modern businesswoman

…which I am not.

For years I have been steadfast in my use of carbon copy paper receipts. “Oh, I don’t need a receipt,” the customer would say. “Too bad. I’m already writing it,” I replied. In general I have been fairly resistant to change and technology – I’m a spinner for Pete’s sake! How fuddy-duddy can you get? But every now and then I pop my head out of my hovel and see that there are things out there that could make my life a little bit simpler. Quickbooks for accounting! Sort of helpful, sort of a huge a pain in the ass. Smartphone with Square! Allows me to take charge cards. Excel spreadsheets! Keeps track of my fiber inventory and tallies stuff up. Aaaand that’s where it ends. Until last week. I took the plunge and got myself a TABLET! Impressive, I know. I wanted to try switching from handwritten receipts to keeping track of all my sales through Square. I went to a show over the weekend, so I didn’t have to wait long to give it a test run.

Some cool things:

  • Tax included. I already do this, but now all the math has been done for me. Phew!
  • Time stamp. I can see that I had a sale at 9:20, 9:22, 9:26, 9:30, etc. And my suspicions that the last hour is a bust have been confirmed.
  • Sales totaled. After my big day, I get a report from Square complete with charts (yay!) and numbers letting me know how much I grossed and what items sold the best. I love charts.
  • Less “stuff”. Now I don’t have to have a pen, calculator, notebook, receipt book, cash envelope, change purse… blaaaah…
  • Looks fancy. What says “small businesswoman in the 21st century” more than flipping a snazzy new tablet around in people’s faces?

I wish they had a way for you to make multiple inventory lists. For some events I don’t sell certain things and it would be nice to hide them. There is no hiding of items.

Another funny thing that happened on my way to modernity: I forgot my cash box at home. That included all my change, receipt books, pens, markers, notebook, and Square reader. Yep. When I realized this, I asked some other vendors if they had an extra reader, but no. Then I went hunting online to find a Best Buy or Staples. So far away! THEN I went to Square’s website and found out that they are sold at Rite Aid. WHAT?! After dinner my trusty companion, Amber who rocks, and I headed up the street to the closest Rite Aid and they had it! Plus I got some change. I was saved and it was spectacular. Bonus: now I have two working readers. The day went great. I think using the Square went great. It is always amusing to watch as someone smashes your stylus into the screen and asks why it is so sticky. Or they lay their entire hand on the screen and can’t figure out why the stylus isn’t writing. There is a reason I applied a screen protector.

Also, I didn’t have time to buy a case, so I whipped together a little sleeve before leaving the house on Friday. I took a piece of felt and sewed up the sides (as seen above). Blammo! Other than the awesome Square app, I haven’t figured out why my tablet is better than my smartphone or computer. I still prefer to navigate websites and such on the laptop. And the camera on my phone is FAR superior. However, using the tablet in the kitchen to read recipes has been handy. Hopefully I will discover other reasons to justify its purchase. I just wish I could get my email account to work on it.

And here is the obligatory booth shot from Autumn Fiber Festival in Ashland, OH. I love this event because we get a 10×12 space. And it is just one day of fever-pitch shopping!

Just spending the day at Autumn Fiber Festival. #transientvendor #woolmerchant #booth #Ashland #Ohio

Summer Festival of the Arts!

I’m super excited about this weekend for a lot of reasons.

1) It’s the Summer Festival of the Arts at YSU. Which is awesome all by itself, but I’m going to be vending there for the first time! I’ve been going to this event for years. First just because it was a fun family activity. Then I started working on campus, so I would work that weekend and get to enjoy the food. And for a few years our SCA group did a demo. Now I get to really be a part of it by having my own little tent!

2) I’m doing the show with a friend of mine I’ve mentioned before: Amber. She’s an awesome crocheter, but her main thing is beekeeping and urban farming. She makes lovely lotions, perfumes, and lip balms with the various things she grows. Our products together are going to look awesome! I just can’t wait to see it. Planning out the booth with her yesterday made me so happy. Check out Wick & Fifth.

3) New display! I’ve been wanting to display my knitwear in a different way, but I just wasn’t sure how. Laying the stuff flat on the table is so dreary. I really love tiny clothespins and I thought hanging the items up would make them more visible, but I would need a sturdy line on which to hang. What would I attach the line to? It can’t be something that would fall over under the weight. Since I’ll have a tent frame, I’m going to attach the line to the legs at the back. I won’t have to bring anything extra and there is no risk of it fall in on itself. Success! I hope.

4) Along with the knit items on the clothesline, I’m going to hang photos I’ve taken during the spinning, knitting, and dyeing process. Many people at craft shows don’t understand what makes these items special; they don’t know what “handspun” means. I’m hoping that seeing the photos will either explain things to them or at least encourage them to ask questions. Plus it will look awesome!

