Shoot for the Moon – Post market! #10

Were back and special thanks….

Okay – I am back. It is 12:30 on Sunday 5/18/09 and we just pulled in our driveway from Pittsburgh 30 minutes ago.  My head is still spinning. I was so wired up after market that I drove all the way home – 4-1/2 hours and it felt like 1/2 hour! My head kept reviewing and trying to process my first market experience.  I have to send a HUGE shout out to my dear friends from Patches (Jackie, Carolyn and Toni), and Main Street Quilting in Elkridge – near Baltimore City, and Capital Quilts of Gaithersburgh. They would all stop and give me encouragement and leads as to schmooze with at market! Thank you! Thank you!  For any of you who may visit the Baltimore Washington area you must stop in their shops! Here is a brief personal overview of each shop.

Patches in My Airy: Owned and run by Jackie is a wonderful warm place to shop for every fabric that is out on the market! Jackie has so many bolts of fabric – and it is always new and changing. The shop has a great classroom and a warm and welcoming energy. Carolyn and Toni are the best! If you are in the area it is a MUST STOP!

Main Street Quilts in Elkridge: Owned by Neicy and Dee is a smaller shop that has THE BEST selection of batiks and ASIAN Fabrics. Both Dee and Neicy are master quilters in my opinion! They are EXTREMELY Knowledgeable and Neicy is one of the best wearable artists I have ever seen. Janet ( who I have know for a long time ) and Sandra were there too. Neicy has a great color sense and is in great with adding folded accents to her garments! They are both so helpful and they have a warm inviting shop…..another MUST SEE SHOP.

Capital Quilts is a DC quilt shop that had a great selection of fabric. It is owned and operated by Susan and Gary who are  professional and spot on with knowledge. I think Capital Quilts has one of the best quilt education programs in the country.  So when you decide to check out DC you must schedule 1-2 hours at Capital.

Day One – Thursday our arrival and set up

We arrived in Pittsburgh around 3:30pm on Thursday. Set up was all day Wednesday and all day Thursday until 10 pm. Everyone in our row was set up and wondering if our space was going to be a “no show”. Nope… we strolled in at 3:30-4pm and surveyed the situation. We were not allowed to lay our own carpet. We had to pay the union help 75.00 to lay down a 10 x 10 rug an put sticky tape on the front edge. What the heck? 75.00? It took less than 5 minutes. I think I should get into the carpet laying business! So after the carpet was taped we had the whole booth up and ready for showtime in about 1 hour. I brought my own quilt posts. I made canvas full length 8 foot drapes that had all the quilts pre-hung on the canvas walls. We simple set up the poles, threaded the three canvas walls through the cross bars and POOF!…instant booth!Our neighbors where flabbergasted! We had ordered an 8 foot table – first mistake. The table was too big. We left it out. We had no where to put our computer – so we went out after set up to an Ikea and got a small stand that was great. Next time we need a small narrow table to store patterns under. We ended up just placing tons of patterns along the floor and covering them with more blue canvas. It was like a small riser. I displayed my art quilt awards and Omaba quilt in the published Obama Inaugural book.

The walls were a Navy canvas which was a great neutral background for my jewel toned quilts. The carpet was LIME green shag! It really looked awesome and was comfortable to stand on. Another shop owner/friend of mine lent me some foam squares to put under the rug for comfort – that was EXCELLENT ADVISE! Thanks Linda!

When you sign up for market they send you packets and packets of paperwork and RULES! So we were EXTREMELY careful to follow EVERY rule! Guess what? NO ONE followed any of the rules! The worst offense was: All booths must have 2 feet of clearance at the front of their booths. So that meant we had a 10 x 10 space but could only put up walls that were 8 x 10 x 8. We get there – and everyone is flush up to the aisle. So all my perfect planning of the sidewalls at 8 feet – was now wasting 2 feet. So plan B went into action. I had brought extra canvas for just such an emergency.  I made full use of the 10 foot sides which allowed me to hang 2 large quilts per wall. That was the first day. I was feeling very nervous. We stayed in a nice new Fairfield Inn hotel outside Pittsburgh about 20 minutes for 79.00 a night with a full hot breakfast included each morning. That was a great deal considering downtown hotel rooms were 249.00 per night-no breakfast!

Friday Opening Day

The best layed plans of mice and men….You know the old saying. Market opened at 9:30. We were 20 minutes away so we would leave at 7:30and get there by 7:50-8:00am and have a full 90 minutes to settle in and make last minute adjustments. We got up, showered and took the first steps toward our National debut. We sailed into the city and we were about 5 minutes away and traffic suddenly slowed and an ambulance was sounding in the distance. As cars recklessly veered right and left to clear a crooked passage for the medical bus I knew we would be delayed. I sat in the van watching the EMTs weave and then they stopped about 20 cars up. I could see their flashing lights just beyond the sea of jammed cars. Yep! It was an accident and the road closed! Here we were 5 minutes aways and at a dead stop. Okay – again plan B! I quickly semi-U turned onto a fortunate nearby exit. I turned on my GPS navigation system and hoped for the best. I had to go about 12 miles out of the way – but we made it to the convention center by about 8:45. Now with the late arrival there was NO PARKING left in the garage. Gary had to park about 6 big city blocks away from the center!

