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New Addition

Psst, remember to come back tomorrow to join us in the Bead Soup Blog party.

Big news in Chase land this week. We have a new addition:

Greg finally decided to sell his 1971 VW Bus. Sad, I know, but she’d been hanging out in the back of the house ever since we moved here four years ago. It was only used when we needed a bigger car to haul something or when my car, the Altima, had to go in for service. Not too great for a car to just be sitting around.

Last year, we put a total of one tank of gas in her. She ran perfectly fine. But with no air-conditioning and no reason to take her out, she was becoming a lawn ornament. Now she has a new home in sunny California and is getting a make over. The buyer said he’d send us pics when she is finished. I sure hope so.

Anyway, we had been thinking we’d get a truck to make it easier to haul stuff, or Greg wanted to get me a Jeep to use for shows. However, all the Jeeps we found were less than desirable and Greg didn’t want to get a truck that would just sit out in the back collecting pecans from the tree back there.

It appears the Suburban is the ultimate compromise. The funniest part is my sister also drives an Altima and has a Suburban. I’m pretty sure she’s convinced whatever car she gets next will eventually end up in my driveway.

The  beasts are pretty happy about it.

They went a little crazy when we got home yesterday. Little dog syndrome? :) I don’t know, but Puck wouldn’t stop barking at it. It was pretty dang funny. Puck is the white and black one.

Bead Fest Philly Report

Last week I drove up to Philadelphia to attend the Bead Fest Bead show. It’s a two-day trip both ways from here. Luckily, my friend Angie Ramey lives in TN at pretty much the halfway mark, and I was able to visit with her on the way up and the way back.  Though it really would have been much more convenient to fly. But then how would I get my gorgeous light bar and all my stuff there? The murrine bins are a particular problem. So, after mulling it over, we decided the car was the best bet.

You should see the car after Greg packs it up.The trunk and backseat are full with the light bar running the length of the car and poking out between the front seats. Hey it’s only me in the car, so who cares? Plus I can bring a cooler of food and throw in anything extra I deem necessary. Like extra bubble baggies I was able to share with a friend who ran out of packaging for her beads. Yay me! My last show I used a fair amount of another friends bubble baggies so it felt good to pay it forward.

Anyway, this was my first year at this show so I don’t have anything to compare it to. This was also the first year for the new venue: The Expo at the Oaks. Some people we not pleased, but the old venue is being turned into a casino (or so I heard). Hard to hold a bead show in all that construction. I heard some complain about the parking. Since we got there before the show opened each day I didn’t notice a parking issue. There seemed to be plenty. It is an Expo area. But since the show attendance was over a thousand people I can see how some would end up with a good walk. It doesn’t help that it thunder stormed all weekend. No one likes to walk in torrential downpours. Despite the new venue and rain, the promoter said the show attendance was up from last year.

That’s good. But how were sales? I can only speak for myself. I have a formula for what I have to do for the show to make me money: Expenses + $100 a day for all the days I am not torching (prep, driving, and actual show days).

For this show the expenses were:

$495 table fee
$110 electric
$400 travel fee (gas, I was lucky and ended up with a free hotel room)
$800 (Eight days away from the torch)

$1805 Total amount needed to make for the show to be worthwhile.

I made more than that.

For me Bead Fest Philly was successful. I heard mixed reports from other vendors. Of course, without hard numbers I have no idea what they consider successful.

Better yet, I met three long time customers of mine in person for the first time. It’s really awesome when someone stops by your booth looks at your stuff and says, “Hey this looks like Chase Designs.” Then they look up and say, “Are you Deanna?”

Pretty great right?

Plus I got to spend the weekend with my good friend Susan Sheehan. I think I may have talked her  into Bead Fest Texas in October. Hopefully she’ll be able to work it into her schedule.

Too Many Pies, Not Enough Oven Space--Lampworking Business Extras

Don’t you just hate it when you set out to make a dozen pies and you run out of time and oven space? Then the apples start to turn brown and the chocolate filling ends up curdled?

 

What? Don’t tell me this has never happened to you before. Don’t you have family over for holidays and lose your mind cooking for five days before they come over? No? Me neither. I actually live out-of-state from my family. Holidays are usually very relaxing.

But I’m intimately familiar with taking on too many projects. Like five out-of-town events in six months (four of them shows), publishing a book and scheduling another one for December, and trying to run four successful online stores.

 

Thank the powers that be I don’t have kids. As it is the dogs think my butt is permanently attached to my office chair. If I go anywhere else in the house besides the kitchen or the studio they get seriously confused.

 

Tomorrow I leave for Bead Fest in Philadelphia. I have my good friend Susan Sheehan to thank for talking me into this show while we were at Bead and Button. It’s made for a crazy two months while I worked furiously to get my book Haunted on Bourbon Street published. I’m sad to say my online venues have suffered like the oldest child left to fend for herself. Oh, I still listed stuff, but not at my normal rate.

And the sales data really shows the hit. If you’ve been reading my The Business of Lampworking series, you should know by now the best thing you can do for your business is to constantly list new items. Of course, the last four weeks I have been focused on getting my table ready for the show and holding inventory back.

I’ll be honest, I’m not sure these shows are the best business strategy at this point because as hard as I work, I’m having trouble keeping all of my pie plates in the air. One was bound to splatter or at least wobble. Online sales for me are wobbling. Luckily Greg does this with me and since the shows don’t focus on his work, his stuff is selling at the usual rate.

