Sunday, October 25, 2009

First In-Person Shop Experience


My church youth group hosted a community garage sale on October 24 (my birthday, incidentally) in order to raise money for an intensive youth Bible study pilgrimage. In addition to accepting secondhand items to sell, they rented out parking spaces in our giant parking lot a bit off-campus. As a sort of experiment to see whether I could sustain an in-person shopping environment, I decided to pay the entry fee in. At the very least, I would be donating money to the church youth, so I figured it would be a good cause all around. I fully expected to not make money (after all, most people were bringing secondhand stuff, and shoppers would be looking for deals), but I wanted a baseline experience in case I ever wanted to do jewelry parties or craft fairs.

I woke up before the crack of dawn at 6:20 a.m. For morning birds who don't understand night owls like me, this is the equivalent of you getting up at 3 a.m. I went to Walmart for a big frappuccino, then heading to the parking lot. It was still dark when I began to set things up, which was something I had not anticipated. Fortunately, I could see okay as the sun began to come up. A few weeks ago, I bought some jewelry display items from Craigslist for a great deal, and I was excited to use them. They ended up working really well, except when the wind picked up, and then I laid everything down flat.

It took an hour to put every piece out (and about fifteen minutes to put everything away at the end of the experience), but I'm really pleased with the result, especially considering how tiny my card table is. I was the smallest table at the flea market-like set-up, and a bit out of the way even though I was up front, but I had some adequate traffic.

I get flustered in social situations, especially ones in which I am asking for money. There was one woman who haggled me down to $20 on a $60-70 haul of jewelry, and frankly I'm still a little annoyed at that. I suspect that she used the language barrier between us to her advantage, but there is nothing to be done about it now.

There were a few jewelry casualties: a piece that I thought had welded actually hadn't, and a sharp jolt on the concrete after a gust of wind broke the two pieces apart (which is spurring me to try two-part epoxy as my next adhesive experiment). Another gust of wind blew over a whole necklace display from the back. Fortunately, none of the stones shattered, but one of the glass pieces looks like it might have been affected. I'll try and clean it off or remake it.

I sold some pieces, which as I said above was more than I expected to sell, so it was a success no matter what. I made enough money to comp the entry fee and most of the supplies. Since I'm mostly a hobbyist trying to act like a business woman, that's kind of bittersweet. Still, it's something, and it's experience. And I'm sure the people who bought the jewelry will enjoy them, so that's positive, too.

I've learned to bring a bigger table, and I hope that I can find a more appropriate venue for my jewelry next time, a venue where "the lowest prices evar" isn't usual. A more casual craft fair would be a good next bet, unless one of my coworkers wants a jewelry party. Next time I should bring a good-looking mirror as well as one dollar bills to make change. Hindsight is twenty-twenty, right?

Aside from needing a nap later and throwing off my sleep schedule, it was a better experience than I had been anticipating.


  1. I think you did well for getting your toe in the water, and doing such a small sale outdoors gave you tons of experience and lessons for the future (i.e., you need heavier jewelry stands). As for the woman who talked you into selling way under price, make a promise to yourself that you'll never let it happen again: Your work has value, and you deserve to get what it's worth. If a person truly loves it, they'll pay for it. I'm not against giving a discount if someone buys several pieces, but it's more in the range of 10%. Look for holiday bazaars at local schools and churches... Those are the next step up. Good luck! Your work is beautiful and you'll do well.

  2. I agree that if you are set up in a venue where haggling is expected on most items (the garage sale part), it is difficult not to haggle on your items. I think your ideas for your next venture are a good idea. Your work is lovely and I wish you luck on Etsy and any other venues you try out.

  3. I'm proud of you for doing the show and getting out of your comfort zone....that comes from an introvert who has yet to do that. Congrats