The Funny Side of Business - Selling at Art Shows & Festivals
Posted by Lisa Ramos on
My First Big Outdoor Show
First, let me define what a big show means to me. It is where thousands of people are walking by my booth with the possibility of stopping to do a little shopping. My first big show in Contra Costa County was nothing like I expected. It was far from glamourous.
My pop-up setup - setting up my tent, tables and display items was done the day prior to the big show. During setup day I couldn't help noticing the unbearable heat, beating sun and missing areas of shade at my booth location. I kept telling myself, "I didn't care, it was my first show and roll with the punches". Little did I know there would be a lot of punches coming my way that weekend.
When I arrived at the park site for set-up I realized the location was pretty far away from the parking lot. It was going to be a lot of work going back and forth carrying bins in the heat, but I knew I could do it. My pop-up location was on the grass and looked pretty good. When doing a show one never knows what type of spot it is until you arrive. Some setup locations are better than others. Some examples of a bad location - a wind tunnel, next to a smelly sewer, a loud chanting vendor, stinky food aromas, behind a loud music speaker, faraway bathrooms and parking a mile away. I have experienced all seven.
My booth view at a show - the dreadful sewage smell
Nothing like first impressions
As I started walking on the grass I noticed my feet squishing into something. I ignored it and continued setting up. As I continued task after task, I kept feeling my shoes squishing into something. I said to my husband, "What is this crap I am stepping on?" He replied, "goose poop" and my response "I am not having any poop in my booth". So, my next task was to get the crap out of the tent. So, that is what I did. The fun and unexpected continued.
The next day I made sure to wear comfortable light-weight clothes, because the weather forecast predicted record breaking heat temperatures. The news was right. It was one of the hottest show days I ever experienced. People were walking around disoriented, sweating profusely and looking for areas of shade. There I was, in my tent, the beating sun, sitting patiently melting in my booth and waiting for customers. As my forehead dripped droplets of sweat combined with runny make-up into my eyes I couldn't help to wonder, "is this what an average day is like for a vendor at a show?" When the day finally ended I packed up my products and starting hauling the bins to my far away parked car. I couldn't wait to get home, shower and go to sleep. The next day I would be doing it all over again.
What doesn't kill me makes me stronger.
A selfie during a wind tunnel experience
The Wind is Your Enemy
When I first started doing outdoor shows in my tent I never really thought about the destruction of wind nor did I ever hear the word wind tunnel. After a few outdoor shows, I became all too familiar with mother nature and the destruction she could cause. Wait, I need weights?
I was doing a show in Silicon Valley and my booth spot looked great when I arrived. Parking was close and rows of restaurants with available bathrooms. My booth neighbors were nice and I made a few friends a long the way. I was so excited to have a nice location. Everything was going great until around 2pm. The wind started picking up. My booth started rattling and pushing forward. I was praying for it to be temporary, but the wind gusts proceeded. It was getting worse by the minute, inch by inch forward the tent went. Inches turned into feet. I looked outside of my booth to discover I was the only tent moving. I said to my neighbor, "What the heck is going on?" He replied, you are in a wind tunnel. I then realized my great spot was not so great and I literally got the wind knocked out of me that day.
Investing in heavy tent weights is essential or else your tent may literally blow away.
Where are the Indoor Bathrooms?
Growing up I was a neat and germ freak. I didn't like getting my hands dirty and I feared public bathrooms. I wasn't big on hand shaking either. So, when I started doing outdoor shows I discovered that finding an indoor bathroom was often impossible or would come at a cost. There were plenty of bathrooms available, just not the kind I liked. Outdoor portable toilets or what I called them as a kid, an outhouse were readily available at shows.
Using an outhouse is something I have become accustom to. Buck up, just deal with it and I would be fine was the mentality I learned early on. I also learned a few other important lessons regarding outhouses - (1) When you see the long row of potties pick one, don’t overthink it and then take a deep breath before going in. (2) The earlier in the day you use them oh the better. 3) Most importantly on day two of a show avoid using them until after the waste management crew has cleaned them, because they are at full capacity.
I have learned to be comfortable with the uncomfortable.
Where are the crowds of people?
Where are the People?
After researching various Bay Area shows and festivals I stumbled upon one that sounded a bit different and unique than others. Live music, a view of the water, great location, heavy promotion, affordable booth cost and large crowds of people coming to the event. It sounded too good to be true, but I immediately signed-up and paid the fees.
Upon arriving to the event around 8am for setup I scoped out the location. My booth spot was a nice location - close to my car, no sewage hole and the bathrooms were across the way. What more could I ask for? As show time neared 10:00 am vendors were doing their last minute setup. It was going to be a great day, I just knew it. The first hour I looked outside of my booth to see only vendors and musicians. I mingled with my neighbors as we were waiting for people to arrive. Sometimes it can take a few hours before the big crowds of people come to a show, so we all waited patiently. The hours went by and no one was arriving. The only people I spotted again were the musicians and vendors. Something was strange and not right. By 3:00 pm I finally figured it out, if something seems too good to be true, it is.
I have learned don't believe everything you read.
A Good show day - no wind, customers, available bathrooms and no sewage pots in sight.
The Incredible Sales Guy
I appreciate people in sales and certainly relate to the challenges in the industry. Selling means being creative, hustling your product or service and getting familiar with rejection. I was a doing a show in San Mateo County and really having a great time. My vendor neighbors were delightful, my booth was in a fantastic spot, the traffic flow and customers were great. As a vendor, I couldn't ask for much more. An extra bonus, twenty feet away some amusing entertaining sales guy.
There before my eyes, one of the most animated and energetic sales people I had ever seen. There he stood, a tall young man with a robust voice talking hundred miles a minute about a revolutionary back pain relief pillow. Rows of people listening attentively to his every word. He was chanting over and over again to the crowds of people to hurry and get their pain relief pillow, while highlighting his limited stock - "hurry only a few left he chanted over and over". Then he started getting people in the crowds involved testing the pillow on their backs - people were laughing and just having simple fun. Kids, parents and seniors were joining in on all of the excitement. People walking by would stop, listen, look for an empty seat, sit and test out this revolutionary pillow. I couldn't believe the crowds of people. He had the busiest booth at the festival, resulting in a lot of sales. After watching sales guy I concluded unstoppable energy and entertainment is a great combination in sales.
Selling is an art form.
After all these incredible experiences I wouldn’t change a thing. I can’t wait to get back to life on the road ...until we meet again!
California Handbag and Jewelry Designer Lisa Ramos' Posts – I will be taking you through some parts of my business experiences and talk about fashion, hopefully with a bit of humor, interest, honesty, inspiration and to the point. Until next time…
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- Tags: Art & Wine Shows, Bay Area Festivals, Bay Area Made, designer lisa ramos, Fine Art Shows, handbag designer, Jewelry Designer, Made In USA, Roadshow Artist, starting a business, women entrepreneurs
This was such a fun and informative read! I love how you broke the bains of outdoor shows into seven categories. While I had thought about the sun and wind before, I had never considered sewage smell or proximity to outdoor bathrooms.