Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Tips and Things to Prepare for Setting up at a Vendor Event

This makes our fifth year of setting up a booth at a vendor market shows, fairs, Christmas Bazaars,etc. I will admit that this "season" looks so different from the past few years, but we do have at least one event that is still a go in September. After that, well, who really knows. Most of our big events are cancelled for the fall and Christmas season. 

Someone ask me for a few pointers on setting up for their first show and I thought it would be a great time to write an entire blog post about it. 

Tents: Most places rent a 10 foot space and a 10 foot tent is the most popular size. I have a white tent purchased at Sam's Club. It is pretty durable and we've been well pleased. It also has sides that can be attached in case of weather issues or rolled down to "close" your booth at night. The sides aren't the high grade fabric of the top, but they work, if you get your tent square when setting up. If it's not square, the sides won't zip! Our tent has straight legs. Why is this important? It means we can utilize the entire 10 foot of tent space. The "slant leg" tents result in you loosing square footage as the top of the tent is not a 10 foot square, so you loose covered space. Some events are "white tent only" so if you're going to invest in a tent, it may be wise to choose the white. The common cheap blue tents are usually slant leg and the frame will bend extremely easy. I've seen more that one go in a dumpster at the end of a show... (we borrowed a blue tent for our first show, needless to say, we didn't return it to the owner, because we broke it.) 
vintage market booth with camper by GypsyFarmGirl


If you are set up on grass, you can stake your tent into the ground. If you are on concrete or asphalt, you must bring your own weights. You can not skip this step! Before I set up the first time, I researched and found that 40 pounds of weight per leg is the usual recommendation. I accomplish this with 4, 5 gallon buckets of water. (1 gallon of water = 8 pounds.) Get buckets and lids at almost any hardware of feed store plus straps to tie the buckets to the tent. We've used bungees, twine, and / or ratchet straps. I hide my buckets in burlap sacks, so you don't see the ugly buckets advertising for another business. After the show is over, you can pour out the water and stack your buckets up. Can you spy the buckets in the next two pictures? 
Vintage Market Booth at County Fair by GypsyFarmGIrl

Fall booth at Vintage Market Days




One show, I watched two ladies from an upscale business literally have to hold their tent down all day long, because they didn't come prepared. Others scrambled to get spare tires and cases of bottled water to anchor their tents... classy? No and it leaves you unable to attend to your customers properly. You would be surprised how a little breeze can effect your tent. Whatever you decide to do, make it look like part of your display, but make sure you have ample weights and anchors. Even on the grass, we've used additional water buckets and additional spikes (Jeff had some big nails, we've used.) Sometimes the ground is too hard to drive in your staked or too soft and the stakes just pull up easily. 



Branding: How will your business be represented and how will they remember you after the show? Our camper has been a fun addition to some of our set ups plus our business cards have a camper on them (My last card reorder features my very on camper.) I highly recommend your social media and website links be visible in one or multiple locations in your booth. You want the customers to be able to find you after the show. A few weeks ago, our show wasn't the biggest one, but I left there with multiple inquiries in my inbox. You let the show feed your following weeks, months, and years. 


Christmas Show with Miss Gussie the Glamper by GypsyFarmGirl


Several months after our first Yamboree, I got a wedding order, because the bride to be talked to me in our booth. I also got a large pillow order 6 months later, but that show placed the idea for a board member to take back to her committee and they decided to order the pillows for a national event.

GypsyFarmGirl by Janice East - first vendor show



2020... what can I say, this year has definitely proved that you must be online to connect with customers and you can't rely on shows only. Many of our shows have been cancelled, but I have still been able to connect with our past customers who shopped in person, by shipping orders to them now. If you aren't branding and telling people how to find you, start now. It can be as simple as a chalkboard sign. I just recently purchased this banner. I got it for a tent (that show was canceled in the spring, but recently discovered it would "skirt" our table.. 
Always include ways for customers to find you, when setting up a booth.

Small Farmer's Market booth by GypsyFarmGirl



Also, if you make or sell a product that you can wear, you should be rockin' it on show day! When you are walking through the venue to the restroom or concession stand, you want others to ask where'd you get that shirt, or purse, or earrings. Whatever the case may be. I've had people chase me and my booth down to find my flannels, because they saw me walking through the aisles. Ride for your brand and be proud of the things you make and sell! 

