"What a wonder life I've had! I only wish I'd realized it sooner." Colette

Oct 9, 2012

Slaving and Saving

Scuba Pug costume winner
I’ve got to start living with someone.  Talking to myself in the bathroom mirror, I suddenly cried,
“Gollum!  Gollum!”

It’s a bittersweet tale; a show I was incredibly proud of and excited about, and absolutely no one to share it with until my next door neighbor came home from church.  The dear woman baked and bagged doggie samples for a week; she made 50 dozen if she made one, and I’d have died without them.

Woofers and Tweeters You Bake 'em!
My hoped-for assistant had a last-minute business assignment; another might-or-might not be in town (or is it just me?), so I ultimately decided against asking anyone else.  What if I got skunked?  How would I bear the shame?  As usual, I’d worked myself up into such pre-show jitters that I’m ashamed to admit I even used it as an excuse to send one final plea to someone I see I still  hope will become my Knight on a Charger.

Silly girl.  I’ve got to delete his email address and be done with it.

Oregon Ducks, Beavers gourd earrings
Oregon’s beautiful Indian Summer has continued into October (sorry if that’s not P.C.), so despite traffic the drive wasn’t bad, either day.  Saturday’s heavy traffic in the opposite direction of me, both coming and going, was due to the Beavers and Ducks both playing home-town games.

Oregon (lots of rain; lots of trees) doesn’t have a professional football team, so most people have fun supporting either the U of O Ducks (far left) or the Oregon State Beavers.  My own pair of earrings are one of each; an equal-opportunity artist, having fun with advertising.  Besides, Maryland's my alma mater, and I'm a Jets fan.

Both teams were playing home-town games, in Corvallis and Eugene, and the vehicular flags…they were a-flying (heading the opposite direction).  Luckily they both won; everybody's happy.  In most of Oregon it seems the Ducks are more visible.  I lived in my current locale for two weeks before I realized people weren’t just decorating early for Halloween, and I’ve noticed that while they might be fewer, Beaver fans are no less fanatical.

"Cookie" with sample ingredients
on display
I realized early on that I dressed inappropriately for Oregon shows and in-store demos, so my Jones New York, Ann Klein’s and heels were packed away.  Busy with preparations, at the last minute I grabbed my ancient-but-not-yet-faded orange turtleneck, which would support the Beavers and happens to be a good color for me (I just dislike tight clothing around my neck), a pair of jeans that still fit, and my dog-walking shoes.  A DFD apron with the slogan, “Everything tastes better with dog hair” completed the ensemble, and I fit right in.  There’s a reason for this color story further down.

Early store demo; their tablecloth
spurred my own burst of color
A windfall earlier this year afforded me the opportunity to enter the show to begin with; a half-booth was better than no booth at all.  I tried, at home, to construct a similar 5x10-foot space, and how I’d decorate and display.  That’s not much room, and I needed to be creative since I have limited display items.

Also, this was going to be my first and/or last pet show.   My German girlfriend, Inga, laughed when I described (via Skype, a truly great invention), my little business; said she visualized David against all those pet food Goliaths, adding,

“Only in America.”  That’s right.  Maybe I should paint myself a new logo.  You know, we forget that’s how much of the world sees us.  One of my favorite movie quotes is General Custer in Shawn Levy’s, Night at the Museum 2:

“We’re Americans…we don’t plan, we DO!!

Maricao Coffee Festival, P.R.
 I’ve done countless shows with my gourd art, but for the most part my then-partner closed the deals.  I entertained…usually with stories of Ruff Life-ing our way to Puerto Rico, which people seemed to enjoy hearing (see Dented People)

My baking-neighbor offered some unused grids which I initially refused because I was hoping for an étagère or something similar to magically appear, able to hold a lot of product in a small, vertical space.  But as time ticked by and money was needed for advertising, supplies, and rent, I once again fell back on my hard-knocks-educated way of thinking:

“OK, what CAN I do?  What DO I have?”

Baskets.  Very cool Bolga Market Baskets, imported from Africa by some Eagle Point Saturday Market friends with whom I bartered gourd purses and things.  I’ve got all shapes and sizes, and whenever I use one while out shopping, I invariably receive comments and stares.  Maybe I could use that to my advantage; catch people’s eyes (and doggie’s noses, as it turned out), then dazzle ‘em with yummy Biscotti and gluten free Animal Crackers.  Yes, yes, my neighbor laughed, you can still use the grids; keep them if they work well.

I won’t describe the rest in nauseating detail, but suffice it to say that everything, literally everything, was falling beautifully into place.  I had most of what I needed to create a modular display, seemingly able to fit whatever configuration was thrown at me.  My only dilemma was hanging “BooBoo,” the gourd doggy head I constructed(see previous post), hoping it, too, might stop traffic.  It did.

