OOAK. Are You Ready?

Posted by on Nov 17, 2016

As part of my show preparations every year, I always build a “mock” booth set-up in my studio. To view the process via a one minute time-lapse video, click here.

As part of my show preparations every year, I always build a “mock” booth set-up in my studio. To view the process via a one minute time-lapse video, click here.

What’s OOAK? It’s what myself and my fellow Makers fondly refer to as the short form for the “One of a Kind Show”. I have several other pet names for the show, which usually get used leading up to the show.

One week to go prior to show week.  One VERY, CRAZY, BUSY WEEK.

This the week I call it the “Out of My Mind Show”, because I start to think I must be. This is the week when the anticipation and load of work to be done feel the heaviest, making me question why it is that I always participate in this show. I have worked so hard for so long preparing for it. And now it’s down to one last week to do anything and everything I didn’t get to on my “to do” list. Any last minute inspirations or ideas I have for the show, have to get done – or NOT! My mind is going in a million different directions and I’m wondering if it’s all worth it?

Time to switch gears for SHOW WEEK.

The beginning of the week that the show starts is when I switch gears from “making and planning” to “packing and setting up of my booth”. It’s a welcome change of pace. Setting up my booth display takes me the better part of two days, and that can only happen after I get everything packed up, loaded into the car and moved to the show site.

Shot of what my little red KIA Soul looks like when it’s completely loaded with my booth.

Shot of what my little red KIA Soul looks like when it’s completely loaded with my booth.

And then it’s SHOWTIME!

Once the show opens, it is absolutely worth all the effort it took to get there. The sights, the sounds, catching up with clients and exhibitors, and the change in venue of where I will work during the show. Most of all, the ability to show off all my hard work and the resulting positive feedback, makes every show a unique experience.

But this is also when the name becomes “One of a Grind”. The show runs for eleven very l-o-n-g days, and during that time, it starts to feel like it. I’m confined to my 5′ x 10′ booth for twelve hours a day; I’m talking, selling, checking email, handling phone calls from retailers that need a special order, or just socializing with my booth neighbours (when it’s quiet). I am “on” all day long, every day for nearly  two weeks. It’s exhausting and exhilarating all at once.

Am I REALLY ready?

Getting ready for any One of a Kind Show, either Spring or Christmas, is really a daunting task for every Maker. I pretty much think about it on and off all year long. Always planning, making, and searching for ideas or inspiration to present new designs in my booth, as well as having a huge assortment of jewellery to display as well.  

In my case, I never have absolutely everything in my line made, or in every Swarovski crystal colour.  Just not physically possible! There is no “Santa’s Village” in my studio: just me and the CBC!

And then there’s the fickle nature of retail. VERY fickle. Ask anyone that’s ever owned a brick and mortar store, done any craft show over the years, or even delved into having an e-commerce website….you just never know what’s going to sell. Trying to figure it out is a complete waste of time.  

I used to do that, think just because I sold out of one style of earring the previous Christmas Show, I had to have more of the same stock for the current show. Been there, done that! And guess what? There is absolutely no rhyme or reason as to why something seems “hot” one year and people could care less about it the following year.

My OWN kind of “One of a Kind” means no “two” exactly the same.

I’ve been doing the show consistently since 2004 – both Spring and Christmas – I’ve adopted the “just make something, anything” idea of getting ready. I do try to have a large variety of work available, but the idea that I have “two” of anything exactly the same never happens. I opt for the “larger variety of designs, rather than a smaller collection of multiples” approach. This is what works for me and my brand of jewellery. I make what I feel like making because I will be more productive and in a better head space leading up to the show.

As a result, I always have something new and different at my booth. That is of paramount importance for my brand. I tell people all the time, “I’m only as good as my last design.” You can’t keep making the same “brown paper bag” year after year and expect clients to continue to return to see you. And I always have a slightly different assortment of old and new designs. This also keeps things interesting for everyone, including me.

My OOAK survival strategies.

The show is both physically and mentally challenging. While I am making my jewellery, I often imagine I’m at the show and recall what it feels like. I’ve developed some strategies to survive the show and being in a “good head space” every single day. Day Eight’s head space should be just as positive and happy as Day One’s was. Here are some of my coping strategies:

  • Bring a second pair of shoes to change into half-way through the day
  • Make sure I have lots of liquid and good food to snack on
  • Have a sales assistant come and relieve me twice a day for an hour
  • While on a booth break, eat either lunch or dinner, and go outside the building to take at least three deep breaths of fresh air
  • Bring work or tasks to complete at the booth when it’s slow
  • Clean and rearrange the display cases and mannequins
  • Make notes about what clients are interested in for future purchasing
  • Write down design suggestions people mention
  • Check the show guide for possible Christmas presents for my family from other Makers – “supporting your community is vital to your own continued success”

Why I’m a OOAK Lifer.

With 800 Christmas Makers housed in one location, One of a Kind attracts on average about 150,000 people over eleven days. It is the only show I do where both returning and new clients find me. I am always amazed at how every time I do the show, someone says, “are you new?” and then someone else says, “oh there you are, I was hoping you’d be here again this year.” I hear both of those sentiments every single show day.

At this point in my career, I wouldn’t miss one show. I tell people, “yeah I’m a OOAK lifer.” Won’t stop until I retire or die! It really is a fantastic show. The OOAK Team, do a amazing job of complimenting our individual Maker booths with their inviting display areas, fashions shows and overall professional handling of each show’s particular theme.

I am proud to exhibit there and be a part of my fellow tribe of amazing Makers. We share a bond like no other I know. I consider them my “second family”. No one understands more the work involved in getting ready for, and participating in. Over the years I have made some wonderful friends and will continue to do so, as at every show, I meet yet another Maker that I didn’t know before.

So if you haven’t been to the show for a few years, or you’re a dedicated “One of a Kinder” who wouldn’t ever miss a single show, I’m looking forward to seeing you sometime between Thursday, November 24th and Sunday, December 4th. I’ll be in Booth # C 57 – same booth as last year. Top/North End of Aisle C, on the back wall near the Ladies Washroom.

Now I must get back to my preparations. See you at the show! Don’t have a ticket yet? Click here to purchase yours online for $12.00. Skip the onsite show ticket line up, spend more time in the show then outside trying to get in.

Picture of 2015 One of a Kind Booth set up. I’ll be in the same booth as last Christmas, Booth # C 57

2015 Christmas One of a Kind Booth set up. I’ll be in the same location, Booth # C 57