Taking Payments: You must be able to take credit card payments. Let me repeat that again. You have got to be able to run cards! I've had shows run from 40-100% credit cards. I will never ask a customer to leave the premises to go to an ATM machine  get cash, because chances are, they will not be back. Yes, there are some fees attached to running cards, but that's part of the cost of doing business. (Every online transaction for my store incurs fees, so it's really no different.) I personally find it highly offensive to add a card processing fee onto an order. New laws allow you to pass on up to 4% of credit card fees to the customer in some states, but the practice is frowned upon my a large demographic of the population. You also have to register with credit card companies and post notices, before doing so. 

You can get a card reader from PayPal, Square, etc. I have a chip reader provided by my Shopify website service, along with a PayPal chip reader. My card reader runs cards faster than the big box stores and you operate through apps on your phone.
 
You will need to have cash bag with change as well. I've got to where I'm wearing a crossbody bag, to keep my money close, so it's not left alone, while I move around. It'll also hold my phone and notepad. 

Recently, I also instituted contactless pay through PayPal. I have a printed QR code displayed in my booth and the customer can scan it with their phone and be taken to the PayPal app on to pay. I've had several people use this feature. One had a small child in tow and didn't have to dig out her wallet, so it was more convenient, since her phone was handy. Currently, there aren't any fees applied while using this option with PayPal. (subject to change, so check with them to confirm.) 

You can see the QR code here, plus hand sanitizer is a part of every booth now. 



Several customers ask about Venmo and several vendors accept those type of payments. I don't and have read that there aren't any seller protections offered through this service.  From my understanding, this was set up more of friend to friend transfer of funds.

I liked to also keep a paper record of all my sales, so I can track inventory and sizes afterward. I have a small notebook handy to record details, along with request for custom orders. 

Display: We've learned an interactive space is more inviting and brings the customer into the space. If they can see everything with a glance, it's much easier to walk on past. 

Two ladies set up behind us one show and had a table at the front of their booth and sat behind it. It wasn't welcoming and the crowd walked past and they were upset and pulled out of the 3 day show, prior to the "big day." 

This also brings up another point about setting down. I strongly discourage you from bringing a folding or lawn chair. Bring a stool that allows you to rest a minute, but be closer to eye level to customers and you can transition up to standing without much effort. Why is this important? Customers don't want to inconvenience you by asking questions and will be less likely to interact with you. I rarely ever sit at a show, unless I'm eating or there's a lull in the show. 
Vendor booth at County Fair by GypsyFarmGirl and Rooster Tails




When I hear vendors complain about their booth not doing well, they are often the ones who are setting low, nodding off to sleep, and not greeting the customers. If you are working a show, you are there to do a job, so treat it like the business that it is. 

We stand up, greet the customers and offer to help if possible, then I try to stand back and let them look. If they need help with getting something down (we are often setup to the rafters) or help them find a size, I will, other wise, let them browse in person. I also have a few signs places that let customers know we are the makers behind our products - it lets them know who they are supporting and it's not just massed produced in a foreign country type of item. I've also got a sign that thanks everyone for shopping and supporting our small business. In case I don't get to talk directly to them (depending on crowd size) I want them to know they are appreciated. Remember, support doesn't always come in the form of a money transaction on the spot. It can be a facebook share or a recommendation to a friend later, or coming back after pay day. 

Having an in and out of the booth helps, if you have the space to create two openings. This allow someone to not feel trapped, if others come in a booth behind them and makes things flow.

Use all your space wisely. Don't just set your display flat on a table, as that's just not very exciting. The displaying gets fun and creative when you look for new ways to display your goods. 


Oh and please hide your boxes! No one wants to see your tubs, totes, or boxes under your table. We had a check out counter in Mineola that allowed us to store our personal items, sacks, and lunch, so customers didn't see it. One show, I hid my cooler in a burlap sack, so it wasn't as obvious. I've been using a 6 foot table with a chenille bedspread as a table cloth and I can hide my tubs under the table. A tidy location makes everything run smoothly and look more inviting. I have some collapsible bags and trunk organizers for t shirts that are easy for me to handle and put away, when they are empty. 

