Archives For Rhonni

You need to know about Fresh Rag

Rhonni —  August 14, 2014 — 1 Comment

I’ve promised to share the tools and tidbits of a successful life at festivals. Al Craig has had some great advice for crafters when at festivals, but we haven’t delivered a lot of info for Makers that applies outside our world.
My own art form is management (although I admit to being better-than-passable at building design). But I wanted to let you Crafter/Maker/Vendor-type folks know about a website and podcast that delivers business information for folks in the business of creating. Dave Conrey’s Fresh Rag site has a variety of gifts. The podcasts alone are full of great, practical information for people selling their work anywhere, and I’m currently awaiting delivery of his book Selling Art Online.

 

The photo of Dave I snagged from Facebook.

The photo of Dave I snagged from Facebook.

Here is a sample of his writing, and I promise you that anyone trying to make a living selling stuff they create will find a lot of value in his podcasts.

Let us know if you have any helpful resources for folks in this wacky industry we all call home. Podcasts? Blogs? Books? Share in the comments!

Tim’s Festival Hiring Credo

Rhonni —  July 19, 2014 — 8 Comments

The following post is the work of my friends Tim Rosa and Donna D’Ignazio, both long time working participants of the Renaissance Festival industry. We were discussing tips and tricks to hiring good help at festivals, and they shared with me their favorite hiring tool. I’ve included their Preamble … which kind of makes this a preamble to a preamble, but they don’t have an author box for the bottom of this post. I felt I needed to explain it a bit.

Enjoy …

 

Tim’s Preamble

The following credo was written by (us) on a long trip from one show to another. Donna and I have been doing fairs, conventions, and Festivals for many years and these are some of the things we have learned.

We have each new prospective employee read it aloud.

If they don’t understand it, we can’t use them.

If they argue a point, we won’t use them.

We feel that this is a clear and concise set of guidelines to a fun job … but fun isn’t always easy!

Once read, we have them sign the document so that there are no misunderstandings, and no disappointments on either end.

To us these seem rudimentary.

We expect it from others and others should be able to expect it from us.

 

Disclaimer: These are the beliefs of Tim Rosa and Donna D’Ignazio. They are not necessarily those of Fellowship Foundry, Renaissance Pewter, or their affiliates.

 

Fellowship Foundry
Rules of Acquisition

1)  Pretend to be cheerful until you believe it yourself.

2)  Each and every patron deserves the VERY best that each of us can do for them. Smile and say hello to EVERYONE.

3)  SELL THINGS!

a)  Believe in the product.

b)  Take ownership of the product.

c)   Take ownership of the booth.

d)  Never ONCE think you are in charge.

4)  The four basic types of customers:

a)  The small talk
These are the people who you talk to about the weather, are they enjoying themselves, that’s a beautiful baby, etc.

b)  Those you absolutely leave alone
Let them come to you. (Don’t even try to make eye contact).

c)   The hard sell
You know what they want more than they do. Hand it to them or put it around their neck and ask ‘cash or charge?’

d)  The ones you f*ck with
These are the people who are intelligent, fun and funny and have probably been drinking. They will be insulted if you talk down to them. The trick to this is being aware. Be aware of the patron and your surroundings.   ALWAYS!

 

Cursorily, study each patron. Look at their clothes, observe their behavior, their demeanor, but mostly, look at their eyes.
Decide which of the four types best fits them.
This is not an exact science.
The point of this is to make the patron feel comfortable and therefore willing and glad to make a purchase.

Which category?

Which category?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5)  Fun   —  If the patron is having fun they don’t even realize they are shopping.

6)  Appropriate Costuming

a)  Women – May be risqué, but must be tasteful.

b)  Men – Shirts must be worn. No cross-dressing.

c)   Everyone – Hats, garlands, some form of headgear is mandatory.

d)  Must adhere to all faire costume rules.

7)  Work ethic
From the start of your work day until the end of your work day, you represent yourself, your co-workers, the booth and the faire. Your actions reflect upon all of these! Conduct yourself appropriately!
If you are camping on site, these rules apply ALWAYS!

