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Planning, Planning and more…Planning

This is practically and specifically what we have been doing for the last month. Planning how to do a show. What to bring. How to set up our table/booth. Lots of planning. Even when we do all of that, I’ve found it very important to be fluid with the specifics of the plan and have a willingness to change to some other idea if the feeling comes.

Each time we’ve done a show, we found something in our system that can be improved, consolidated or downright eliminated. One of the things that we didn’t have at the very first show was a portable way to carry paracord with me to the show. I wanted to be able to make bracelets and key chains for people while they were browsing around and initially I carried all of my paracord colors in a couple of plastic grocery bags. I found out the third day that this wasn’t going to work, when someone wanted a bracelet that we had just made for someone else and we committed to making it for them. Half way through the process, we came into one problem. The dark gray paracord was no where to be found. We salvaged the situation and used a lighter gray, but the writing was on the wall. I needed a way to see the cord colors. Later on after we got home and the event was a distant memory, I found the dark gray paracord in one of the bags. UGH!!

One day when I was sitting in my shop, just thinking about some different things, I glanced at this clear backpack that we bought for one of our kids years ago. It was passed down through at least two of them and at this point was about to end up in the trash heap since no one wanted it anymore. Until the light went off. I could see that it would be perfect to put all of my paracord colors and other items in. It was clear and would be perfect to be able to see everything. Problem solved. Well sort of. Now that we are carrying about 32 colors and lots of other stuff, this backpack is getting heeaaavy. Now I wonder if I should get a short or shallow bin. We’ll see on that one. I do like that I can throw everything over my shoulder and keep rolling.


I’ll talk with you next time, Constant Reader. It’s time to go check the backpack.

We have been so busy. Swap meets, Craft Shows…Whew.

I’ve missed writing here for the past couple weeks. My intention all along was to write a post in this blog everyday, five days a week. I was doing just fine with that right up until about a month ago when we started doing show, meets and events. We started doing them the week before Thanksgiving and have done some type of show every weekend since.

They’ve been fun, and quite interesting but, boy oh boy, do they take a lot of time. Granted they are on the weekend, but since our primary product is handmade, we have to spend time in producing enough product to take with us. Some of they items that are easier to produce, I “prep” them and we finish them at the show. As I’ve said in other post, I’ve found that people like to see that we hand make the items. There hasn’t been a show that has gone by without at least one person coming to our booth and asking who makes these items. In our first show or two, the answer was always me. Now I might still make the overwhelming majority of them, but my family is quickly stepping up to the plate and contributing their hands to the craft as well.

Since Thanksgiving, we have done, two Motorcycle Swap Meets and two Arts and Crafts shows. That’s pretty diverse right? I’m sure it sounds like we are probably selling different stuff at one type of show over the other, but we are basically selling the same things. Maybe our signage is a bit different but, I’ve found that people are people. Even though one genre might like a different color combination in general there is a broad appeal.

Well Back to work. We’ll talk more next time, Constant Reader.


More lessons; more surprises

As I’ve said before this guy really shocked me. After he did that first day I thought it was over. Well before his next class, he asked me several times, if I can be sure and get him a few bracelets, matching key chains, flyers and business cards. I made sure to do just that.

In the afternoon of the Saturday session of his class, he calls me and says that several guys bought bracelets, but he could use some larger ones. He was wondering if I could make a few and we could meet up and he would get the new ones and take them the next day. Well I was in my shop working on some other items, but I dropped everything to help him out. How could I not, right. This guy was going out of his way to not only help me but help out the people that he was in class with as well. I’ve always liked, even more than making the money, being told how much people enjoy the bracelets or other items and seeing the smiles and hearing the great stories. It was great hearing him say they were selling like “hotcakes” and every one liked them.

After I put together about a half dozen, I met up with him. The next week, I saw him at work. He had sold about a dozen bracelets all told, with more people wanting to buy. He even passed out lots of business cards and gave out several of the flyers. Did I say I was shocked. Well I was and I am.

In the last post I spoke of how this generosity has made me look within myself and ask several questions. I believe this will ultimately make me a better, man, husband and business owner. I’m looking forward to see how I handle these types of things in the future. This is a part of the story that hasn’t been written yet and I like that.


We’ll speak again next time, Constant Reader.

A few steps I left out. Part IV

I would definitely suggest to anyone that is planning on starting a website and this is something you haven’t done before is to find a mentor. When I speak of a mentor, I’m not just speaking of someone that you can speak with face to face. I’m also talking about a mentor, a person who is doing something that you desire to do and is coming from the same place as you. This is what worked for me. Finding a few sites that showed me the raw basics and then I could add more of my own style on top of that. This isn’t copying for the sake of copying. I call it emulation.