We did get into the convention center at about 9:20 just in time to set up the computer and get situated. We were located in Booth 1628 which was about dead center of the large hall. We were told by veteran exhibitors that when market opened most buyers started on the ends. That proved to be accurate. We were slow for business until about 10:00. Our first visitors were Jackie, Carolyn and Toni from Patches, quickly followed by Neicy, Dee, Janet and Sandy from Main Street Quilts. It was so nice of them to stop by early and wish us well. Jackie is my quilt shop mentor, and Neicy and Dee my agents (hooking me up with great contacts) and Carolyn was my shrink! LOL I was so nervous!

As the day progressed we had a steady stream of potential buyers. They were buyers and they had potential – but the did not realize their potential! (sigh) They listened attentively to our explanation of our product line and business intent, said thank you, took a card, scribbled a few notes and dropped our flier and card into their large totes filled with a gaggle of brochures and free giveaways. They would smile and say thank you and “we will be back”. The dreaded “we will be back”. After the 20th “We will be Back” I started imaging that they were speaking in some type of quilting code spoken only by quilt shop owners that really translated to “you have got to be kidding – we would never buy your stuff, let’s get out of here and tell them we will be back so we can escape!”.  There were a few shops that paid cash and bought 3-6 patterns. At the end of the day we had about 36.00 in our cash box. We figured we could at least eat dinner at McDonald’s!

After market closed I was very disappointed. All lookers no buyers. Everyone commented how my line was well designed and had excellent coloring. Yeah sure! They probably said that so they could get out of the booth faster. Gary has an old business friend that we met for dinner. It was nice meeting Jeff and Joyce. The day was salvaged by spending a few hours with Gary’s good friends and we had a great sushi and fish dinner. We were pretty tired. We went back to our hotel and went to bed.

I tossed and turned most of the night. I woke up two or three times in a sweat. I had several small nightmares of coming home with 36.oo and no new business. Gary was very supportive and continued to wisely say…be patient. Let’s not evaluate anything until after the whole show.

It’s a NEW Day! Saturday at Market – Day two.

What a difference a day makes – 24 little hours! Today we left even earlier and we sailed easily into the convention center.  We were there in plenty of time and once again our first warm faces of the day were Jackie and Co and then Neicy and Dee and crew. How nice is was to be so thoughtful to spend their valuable shopping time coming to check in on us! They heard me freaking out about – we had no business – only 36.00 – what’s going on? Maybe this was a mistake – and each day Dr. Carolyn would give me a shrink talk and I would go forward. Gary who is extremely wise in business was calm and supportive and kept saying be patient. Shortly after my therapy a customer approached and my support group scattered. I started talking and the next thing you know I was on a roll. I was excited and got them excited and they started buying. Gary took the time to make a wonderful order sheet. I was so excited to start getting business that I forgot to use it. I would pull the patterns or write them down to ship and I would forget something important like the customers expiration date on their credit card – or the three digit number on the back. You see we worked out a way to accept Visa/MasterCard through our paypal account that we have on our on line shop. We did that because they charge 1,000.00+ for the credit card scanner. Being novices at this we had several bumps and ended up taking information to enter on the site later when the traffic slowed down. The traffic did not slow down. All day we were writing orders, often times simultaneously. When we would get a 3 minute break Gary would start figuring out the online process. After he entered one or two he got the process down. Then he took my orders and tried to enter them. Well – I did not have expiration on one, another was missing the three digit code – and on and on. By 1:00 we mutually decided I would be the salesperson and buying advisor and I was to stay away from the order sheets! LOL! That worked just fine. Gary had to spend at least an hour contacting the shops to get more information to process the orders I wrote. Oops! You can’t be expected to be good at everything now can you? LOL! We had a great day. We went home with 15 new customers and a whole lot of hope. I guess the day before when I was shooting for the moon I misfired, but by day two was a bulls eye!

Funny Customer Story of the Day

Two young ladies approached and were clearly dressed in Amish clothing. They were very sweet and quiet. They politely asked about our patterns and our terms and I took off like a big bird. They were quilters! I enthusiastically described each block of the month and the florals. They were getting very excited. I was explaining a marketing concept to them and made reference to Baskin Robins and Dunken donuts. They were totally with me until I mentioned those things and suddenly I could see them getting a bit contemplative. So I switched to my website and talked about my site and using Google, and again, the blank stare. I see Gary in the background trying to signal me subtly that – “HELLO – These people don’t eat out at Dunkin Donuts and they do not have electricity!” – and he softly interrupts -…Deb , I am not sure if these ladies would be familiar with some of those things. The two ladies seemed very relieved and started to politely chuckle. Then – DAH! I got it! Oh yea! I was so caught up and they seemed so interested that all I saw was two quilters – not Amish ladies. I told Gary – that just proves that I do not discriminate. I take pride it not discriminating against color , gender, or religion! LOL

Closing Day – Sunday

Getting up today – we were guessing that maybe those buyers that could not get to us Saturday because we were so busy or because they were so busy might stop by and place orders. We were right. We picked up a few more stores and orders. Then Sunday afternoon the crowd thinned and we started getting approached by other vendors that wanted to represent our products for distribution. Hmmm- by this time my mind was fried. Gary and I do not want to grow too big too fast and not be able to fulfill. Also these distributors want 30% of every pattern. There is not much profit in a 9.00 patterns to give away 30%. So we are still on the fence about that – but we will stay our independent course for now until we decide that there is a ROI that makes sense in that arena. There is SO much to learn about this business!

