So here I was at the Seattle Street Food Festival, standing behind my display of pillows, not really sure how to act (Should I stand? Sit? Wear my sunglasses? Say ‘hello’?), watching throngs of people walk on by (on their way to the food trucks I presumed), often smiling, pointing at, or touching my pillows. Actually, almost everyone touched my ‘Welcome’ AstroTurf pillow, and lots of people read the quotes on the back of the Wizard of Oz pillows out loud. ”Experience not brains will make you wiser.” Would anyone actually buy one though?
I kept telling myself that it didn’t matter. That it is what it is, and even if I don’t sell a single pillow, at least I got a lot of pillows made, figured out a display booth, and if this wasn’t the right type of sale for me, I would just have to be more deliberate in finding the right type of sale or outlet for my product and customer.
But I was still nervous, and I still wanted people to like and buy my pillows. Meanwhile, the cutest couple ever in the booth next door were working their butts off selling meringue after meringue. They gave me a key lime one, and it was truly amazing. They really understood that they should be selling food at a food festival. Meanwhile I was just smiling and taking it all in. Such great people watching, so many cute dogs, so many pregnant women.
At 12:30 someone walked all the way into my booth, and immediately bought a Tin Man pillow. I was so excited I could barely swipe her credit card or put her pillow in the bag. Woo hoo! Gushingly I told her that this was my first sale at my first craft fair and she was so sweet and wished me luck. I told the couple next door, “I sold a pillow!” and they said, “Way to go!” Okay, maybe I can sell pillows at a food festival. A few minutes later, it happened again – another Tin Man pillow.
By 3:00 pm I’d sold three pillows total, and by the end of the night I’d sold five. Hmmm. Not terrible, but not great. Especially since across the way the fuzzy monsters, which were super cute but not cheap, were flying out the door, the mustard guy was working his butt off selling his mustard, and the couple next to me sold out of meringues and had to go make more.
At one point the fuzzy monster lady came over for a visit and said, “Your booth is awesome.” I told her this was my first time and she said, “Well you nailed it. It looks great.” I told her hers was amazing too, and she said that her boyfriend built it for her. ”It looks like people are in love with your monsters,” I told her. And she said, “Yeah, these are my peeps – the geeky young people who work at Amazon. And kids.” She also told me that she sells a lot a Comic-Con and did a killing at the Urban Craft Uprising winter sale, and that she’d been doing it for five years. I loved talking to the other vendors, who had such great stories, positive energy and enthusiasm. Most of them had been doing their thing for about three to five years, and all of them did it exclusively for work.
The first day ended at 10:00 p.m. and Todd and the kids came early to help pack up my pillows and secure the tent for the night. It had been a long day, and I was so happy when we all piled into Todd’s truck, with Miles on my lap and Nadine in the middle, and headed home for the night.
On Sunday morning I slept in a bit, but when I got out of bed at around 8am, my nervous stomach was back. Would I sell any pillows today? I hadn’t sold even one in the last hours of the festival the night before, and I was doubtful that any pillow buyers would be at a food festival on a Sunday.
When I got back to my booth at around 11am I decided to move my display up towards the front of the tent. People were shyer than I’d thought, and liked to look at things without actually stepping into the tent. They seemed to like it if I ignored them and just let them look. I felt like I should say ‘hi’ when people stopped by, but then let them browse in peace.
Sunday had a completely different, more mellow vibe to it, and I liked it.
The first guy that came to my booth said he thought I was charging way too much for my pillows, and that instead of $65 for the Wizard of Oz pillows I should be charging $20 or maybe $40. (Ha!) I told him that they were labor intensive – all silk-screened by hand – and that the linen they are printed on is expensive, so is the insert, and that it takes a really long time to make them, and that if he wants to spend $20 on pillows, Target has some really cute ones. He said, “Yes, but they are not as original.” Good grief! But it’s hard not to worry about your prices.
Next a dapper looking couple came into the tent and said they loved my pillows and that they looked really well made. They asked me where else I sold them, and I said “Just etsy and here.” Turns out they have a business selling printed textiles and ceramics to wineries, and they told me so much about their business and what’s worked well for them. They had a lot of great information to share, and their enthusiasm for my pillows was a real ego-booster.
It was a beautiful Sunday morning, but business was slow. The first pillow I sold was the “Welcome” AstroTurf pillow to a couple at around 2pm. Guys loved that pillow, and everyone touched it as they walked by or commented on it. I had to explain that it was an outdoor pillow and waterproof, which I thought would have been obvious, but apparently not. The guy who bought it suggested I make another one like it that says, “Go Hawks!” I can’t tell you how many people suggested I make Seahawk pillows. I just don’t see that happening, but it would probably be a real money maker.
At around 3pm a nice English guy, wearing a straw hat and a checkered shirt, really surprised me when he said he wanted to buy all three of the Wizard of Oz pillows. I reacted by jumping up and down, saying “You made my day!! Thank you!!” So professional.
As the day wore on, my nervousness disappeared and was replaced with contentment and fulfillment. By the end of the day I had sold seven pillows, and I felt really really happy. Even though I didn’t exactly sell out of pillows, people really seemed to like them. People talked about them, touched them, read the quotes and words, sometimes bought them, and often picked up a business card. People really connected with the Wizard of Oz pillows, which, considering the book was published in 1900, I think is truly amazing. I loved talking about those pillows and showing people the images in the book.
Throughout the day Nadine would text me and say things like, “Sold any pillows?” or “Are you bored?” or best of all, “Are you hungry? We’re coming down to eat with you!”
Todd, Nadine, and Miles came down at 6pm and bought a smorgasbord of amazing food from the food trucks, which I gobbled down after eating practically nothing all day. Then at 7pm we packed everything into the truck, said goodbye to our new craft-fair friends, and headed home. That might of been my most favorite part of the festival – that feeling of accomplishment and contentment at the end of day, loving that the kids and Todd were enthusiastically helping me and supporting me. It’s a feeling I just don’t get working in the corporate world.
So, what’s next? Well, it’s time to apply for holiday craft shows, so I will get those applications out in the next week or two. I also need to spruce up my etsy site, and create a dedicated website, which means I need to get some good pictures taken, write a whole bunch of copy, and work on my branding. I still haven’t figured out the perfect insert for the pillows, and I need to keep working on how to keep costs down so I can afford to sell retail at some point. I also need to get my accounting in order. Bleck!
I don’t know that I’ll do another street food festival, but I am so thankful for the opportunity and the experience. I learned so so much and I’m excited to keep moving forward with this fun new business of mine.