Other things to think about
Food or drink. I take at least a thermos of ice tea and water to every event. and depending on when and where it's at lunch or snacks. If I know there's going to be food available, that I like (I'm a picky eater), I won't always take my lunch. If it's a great show, you won't have much time to leave your booth to go to the concession stand, so I plan accordingly. At one show, I know by 11:00 on Saturday, the crowd will  pick up tremendously and be non stop for hours, so I try to eat before then. If the food service is supporting a great cause (4H, youth vendors, organizations who give back to scholarships for the community, etc), you bet I'm going to help support them by getting my lunch with them. If there's homemade desserts, I will indulge! :)

Phone chargers - will you have electricity to charge your phone or rely on a battery back up? We always have electricity in our spaces, but I've found I prefer my battery back up pack to me more convenient, so I can still have my phone in hand, as I walk around and help customers, instead of it being left on the counter in the back of the booth. 

Will you take custom orders at a show? I do for some of my items. 

Do you have plenty of help to put up and take down your set up? My farmers market space this summer has been an easy up and comes down in 15 minutes. I've figured out how to pack it all up and load in just a few minutes. Our bigger shows, involves the "road crew" aka husbands and family that help out. A lot of times they work for a piece or whole pie! Last year, we were packing and the concession ladies were selling discounted pies at the end of the show. My guy liked that! 

We love folding shelves that pack up easy and take less space when hauling, so that's something to think about as you look for your props. 

What type of bags will you use to sack up purchases? I've got to where I purchase craft sacks with handles or brown lunch bags. (You can get the bags on eBay, etc.) At first, we were using just any old grocery sack, but once again, that advertises for another business and I decided selling quality items deserved a better sack. The brown craft bag is always something the customer can reuse for a gift bag. Sometimes I will add my stamp to the bag or a sticker, but not always. 

Have a tool box with some extra supplies: zip ties, nails, tacks, s hooks, tape, string. scissors, wire cutters, chalk for writing on signs etc. We showed up at one place and could actually tack into the wall, so we were able to hang up signs and shirts. Zip tie gridwall together or string to tie back curtains, hold together displays on windy days, etc. Scissors to cut off tags for customer to wear their new items out of your booth (it happens!) Wire cutters to snip your zip ties at load out time. You get the ideas. 

When working an in person event, I've found a chalkboard sign with prices for shirts is easier than pricing each one individually. Keeps it simpler and if I decide to run a sale, we just change the sign. I do have a tag on each shirt with our shop name, website, and Made in East Texas plus we have a sticker size tag, that allows you to see sizes at a glance without having to open up every shirt to see what size it is. I still will refold lots of tees throughout a show, but it makes it easier for everyone to see sizes. 

Often times, vendors get restless, if the crowd isn't steady. Take this time to rearrange your booth, mingle with other shops, and work on social media post. It upsets me to see vendors close up early, just because there was a lull in the traffic. Stick it out and wait for the next wave to come through. Rearranging your space brings new light to different items, that someone didn't see in another location. We moved booths from one location in the building to another. Items had been in the booth for months, but once they were in the new space, we sold several items that had been there. Change is good and keeps people looking to see whats new. 

Social Media - you need / must share sneak peeks of your products and show details leading up to a show. If I was hosting a show, I would make this part of the contract that social media posting would be required, that's how strongly I feel about the issue. Then again, I have built this business on free social media, so I know it works! If you don't show it, why would you expect anyone to show up to support you?

Create Facebook events of your own or in conjunction with the event host. Create a graphic with details for your followers to share, with all the details on the event. 

I had one customer that kept telling me she was coming to our show, but then didn't show up on the day of. The next week, when I was picking up feed from her store, she told me that she was busy that day and none of the other vendors had shared any pictures that enticed her to rearrange her schedule and come that day. She said she knew I came to her store weekly and could bring the items she wanted from my shop. 

I've had customers plan trips to East Texas from Iowa, based on our show schedule and sneak peeks, they've drove 6 hours across Texas, and came from neighboring states. Our Yamboree booth can easily have customers from Utah and beyond, since it's a homecoming type event (our town of 5,000 can have up to a 100,000 visitors Yamboree week, although it's cancelled this year.) But they have to plan these trips. You can't just post on the morning or afternoon of the show and think they'll show up. Folks like to see the behind the scenes and connect with the maker, so use the free tools to your advantage! 

