This past weekend I set up shop at the inaugural Mad Quilters Gathering in Melbourne. I was only able to do this by partnering with Lara from Chocolate Coated Patchwork. Lara & I met for the first time at the AQC just this year. At some point recently she suggested that we have a go at working together for this event. We had a great time! It seems we work well together, our inventory is complimentary and so are our personalities, knowledge and experience. Stay tuned for news of our future adventures.
So how was the Mad Quilters Gathering? It is fair to say that attendance at the event didn't quite meet the expectations of the exhibitors or event management. When you are in business an obvious measure of success, in general and at a specific event, is sales. But what if you are in a situation where you can see sales will be limited! How do you measure success? Can you use another scale?? Should you?? Are sales the one and only way? These are all question I had cause to ask myself over the 3 days, and lets face it...there was sufficient time. Here are some of the conclusions I came to.
As a test event for Lara & I it was just perfect. We were able to have a real go at setting up our combined inventory in the allotted space for a real event. I have never prepared for or presented at an event of this scale, so that experience is invaluable to me. We were able to run a live test of our P.O.S. systems allowing us to give customers a seamless experience at our stand. ie they are unaware they are in affect buying from two separate businesses. I also got to use this nifty trolly and wear a bright yellow vest!
The slower pace enabled a lot more interaction with the customers we had. We met some lovely people, really lovely!! We answered some questions, solved some problems and sometimes sold them something good. In each instance I am confident we sent them away happy! I also took some time to get to know our fellow exhibitors. There were a few I know well and many that I recognised from patronizing Craft Shows over the years but it was really great to get to know the people who stand behind the stand. And what a great bunch of people they are too! This time to chat is a luxury you wouldn't normally get and I grateful I had the sense to make the most of it. (I know some of you are sniggering ....YES I like to talk!! lol so why wouldn't I think getting to chat was a good thing!!)
The show also served as a kind of Trade Show for me..... I have now established a wholesale relationship with some of my fellow exhibitors. In particular I am VERY excited that I will be able to stock some great new Quilt Hangers....these will be sourced from Sue & Darren of Mallee Country Crafts! The quality is exceptional and I can't wait to order some!
Probably the most important test of the weekend was of ME! In the past I have not always handled stressful situations well and this was potentially a weekend FULL of stressful situations. The only melt down I nearly had was in McDonald's. I had pulled into the drive through to get some dinner on my way home and I was given the wrong order; only realising as I was mostly back on the main road. It is fair to say that by then I was VERY tired but I managed to not cry, or get too grumpy before I left with my correct meal. (20 mins after ordering??)
So in summary do I count this event a success?? Absolutely! Would more customers have been better? Of course. But did I learn something, did I come away better informed with more knowledge? Did I meet interesting people and make useful business contacts?? Did I have fun? You bet!! The things I feel I have gained are priceless and I am looking forward to doing it all again real soon!