The only thing that is crushing my spirit is the weather forecast. It’s supposed to be nice on Friday, which is good since we’re setting up that day. But there is a 40% chance of rain for both Saturday and Sunday. WHY?? It’s never rained any other year I’ve gone. Why this year? Oh, now it says no rain Saturday, but a higher chance on Sunday. Maybe by the weekend there will be no chance? All I can do is forge ahead and bring my sidewalls.

I was so jazzed when I found out that Walgreens will print square photos directly from Instagram! I went through my year’s worth of pictures and selected ones that represented my work in progress. In an hour I went to pick them up. How cool is that? I threw in a few pictures of Olive, my cat, just because I don’t have any printed photos of her. I’ll intersperse these among the knits. I cannot wait to see this! Even if no one else cares, I’m going to enjoy it. So there.

squares

 

 

 

 

facets of the business

I often realize that there are many different facets to my business, Gwen Erin Natural Fibers. While it may have started as a knitting-focused endeavor, things have definitely changed. When I am at craft show, where most customers expect to buy finished goods, I usually get a few people who ask about my mitts as if I am there solely for the purpose of giving them ideas for their next personal knitting project. They flip the mitt over and over again, trying to figure out exactly how I created it. “Oh, I can do that,” they inform me. “I never said you couldn’t,” I think. Even though these interactions bother me, I’ve come to the conclusion that knitwear is not my primary focus. Rather, I am in the business of selling fiber and yarn. If I can encourage a customer to purchase yarn because they see what I’ve made with it, then I’ve still made a sale. I have now come to see my finished goods as samples-for-sale. Of course, if I were actually able to record the patterns for the things I make, all the better!

There are two main types of events I participate in, and they have slightly different inventory. This can be confusing sometimes. Why didn’t I bring my spindles to the Holiday Art Show? Because I didn’t make them. Below I have outlined the major characteristics for these two types of events.

Yarn/Fiber Shows

  • Items must be fiber related
  • Large quantity of fiber & yarn
  • Spinning & knitting tools (including resale items)
  • No finished items (or a very limited selection)
  • Typically a “booth” space (10×10, 10×12 or 8×8)

Craft Shows

  • Everything must be handmade by the artist/crafter
  • Focus on finished items: knitwear, jewelry, housewares
  • Smaller selection of fiber
  • No resale items (spindles, notions, etc.)
  • Typically a single table (6 or 8 foot)

booths

In addition to “live” sales, I have had an online shop since 2008. Recently I shifted from using Etsy to using Storenvy. One of the main reasons I made this decision was financial. Also, I wanted to step away from the restriction of only selling handmade items (not that it really matters on Etsy anymore). My goal was to create a separate branch of the business, a way to differentiate the online aspect and keep it open during festival season. This led me to create a destashing shop. The fiber inventory listed there will only be available online.

Having all these different aspects to my business can get confusing, but it also makes me very versatile. I can shift from one type of event to another, recreating myself as I go. My display changes with the inventory, but the theme stays the same: natural fibers!

event recap

This was year #5 for me at A Knitter’s Fantasy. While it isn’t the highest scoring event on the schedule, it is still special. This was my first step into the world of yarn shows (back in 2010). I appreciate its proximity to my house: about 7 1/2 miles. I enjoy setting up Friday night. I am glad the booth fee is reasonable. And of course, I always love seeing my fellow vendors and friends. Ana and I shared an 8×16 booth again. My half is pictured below.

AKF2014

This year I quietly debuted my newest dyed item: Companion Colors. I only had three pairs, so it was more of an experiment than a grand introduction. Mostly I think they were ignored, but I did sell one to someone who was very happy to take it home. I am looking forward to playing around with the process more during my next dye day. Perhaps by Great Lakes I’ll have a nice stock of them and do a bigger display (with signs).

Right before packing (and I mean RIGHT BEFORE) I was still labeling yarn and fiber. I’ve been fiddling a bit with my tags, so some items had a newly updated version. I’ve been trying to print horizontal labels, but it’s actually been somewhat difficult. I don’t use any fancy image software and whenever I print things, they always come out grainy or fuzzy. The best method yet has been to print a sticky label and attach it to the band. I used them for new Sheep Tones skeins and the Companion Colors. I do like the way they look, however, the edges of the label are coming up! Blarg.

eight years in the making

Sorry, but I’ve got to do a quick walk down memory lane! I realized today that this is the eighth year I’ve participated in a holiday arts & crafts sale. It all began in 2006 with my mom’s table cloth, five pairs of mitts, and a few balls of yarn that were just there for show. Isn’t this the saddest and cutest thing you’ve ever seen? It’s really quite terrible. But I’ve learned since then!