8)  Expectations
You are not expected to be an expert at this from the start. You will have many opportunities to learn and grow. Please do not be discouraged. When you succeed, we all succeed. Many of these skills come from experience and you can learn from others’ mistakes and/or triumphs. Again, be aware. Have fun and help others to have fun.

9)  Co-existence
There will be NO conflicts on the floor! PERIOD! Not between patrons, spouses, boy/girl friends, co-workers, and especially bosses!
If you have a difference of opinion, take it out back.

10)      Push ‘em down and take their lunch money!!!!!!!

Your work day starts at:_________________________________

Your work day ends at:__________________________________

Your pay rate is:____________________________________________

Your employment starts:__________________________________

And ends:_______________________________________

Student Days:___________________________________

 

Breaks will be given every day during slow periods. You are responsible for your pass. Replacement passes are $100. There may be bonuses paid on performance and attitude.

 

 

Name_____________________________________

 

Address__________________________________

____________________________________________

____________________________________________

 

Phone____________________________________

 

Social Security #__________________________

 

 

I, __________________________________, have read and understand these terms and expectations, and will, to the best of my ability, perform these and greater things.

Signed_________________________________________

 

Date______________________________________

 

 

 

 

(Rhonni again here) Do you have favorite tools for getting the right employees for your team? Let us know about your favorites!

Everywhere I’ve gone this month, the conversation seems to be about the intersection of Entertainment and Commerce in the Festival or Theme Park world.

Permanent parks and themed environments are not entry-level venues, whether speaking of crafts, services, or food & beverage sales. Too often participants leap into an investment in a park or festival with no thought to Proof of Concept. Vendors enter the themed milieu without an appreciation for the experience that the customer is seeking by attending such a venue.

Buy-in can mean so many things … in permanent parks it can refer to the cost involved in procuring a building from which to vend. However there is also the cultural buy-in that includes the joy of wearing a costume and interacting with festival attendees in a way that enhances the escape they purchased upon entry of the park’s front gate.

To quote Ben Franklin: “Diligence is the mother of good luck” 

It is wise to work for a while in any industry before deciding one is ready to own a business there. The restaurant business is a glaringly obvious example of how wrong people can be about their own understanding of a business model when they decide to launch their dream restaurants with no prior foodservice experience. In the festival business, the mistake manifests more often with unproven crafts concepts. Lack of sales is most often blamed on a Vendor Coordinator’s influence on booth placement, or a PR team “not bringing in the right people”. The truth is often that the craft hasn’t sold remarkably in ANY venue, but due diligence was never exercised before building a business around it.

If you’ve spent years in any industry, you’ll have a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t. Themed events are such a blend of entertainment and commerce; they can be a difficult place to attempt a trial run of a product. However, if that item itself is a mixture of these elements … if there is an experience connected to the purchase … then that product has a better chance of working in that realm. But for goodness sake, take the time to make at least a rudimentary business plan.

No Evil

Proof of Concept can be worked out in real-time, inside an event. But the money invested has a higher level of risk. Also, bigger parks sometimes require proof that you’ve spent serious time researching your project. Fifteen years ago, an application to the Texas Renaissance Festival was not a form one filled out. It was a multi-page presentation, which included all of the following points:

 Legend:

Mission:

Creed:

Motto:

Theme:

 Demeanor:

 Costumes:

 Strategies:

 Heraldic Symbol:

 Income Projections:

 Festival Compensation:

 Expense Budget:

 3yr Expansion Plan:

 Details and dimensions of workspace:

 How did we get here? (Business/Personal Biography)

 Breakdown and description of items for sale:

 

In Eleanor Whitney’s book GROW, How to take your D.I.Y. project and passion to the next level & quit your job! She coaches a similar set of questions. (She has other great advice as well.)

Innovative shows are going to ask you to continue thinking about your business or businesses within their venue(s). Some recent homework I’ve completed would include reports on ongoing research in my field, and a two page paper on our company philosophy on Food and Entertainment.

As someone who is often asked for business consultations within the festival industry, I have to say that I think many missteps would be avoided if this type of esoteric questioning became more common in the festival world.

