Miss J.La’s Fur Babies Cat Cafe First Anniversary Craft Sale/Vendor Show

I’m doing another craft show this weekend – this one is at Miss J.La’s Furbabies Cat Café and Adoption Centre. It’s their First Anniversary celebration and they’re doing a BBQ, giving away celebration cake, hosting a craft/vendor sale and offering 50% off admission into the cat room. (Regular $10 to get in, but only $5 on Sunday!)

I’ll be selling a limited selection of my Book’d Creations product there, as well as showing the new Steeped Tea catalogue and offering some tea samples. This’ll be my first Steeped Tea show, so I honesty have no idea how that’s going to go. I love selling the stuff… but mostly because I love drinking it – and the more I sell, the more commission I make… with which to buy more tea… (Love tea? You can order through me if you’re in Canada by clicking here!)

Going into this particular show, I’m not at all sure what to expect. First, because I’m running my table solo – my usual helper, my incredible mother, is very allergic to cats. And as the cat café is currently home to almost 20 of them, well, spending a day there would be absolutely miserable for her. Second, I’m trying to sell two product (on one table), on my own. Normally I have the two of us to sell one product, which can get busy. I’m being insanely ambitious by trying to sell both things on my own. However, and this goes into the third point, I don’t know what the traffic will be like. The event is being advertised, but only marginally. As I have no idea what traffic is like on a regular Sunday at the cat café, I don’t know what to hope for. Basically, doing this show goes against all the rules I have for myself when it comes to choosing shows – like checking the track record of the organizer (this one hasn’t done a show before, hence no record) and evaluating past traffic (as I said, I have no idea what the traffic is like). BUT the table is only costing me $20 and I really wouldn’t have been doing anything other than watching TV on Sunday anyway. So, I figure if I make even two sales, I’ve made money, and was able to do some networking. And there is definitely room for some networking, particularly with my Steeped Tea business.

Which, again, is definitely not how I ever choose shows. So, writing all this down has made me second guess my decision to do this event – but hey, I’ve committed, and it could be awesome so I’ll run with it and re-evaluate after! The biggest reason I agreed to sign up is the cat cafe is connected to Ksen’s Kittens, a rescue group I foster for. All the cats at the cafe are rescues under the care of Ksen’s Kittens – including a cat, Henry, that I fostered for a few months.

I’m also one of only… 6 sellers. (Something like that. It’s a small number.) Which could either work in my favour (yay! No competition!) or to my detriment (I think I’m the only one not selling pet-themed items.)

Let’s see… maybe I should set some goals! Okay, here they are:

Steeped Tea Business Goals @ the Cat Cafe
* Book 1 Party
* Sell $250 worth of product (a qualifying party order!)

Book’d Creations Goals @ the Cat Cafe
* Sell $300 worth of product (not a good show for me, but better than my worst show… plus I’ll be working the table solo for the first time, so even if the traffic is incredible, there’s only so much one woman can do lol)

Okay. So. I have a lot to do tomorrow to prepare. Drafting up some signage, printing out promos, and figuring out how to best display both products on the same table. Keep your fingers crossed for me; I’ll definitely update on Sunday night or Monday.

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St. Norbert Handmade and Vintage Sale (And craft shows in general)

This week and last week I did a craft show at the St. Norbert Community Centre – the Vintage and Handmade Sale. I participated in it last year (it’s first year… and my first ever craft sale) and I was incredibly impressed by it’s organization, selection of goods, and the traffic through the door… which was why I had no problem booking for two of the three weeks this year. I had very high hopes for my sales at the show, as did my mom (who is my craft show helper… and believe me, she’s awesome at it).