Most Exciting things of the Day

In between the surge of customers I had a visitor. Her name is Eleanor Burns. Yep the” throw the scraps over your shoulder” TV personality who has written 10,000 books and DVDs! She spent a good 20 minutes chatting and asking questions. What a nice lady! That was fun to have someone of her background compliment my work.  Earlier in the day two ladies walked in the booth with their briefcases. They set there cases down and directly introduced themselves by name and told me they were interested in my Citystamps. I told them about each one and the plans for upcoming cities and then they told us they were from Keepsake quilting. (The largest Mail Order Catalog of Quilting supplies in the world) Okay so maybe my products do have some potential! They took the citystamp patterns and told me – you will be hearing from us. Hmmm? I sit hear wondering if that is really true! Time shall tell.

About 1-2pm after traffic was quiet slow – in walks Mark Lipinsky! (If you don’t know who he is – Google him!) He LOVED The stamps and took 4 patterns and would  like to consider putting them in his magazine. Quilters Home – OMG! He is a hoot! Once again – will this materialize? We will all see through this blog.The day went on and I continued to have owners of huge fabric companies stop in and talk to me about designer programs. By this time I was ready to pass out with hope and excitement! They all seemed sincere, and left cards. When I read the card and saw it was the owner of a huge fabric company I was shocked. I do not want to mention them in case things do not work out. IF they do – you will know right away! Again – do you think they will call and follow up? We were two booths down from Clover – the notions makers. Guess what? I may represent a few of their products and I might work with them to develop a new pressing sheet. I met the CEO, head of design and director of Field Artists. What a GREAT GROUP of folks they were! Will that pan out? Time will tell. I also had conversations with some sewing machine companies – it was amazing! A great quilt friend of mine now works for Bernina. I was so happy to see her. Her name is Elaine. Elaine is the best Bernina Educator I have ever known. Elaine was manager of a local quilt shop that has since closed and bought my patterns regularly.

I did see and greet Alex Anderson and Pokey Bolton along with the Sewing with Nancy  lady on TV. Alex and Pokey were pleasant but very busy. Mark Lipinsky and Elenor Burns were SO friendly and personable.

The market closed and we packed up and were our of the hall and out to dinner before our 4 hour ride home by 6pm. We were the last ones in and first ones out – that works well!

Funny Call home to the Kids Story of the Day

So I call home to tell the boys we are on our way and will be home by 11pm. Each of them takes the phone and tells me of the days happenings. Cole, the 12 year old, takes the phone last. I ask Cole how was Danielle, the 21 year old student we hired to sit with the boys? He said “MOM, I don’t want to hurt your feelings or anything but she was awesome. When you abandon me on Thursday Danielle was so much fun, it was as good as being with you!”. LOL – LOL – LOL The things kids say! Abandon??lol

More to come

Okay I have been blogging for almost 2 hours. Enough! But now you have the 411! It will be very interesting to see what if anything materializes from these meet and greets.

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Michelle
    May 19, 2009 @ 02:22:38

    Debra: I knew that you would be successful at Quilt Market! I cannot wait for your nations stamps—-I hope that you will start with France—-that Tour Eiffel will be even more challenging than the Liberty Tower in the Philadelphia Stamp. Thanks for taking a look at the green geisha I made for Lonni—-I hope that her new line did well—-the colors are so bright and happy. I also hope that my LQS all bought from you: Steve’s Sew N Vac (King of Prussia), Lonni Rossi, Cloth & Bobbin (Narberth). That is so cool that you met quilting celebrities—-I am not surprised that Eleanor Burns was kind. Was Marianne Fons and Liz Porter there also? I would love to be a buyer at one of these markets. QNN TV will have some programming from the market—-I might see you and your husband!—-Michelle

    Reply

    • zebrapatterns
      May 19, 2009 @ 11:59:31

      Thanks for all the kind words. Now I have to get to work! work! work! I just slept most of the day yesterday! I just needed to recover from all the excitement! Keep in touch!

      Reply

  2. Cathy Kleeman
    May 19, 2009 @ 21:58:30

    Debra – I wished I could have stayed longer at the meeting today to hear more of your stories about Market! It’s really thrilling to hear you describe your adventures because I know how much effort you have put into this. It’s wonderful to know you are succeeding in your dreams. If only half of the people who talked to you come back with offers you will be even busier than you are now.

    Reply

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