Just as writing an interesting application helps you land good summer employees, engaging in the right types of internal questions can save us from grief when we try to sell either an unproven product, or sell it in an unproven venue.

 

Those of you already in the industry, what are some of the questions you wished you had asked before starting your business? What questions do you think should be asked of show applicants? Let us know … we’re looking forward to the conversation.

If you have a lot to say on the matter … you might consider being a Guest Blogger with us.

In a clearly defined business category, it is easy to watch your competitors and see which of their ideas work, and which fail. You can watch the most successful team, and mimic their attempts within your own budgets of time and money. However, those of us that straddle more than one category have to keep our attention on multiple category leaders. We succeed by marrying diverse elements in order to create a unique category. We can look to the leaders in each of those categories to appropriate tools or processes that we have seen as successful.

 

Discussing proven strategies, and brainstorming new ones.

We see this mimicry a lot in the festival industry. Because geography keeps many festivals from ever competing for an audience, tips are regularly shared amongst management.  This is not a suggestion that there is not still competition. Shows compete for vendors, performers, and ranking on a wide list of criteria. Every show has its priority as to which criteria are most important.

In my favorite model of festival management, within the offices the separate divisions of management are allowed to work as if their department is the most important. This creates a space of good-natured competition that raises the show in each of the different criteria. Respect is key. In no way can anyone think that they must denigrate another category in order to shine. (Unhealthy competition like that is a team-building issue, left for another post.)

So Vendor Coordinators watch to see any innovations made by individuals who have that title at other shows. PR Managers follow all the other shows’ media … watching for an element that will work well with their audience.

 

But what is the situation when you are the category leader … even in multiple criteria?

Just like a vendor can straddle categories and innovate a new category, entire shows have to look to other industries to create innovation. Innovation always happens at the edges of a proven method. Staying at the top of the category takes a lot more work than mimicking ideas that have worked for others.

 

Scene:
End of season at the largest Renaissance Festival in the US … 20 of us are in a room, going over the past year’s successes and failures. We represent a variety of vendors and management, but we are in agreement that we are tasked with keeping this show on the cutting edge of the industry. When the meeting breaks, we stand around rattling off to each other the list of events we will be attending for research purposes. No one lists a Renaissance Festival. Some of us vend at other festivals, and are trusted to bring back any ideas that work.

The list we share and the events we invite each other to reads like an ADHD travel wish list: New Media Expo, Interactive Week of South by Southwest, The National Restaurant Association ShowThe Fancy Food Show, Walt Disney World, Burning Man, Schlitterbahn, and Bonnaroo. Personally I’m watching how the BBC is using an app to keep fans of the woefully short-seasoned show Sherlock engaged with the characters between seasons. This has some specific parallels to our marketing situations.

Of course all of this is in addition to the research we all do to stay at the top of our own smaller games (read: individual businesses or jobs), which we are playing on the giant gameboard that is the festival as a whole.

 

Where do you look for business inspiration? If you are a category creator, what are the categories that you combined in order to create it? Does clarifying those categories help you see a new place to look for ideas? Let us know in the comments, we want to hear from you.

I’ll never get to Burning Man … or to Dragon Con for that matter. Happily, I’ll admit I’m amongst the sort of people who would attend either, or both on alternating years … and I regularly get invited to parties at both events. I get drawn into costume brainstorms with my friends, and I look forward to seeing pictures of their experiences.

Directional sign at Clearwater’s Great Hudson River Revival

 

I’d love to attend either of these spectacles, or both. But Labor Day Weekend is capitalized for a reason in the festival world. It is quite possibly the biggest money weekend in outdoor festivals. Whether you are in a northern state, where Labor Day heralds the end of the summer weather that coaxes you outdoors, or further south, where Labor Day means that soon you can venture out again … For vendors, it is a money weekend.

 

I’m a vendor. I’m also an artist and a fan. But I have the luxury of being an artist and a fan because I take the vendor part seriously.

 

So send me your photos of Dragon Con parties, and Burning Man encampments. Copy me in when you send out notes from workshops you attend. Just don’t assume I’m ever going to join you there. Being *paid* to be at a festival is pretty much living the fantasy life, and I’m enjoying the heck out of it.

