So I registered to vendor at an event called Maple Con at Maplewood Mall in.. St Paul, Minnesota - I swear it's actually White Bear Lake area. Either way, the event sent us no information until Wednesday, November 15th, 2023 and the event itself was on Saturday, November 18, 2023.
I had been in the ER earlier the same week so I was happy to know they would have refunded me if I wasn't able to attend. I actually super appreciate that it was an option. I am still monitoring myself but was okay enough to go.
Before the Event & Setup
So I didn't do a cash run before this. I actually just didn't do anything. Not smart but I had cash leftover from my prior show that I forgot to deposit so I just went with that. I will have to deposit some Monday since I do have to pay my credit card costs for the new release plush and hair claws. I did get my coffee. Remember how I said to preload the car? I didn't do that but I spent all of Friday reducing the amount of things I was bringing. I brought 2-3 of each pin design vs 7-8 like at the craft show. This was huge help honestly. I forget who suggested that to me but I super appreciate you! It was so much better. I still brought a full box of ornaments but that wasn't a big deal. I have so many designs for them, it's harder to condense.
This event was much different than the craft fair. Load in was at 9 and you had until 10:30 to get setup. We only had one entry near the food court and you couldn't leave your car by the door too long so I just parked instead. My daughter and I walked in with the table and chairs first. I helped her get the table up and ready and she set the chairs up while I was heading back and forth to the car. She set up the plush and I set up the pins. I want to say it took me 3 trips? I did get a better table cloth for this event and I am happier with it. It won't be a permanent thing but it works for now and later I can use it for entertaining.
I wish I had been a little closer to the bathroom but alas, I was not. In fact, this map was not even correct in the end. I was next to a knife shop near the elevator instead of closer to Cinnabon where I expected to be. The map for the mall itself (below) was not even accurate. I was across from a knife store.
Either way, the distance we had to go from the entrance to our location was enough to make me regret my table not having wheels or any kind of wagon. The people next to me loaded all their stuff into suitcases with wheels when they were leaving and that's when I realized how quickly they got in and out. Clearly they know what's up because I sure didn't haha.
I forgot to take a picture of my setup which is unfortunate. It was smaller than the last event in that I didn't bring as much stuff including bringing only two of the four baskets. I will note that in this picture you can see my terminal was not wanting to stay connected to the internet. Wifi was free and there was a lot of access to charging areas probably because malls are designed for this sort of thing anyways. That was definitely a perk? We didn't need any of it thankfully.
The Event Itself
One thing that makes me appreciate that I have a Facebook group and discord is that about $155 of my sales for the day came from people who were existing customers. My regular customers are basically the only reason I can even do what I do and this was a huge reminder of that so thank you! I really enjoyed finally meeting some of the faces behind the names online too!
Anyway, like the last event the morning was slow. I made most of my sales between 11am and 4pm with one final sale around 6pm. Since it took place at a mall, there were a lot of people all day. I was next to the escalator so people were constantly walking by. Some were heading to the food court and others downstairs. One kid came by FOUR different times and eventually his parent purchased a plush for him. He was obsessed and my heart was bursting haha. I wish I could order larger quantities to push my prices down because nothing would make me happier than Panic Puffs in the hands of everyone (especially children).
Changing my price point for my plush definitely helped get parents to buy it either way, so this validates my theory that in person plush prices will have to be lower. I don't love this but I do hope in the future I can probably lower all my costs for in person and online. The people buying my plush in person at that price don't have any idea who I am anyways so it probably doesn't matter much. They likely won't ever buy from me again either.
I also met some corgi people. They are definitely my people haha. I love them so much and many photos were shown. I feel bad since I do not carry red headed tricolor ornaments anymore and one of them had that coat color on their dog. They sold out in 2021 and the unit costs are just too high to make them again. I did increase my ornament prices so I'm no longer losing money on them. Ornaments do better in person than online though so this will probably be my long term plan until they are completely sold out.
The booth to my left was impressive and it was all prints and keychains that were self serve. Her entire display fit into a suitcase and she had all fanart. To my right was a comic seller with $2 comics and free comics. I am happy I did as well as I did. Even without making more sales I got to meet so many cool people.
Breakdown was harder since my husband brought some extra puffs to me at lunch time and my pillows to show off so we ended up with more large items to return home with but I did have space to bring them back in bags at least.
Everyone was saying the event itself was a dumpster fire, but I had a good time. I did better than at the craft fair and I got to meet a ton of really cool people. Despite there being security everywhere I did have someone try and shoplift from me while I was talking to a customer. My daughter was deep into her phone or ipad or something and the angle she was at, she couldn't see something was going on. I said something and prevented theft plus gave them a free magnet. Hopefully they will reconsider stealing in the future but who knows. I am lucky in that sense but it could have been a worse outcome for me.
What Worked & What Did Not
Reducing the quantity of items I brought with me helped a lot. I have such limited space in my vehicle that I really can't fit much. I don't know how many events I will have my daughter available for either so I do need to figure that out. Seems like vending alone is a terrible plan though.
My table needs wheels or something. Events that don't supply tables may be something I consider avoiding in the future as tables are heavy, bulky and just a pain to deal with if you need to unload and load your stuff faster. It has to go into the car first but also needs to be pulled out from under everything first for setup. I don't know how to solve this issue yet without just never vending alone or getting a larger vehicle.
My ornament setup doesn't work well. I have another show in December (another craft fair) so I plan to bring my ornament stands with me for that. Having them on the spinning rack isn't great at all.
I need a wagon or some sort of transport item. The last craft fair it didn't matter because of where my booth was in location to either door. This time it was stressful and we only had 10 minutes to park our car near the front to load in or out. Not ideal especially when someone has to stay with half the stuff since you can't just have two people and leave things unguarded in a mall. I felt less concerned at the craft fair but the mall left me uneasy.
Wifi. The event had two free Wifi options but my Square terminal did not want to stay connected. I did not love this at all. I ended up just using my phone as a hotspot. I will note the password was horrible and long so not sure if that is something that can be fixed on my end in the future lol. Either way, this worked so much better but you need to make sure you don't have any sort of "disable when nothing is connected" checked because it turned itself off and disconnected my terminal when it went into sleep mode.
I think it went pretty well. Last year they estimated around 1,500 in attendance. I can't look at numbers of people who came yesterday and really determine what attendance was even like. I do feel turnout was good (much better than a craft fair) and my sales were decent. Communication was really good but I do feel they should have sent out assignments sooner than they did. My location was too far from the bathroom but honestly in a great spot. Their elevator wasn't working so they basically had to come to the escalator - although this became an issue for anyone who was elderly, disabled or had small children and large strollers.
Would I attend in the future? Maybe? This is not a show I really want to do with my daughter but would be better with another adult or a booth neighbor I know. Needing eyes everywhere when someone can shoplift was a concern going into this and is still even more of a concern now that I have seen it happen in front of me. That's the risk of self serve I am sure. It wasn't even a lack of security. I feel like they had a ton of people walking around checking the whole time anyways so I am not sure if anything could be better on their end. I just need a second adult at my booth I think.
If sales are better going forward, I will eventually like to pay for some adult assistance. Not to discount my daughter, but she's still very young and I don't expect her to pay attention.
The Details (TLDR)
Event: Maple Con
Date: November 18, 2023
Location: Maplewood Mall, St Paul, MN
Hours: 10am-8pm, loading time 9am
Total Vendors: 24
Booth Cost: $115 for a 10x10 space
Total Sales: $285 (this is before all costs are taken out)
Transaction Fees: $3.85
Total Profit: $144.11