Custer’s Last Stand take-away: mixed emotions

After all the anticipation and preparation, my feelings about the “success” of Custer’s Last Stand as a vendor are mixed. It was a great challenge for me, and also a fear-buster, but financially it did not live up to its expectations.

Day0Setup

Friday night set-up

I quipped a few weeks ago about how reading about manning a booth sounded like going on a date, and in a way I have that jilted feeling right now (as petty as that sounds). I didn’t dazzle enough, didn’t impress enough, didn’t get people to return to buy that piece they wanted to come back for later.

Day1Setup
Saturday morning set-up

Saturday was rainy and overcast, dwindling the crowds, though we still had some traffic. Some booths were hopping and others were not.

Day1rain

Our Ivy theme got many compliments.

Day1IvyTheme

We had a lot of traffic in the booth with Jason’s paintings sparking numerous conversations (I greatly enjoyed learning about his technique, his life and his inspiration—this man has some great stories to tell), but Saturday was extremely disappointing from a sales perspective.

Day1LovelyView

This beautiful art should sell itself, don’t you think?

Day1FriendVisit
Friends stopping by is a wonderful bonus

We packed up our inventory to spend the night at my place after a delicious S-Paragon dinner, hopeful that our prospects would improve.

SParagon

Sunday night’s Dragon Roll was adorable

The next morning we walked past a few flipped tents and toppled inventory on our way to our booth, because overnight a wind tunnel had wreaked havoc on tents that weren’t properly weighed down. We sped up our gait to see how our booth had fared overnight. Fortunately it had been shielded by a large building and kept intact by its weights, but it was a reality check to what could happen in more severe weather.

Day2FaveShot

Ready for a better day

Sunday morning was very hot (almost 80 degrees Fahrenheit), and just a few minutes of my bag in the sun softened my encaustic collages so much that I decided to take most of them home. I left a few out in the shady part of the booth. Fortunately the sun passed high enough to give our pieces the proper shade by the time the fair opened, or my metal pieces might have been too hot to try on.

Day2EarlySun

Sun-related jitters

We did have more traffic on Sunday and both of us made a few sales, though barely enough to recover the booth fee. We were hoping for more profit given the number of people that pass through this fair. This is a full-time business for both of us, not just a hobby, and return on investment is critical to making a living as an artist.

Day2Traffic

Walk on IN!

Exposure-wise, it was a wonderful event and both Jason and I had very positive responses to our art and genuine interest in what we do. It was lovely to have friends stop by, and a definite boost to have total strangers try on and purchase my earrings.

Day2Meetup

Taking a short break with our Meetup friends

It is all out of one’s hands when the booth is set up and the inventory laid out. All you can do is be there and hope for the best.

Day1Booth

We could have had worse weather, we might have had no sales at all, and people could have absolutely blasted our display and our art. Jason, his wife Jennifer and I could have been at each other’s throats after virtually 60 hours together.

Ornaments

Christmas in June didn’t work out, but made for a cheerful tree

Instead, throughout the weekend I forged a lovely friendship with Jason and Jennifer, and we took away a positive overall experience, with hopes that the business cards that wandered off will generate some future sales. From an intangible perspective, I am glad I applied and got in and got to experience the fair as a vendor.

Friends

Lovely friends

It was the perfect venue to try an outdoor show, not being out hotel and travel fees on top of the entry fee since the location was practically in my ‘front yard’.  The Custer Fair staff and volunteers have run this show for 42 years, and their efforts during preparation, setup, tear-down and in-between were professional, well-coordinated, helpful and always cheerful.

CusterCrazyHorse

General Custer should be proud of his fair

Outdoor shows are very much a lifestyle, and I know I am not ready for the gypsy life on a summer fair circuit. For now, I will focus on indoor shows for the safety of my wax, with the exception of Ravenswood where I will be in the big tent shared with other vendors. Jason will be there too, with his tent all to himself. A “What If” has been eliminated from my list, and from a startup perspective, I am moving upwards.

CusterRow

No complaints about our booth location

The key is to plan for organic growth, rather than anticipate exponential growth from fairs like these. Most “overnight” successes are years in the making, and so it will be with Maike’s Marvels. My business will grow one creation at a time, one exhibit at a time, and one sale at a time. Added together, it will make for a wonderful journey.

SalesTracker
Steady growth is better than no growth

I look forward to next year’s Custer’s Last Stand, which I will enjoy as a spectator and neighbor, and I will save up some funds to help other vendors live their dream.

Wadsofchange

The virtually un-used change in my money belt, Square was used more often

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