Craft Sale Table

This weekend I participated with the Artists of the Rust Belt at their Last Minute Market. I tried something a bit different with my setup and was very pleased with the result. It seemed to work fine, since most of this is gone now. So, I think it’s safe to say things have improved a bit?

holiday sale

another successful event

And just like that, it’s over! Thank you to everyone who attended and helped with the Autumn Fiber Festival on Saturday. It was a rainy day, but the building was full of shoppers. Hooray! And a special thanks to all of you who helped me with my “studio clean-up project” by purchasing any items from the destash table. Having a larger space than usual — 10×12 rather than 10×10 — allows for that extra table, so I think it will become a regular feature. Everyone needs to go through their stash now and then to give it a good scrubbing!

10x10 Booth

Getting to the event on Saturday was a little nutty. Unfortunately I left my house 15 minutes later than I planned and then found out the event was 15 minutes farther away than I thought. That meant we arrived half an hour later than I expected. I only had one hour to unload and set up. It was crazy, but a few other people helped my dad bring in boxes while I started laying things out. In the end we got it done. I used a different configuration than I have in the past. It might not have had the best flow, but it worked well enough.

It was great visiting with so many friends this weekend and talking to several returning customers. Some even brought projects to share! It is so exciting to see what people do with the fibers I dye. I get them started, but you make them into something special. Do you spin them? Felt them? Knit them? Crochet them? Keep bringing your projects to shows – I couldn’t be happier to see them.

customer project

customer project

blerg.

You may have noticed things here weren’t quite right for a week or two. We are back up, but all my posts from the month of June were obliterated! Sigh. I suppose it’s not too much of a heartbreak, since I only wrote about five entries. Sadly all my wit and humor is gone for good, but the photos are still available, so here is a little recap of the month:

  • The family went on a fishing trip on Lake Erie. I hadn’t been in a boat for many years and it didn’t entirely agree with me. We did catch quite a few fish, so at least it wasn’t totally pointless.

We caught all these fish!

  • We helped run a Medieval Festival at the Christ Episcopal Church in Warren, OH. Rich and I stayed on site all weekend in our spectacular pavilion.

Ready for Medieval Festival tomorrow! #campout

  • To get ready for Woolfest I spent several days with my new drumcarder, a heap of multicolored fibers, and a marathon of superhero movies.

Carding with Captain America.

  • The new batts came out really great – thicker and more evenly carded.

side-by-side

New batts

  • Rich and I went to Woolfest at the end of the month. It was really fun and I wore one of my new dresses. Summer of dresses is happening!

Here I am at Woolfest. #fibershow

  • We walked around the beautiful Farmpark before the show started on Saturday and took a few pictures including this one of Rich in the arbor tunnel.

Richard

shots of the booth

Finally getting to share these photos from Great Lakes. I used my new “check-out counter” for the first time. It is also from Woodland Marketing, so it folds/stores/transports easily and it matches the other lattice shelving that I have. I love that I can hang yarn from it and attach my sign with no problem. Once I get a shelf in there, it’s going to be even better.

Overall I am very pleased with this layout. There is more room for expansion if needed in the future. Having a spot for Rich takes up some space, but I’d really hate to be there alone all day (not to mention the weekend)!

Great Lakes Fiber Show

Great Lakes Fiber Show

I used the “in-between” shelves again this time for the batts. We cut those last summer, but I didn’t start using them until last month. Once I get the spacing down, it will look less tweaky. Guess I didn’t realize I was still a bit low on inventory – the bottom shelves aren’t full. Looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me to get ready for Woolfest.

Great Lakes Fiber Show

Sitting there during the day, it felt like the traffic was slow. However, after counting everything up, it came out fairly average. It’s always interesting to me to see how the different items move. At some events I won’t sell any Eucalan, like last month. But this weekend I sold several large bottles. The locks weren’t popular at all, but other times I sell loads. I’m definitely seeing that it’s good to have a variety!

Great Lakes Fiber Show

heading to wooster

It’s hard to believe, but this weekend is the Great Lakes Fiber Show in Wooster, Ohio. Seems like only yesterday it was January and I was plotting out my spring events. Now I just have two more to go before a few months break. This is a wonderful show – not too big and not too small, but plenty to keep you occupied for the day. We don’t have any graduations to go to this year, so I’ll be able to set up Friday night and take my time. The part I dread the most? Packing my car. I’m back to using my sedan, so I have to be careful.

If you are planning to attend, pop over to my Facebook page and get a coupon. All you have to do is claim it, and then bring a copy via cellphone or print-out to my booth, #22. It is good for this event only and will not be accepted by any other vendor.

Some shots of the booth from last year

GLFS Booth

GLFS Booth