For the most part, most of us aren’t re-inventing the wheel. We are doing something that someone else has already done and putting our flavor to it. Putting our love, passion and energy into it. I’m not doing something new but something that has already been done. I’m adding Jeffrey Washington spin on it. Jeffrey Washington’s flavor to it.

The last bit of advice I’ll offer to anyone reading these words and thinking about taking the plunge. DO IT!!! Take the chance, a calculated chance, and do it. As long as you can try on your business for size and stay relatively out of debt, what do you have to lose. I’ve often asked myself, would I have regretted it if I didn’t “push send” on this endeavor.


Until next time, Constant Reader


It wasn’t a joke after all

Really it wasn’t. The translator, says, he wants to get several so he can send them to his family. So I start helping him pick out various bracelets. All three of them liked my King Mummy Double Skull key chain. I had two that I displayed more prominently on the table today since they weren’t getting any attention the previous two days. They asked if I had some more. Darn…I wish I did. The translator guy bought one of these key chains and the other guy that was talking to my daughter bought the other. Right then I regretted I didn’t have another 10 or 20 of them. Lesson learned. At a biker type of event, have more of these types of items ready.

Well I help the guy that I’m talking to pick out a total of 6 bracelets. My daughter helps the third guy pick out 5 items. WOW. This caught us off guard. We had to make one bracelet for guy #3. Another lesson learned. Don’t be surprised by what people may say. In hindsight, if we hadn’t been caught so flat footed, we might have been able to sell many more. Another lesson that I learned…get over being shocked pretty quickly. After everything was over and they came back and got the bracelet we had to make for guy #3, we may have been able to sell more if we simply asked the question. They were obviously primed to make some purchases and we could have brought in some more sales.

Many lessons were learned with this particular event. Goes down in the book of notes to discuss in the after action report with the family.

Constant Reader. I’ll see you next time with more. Take care.

He wants one of everything. Whaaaat?

Sounds like the perfect thing to hear when your selling something. I thought it was a joke and I was waiting for he punchline.

Let me back up and tell you what happened. We had a nice lady come by and inquire about a patriotic colored bracelet with a white ribbon. She wanted her friend to see it and said she may buy two if her friend likes it. She said she would leave her husband at our stand. As collateral I guess, while she took the bracelet to her friend.I thought this was funny, but he went along with it so who am I to talk.

A few minutes later, she returned with not only her friend but also a couple other people. She wanted one for her friend and herself and the two guys wanted one as well. With this order we needed to make 3 identical go along with the one we had already. Around the middle of taking this order, I spot three guys, peeking around the other folks, looking at our table. Not really surprising, as it happened several times throughout the event. Then the people would either buy something or keep going. Well these guys waited until the previous four left. They approached the table and I could tell immediately only one of them spoke fairly good english. The other two spoke very broken english and they were all fluent in Arabic as far as I could tell. As they were looking around, Alyssia and I got to starting the other bracelets we needed to make. Well I’m looking down at the bracelet that I’m making and I glanced up and saw the guy closest to me making a circular motion, sort of over the whole table. The guy, or translator, in this case says out loud, “He wants one of everything.” I almost started laughing, because I think its a joke. Then I look at their faces and could tell right away, they weren’t joking. So now I’m not joking either, right. I stand up and ask, for the translator to tell me what he has in mind.

Tune in next time, Constant Reader, to see what happened from here.

The downtown was waking up.

After we got everything set up on day three, it was pretty slow for some time. The motor officers, were busy on their bikes, getting in their last practice preparing for their skills competition that would be later in the morning. Many of the other vendors, were slowly putting their stalls together. One thing I saw that I guess I could have done if I wanted was to leave the setup as it was and covered up everything with a tarp and lowered the canopy. I didn’t think to do that, but I will keep it in mind for the future. It wasn’t too difficult to set up since we had done it the previous two days.

While we were waiting in the morning, the Mayor of Flint, Dayne Walling walked by our booth. I think he recognizes me from our union negotiations with the city, but I’m never sure. Either way, he stopped by and chatted for a few moments and we chatted about the event. We even joked that between the two of our families, their isn’t one tattoo, motorcycle, leather vest or anything. We both came to conclusion that we are pretty square compared to most of the people and bikers that were at the Bikes on the Bricks.

The first customers we had were a couple ladies from a local Biker church. Personally I had never heard of such a thing, but I was intrigued by the thought of people being in church with sunglasses and chaps. We chatted with these ladies the previous day and they both said they wanted a particular bracelet but didn’t have any money on them. Well I had heard that before so I didn’t get overly excited. Well, they came back on day three and said they were ready to buy a couple Breast Cancer Awareness Bracelets. Of course we took care of them and they even invited us to be one of the vendors at a Breast Cancer Awareness Ride that is to be based out of their church in early October. I told them I would put some thought to it.

