Wholesale show recap and the journey to get there and after

Noelle Rollins Art at Mpls Mart

This past April my husband and I were talking here about some goals for our family, my business and what directions I wanted to go in. I’ve been wanting to begin doing wholesale shows for over 5 years.  About 18 months before our conversation we had finally paid off all our personal debt, we spent the next 9 months catching up on life expenses that we’d put off, traveling and just taking some calming, restorative time together.  My husband was able to take a job, although it came with a pay cut, he is home by around 4pm each day. It was our goal after getting out of debt to have him switch to a less stressful job.  He was able to lead my son’s cub scout troop, and it’s brought a routine to our household that we hadn’t had before.  We’ve loved it.

In that same spirit of conserving, playing things safe, and knowing my daughter is about to start her senior year of high school; I suggested that in 2019 I’d do my first wholesale show. We debated between locations; dallas, Atlanta, NY, Minneapolis.  My husband suggested, what if we don’t wait a year but instead go for it for the August show this year. That was less than 4 months away and there was tons to do. I admit the daringness and aggressiveness of it all was appealing, and something about it felt right. Instead of a slow 15 months of preparing we decided to go 110% now.  So I made a list of all that needed to happen before the show…  Although 90% of it was going to be done by me, I believe it’s a family decision. It affects us all.

So I began making my list of what needed to be done: Organize my work into clearer categories, decide which lines to start with for wholesale, give every piece in every size option their own SKU. Then photograph every image, or create a web appropriate and catalog appropriate image for each option. Crisp, often white backgrounds, and clear.  Then I played around with packaging for the ornaments, how a store could display them and labeling. What ornaments to offer, sizes, etc.

creating boxes to hold ornaments

Next I created a catalog. This was tedious but I knew necessary for me. It took me over a month, as I made sure all the photographs matched in size, tone, darkness. Created a flow, re-arranged then re-arranged again.

catalog cover image photo shoot

 

Finally I knew I was about 95% done. Then I moved on to creating my online site. I added on the proper password protected user experience to view wholesale pricing, and proceeded to individually add background descriptions, visual descriptions, alternate text to over 150 products. This part was weeks of long 15+ hour days in front of the computer. Adding each product, the correct SKU, the correct images, links, descriptions, about the series, size options, measurements, etc.  You can see the online store here.

setting up for projects featured in catalog

setting up for projects featured in catalog

 

By the mid July I finished. I then went back and condensed the catalog from 24 pages down to 16. I ordered my catalogs from a printing company, created 3 layered carbon copy order forms and updated business cards, postcards to hand out at the show and ordered those as well.  Deep breath… we were on the homestretch.

booth painted

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We decided on a booth that would be flexible in different sized booths and my various art lines. Some shelves, some hanging walls. A few unique hanging features for ornaments. Bruce built them from scratch, large walls that could be put in any order. I faux aged the shelves, repainted everything. He cut down a birch tree from our yard and build the table and accents. I painted signs…

ornament display ideas

 

I chose to show in Minneapolis at the wholesale show. Overall the show was pretty slow. Apparently August is their slowest show. Bummer for me, but it was their Christmas show and a great chance for me to get my feet wet and debut my ornaments.  I did pick up some great wholesale accounts and learned so much. I am kicking myself for not doing this sooner.  I was putting it off for so long thinking I needed every detail perfect and corporate level ready but I should have just shown up years ago and just started plugging then.  I’m happy I am doing it now though and it feels like such a great fit.

I’ve uploaded my wholesale catalog online, you can view it here.

Here is me at the show:

 

Noelle Rollins Art at Mpls Mart

 

One of my biggest lessons through this experience had virtually nothing to do with art.  It was this: Tedious house cleaning, monotonous household chores and other busy work almost kept me from accomplishing this goal.  I had to ask for help, assign chores, let things be in a bit of disarray for a bit. This was SO HARD for me. I had to say no to so many invites to hang out, meet with people I love, women I admire.  I had to say no to other spending so that I could afford to print catalogs, inventory, upgrade my website and a space in the show.

It started 2 years ago actually by deciding I needed to scale back on retail shows, then I took my things out of all consignment stores, then my art booth. I had a goal of doing things mostly online and larger scale and it has taken me awhile to mentally and confidence-wise get there.  Many people could have done all those things seamlessly.  For me though it was a mask. All work that kept me busy enough and brought me just enough success that I didn’t have to dig deep and reach past my fear of stepping up into this new and unknown arena.

I don’t have it all figured out now, far from it. But I am super proud of myself, I have to admit. I feel proud that while looking at that do to list of over 100 items, between every step… a hundred what if’s entered my mind. Things that could go wrong, things I couldn’t control, things that are 10 steps ahead of where I am that could make me fail…  I had to make a deliberate effort to ignore all the doubt, the fear. I just kept looking at the next thing on my list and did that. Blindly, feeling foolishly optimistic, but continuing onward nonetheless.

My biggest takeaway from this experience has been that I followed through, I pushed past my own self doubt.  I finally forced myself to fully step into the power of being a working artist for over 20 years, and stretched myself into doing something that couldn’t guarantee me success and something I couldn’t control.