For some (but not all shows) if you tag them in your post, they will share on their pages and it gets everyone more exposure and builds more interest and engagement. 

While we are on the social media subject, you need to be posting consistently. I listened to a business advisor say daily facebook post will prove you are serious about your business and it'll reward you like a business instead of a hobby. It's definitely has helped me grow my brand, but keep in mind you can't sell to people all the time, so throw in those behind the scenes, tutorials, humor, personal stories, 
 tip, and tricks along the way.

Remember to have fun and smile. Even if the very moment it's not the greatest sales, don't forget that 
great things can come afterwards, so always be friendly and welcoming. Online, a conversion rate can be less than 4% for many websites. What does that mean? Only 4 out of 100 eyes on your product may actually close the sale and purchase, so it takes lots of eyes on your items to get them moving out of your booth. Keep a good attitude! Oh, and did I mention, eat lots of pie!! Yam pie for breakfast! 


Our Farmer's Market booths have been different this summer, compared to our bigger booths, but they have still been good (sometimes better that our "big" booths.) I can work the afternoon by myself and be set up in less than 30 minutes and packed up and on the road in about 15 minutes. It's outdoors and with this table, I'm able to stand back away from the customers, unless they need assistance. My umbrella is easy for me to create some afternoon shade and cost less than $50. It would not protect from a rain event, but it's been nice for the local shows and of course we love the fringe! 

Support your fellow vendors! I do a lot of my Christmas shopping at shows and I've been loving getting goodies at the Farmer's Market this summer. I think its a great way to build community and support each other in the maker / small business world. 




Shows are hard work, but they can be equally rewarding. Also, be patient and learn the traffic / schedule of your event. At the Yamboree, Thursday afternoon is good, Friday is better, and Saturday is the huge day at the fairgrounds. Several vendors pulled out of the show on the first or second day and didn't hang around till their was long lines on Saturday. (After the parade, large crowds gather for the BBQ lunch and livestock sale. You won't set, eat, or hardly take a potty break during this time.) You must be patient and learn the schedule. Farmer's Market is busier the hour before we officially open, so come early for best selection. Some shows are busier before or after people go eat lunch. 

At the end of a show, I like to find the host and personally thank them and offer to help with anything they may need to finish the show. I also follow up every show with a thank you to my shoppers, with a post on social media. Kind of a way to sign off on that show and let them know when the next will be. (advertising for the next show, needs to happen during the current event, by including fliers, posters, and announcing the next dates.) 



Of course you can follow along with us to see show and event announcements at facebook.com/thegypsyfarmgirl or instagram.com/gypsyfarmgirl

We are preparing for Holidays on the Farm at Prairie Creek September 26, 2020. Miss Gussie our Glamper will be there! 
(This is located outside of Gilmer, Texas in the Soules Chapel community.
- sometime GPS will say Pittsburg, Texas.) 




We have no idea what will come of any other fall shows or events. Last year at this time we were preparing for 8 fall shows. This year, we just don't know what lies around the corner...



What experiences and tips do you have that we should add to our list? 


Thursday, August 6, 2020

Texas 4H Agents Conference Repurposing Workshop



As previously mentioned, we held a workshop Monday at the Texas State 4H Agents conference. We held a repurposing session plus my niece Brenna went along and worked a mini booth for us.



Participants brought a project to work on plus I provided supplies (not knowing what they would be bringing) and a things to complete a separate project. I was nervous beforehand. For one, I really wasn't sure how to prepare, especially since I didn't know what project they would be bringing to work on. Would we need a drill and screws, a pop rivet tool, or ____?  

I gathered up a smorgasbord of supplies from my workroom at home and took them with me, along with a  few examples of some items I've repurposed. My supplies included pieces of lace, ribbon, silk flowers, twine, cotton stuffing, newspaper, tape, Bingo cards, paint, paintbrushes, scissors, wire cutters, hot glue, wooden spools, corks, brooch pin backs, feathers, and thrift store skirts.

Tip: skirts can often offer large pieces of fabric for a fraction of the cost of new material.

We ripped up skirts and stained 4H tees to make pumpkins and even used a wine bottle for the stem on one. Painted stools, tool boxes, made brooch pins, masks, and decorated over a jar that had a near impossible to remove label. If you can't remove a label, cover over it!  One lady is working on converting an old ice cream freezer to a hanging basket covered with a crochet table cloth. 