I’ve always said which ever direction you’re looking is the direction you’ll go. I started looking at shows. The last few I did have been successful, but not successful enough to take away from my online business. I have two more shows not including Bead Fest Philly. After that I will need to run some numbers and do some evaluating.

Moral of the story? Don’t take on more than you can handle. Something will suffer. And in this case, it’s my bread and butter.

But I’m ready for Bead Fest. I’ve got the pictures to prove it.

Profitability of a Bead Show-Chapter 6 The Business of Lampworking

There are all kinds of reasons for selling at a bead show. Being part of the community, making contacts, building client base, picking up wholesale bead stores, hanging out with like-minded people. But when it comes to the business of lampworking, the main and most important reason should be to be profitable.

When deciding if you want to attend a certain show you need to know just how much money you have to make in order to be profitable. Be realistic with yourself and as always, remember shows are a gamble.

Here are a few examples:

Bead and Button (I’m using approximate numbers because I don’t have everything right in front of me, but they are close):

Table fee: $895
Electric fee: $150
Hotel (Shared a room): $200
Travel (gas, I drove from LA to WI): $300

Total fee not including food: $1545

$1545 before I’ve bought one display or sold one bead. Ouch! I’m not including display costs because those are business costs that are used for all my shows, not just one. But if you plan on only do one show, you for sure need to add that cost in. They can be as inexpensive or expensive as you like. Greg made my light bar. The materials cost $150. Plus bead trays, inserts, table cloths, a banner, risers, etc, etc. More on table displays later. But those costs can add up too.

Next I need to factor in how many days I will not be working at the torch. Bead and Button is a four day show. Plus I have four travel days. Two days up and two days back. Eight days. Plus I lose the day before I leave for packing and last minutes show prep. That’s nine days total. My goal when working at home and bringing in online sales is $100 a day. So I must make at least $900 at the show just to make up for my days of being away.

$1545
+900

=$2445

At Bead and Button I must make at least $2445 just to break even.

Let’s look at another show for comparison.

Houston Bead Society Show:

Table Fee: $275
Hotel Fee: $200
Gas fees: $100

Total fees: $575

Total days away from the studio is four with one prep day=5. My formula $100×5=$500.

Total needed to break even $1075.

It’s important to run the numbers and know what your expectations are for each show you are contemplating. Everyone will have different expenses so be sure to take into account your specific situation.

I’ll be honest, with the amount of work it takes to build inventory for a show and the cost factor I’m pretty sure I’d do better just selling everything at wholesale online. I don’t do that of course. The thing is I sell wholesale to bead stores and I have to maintain price integrity. Plus, with retail online prices I make more per piece so I don’t have to work as hard with lower prices. But when it’s crunch time (like right now) I dream about it. Bead Fest Philly is next weekend and I’m not ready.

No one is ever ready for a show.

You just do what you can and try not to spend too much time doing other things, like blogging. :)

Online vs Shows--Ch 3 part 2 The Business of Lampworking

The big question online sales verses shows. You look around and everyone who’s anyone has an Etsy store, a website, and eBay account. They talk about the Best Bead show or Bead and Button or the selling at the ISGB Bead Bazaar, and you think to yourself, man I need to be doing that.

Some people spout how well they are doing, others say sales are dead. Now what? Where to start? My best advice is to pick one direction and give it your all. But which direction?

Pros of online venues:

Work from home.
Low cost.
Instant feedback.
Can sell work for less than you can doing shows.
Don’t have to take time off work (if you have another job) to hock your wares.
Your customer base is worldwide.

Cons of online sales:

Have to learn photography skills.
Need to learn to navigate online sales venues (though this is much easier now than it ever has been before).
Don’t get to interact with the community in person (It is certainly possible to make connections online, but there is nothing comparable to the in person connection).
Customers do not get to see work in person before buying. Each monitor is different , making it impossible to accurately portray the color of your work 100% of the time.
Have to deal with shipping. Packaging, lost mail, possible broken product, returns, and customs.
Have to build a following in a worldwide sea of other venders.

Shows Pros:

Built in customer base.
Get to see customers reaction to your work.
Can make connections you wouldn’t online for publications, teaching, demos, etc.
Get to see and interact with other artists.
Get to travel.

Show cons:

Shows are expensive. Every show you do there is a risk you won’t even cover expenses.
You need to work out a table display.
You need to travel.
May need to take time off work.
Can be discouraging watching everyone else make sales if your table isn’t getting much attention.
Need to build a large inventory.
Don’t know what customers respond to until you’re at the show.
Have to sell work for retail to cover show costs.
You lose studio time while traveling and working the show.

Our main focus for our business is online sales. It keeps us consistent with cash flow, and  the overhead is low cost. We’ve recently in the last few years started adding in shows, but that is an addition, not the focus. Also, for each show I sign up for I am prepared to accept the money put out many not be returned.

As I said earlier, my best advice is to pick one direction and give it your best effort, then worry about whether you want to expand in another area. Be prepared that either direction you go, it will take months to build a following. That means your first shows may not make you any money. It takes time to get noticed. There isn’t a magic wand.

My next few posts will focus on how to be successful with both online sales and shows. Stay tuned.

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