PVC branch
I’m especially tickled with how this project turned out.  I used a concrete owl planter Inga gave me back in the ‘70’s; been carting it around the globe; damn thing weighs a ton, but finally it’s perfect…as a market umbrella base at home, and now to hold BooBoo.  Used the bottom half of the umbrella pole, took an 18” piece of PVC to Home Depot and got a corner/elbow/whatever; the nice fellow cut a short piece off for me, I drilled a hole for the hanger, painted it and voila!

My late hubby built the little furniture dolly-base I covered with some black burlap; both it and the owl were in storage while I was in the tropics, so it’s nice to be surrounded by comforting mementos both at home and at shows once more.  I realized that just like everything else, my current life is a do-over, and I can either make the same mistakes or try something new. 

I choose New.

When I signed in I was informed that due to cancellations, if I wanted I could have a whole corner booth to myself; no extra charge.   Off to a great start.

Tweeter Feeders
Pine cone feeder kits I
put together for kids
I happen to like things at an angle but that takes up more space, something I usually lack.  An entire ten-foot area?  I didn’t hesitate to swing the no-longer-shared 6-foot table, then went to work.

My recent awareness that it is indeed possible to be an artist and entrepreneur at the same time caused me to grab previously overlooked painted pieces for containers and props, plus a few other painted gourds, and when all was said and done I think it was pretty cute on a shoestring.  Whenever I was tempted to downplay my ‘store,’ I thought of Thoreau’s wise tip:  “Excellence does not require perfection.”

I can’t retire, but at least I broke even.  However, in my own mind the show was priceless.  Besides the fact that my products were received with open arms by the majority of the public, I gleaned so much good information, met nice people and adorable pets, hooked up with professionals and business opportunities, and proved that I could close my own deals.  It was easy when I spoke from the heart:

“Everyone should bake for their dog at least once, just to give it a try.  If you wanted to experiment for yourself, you’d probably need to purchase ingredients for a scant ¼ teaspoon, etc., when you don’t even know if you’ll get into it. “
Home baked treats

Nodding heads.

“I know from experience, so  I’ve made it easy to try.  And once you’ve baked a batch and know whether it is something you’d like to try again, well, there’s nothing that says you have to buy another package from me…it would be nice, but you’re just as able to look up and develop recipes on your own.  What’s important is the dog’s health."


“Sometimes we just need a bit of inspiration.  Would you like to try a package?”   

And out came the wallets.  Used to, I'd make my pitch and stand back while they made up their minds.  I told you; I've not been a particularly great closer.

It’s fun participating in shows when you actually SELL something, but as one of my advertising posters proclaimed, I’m not particularly motivated by greed.

Ruff Life, la Parguera, Puerto Rico
I was thinking about it the other day; I’ll bet lots of people are slaving and saving their lives away to take their retirement adventure, possibly to sail away on a boat.  Been there, done that, also on a shoestring.
But what they don’t realize is what I often witnessed: First Mates tend to become disenchanted sooner than their Captains (except, oddly enough, in my own case), and so their retirement dreams go back on the market or they settle somewhere they can park and look at it longingly.  As boating mentor, Chester, avowed, "Life is short; have dessert first."

Speaking of dessert, there was no question the dogs parading by loved my products, and since their owners could see right away it was an easier sell than trying to convince someone in the middle of a supermarket.  I was pleased to hear that many dogs scarfed down my treats when they’d turned their noses up at others at the show.

The double-edged sword is that since my product is relatively new, I don’t have any direct competition, but I've also got to explain it till I'm hoarse.  My cookies don't look like they came out of Martha’s Bakery Section, but neither will most people's, and the dogs don't care.  I’m pushing the healthy, bonding experience more than exquisite-looking treats.

I entertained like days of old, but this time there was less focus on me and more on the dogs.  I was finally able to put into play advice and tips garnered the past year-plus from mentors, fellow entrepreneurs, and most especially the crackerjack Walmart Sampler in Eagle Point who could sell the Brooklyn Bridge and does it for a hobby.  I’d stop and chit-chat about demos whenever I saw her; she gave me excellent ideas and always offered encouragement.  That’s where I kept hearing,

“Would you like to try ____???” 

with such friendly gusto, people invariably agreed.

Even the Expo Center's interior colors, black and red, matched my stuff.  And turns out the small, accidental punches of orange were perfect.  One pet marketing consultant complemented me on my choice.

Love the orange.  Very now.

Who knew?


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Original gourd art designs Copyright 2020 Andrea Jansen Designs. Please write for permission.



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