Where are you on Labor Day Weekend? Let us know in the comments please!

 

Our friend Julia has done it again. This is his second parody video, utilizing the many skills of the Scarborough Faire Rennie community.

Julian! We want to see more of these! How can we help?

Let us know what songs you think deserve his Renaissance Rework Magic in the comments.

Photo shoot v2

Rhonni —  July 26, 2013 — 2 Comments

We completed another photo shoot that attempts to blend “Business” and “Festival”. Here are some of the results:

Mud Pit Finance Meeting

Kristin with Helmet

Building design meeting

Inside Kristin’s Georgia studio

 

At a typical festival desk.

 

So photos are an ongoing work in progress. We got some great suggestions about images in an earlier post. I personally want to create the one where we are unloading a refrigerated truck while in costume. Unfortunately that usually happens in the middle of the night.

In the comments, please share with us any ideas you have for photos of where festival meets business. We love seeing the industry through your eyes!

(Apologies for this being a Friday post rather than Thursday … Flickr had a scheduled maintenance which would have made trying to view a photo post incredibly frustrating.)

 

This week we just cannot seem to talk about anything other than This Post over at The Year of Living Fabulously …

How to Talk to Artists at Art Festivals- The Do’s and Don’ts (Warning: You’ve probably been guilty of at least one of the don’ts…)

Those who commented there are obviously a blend of pros and customers, which means that the comment reading is almost as good as the post itself … which is epic.

Enjoy!

The Auto Question

Rhonni —  July 4, 2013 — 4 Comments

As traveling professionals, our vehicular choices are determined by the specifics of our careers. If I pull a 5th wheel trailer, I have to drive an open-bed pickup truck. If I choose a pull-behind trailer, then I could drive a truck with a cap, a truck with a cab over camper, or a full-size van. I could drive a smaller vehicle if I chose a pop-up camper, or if I had apartments of some sort at each of my stops in my schedule.

Secondary vehicles are determined by parameters of tow-able or not, large enough for supply runs, or not.

Fuel efficiency can seem like an important factor, given the number of miles some of us travel. That is, until you realize how much you spend with UPS in shipping the stuff that won’t fit into your vehicle when traveling from show to show.

When you find that perfect vehicle for your festival business or set of businesses, you stick with it, sometimes through several vehicle changes. You simply get newer versions of the same rig you had before.

But when you make changes to how you do festivals, or the business you own or manage. When your business evolves … your vehicle needs change.

I’m at this juncture right now, and I’m a bit stymied. I dislike car shopping. Whether it is because I don’t want to get a salesperson’s hopes up when I am likely to buy in a different geographic region; or because my income is lopsided to where the times of the year when I am flush with the funds necessary to buy a car, I don’t have the time to studiously shop. It is most likely a combination of the two.

Many of us in this industry spend more time with our cars than we do with our houses. Seriously. I like to picture myself in a vehicle for a few months before I make the leap. Having the perfect vehicle is the difference between “struggle” and “ease” in this industry, so the decision deserves thoughtful consideration.

I’m so lost that I thought I should draft a letter to Click & Clack of the NPR show “Car Talk” … which is now more of a website and podcast situation, but Tom and Ray Magliozzi are seriously the best, so I’m hoping that they, or someone on their team will take pity on my confusion. I welcome input from you readers as well … please share your insights in the comments. Now here is the email I’m planning to send to the Car Talk guys in hopes that they will find the question interesting enough to answer:

Dear Click & Clack,

The Question:
I hate car shopping. I like having exactly the right vehicle for my work life, but I want to find it used, and love it so much that in a couple of years I just trade it in when I get a slightly newer model. (Rather than having to really shop for a car at that point.)

Unfortunately my vehicular needs have shifted since my last car purchase. When I bought my 2006 Chrysler Town & Country (Touring) … that uber-slick Stow-n-Go feature was the perfect thing in my world. I needed a passenger vehicle that could occasionally be a cargo van, without having to physically remove a seat or a seat component in order to make that happen. I do some very long drives, so the extreme adjustability of the driver’s seat was an additional plus.