Considering I had no idea what they were bringing, it all turned out really good and they acted like they really enjoyed it.



Two of my fabric pumpkins were "stuffed" with unusual objects, so everyone had fun guessing what was inside them. (Stay tuned for another post on them.)  One lady brought in a wine bottle and we used it for the center base and stem of her pumpkin. I really wish I would have got better pictures of everyone's projects.... My niece, Brenna, went along with me and worked a small booth, so she had my phone (to run credit cards) while we were in the workshop. Our sales table was in the area where conference attendees arrived to registered and we thought our set up was going to be right outside the room were I was working, but that room didn't have any tables, so we got moved to another area in the hotel that did have space to work on projects. It all worked out though. 

One of the Agents even remembered me from my 4H days in the 90’s! It's an organization that I am proud I grew up in and happy to have the opportunity to speak with them now. 

All in all, a good day! I do look back and can think of a few things I wish I would have shown or told them, but it's ok.

💚🍀



You can read more of my blog post leading up to the workshop here: My Repurposed Life and my Ramblin's from the Back Roads discussing my outfit, which was all upcycled or from some of my favorite small biz girls. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Ramblin's from the Back Roads - Support the Makers, Junkers, and Small Biz Girls

Ah, lately I've been sharing a few more of my "Ramblin's from the Back Roads" on IG and FB. I work mostly from home, but I've had jobs / appointments in Tyler and Dallas lately... this country girl was happy to return safely home on the rural route. Geez Louise - I don't know how /  why y'all deal with the traffic on a daily basis. So, while I've been travelling about or delivering orders, my mind wanders and my ramblin' thoughts come out... Now several of you have been saying "write a book, I'd buy it." Say what - you really would pay for my incomplete sentences and random thoughts and pictures from the Rural Route??? Hmmm... we will have to look into that. Where do we start??? 

For one, I really am trying to get back to blogging more. I started this post this morning, but the internet has been wonky with the storms and weather today, so I'm trying again this evening. The struggle is real, y'all! 

So any who... We had our workshop / presentation at the Texas 4H Agents State Conference this week. Below are my few of ramblin's I posted afterwards - Leopard Sunflower tee shirt by GypsyFarmGirl


Y’all know I’m passionate about a few things: supporting the makers and small businesses and of course repurposing / junkin. I’m also inspired by and motivated by those who get creative, when life gets tough and keep rolling on.

As I dressed for our repurposing workshop Monday, everything I had on (except my shoes - why can’t there be cute shoes that support me on my feet all day?) came from the makers, junkers, and small biz girls!

In the spring, I shopped a big vintage / maker market type show - instead of cancelling all together, Southern Charm at the Farm show went virtual and I was able to shop from my couch in Texas and got an upcycled spoon ring from For the Love of Junk Designs. They just announced the fall show will be virtual again! Y’all, I set my alarm to shop that show and still missed out on some beautiful pottery that sold in less than 5 minutes.

Same goes for my pants - they came from Valerie’s Fashion Barn. I found them through the Houston Rodeo (now Texas Festival Vendors) Facebook group that was created when the rodeo got canceled. Both these groups that were created to support their vendors and have reported phenomenal success. If you ever saw or heard me talk about my patchwork pants, you know I’m tickled pink to find this pair. I loved them and had worn them out and have searched everywhere for something similar and this is closest I’ve found, although without the paisley patchwork. Oh, this new pair even has pockets!

Several ask about my sunflower earrings
- they came from Jo at Farm Girl Glam. I ask if any of my maker friends had sunflower earrings and she came up with them!

Leopard sunflower tee by yours truly. (Find it here.) 
Thrift store vest - I really need to add lace to it.
Rope Your Dreams leather cuff bracelet from Country Soul, way back in the day. (She’s no longer making them.)

In our workshop Monday, I heard someone say “I don’t know what normal is anymore.”
Immediately I said “just a setting on the dryer.”

You know friends, this “season” is crazy, but if we think creatively and work at it, we can overcome a lot of things and help support each other. 🌻


(I know for sure @farmgirlglam and @fortheloveofjunk are on Instagram and Valerie's Fashion Barn is on Facebook.) 