Tune in for a new chapter next time, Constant Reader. See you then.

Let’s back up a bit

As I was reading this I realized I had jumped into day three (3) with no warning at all. Let’s take care of that, shall we.

My wife wasn’t feeling well at all when she awoke on day three and decided to stay at home and rest up a bit. Jorden and Ashley decided to stay home with her just in case she needed a helping hand. They were also tired from the previous 2 days and I could definitely understand that. I always have to remember to be thankful for any help I can get and they were a tremendous help.

My oldest daughter Alyssia did come along and we packed up and headed to the Downtown. Once there, I spoke with “Bob” and asked him about setting up today. I had hoped to avoid the near fiasco (my fault) from the previous day. Well, catastrophe averted. Neither Bob or his wife, Carol, had a problem with us setting up at the same spot that we were at before.

It may be obvious why I asked my children to go along with me. As of this writing, our children are 19, 17, and 12. Definitely old enough to learn a thing or two about business and what better way to have them get totally immersed in the endeavor than with their “Pops”. As I’ve said in other posts, this is a lot of a learning experience for me. Although I’ve done some things in business before, I haven’t really done much with them since they’ve been old enough to remember and know what is going on. My style of teaching is totally hands-on. It was the way I was taught in my job as a police officer and I consider it to be an excellent way to learn quickly. It can be scary as hell at times, but the lessons can be so valuable. During this whole process, I’ve explained what I was doing and encouraged them to give me their opinions. I’ve always felt that we can always learn from each other and they appear to appreciate that.

Tomorrow we’ll go into a bit more of how day three went in more detail. Until then, Constant Reader.

A few revelations

Probably the biggest thing I learned; since my wife commented on the second day that they felt like third wheels. Whenever someone needed a bracelet made, I thought I would make some “preps” or partially made items, that we could work on at the stand. My kids and even my wife could practice making an item, and maybe even help me out and relieve a little of the pressure.

My daughter and I started making a few of the key chains that I had prepped, but something unique happened while we were making these and even some of the ordered bracelets: people wanted to watch. I think people thought we were selling bracelets that we bought. They really gravitated to seeing the items being made right in front of their eyes. I had to remind myself that this is making a form of ‘art’ and sometimes people like to see things be created from scratch. Why not benefit from that curiosity. Not all the people watching will buy something but it can be a good way to interact with folks.

We even found we could make items while standing and talking . This proved to be completely helpful, when we had orders for about 7 bracelets, to be made, while I would start the process, my daughter, Alyssia would continue working on them, allowing me to start on another. This system worked out much better than I expected and as I said earlier had the added benefit of giving something for people to watch.

This and a few other things, I want to talk over with the family after the event. Taking something from the law enforcement and military community, an after action report or debrief. Going over the event and the things that went well as well as the things that sucked big time.

Talk to you soon, Constant Reader.

Day one is in the books. Now on to day two.

Now this was interesting. We get to the downtown area, early, while all the vendors are setting up. I speak with the lady that is going to be selling the Flint Police Mounted Unit T-Shirts from their trailer, and speak with her briefly and ask her if she minds if I set up in the front of her trailer. Of course she says yes. So we get to it.

A short time later, a tall fellow walks up and says his name is Bob. He asks if I’m with the Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Group and I tell him that I’m affiliated with the Flint Police Mounted Unit, and was told by a committee member that I could set up next to the trailer. He gives me a strange look, like maybe I’m making all this up while we are talking. He asks me who told me that. So, I give him  a couple names and tell him that we were set up on the surface lot the previous day. Well he recognizes the name and just sort of talks out loud about how that person wasn’t supposed to do that. He says he needs to talk with his wife first, who is the person in charge of the vendors, to make sure it is OK for me to set up. As soon as he briefs her, she comes over and maybe she didn’t see red, but she definitely saw a shade of pink. She said that I wasn’t the only one that was told something like that by other people. Well at least I’m not the only ‘bootleg’ on the Bricks. 🙂

During the whole time that I’m talking to the both of them, I wasn’t nervous. Not because I knew people in high places, but because, neither of them started out saying that I couldn’t set up. They were just trying to figure out how I could do it. That I am so grateful for. There was a chance, however fleeting to get it done and I held hope that it would.

They do a bunch of checking and tell me that I can set up, but I might not be in the same place on Sunday if I come. I give them my eternal thanks and move to a more proper spot that they point out on the other side of the trailer. Bob even moves his motorcycle to accommodate us. What a guy.

On the next entry we will discuss further what happened on the official first day of the event. See you then, Constant Reader.