But my needs have shifted. I only need 2/3 of the cargo space of my old Town & Country. I also need better road clearance, since I spend ¾ of my year on dirt roads. However, I do not have any need for 4wd, as I simply move south every winter.

But while we talk about cargo space, which was the winning element of my current car; something needs to be said about the efficiency of the shape of cargo space. I think that the Rubbermaid Tub people ought to release a rating system for vehicles. How many 18 gallon and 10 gallon Rubbermaid Tubs fit into a cargo space? Because everyone knows that is a clearer explanation of cargo space value than cubic inches. Who cares how much oxygen fits in the cargo space? Tell me how square the cargo space is.

So I am asking for your advice. I *think* I’m looking at a crossover vehicle, because I want the road clearance, even though I don’t want 4wd. My vehicle needs to ride like a car rather than a truck, because our other vehicle is a Ford E350. My vehicle is the road trip vehicle when we are not using it for work, which means that both a 5’4″ woman and a 6’6″ man need to be able to be comfortable behind the wheel. So what are my best options? Volvo XC90? Volvo XC70? Chrysler Pacifica? Toyota Venza? Ford Flex? Honda Element? Mazda5? Any type of Jeep? (Surely Jeeps all ride like a truck.)  There are so many different makes and models in that general range, it is overwhelming.

The Backstory:

You can totally skip this is you want, I know you are busy people, but the reason I am so concerned with getting this answer right is because I just about live in my car. I mean, not really, but I spend more time with my car than I do with my house. My husband and I own restaurants and other businesses inside seasonal theme parks. Consequently, I live in Atlanta in the spring, New York in the summer, Houston in the fall, and then I go home to Rockport, Texas for the winter, to rest until we start it all over again. When I say I occasionally need a cargo vehicle, it’s because I’m relocating my office, and my pantry, and some clothes 4x every year. We have permanent apartments at each location, so actually the clothes consist of a single suitcase and a few hanging things. (If you ever think about complaining to your wife about the state of her closet and her wardrobe purchases to fill it … remember that I have 4 closets, and the most understanding husband on earth.)

So Festival Prose Readers,  … that is the letter I’m sending to the crew at Car Talk.

I’d love to hear your opinions and advice about your favorite road vehicle and how it fits what you do.How many Rubbermaid tubs can you fit into your cargo space? Please let us know your thoughts in the Comments.

Worth a Thousand Words

Rhonni —  May 30, 2013 — 6 Comments

We had some difficulty finding imagery that would communicate the unique mix of festival and business that is the purpose and personality of this site. Just as the experts in the field found no sites asking for articles on their expertise, there were no stock images available that blended the world of performers, vendors, travel, and business.

So we called our friends at Brent Walker Creative, and connected them with our very talented friends from Circus Stella for the first round of images:

The bid.

You’ve seen some of these, we use them as newsletter headers, and on our Facebook page. What you don’t know is that even though they were truly juggling office items, it was next to impossible to find a photo where the tape dispenser and stapler did not look as though they’d been Photoshopped into the image.

 

Many of the static trapeze images had the same problem. I think the incongruity of the combinations (which was absolutely our intention), was part of the problem when trying to choose which images looked the most real.

 

This week we’ve scheduled another shoot. Planned shots include contract negotiations inside a brass and bronze sculpture studio, sales space design inside a shop, while holding blueprints, and a business meeting while standing in/on a mud pit stage. We still haven’t managed the business desk inside a vintage carnival tent, but we’ll try to photograph one inside a craft shop tomorrow.

 

Just yesterday we attempted to show work and travel combined like this:

Blueprints, calculator, reports, maps, and desks built out of luggage.

 

But we all know that it can easily look a lot more like this:

Closing one show, driving to open another.

What images can you imagine that communicate the weird world of business inside outdoor festivals? How many of us make our vehicle selections based upon how many Rubbermaid tubs fit in cargo, and how well tent poles can strap to the roof? Let us know your ideas for future photo shoots in the comment section.