I will say this: the show was as well organized as last year. Kristie is so easy to work with, and it’s obvious she really put her everything into making sure the show would be a success. I saw posters up all over the neighbourhood in the weeks leading up to the show, plus tons of posts (including paid/sponsored posts) on Facebook. I have no doubt in my mind that she did literally everything she could possibly do to get people in the door. Unfortunately, the numbers just weren’t as good as last year’s. Last year at the show there were approximately 1000 people through the doors. This year, on the first week I did there were only about 500. The numbers for today haven’t been emailed out so I could be mistaken, but I’m going to guess it was somewhere around 650 people. An improvement, but still not growth over last year. You can’t force people to come through the doors, so this certainly wasn’t her fault.

Last week was incredibly discouraging, because when it came to sales, it was the worst sale I’d had to date. That changed today when the show this morning/afternoon became the worst sale I’ve had to date. (For sales/financials/profits/etc. NOT the worst for organization. Like I said, Kristie’s organization is fabulous and I don’t attribute poor traffic to her one bit! It’s not something she can control AT ALL.)

There are numerous factors that undoubtedly contributed to the poor sales we had. The traffic was the number one thing I think, because with half the people of last year, there was very little chance we were going to duplicate what we did in the past. This year there also seemed to be more vintage product, which mine is not (although my pieces ARE upcycled books). I don’t know if maybe there was just a different crowd coming in this year… more interested in vintage than handmade. But I know it wasn’t just us with dealing with minimal sales – I saw shoppers who came to our table who had been in the arena a while already and who had no other bags. It looked to me like people just really weren’t buying much in general. I had hoped last week was just a fluke (week one I actually had several really rude people come by too, which I’ve never actually had before at shows), but unfortunately, at least sales-wise, week one was my good week which is just plain disappointing. (But the shoppers were much nicer!)

Now, in my experience, crafters aren’t forthcoming with how they did/what they made at sales. I don’t know why that is. Between last week and this week I asked so many people how they did and their response was always “good”… which I know is a complete lie because I’d been watching their faces fall all day. Their postures slumping, a look of defeat on their face until finally, just before the show closed at 3pm, they’d start hurriedly packing up their products because they had had enough rejection.

I’m going to write a post in the near future basically detailing what I look for in a sale, what my sales goals are, and how I’ve done at each of my sales to date – along with traffic, if I can find those stats, and how many hours each show was. I have no problem with people knowing what I make at sales, or with them knowing what my goals are. I think that kind of knowledge can help us as a community grow. I’ve had several crafters in the past tell me they consider any show where they make back the cost of their table a “good” show. I fail to understand how that’s a good show – when you only make back your table fee you are making a grand total of $0 in profit, plus not paying for your time sitting there for 6 hours on a Saturday. Is it really worth it? I’d say not.

When a sale is going well, it’s a wonderful way to spend 5 or 6 or even 7 hours. You get to interact with so many different people and talk about shared interests. (Like your art.) But when a sale isn’t going well, it’s a nightmare. Crafters and artisans (like writers, which I am as well) pour their hearts and souls into their work and it’s rather hard to have people say, over and over again, “oh that’s nice” or “how creative”, but not think it’s nice enough, or creative enough, to part with their hard-earned money. Even worse is when you try to talk to someone and they brush you off and say they’re not interested, or they just nod along but you can tell they’re not even listing to a word you say.

So basically the point of this post is that between last week and this week I’ve drawn a few conclusions. One, I probably won’t do this same sale again next year (although I am doing Kristie’s Christmas sale in November). Two, I need to find other ways to sell that aren’t at craft shows (I’m already in two stores, one local and one in the USA, and I sell on Facebook and Etsy as well). Craft shows have a lot of jewelry, and although mine is incredibly unique, a lot of people see jewelry from a distance and pass on by before I can even talk to them and tell them what’s different about mine. (I make my pieces out of second hand books. You can check me out at my Facebook page: Book’d Creations) I have a few ideas about this, which are yet to come.

Ultimately I just wanted to get my thoughts about the show down, my impressions of how things went, before I lost that day-of urgency. I always say I’m going to write about the shows I participate in and never do. I’m rather behind on my blogging, but I hope to get back into the habit in the days to come – because I have a lot to write about!

