A few weeks ago I mentioned that my sweetheart and I would be stepping out on the ice in an experimental foray into the world of vendor shows and flea markets. It was to be our first experience in being a vendor with our vintage jewelry and our hand crafted wire-wrap/beaded/gemstone jewelry. We are on the other side of that event now and we survived. We’re not ready to retire … we didn’t get rich … we learned some important lessons … we met some new friends … but we did make a little income after expenses were taken out.
Some important lessons we learned:
- It takes two hours to set up all the jewelry and only an hour to pack it away. Linda found a wonderful collapsible wagon for moving things from the car to the booth and it was worth its weight in gold. Half price at Shopco, it saved a LOT of running back and forth and saved some time. But carefully setting up the displays with several hundreds of pieces of jewelry is more time-consuming than I anticipated. Result of learning this lesson: An understanding that I must never think that I can do this alone … it requires two people. It also requires two people, most importantly, when you have to go to the bathroom … one to stay and the other to go; when you want to get something to eat, or when you want to spy on the other vendors and see what they are selling, for how much and whether they have any good display ideas or items that you can’t do without.
- Two 8′ tables is just barely enough room for all the jewelry. If we have the Norwex stuff with us, we will need four tables. Result of learning this lesson: A sudden awareness of the interesting, logistical challenges we’ll face, if we ever do events where the event sponsor does not provide the tables … one can only wear so much jewelry on their arms, ears and neck, after all. Of course, you can display twice as much that way if you have learned lesson #1.
- Speaking of room – we discovered that there is just a smidgen more space in our car than is required to carry all the jewelry and display gear. Any luggage, Norwex stuff, kidnapped grandchildren and we are just plumb out of luck. It won’t work, and we didn’t even have to transport tables or craft fair canopy/tent. Result of learning this lesson: Think about figuring out how to borrow the kids’ van, rent a van, rent a small U-haul truck, find another vehicle, procure a small enclosed cargo trailer. Of course, one could always use the passenger seat for additional space but that violates the rule established as a result of lesson #1. All of those solutions have drawbacks. While Linda is skeptical, I like the idea of the cargo trailer. Not so big that I need a bigger vehicle to haul it, but big enough to carry our stuff AND provide a place to sleep if we ever need it to watch over our inventory during the night hours. Of course you can’t watch over it while you are sleeping so that is the advantage of learning lesson #1. One can watch and one can sleep. We can do it in shifts!
- Linda is better at engaging prospective customers than I am. I’ve got the opening line down pretty well: “Good morning”, “Good afternoon”. That’s fairly easy and I’ve learned that it will at least get passers-by to pause in front of your table. I don’t really know where to go after that. I tried a few things … “That ring really makes your finger look classy!” (Classy? …. yeah, I said that). “Those earrings will really make your ears stand out!” (I knew that was wrong the minute I said it!). “Surely you can find something here to make you beautiful” (The wrongness of that dawned on my slowly). “That necklace will accentuate your neck” (Thankfully I thought before I spoke on that one and something told me ‘Don’t go there, that’s creepy!’). Result of learning this lesson: Ask Linda for advice … or any other woman … “What can I tell you to make you want to consider buying a piece of jewelry.”
- There are far more people who like the hand crafted jewelry, and who think it is beautiful, than there are people who actually want to buy it. Result of learning this lesson: Trying not to take it personally when they compliment my work and then walk away.
- People attending a flea market are more likely to buy something if you have a big collection of junk and odds and ends … moreso than if you have a lot of nice vintage and hand-made jewelry pieces. There is some crossover buying but perhaps not as much as we might expect at an arts and crafts fair. Result of learning this lesson: Hold out hope that our suspicion about this is true.
- Just because you start slow doesn’t mean that it will end that way. Most of what we sold, was sold in the final two hours of the six hour event. Result of learning this lesson: Understanding that it may not pay (literally) to leave an event before it is concluded.
All in all, it was a positive experience and we sold Hand-crafted and vintage items. We also met some friends who told us about an event here in Dubuque called “Junque in Your Trunk” coming in June. We’ll try it and see, but with a name like that who will come looking or jewelry? It sounds like a fancy place to find battery cables, spare tires, damp rags, lost tools, old receipts, moldy and otherwise smelly clothes and other interesting and barely identifiable items.
That’s the report on our first “ice-skating” experience together and it was passing pleasant. Keep in mind though, that the last time I was on ice-skates was when I was a teen-ager. I hit an exposed root on the frozen pond and sprained both ankles at the same time. That experience never made it past miserable! 😉