked a logical place to start selling so MK Unique Designs was born. I invite you to join me on this journey as I work out the bugs and reap the rewards. This blog may be filled with heart-warming personal stories as well as pictures of our progress. Thank you all for coming along for this ride.