While trying to start my small business years ago, I spent my time in a shed in a friend's backyard tooling away at random pieces of scrap wood, desperately eager to learn a craft and make use of my creativity in a meaningful way. Looking back, most of the first pieces I made were lacking in the attention to detail that an experienced craftsman would incorporate in his work. I knew little of joinery and with a background in Biology, I knew more about the Krebb's cycle, xylem, and phloem than I did about actually working with various types of wood. I worked full time and spent my spare time learning, building, and occasionally selling a piece of furniture.
I received my first break when an acquaintance put me in touch with a local group called the Indie Craft Experience. The wonderful ladies at ICE Atlanta needed a few things built and were willing to barter in exchange for booth space at one of their festivals. With an operating budget of about $12, I knew I couldn't afford a booth and this was a fantastic opportunity for me to step out of my comfort zone and share my creations with the world. Those that know me personally would have a really tough time calling me shy, but boy I was anxious leading up to that festival. A million questions clouded my inexperienced and insecure mind: will people like what I have built? Am I crazy for thinking this will work? Will I have enough products to make money? Will I ever be able to do this full time?
I am extremely fortunate in that I have some amazing friends that helped me in my shed: building clocks, assembling tables, flower boxes, and whatever else I thought I could make that would sell at a craft festival. Even with a phenomenal support system, my anxiety still got the best of me. At a young age, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and have the tendency to stay awake for days straight in a stress-induced state of mania. In fact, before my first festival I was so anxious that I worked for nearly 70 hours straight with hardly anything but snack breaks. This exciting and stressful ordeal culminated in a minor seizure the night before my first festival. It was make or break in my mind and my body decided to break.
That first event was nothing short of a whirl wind. Despite the occurrence on the eve of the festival, I showed up and proudly displayed my hard work. I spoke to hundreds of people, handed out numerous business cards, and, in fact, made more money in sales the first day of the festival than I would have in two weeks of working my day job. “This could actually work,” I thought to myself.
That was exactly 4 years ago and tomorrow I will return to the Indie Craft Experience's summer festival with zero expectations and a smile on my face. At this point in my career I have a spectacular team of employees and a budget that is a smidge bigger than the $12 with which I started. I am proud of the work my team has accomplished and I look forward to seeing familiar faces, and meeting new ones. To all those who will be taking the plunge at their first trade festival tomorrow, please hear me when I say: trust the process. How Christy and Shannon (and their fantastic group of volunteers) manage to organize hundreds of unorganized creatives in one building never ceases to amaze. With the coordination of a well-practiced orchestra, they allow us the opportunity to share our passions with the world, and for that I will always be grateful. Whatever happens, happens; you win some, you lose some. I could end this with a number of classic cliches regarding success(which I still yearn for on a daily basis), instead I will just say good luck to all and have fun this weekend. Come see me in the Parker & Briggs booth. BYOB.