Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Based on information obtained from Megan (my eldest daughter and proclaimed “mini-me”), my last blog post was a bit longwinded and it was suggested that I cut this one back a touch. I was also informed that she “didn’t love” the fact that I used stock photos instead of mainly real pictures, so I will heed that advice as well, throwing in a few more of the insider ugly-truth pics.  That being said…let us trudge on.

WHEN LAST WE LEFT OUR DYNAMIC DUO- Rhonda had left the corporate world April of 2018 and our young business was getting its feet underneath itself.  Big dreams of flipping the switch on our e-commerce empire, however, didn’t seem to be lighting up our bank account.  We were going into month #3 with little to no discernible income and the financial investment back into the company seemingly tripled overnight. Website expense, shipping materials, logo and marketing fees… the list went on and on.  While we definitely were not ready for brick-and-mortar yet, we needed to turn product.  I wanted to lean into the internet sales even more (FaceBook / Twitter / Pinterest) while Rhonda started to research local “Pop-Up” shops, shows, and festivals that would not only gave us needed inventory turns (remember, we’ve been sitting on product since January or February), but also a little bit of income.  As we grow, you will notice a recurring theme…Rhonda tends to be the more “grounded” of the two of us.  She will analyze then execute based on 25-years of business experience; whereas I will execute on my ideas and analyze on the fly, based on gut-instinct and 25-years of really good guesses (and some really BIG misses).  The genius of my point-of-view is that I know when to give in to Rhonda’s point-of-view…which is most of the time.

WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF FESTIVALS AND SHOWS- We set up for our first “Pop-Up-Shop” in May of 2018 in the neighboring city of Jefferson, GA at a place known as H&H Homestead.  Helena Dale is the owner of this unique venue where one weekend a month she has barn sales for customers to come and shop her eclectic mix of new and repurposed goodies, antiques, and found treasures from her most recent “picks”. Helena also opens up her property a couple of times a year to host 70 or so other “vendors” for large market events in the Spring and again at the end of the year for Christmas.  Rhonda and I jumped into the deep end of our first event when we signed up for the Spring Fling at H&H.  We borrowed the requisite 10’ x 10’ tent from our brother-in-law and prepared to set up shop.  Folding tables and black cloths were our initial set-up, but that wouldn’t last long. Customer reaction to our product was favorable but the table setup just didn’t feel right.  You see, when planning this business over the last 12 months, we knew our long-term goal was to open physical stores at some point. We began to accumulate retail tables, nesters, and display units to prepare for said store.  These would become the fixtures of choice for our tent and going forward, setup would be much more labor intensive but necessary.  This first show proved to us that brand presentation would be key in our drive for success and that included the overall look of our shop, whether in a retail store-front or under a white tent on a farm.  rusted fence didn’t light the world on fire at that May event, what it had shown us was that our vision was on-point and that with equal parts planning and hard work, this just might work out.  Special shout out to Helena for being the consummate host and her advice early on, which shaped what should be the roadmap of how businesses can be competitive but still help each other out for the common good.  As time passes, we quickly learn not everyone operated as kindly…

ATLANTA’S MART REDEUX- July brought around the second version of Atlanta’s Mart show and we were better prepared for what to expect. Rhonda had her show map in hand and planned out what new suppliers were on our list and what new products were going to join the RUSTED FENCE lineup.  Megan got her first taste of Mart and confirmed that she preferred Med School to the retail life and taking over the rusted fence empire.  Our very first purchased inventory, DOUGH BOWLS, would continue to be a core item and contribute to a large percentage of sales. Adding key product around this category was necessary to drive additional volume and Rhonda knew this as much as anyone. She strategically added a GIFT and a JEWELRY category and made some great purchases in both.  The devil was in the details and we were in good shape as Rhonda’s talent for buying would prove itself out over the next 6-months. Speaking of the next 6-months, this show also introduced us to Holiday Merchandise and our failure to recognize the importance of buying for holidays well ahead of the actual season, would prove to be costly.  Rookie mistakes…

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