Feeling Lucky, Punk?

My adventures of being a scarf addict

The Being Awesome Series: Part 1

mehker pillows
photo credit: Kimon Kaketsis


I am sorry this post was delayed in being published. (in case you are unaware I normally post on a Monday – today is Wednesday).  I was busy this weekend at the 401 Artisan Market selling my pillow line!  Have you ever wondered what it would be like to take an idea and bring it to life?  Well I am here to give you the insider report on just what it takes to make your dreams (slowly, but surely) come true. Some people will say “you are so lucky” because they see me living a life not constrained by the typical 9-5 office drown.  I am here to tell you that luck has only 1% to do with success in life.  My theory is to embrace that 1% and plan for the other 99%.  In this mini series, I will try and articulate what has /has not worked for me thus far.

Let me break this down like a job posting.

You will need:

-an idea
-the things needed to make the idea a reality
-some market research / investigation
-cheering team (who are also your product testers)

Beneficial to have:

-some start up money (even $1 works)
-computer software knowledge (Photoshop, general typing skills)
-social media / marketing ideas
-plan B,C,D,E,F etc…

Now. let’s start with the basics.  Let’s say for example you are inspired by a certain object.  For me it was vintage women’s silk scarves.  I started buying the scarves before I had any clue what I was going to use them for, I was drawn to the graphic mid century modern patterns.  Buying materials before having an idea can be a slippery slope – you could end up with a bunch of inventory and with no function = no return (monetarily or emotionally).  It is important to identify your need to collect and start ideating what you can do with this need to support it further.  Basically I loved scarf hunting – I wanted to get paid to do it, so I came up with an idea to pay me me to scarf hunt.  Pretty sweet, right?

mehker scarves

The process was tedious to get a pattern for my scarf pillows that would maximize the materials I am using (to ensure I am not wasting more money that I have to).  I have experimented with different shapes of pillows, different sewing techniques and different backing materials.  This part of the process is always in flux – sometimes you need to change things up a bit to keep it interesting, sometimes you need to change things because your testers are telling you something is not quite right and it needs to be fixed or altered to make them happy.  Good design is a challenge- my advice is to remember that no one or nothing is perfect and to revel in the little imperfections that make your object unique.  Always have your ears open to feedback and keep playing.  If you ever feel like you are doing something you don’t like / want to do – stop.  Drink a tea. Relax – reflect on this time as play, have fun and embrace it.

mehker pillow forms

So now that I had a product that I was happy with (and other people liked too) I was ready to figure out exactly how I could make money from it. As I stated earlier – the goal is always to fund my scarf addiction.  I love them. It makes me happy to be around them. I want more of that feeling.  To date, I have taken 5 different gambles to try and sell my product.  Some have payed off, others I lost (monetarily – I never lose out emotionally because my mind set it every step counts, good or bad). I tend to be impulsive when choosing my path of pillow sales, but time and experience is teaching me to be more strategic every time I complete a new venture.

I am a very social person – I visit the local stores, love taking pictures and reporting about my day on my blogs etc.   I was intrigued by the artisans selling their goods at the local markets.  Some times life gives you signs – this one was staring me directly in the face on a street corner telling me “VENDORS WANTED”.  Without hesitation I applied and was graciously accepted to participate in my first artisan market.  I was nervous about the table fee – but confident any step forward was the right step and collected (I think it was $350 for 5.5 days in the summer of 2011). I went online and to my neighbourhood stores to price compare pillows and get a general idea for how much I wanted to sell mine for.

mehker at the spot on queen market

My next challenge was to come up with a booth design – because my product was pillows it was hard to create a standard table layout.  This is one of my favourite things to do: problem solve – so I went to my sketch book and started ideating all the different ways I could display my pillows.  I landed on the idea of convenience.  Because I am selling pillows which are extremely bulky when stuffed – I wanted to make my booth easy to set up and take down.  I also wanted a WOW factor.   I fixated on the idea of a true POP UP booth and wound up purchasing a clear inflatable sofa from the US.  (who knew it would be so hard to find one in Canada?!) My concept was to create a retro styled living room pop up for people to feel nostalgic about and tell the story a little more about my product without me even being there.

mehker sofa pillows

fold up booth

(my goal is to sell everything I bring to the shows so all I have to do is deflate and head home – no table to lug around!)

Now that I had my booth design ready I was ready to take on the world.  For your information, here are some of the things that I didn’t take into consideration in the beginning of my adventure which ended up costing more money I hadn’t accounted for:

-receipt book
-business cards

Here is how the event went:

-excitement for setting up a killer booth +1
-meeting my new weekend neighbours/ other artisans +1
-checking out everyone else’s goodies +1
-energy of the event +2
-having a pug in the building +1000
-waiting for people to find the location -1
-having customers tell you you make awesome stuff +10
-having customers tell you they could do better -10
-making your first sale +10,000
-making your first sale in multiples of 6 +100,000
-hours of no one coming into the market -2
-getting work done during the lulls +5
-getting referrals from people who saw my stuff and told their friends to come in +10
-little kids jumping on the inflatable sofa -5
-rain -3
-trading wares with other vendors +1
-hanging out with my mom +10

mojo & cambi

Overall 110,020 positive points – I consider that to be success regardless of how much money I drew in.  For being my first exposure to the outside world, it was a positive experience.  There were things I liked / did not like about the venue – I learned a lot about being part of the “craft circuit” and also about what the public preferred in terms of pillows (and hand made goods in general).  I am thankful for the connections I made with customers and other vendors as some of us regularly connect and help each other.  I had a lot of takeaways from doing this event and took some of those forward into my next pillow adventure ( which you will read about in my next awesome series post).

mehker pillow customer homemehker customer pillow

(these are two picture I was sent after the market via facebook of happy customers sharing where their pillows now live)

One thing I want to mention is how important being connected is.  I am a social media fiend and find that it has helped me connect with people I need.  Sometimes it is just inspiration for projects / spaces, other times I want to let influential people know about the sale to bring their possy by.   Always it is a helpful way to get your point across and a great tool for listening.  I highly suggest that if you plan of doing a market that you connect online with:

1) other vendors before hand – and follow up with them in person – create that relationship to help strengthen the cause

2) the location – take advantage of the venue and their connections – look around the area to see who can help you spread the word

3) yourself – create a digital plan for the duration of the time you are at the markets

People are watching you – use that to your benefit. Always follow up with customers – be sure to ask how they heard about you / the market and use this information to strengthen your brand.

mehker business card

Being Awesome`s next series installment will look into my second adventure of feeding my scarf addiction: the studio party.  Stay tuned as there are loads of juicy nuggets I have learned and would love to share with you to help push you forward in your adventure!