This past Sunday I had my first pop up event of the year, and it was a bit of a roller coaster! First off, it was on Olivier’s birthday, so I already felt badly that I had to leave him alone and go work on that day. Second, turns out I could get a little rusty at doing events after only a 6-week break!
The event was a Lantern Festival centered around celebrating the Lunar New Year, organized by AAPI Healers for Liberation, Cut Fruit Collective, Civid Design Studio, and Oakland Bloom. Originally, Teresa from AAPI Healers for Liberation reached out to me about vending at a LNY event in Berkeley. I was already on board when they decided to team up with the other local organizations to make it a bigger event, but I was extra excited to see Cut Fruit Collective sign on because I’ve always had success at their events.
The festival was held inside the Pacific Renaissance Plaza in Oakland, which meant that I didn’t need to bring a tent! Always a plus when vending at shows to not have to bring so much equipment. The organizers were also so kind as to lend us 8’ tables and table cloths, which meant I was able to leave about half of my equipment at home. This was really convenient because the SUV Zipcar I usually rent has been decommissioned and I could only rent a smaller car for the day. This *just* fit all my inventory and my display grids, so I’ll have to come up with a better solution for the next fair when I need my tent and tables.
I was a little flustered when arriving at the venue, because I wasn’t sure where to unload. Previously I had vended on the street in Oakland Chinatown, so the roads were blocked off. None were for this event since it was all held inside the plaza. I ended up pulling over behind some cars waiting for their bubble tea orders and unloaded from there. The event had numerous volunteers to help vendors unload, so it was a relief to not have to carry everything from the car myself! I definitely feel the most overwhelmed during set up and break down at these events when I’m by myself. It started raining shortly after we finished unloading, so I was very thankful to have the extra hands help me finish before anything got wet. Special shout out to Winnie and Kathy who were able to get me a bubble tea during the event so I didn’t have to leave my booth!
While I was setting up, I realized that I forgot a box of inventory at home! It was a box full of pins and earrings, including new yet-to-be-released-online items that I was excited to debut. I sobbed to Olivier over text about the loss and he responded by saying he could courier them over via Uber (he was at home). That day I learned that Uber has a package delivery service! I was nervous about spending the $35 to have them brought over, but hoped it would be worth it or at the very least become info I could write about in this recap. I ended up selling over $400 of merchandise from this box, so it was really worth the investment to have them driven over. Shoutout to Olivier for believing I could sell enough to recoup the Uber cost.
When I arrived, the organizer Teresa showed me my booth spot but also offered me a spot in the back if I needed more space. My assigned spot was smaller than I expected, but I figured it was worth being closer to the center of the plaza where people enter than to have more space. I ended up having to stand in one corner of my space and run around the outside of my table to get to the other side because of my display grids, but I think it worked out pretty well to show my products clearly.
I could just about squeeze through behind the table if needed, but it was precarious at best.
With the chaos of parking, unloading, and realizing I left important inventory at home, I honestly thought “wow I hate this more than I remember.” Fortunately and unfortunately, my mood changed for the better when I started making sales. I wish my mood weren’t so reliant on the amount of money I make, but it is sadly the case these days. I used to love doing fairs just to witness people see my work and smile. Granted, I was getting a steady paycheck at this time and did fairs just for fun. I hope to have more stable online income one day so I can go back to doing events for fun and without a desperation to make lots of sales.
What was really fun and surprising was that a few people told me they came to the event because they saw it on my Instagram! I still can’t believe find my work in the ether and like it enough to come see it in person. It was really cool to meet them in person and hear from some that they read my blog.
The event was quite busy for the first 2.5 hours. At 5:40, I sold out of my “There Are No Rules” sticker. Two people grabbed for it at the same time and then played Rock Paper Scissors to decide who got it! It took 4 rounds to determine a winner. I’ll have to remember to stock extra of these Everything Everywhere All At Once inspired stickers for my next event.
I got a lot of compliments on the hat I was wearing, my Sad Orange Cap, so I’m glad that I have a restock of them coming soon. The Bao keychain sold well at this event after several events of less than good sales. I wonder if it was because it was no longer placed near the Bao enamel pin, which is similar but cheaper. I would point the enamel pin out to those who noted the keychain was too expensive, but a couple people even switched the pin out for the keychain when they saw it. Placing them near the checkout seems to have done the trick!
I sold out of a lot of card designs, though I didn’t really bring that many. Now that I have more designs than can fit on my display, I’m okay with letting some sell out so I can replace it with a different design. I’m happy to have had decent sales on my valentine’s day cards. The classic “You Are My Boo” card sold the most, followed by one of my newest designs, "Nuts About You".
Thanks to the performances that went on throughout the length of the event, there was always steady traffic and customers around until it ended at 8PM. Maybe it was the bubble tea, but I was surprisingly energized the whole time. My adrenaline ran out soon after, though, and I was dead by the time I arrived home.
Gross Sales: $2391.75
Booth Fee: $50 for a 9x6 + 8' table and chair
Number of Orders: 106
Average Order Value: $20.47
Event Hours: 3PM - 8PM
Overall, I had a wonderful time at this event and would gladly do another one like it. Ever since my first one in 2021, I’ve loved participating in Asian-centered events. They have allowed me to embrace my Asian heritage in my work, and I always feel so welcomed. I’ve done a couple events in Oakland Chinatown before, where I’ve needed to justify my sticker prices to upset parents and was literally robbed once, so I was a bit apprehensive going in. This festival felt completely different though, full of young folk excited to support our small businesses and no entitled grannies trying to steal my merch!
It was a great event to start off the year, but it definitely showed me how tired I’ve become of doing so many pop-ups. I will be treading carefully when applying to shows this year and see if I can channel my efforts into more long-term solutions such as wholesale and my online shop.
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