My First Shabbat Service

Before the Service

I’m writing this in the hour or so before I have to catch the bus to attend my first Shabbat service. I have all the standard worries – what do I wear? Where will I sit? What if I sit in the wrong place? What if I look stupid when I can’t follow the prayers or the music? Ultimately, I may well say or do something wrong. And I probably will look stupid. It’s inevitable, I think, considering I’m walking into an environment that is 100% unfamiliar to me, on my own, with no one to guide me along. But that’s okay (I think!). It’s all part of the learning process. I’m not sure if I want to sort of show up, hide in the background/go unnoticed, observe and slip out… or introduce myself, talk to people, put myself out there. I’ll probably figure it out while I’m there.

Honestly, I’m not as nervous this morning as I have been throughout this past week. I’m not sure why that nervousness is gone, but I’m glad. (That said, it’ll probably hit me full force when I get there. I have a decent dose of social anxiety; new situations, new people, can be very hard for me.)

I wonder how different it’ll feel, if it’ll feel different at all, attending a Shabbat service over, say, a Christian service. I attended a private Christian school from grade 7 to 12, and it was… well, it was awful. It completely changed my perspective of Christianity (and not in a good way). I haven’t been able to attend a Christian service without extreme anxiety in years. The last time I even tried I ended up leaving part way through the music at the beginning to sit in my mom’s car and wait for the service to finish. I’m desperately hoping that this is different. I think it will be, though.

Well, here goes nothing.

After the Service

I’m home now from the service and I know, technically using my laptop on Shabbat is a no-go. However, I’m phasing myself into the Shabbat thing slowly, and I really wanted to get my thoughts down before I forgot about them. By the time I start the classes in September I’m hoping I’ll be fully-Shabbat observant. Or at least much closer than I am now.

First impression when I walked in the door – people were very friendly. And while no one came over to me immediately, despite how lost I must have looked, when I went to ask the greeter where I was supposed to go as it was my first time there he was so quick to grab a passing member who was friendly and more than happy to guide me upstairs, find me a place to sit, and later come over to make sure I didn’t have any questions/knew I was welcome. I’m glad I asked for help – my overall impression of the synagogue might have been different if I hadn’t.

So I went up to sanctuary (is that what it’s called? I don’t know…) and got settled in. By the time the service started the place was pretty packed, and people continued to steam in as it went on.

I love the sound of Hebrew, and I love all the singing. The Rabbi was warm and engaging, cracking jokes and smiling often. I didn’t know what was going on, but at least he called out pages so that unfamiliar people like me could follow along. Not that I could read the Hebrew, or even the phonetics. But still, it was nice to have something to follow.

I’ve always been so impressed with the reverence that the Jewish people have for the Torah. When it was pulled out and walked around the congregation people reached out to touch it with their prayer shawls and then kissed the fabric that had touched the holy text. It was pretty spectacular to watch. The other thing I loved about the service was that it was so full of life. That’s something that, according to the reading I’ve done, is so important to the Jews. Life, and joy. Despite all the awful things that have happened to them, their religious ceremonies are inherently joyful. There was singing, and clapping, and laughing.

The most difficult part for me was having this longing to be part of them, and knowing I’m not. Yet. Sitting there almost felt like pretending to be something I wasn’t, but something that I wanted to be. They were doing a luncheon type of thing afterwards, and I was invited to stay, but staying felt wrong somehow. Like I hadn’t earned that yet. I was an outside among those who have historically (and even today) been the outsiders. But that’s okay, because I will be one of them some day. It’s kind of difficult to explain that feeling any better than this, and maybe it doesn’t make sense, but it’s a sort of stream-of-consciousness reflection. I may come in and tidy it up later, or not.

At any rate, I’ll be going back next week, and hopefully by the time the class begins in September I’ll be familiar enough with the rhythm of the service to be able to maybe even participate.

P.S. Despite my fear that I would feel the same thing at this service that I did at Christian ones (crippling anxiety, to the point of having to leave), I did not, and I was fine. It was a wonderful experience over all.