I'll try to get my pictures from the workshop and a recap of that up soon. 

Sunday, August 2, 2020

My Repurposed Life

I started my business with a cap press off of eBay and attempted to sell caps online, that I can’t even sell at a garage sale now. True Story!


Later that year, I was at a garage sale and bought a few fabric samples books that had pretty upholstery fabrics. I stripped up those samples and made rag wreaths on a clothes hanger frame and listed them in my etsy shop. We were doing a lot of “blog hopping” back in those days and joined some weekly “linky parties” where we showcased what we were working on. I don’t think that specific project was linked up, but one of the “big” bloggers, Funky Junk Interiors from Canada shared my “rustic rag wreath” on her Facebook page. Well, I had never thought of that wreath as “rustic,” but I learned that was an important word to describe my style! It and several more sold out from that share! $1 fabric books, became in demand wreaths! I wished I had bought every fabric sample book I could have found, because buying new fabric by the yard was not near as profitable.



I’ve been making rope wreaths since I was a teenager in 4-H. We were very involved in the 4-H Horse program in Upshur County and my Dad, brother, and I all roped. (read about some of my 4H story here)



There was always a few “used” ropes laying around and they got decorated with sunflowers, ribbon, and greenery. I repurposed ropes and that first Christmas my etsy shop was open, I sold a few Christmas lassos. The combination of the two styles of wreaths helped give my business its jump start. Seriously, the first year was slow. I joke that it was an extra job that made my “Christmas money” and I don’t spend much on Christmas gifts! That year, I bought burlap and made stuffed crosses for several Christmas gifts. Of course, I didn’t throw away the scraps of fabric that comes with cutting out shapes. A month or so later, I heard the words “fabric bouquet” and I had a thought. What about burlap wedding bouquets??? I searched on etsy and only found a couple of fabric bouquets that had burlap flowers in them (and they weren’t even very pretty.) So I decided I would put my own spin on a burlap and lace bouquet, using those scraps of fabric leftover from the Christmas projects and some lace ribbon picked up at a garage sale. What a bam, what a bing! Two weeks later and it sold! So I made another and it sold. And another and then I started getting request for custom bridesmaid bouquets and “can you make matching boutonnieres?” I had to start buying new burlap, because I had run out of scraps. Then, someone ask if I could use turquoise burlap? Y’all, I didn’t even know turquoise burlap existed, but I told the bride to be that I would see what I could find, and sure enough there was turquoise burlap! That was the start of something big and now I keep over 40 colors of burlap in stock at all times! I seriously thought burlap only came in tan, brown, white, and orange, because those were the only colors available at the local fabric stores. My repurposing scraps became my new business and we still can’t get rid of them hats!

 



For the next 3 years, I spent almost every spare moment working on wedding orders. Some had a 6 week processing time, as I was working a full time job (where I was basically on call all the time,) feeding our farm animals, and working at night and weekends on bouquets.


 

I continued to blog and shared pictures of our yard projects. We got a free gazebo out of a trash ditch, in exchange for helping a friend rescue the two of them. We did a makeover of the gazebo and I decided to only use repurposed, upcycled flower containers in the yard. No store bought plastic pots here. No ma’am, I was over that look. I did a tutorial on how to plant in a rusty, bottomless bucket and make it a hanging basket. I linked it up to a few of those Friday night “linky parties” and it blew up! Seriously, It’s all over pinterest and has brought my blog more traffic that any other post I’ve ever made! The “junk yard” post comes in at number 3 on the popular post on my page. The combination of the 2 post and subsequent decorating of the gazebo has brought more followers and traffic to my blog and facebook page than anything I’ve ever done online.

Welcome to the Junk Yard Blog Post can be found here.

 

The tutorial for how to plant in this rusty, bottomless bucket can be found at this link

In the summer of 2014, the flower shop I worked for sold. We were always very loyal to our work and it was a long time before I even mentioned my night job to my boss and coworkers. I sold online as GypsyFarmGirl and Janice from Texas and never shared it on my personal facebook page. For years, I only used etsy, my blog, pinterest, Instagram, and twitter (I've pretty much dropped off twitter at this point). Later that year, GypsyFarmGirl became my full time business! 

