On the Road to Houston

 

Final-Brown-Convention-Ctr

I found myself on a familiar road this weekend, traveling to Houston.  I have lived in both Austin and Houston for many years of my life.  This weekend, however, found me specifically going to Houston to attend the International Quilt Festival at the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Traffic was heavy in Houston even around the noon hour on Friday when I arrived.  I enjoyed traveling through most of downtown driving behind a 1960’s 220S Mercedes-Benz, although I felt sorry for the guy driving because it was a stick shift, with almost solid stop and go traffic!  It did, however, let me pretend to maybe be traveling in Europe rather than in Houston.

The hotel I stayed in, the Westin Houston Downtown, was exceptionally nice!  Clearly I am not accustomed to such luxury, because I got pretty excited over the amenities, including a bathrobe, lighted makeup mirror, waterfall shower, and a REALLY nicely detailed room.  Sumptuous!!  I can definitely recommend this place if you are ever in the downtown Houston area.  It is conveniently located near both the convention center and Minute Maid ballpark, and other downtown attractions.

The George Brown Convention Center is simply HUGE.  A friend at work told me that her daughter was there once for a volleyball tournament, and that this building holds 100 volleyball courts.  After seeing the inside, I can believe it.  One end held the food court, then about a million retail booths (mostly related to quilting of course), and then there was the quilt show at the other far end of the building.  Thankfully many, many chairs were located along the lengths of the walls for a place to rest weary feet.

Enjoy the photos.  I will be posting more of the beautiful quilts during the week.  Just too many for one post!

Craft Fairs

White-China-DSC02498

Antique Booth at the 2012 Country Living Fair in Austin, Texas

I am delighted to announce that I have signed up to be an exhibitor at the 2014 Austin Pet Expo event.  The 2013 expo is held this year on Saturday, August 3rd.  As this event was already full I got a head start on next year!  I will also be attending the expo in Austin in two weeks, and taking lots of photos, so if you are in the area I hope to see you there.

Even though it’s a full year away, I am excited because this is the first fair I’ve signed up to attend, although I am thinking I need to go to a couple of smaller venues prior to next summer just to gain experience.  Here are two things you probably don’t know about me: 1) I have professionally recruited through my work at The University of Texas at career fairs, and 2) over 10 years ago I had an antique business and rented space at a “brick and mortar” location.  These unique experiences will give me a head start on retail/craft fairs.  From my UT experience I know about setting up/taking down booth spaces, and how to relate to people.  From my antique business I also know about how to best display products that you sell.

In fact, I know that a craft type fair is hard WORK.  I will need to put some real effort into designing and organizing my space to attract customers.  I will have to pack my car with everything I need for the day, spend the day on my feet, and then pack the car again after the fair is over for the ride home.  Selling online is very different than selling directly to people.   One of the things I love most about direct selling is the ability to meet your potential customers and talk with them, find out what works for them and what doesn’t.  Honestly I think I will come away from this experience with more great ideas for product changes or new products.  A wonderful, wonderful benefit!  And of course folks will have their pets with them, and that always makes me happy!

Final-Shelties-DSC03735

Beautiful Shelties at the 2012 Dogtoberfest in Austin

And I have to admit I absolutely LOVE the thought of creating a space (in this case a 10′ x 10′ space) to sell my pet products.  My mind is already in creative gear, and I even set up a new Pinterest “Fair and Craft Shows Display” board to have a place to pin any great ideas I see online.  I also have to work on my product branding for this fair, and learn how to use a point-of-sale credit card device on my smart phone.

Just this morning I read an interview on the Jane’s Apple blog of Etsy artist Allison, creator of Sweater Doll.  In it she was asked to share her number one tip for selling handmade online.  I found her answer quite eye-opening.  Here it is in its entirety:

“Make REAL relationships in your local community. Don’t depend on online networking. Even the guy who invented coffee cup jackets can sustain an online business now only because he walked into cafes and created a business with real people first. Get out there – wear your own handmade jewelry, clothes, and accessories, give your own handmade creations as gifts, give your items to charities regularly, ask shops if they can use your items in their window displays, teach classes at local libraries or craft shops. Most people do not buy handmade online sight unseen. iPads? Sure. Handmade clothing, not nearly as much. People want to see, hold, revel in goods. Handmade goods are a relationship not just a commodity. My dolls sell a little online, but they become magnetic when someone picks one up! But the online shop keeps me available to people outside of my area which is a real blessing. Selling handmade online is usually part of a business, not the whole business.”

All I can say is WOW.  Really gives those of us who are online sellers a LOT to think about!  Do you have any thoughts or tips for setting up a display booth, or just getting organized for a craft fair.  If so I would love to hear your ideas!