 

That year, with the two incomes, I didn’t live extravagantly. For one, I didn’t have time. Two, I was putting back everything I could, because I knew the two paychecks would be coming to an end. For the longest time, I thought the burlap bouquets was just a passing fad and didn’t want to believe that it would last very long, but it has. I’ve shipped to all 50 United States and several countries.

 

With more competition online and more time on my hands, since I didn’t work 40+ hours a week in town, I started expanding my business. Working from home, I missed the people and my former co-workers, so we started having lunch in town on occasion. Then Angea and I started meeting at the thrift store on Thursday mornings and then going to garage sales, and would finish “girls day” with lunch at our favorite Mexican food joint. Over one of those lunches, we decided to set up at the East Texas Yamboree, our county fair, with a booth. I had rescued and repurposed a 1959 camper and had got it all fixed up in 2014/2015, and we wanted to show her off and use her for our booth display. We hauled our inventory in Miss Gussie and rolled into town for our very first booth set up and boy was it a big one! And we had a blast over those 3 days! Our one time show, selling some of the things we “didn’t want to ship” led to another show just a few weeks later as an art venue wanted to feature us at their Christmas open house.

 


Wedding business slows down in the fall and we had time to work on a few events. After Christmas, we were told about an event happening in the rural area of our county. It was a juried show, 9 miles out of town in the “Backwoods.” We must submit photos and tell about our projects, with jury selection to take a few weeks, since they were only accepting 4 new vendors to their group. Almost immediately we were accepted and went on to do that show for a few times, before the owners discontinued the market. We did the Yamboree again, but our husbands, aka the “road crew” weren’t overly eager to help at all the setups and I wasn’t overly excited about the furniture that we kept dragging around taking up a lot of space in our small house.

 

My husband heard me say “we need a storage building” a lot and one day he said, “no, you need a booth where you can sell your items all the time, not a storage building (or rented storage space) were you pull your stuff out once or twice a year, for just a weekend.” So we opened a booth in an antique store in Mineola. We were there about a year and a half, before we joined the Mineola Antique Fair. Our last Mineola show was March of 2020. Now we have a booth at the Kickin' K Cattle Co in Quitman, where you will find a mix of our shirts plus our funky finds and repurposed pieces. 

 

Along the way, I started repurposing some clothing items. I saw a few ideas online and put my own spin on it. We started with a few flannels and jackets, distressing them or adding vintage lace and doilies. We buy just about every single flannel shirt we can find, second hand. I sell these online and in our booths. If other shirts appeal to me, I’ll grab them up and when inspiration strikes, I’ll get out my stash of vintage fabrics and go to sewing. I’m a night owl and prefer to sew when the house is quite and peaceful. No meetings to get to, no meals to cook, no cows to feed, or other places to be. Just me and my Saturday night sewing. Often I buy box lots of vintage linens and lace at sales. Sometimes they have stains and imperfections, but that’s no reason to completely throw them away. I’ve made necklaces with little bitty embroidery flowers, pillows, and curtains from pieces of barbeque stained tablecloths, hung wedding dresses over windows as a curtain, stapled a veil to the ceiling of my camper, along with scraps of burlap coffee sacks and doilies. I’m not crazy about doing custom orders on the clothing, because I am using the things I have on hand. No two pieces are just alike and I may have a random piece of lace today for one shirt and never find another piece just like it. Sometimes, that does make it harder, because someone wants a shirt in a different size, but that’s just a part of it.

 

The last few seasons, my fall and Christmas flannels became so popular, that I did have to start buying new shirts, just to be able to fulfill request. I know not everyone is concerned about it being a repurposed shirt, although, I still like to offer as many upcycled shirts as possible. When were at the antique store, we only sold 2-3 shirts a month plus my online sales. When we started doing the Antique Fair, just a block away, our shirt sales went up and became one of our best sellers there. I researched sublimation for several months and finally decided to take the plunge with a new printer. Gasp, I had to pay big time, but I did wait till there was a black Friday sale, because we prefer to never pay full price for anything!

The sub printer has allowed me to offer t shirts and other products to my shop to supplement my wedding business. With the t shirts, I am able to offer the same image on multiple sizes and fulfill those custom request. It’s all done from our small, two bedroom home. I often tell people, If I can do this, so can you. People want me to come  show them how to sell online. I'm self taught and in the words of Rachel Hollis - all it takes is a high school education and google at your fingertips. It’s just a matter of following the on screen prompts, referring to the sellers handbook, and googling or searching pinterest for the answers.

I don’t see my story as anything spectacular, but have realized over the past few years, that part of my job is to motivate and inspire others. My Facebook (my last social media platform to add and now my biggest) and Instagram usually have some fun quotes or inspiring images, gardening, pictures from the backroads, and farm, and then a few pictures of things I make and sell. You see, you can’t just “sell” to people all the time and expect them to show up and support you. You must motivate, inspire, educate, and humor them, then you sell to them less than 20% of the time. My donkeys are a facebook favorite! I wasn’t confident in my photo editing skills at one point and I bought a ready made digital graphic of a donkey that looked similar to ours. Super cute, but it wasn’t a great seller. Several ask me if it was our donkey and I had to say no. That prompted me to try to figure out how to take a picture of our Flossie and remove the background. Well, after I made the graphic, Flossie took over my social media for the day, asking if her picture should be on a t-shirt and the people spoke up and said yes! I’ve found my original designs with a story sell much better than just a digital graphic I have purchased.


We only have one piece of store-bought new furniture in our home and honestly, I wish I would have never went to target and bought a table. My clothes are usually all thrifted or made by me. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find enough jeans that fit me, so that is sometimes the exception. I was at the hospital waiting room recently and the doctor came out and said he was looking for the girl who always had the cute clothes on. Well, that very day I had on a t shirt I made, a pair of palazzo pants I had made from a skirt, denim jacket with a vintage doily added to the back and a necklace with a vintage embroidery flower. It made me feel pretty good, that this professional didn’t look down on my clothing. Just the month before, a man walked through our booth and was looking for a size small shirt to give someone. I showed him a few t shirts and then one of my upcycled creations. He said “I’m from Dallas, where would you wear something like that?” Well, I wear my upcycled clothes to the doctors office, the grocery store, thrift store, feed store, garage sales, antique fairs, school presentations, to feed the cows, to the bank, the post office… pretty much anywhere I go!

 Through this whole pandemic, we've had several shows cancelled and closed our space in Mineola. I brought home lots of metal buckets, old windows, and things. I wasn't sure what I would do with them, until I started painting them one day. All those pieces that have been painted have sold for more than they would have in our booth (some had been sitting unsold for months.) My motto this spring really became "When life gets tough, get creative" and that has powered us through this crazy time and thankfully, with all of your support, we've been able to keep rolling and keep going. 

Our repurposed life has allowed us to be self employed and be able to be there for family as they’ve had multiple medical issues over the past few years, it allows me to work from home (or where ever I roam) and have much less stress than working in town, and express my creative freedom. This year, when everything got disrupted and so many, our home based business was already established, although I'll say with all the extra internet usage with everyone shifting to home school and work, that definitely effected our ability to do some live videos and uploading pictures to our website. In addition to our etsy shop, we added our own website last year. Since March of this year, we have really focused and put more attention in our stand alone website, so that's where you'll find the newest items up for grabs. It is www.RustandRomance.com or you can reach it by simply going to www.GypsyFarmGirl.shop (that seems easier for some to remember.) We picked the Rust and Romance name becuase we make the rustic romantic wedding bouquets with burlap and lace, but we also love a good rusty bucket of flowers, or we will take the rusted barn tin and make something new out of it.  



We don’t have house, land, or vehicle payments. Yes, there is some stress because there isn’t a guaranteed Friday paycheck, but somehow, it's always worked out. We thrifted our way into business and it became our lifestyle. I wear what I make, because if I wouldn’t wear it or live with it, why would I want you to? 

Did I mention - over the years, our gazebo has been featured by several blogs, numerous facebook pages, and even made it to Country Living website this spring! And Miss Gussie, our 1959 camper was included in Mary Jane's Farm Magazine a few years ago. Our rusty bucket is a pinterest star and we got chosen to be a Junk Gypsy Book Team Member. We've been invited to participate in shows in several states, although we do prefer staying closer to home. All because of the love of junk, rescuing, repurposing, and upcycling! 

And if you wondered why I've wrote about this now? Well, I'm getting ready to give a workshop on repurposing at a state convention this week and wanted to highlight and go over some of the things we have done... wish me luck, I'm a little nervous!