the markets begin

December 13, 2010 |  Category:   life the biz

Yesterday was the first of our 10 holiday market days and while I don’t usually go with Mark to set up for markets, we left the kids with a babysitter at 7:30am and left together in the torrential, apocalyptic style rain over the Manhattan Bridge and into 18th street. The BUST Magazine Craftacular expanded to 2 floors this year and while I’m not sure that made a positive or negative impact on the fair, we had the same spot as last year right by the entryway so it was hard for us to tell. I wanted to come so that we could figure out the display for posters and tea towels.

First of all the fair is LONG. 10 hours. But it’s the kind of event where people line up early to get in at 10am, even in a torrential downpour (at least it wasn’t cold, but it was windy), and there are still lines down the block to get in as late as noon. Don’t ask me why. My brain can’t comprehend why anyone would want to stand outside in the pouring rain or the frigid cold as was the case last year to get into a craft fair, but this is why the Craftacular is a good one for vendors. It has a pricier booth fee, but this is our best event in terms of sales and we even blew last year out of the water with the addition of tea towels and prints. It makes all those long hours worth it and it was certainly a nice end to a crazy week. Mark turned to me and said, “well, at least I’m not in the kitchen”. It was a nice change for him.

Every fair is a learning experience and you try to make adjustments in inventory or display to make the next ones better. Because of the way our week went, we really only had 1 day to get products baked for the fair. We could have had a few more packages of the cookies that sold out around 4pm, but Mark did the best he could and we had a fully stocked table. We always bring 2 containers of hot beverages – this year was Mark’s hot spiced chai which was perfect for the rainy weather. It sold out in 2 hours. As a business owner, you can’t help but think that you’d have the potential of making lots more money if we had chai to last the whole fair, but it’s a time and money issue: no time to make more chai and those insulated containers are expensive.

It’s sort of amazing that we have still haven’t hired any help through all of this. We are still doing every single thing ourselves -from baking to packing to delivering wholesale orders and pushing 30 packages to the local post office in 2 granny carts. I can’t decide if that makes us stupid or smart. Stupid because we nearly kill ourselves in the process of getting orders out and fairs done. Stupid because we’ve had to turn down a few large corporate gift orders, but smart, perhaps, because our business has been profitable since day 1. But remember how we lost our kitchen space in the summer and how Mark has been bouncing back and forth between a few different kitchens and doing all these crazy overnight baking shifts?

We feel extremely lucky that we found a large industrial kitchen in Sunset Park right in time for holiday madness. The rental fee is really very reasonable and he’s been in the kitchen every single day for a flat weekly fee. Aside from that, the best thing about the kitchen is that it’s very well equipped for bakers and probably the best equipped kitchen he’s ever worked in. We’re talking a large 8 ft cookie sheeter and a cookie scooper. Do you know what this means?? This is huge! It means that Mark doesn’t have to roll endless sheets of dough by hand. It means that he doesn’t have to scoop cookies with a small cookie scooper for hours and hours. A machine – a large $80,000 machine – does it for him now. The other great thing about the kitchen is that the people who run it are really nice. It also means that it’s possible that Mark can take on an intern from a cooking school now that he has the space to do that in. We were never able to bring on another person because of shared kitchen space issues. Sometimes we think it’s too good to be true because it completely saved us this holiday season. There is no way we could have done it otherwise.

So this is how we’re getting it done by ourselves. We have another tough week ahead, but after that, after Sunday, we can breathe a little easier though we won’t be officially done until 7pm on Dec 23rd. Next up is our 9 day stay at the Brooklyn Flea’s Gifted Market which opens Wednesday. And now…back to work.

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  • Lakshmi December 13, 2010 at 10:47 am

    Good luck, Jenna! I never cease to be amazed by how hard you both work at everything… I hope you get some good rest after the holiday season.

  • Lara December 13, 2010 at 10:50 am

    My heart’s with you guys.

  • Cynthia December 13, 2010 at 10:55 am

    Jenna, you and Mark have such a beautiful display of cookies and towels. I am so happy with the tea towel I ordered. The new kitchen sounds heavenly and it will be nice getting an intern to help out so you don’t have to turn away corporate orders. I think people really appreciate your hand crafted food/items. Wishing you happy success at all your flea days!

  • Sarah December 13, 2010 at 11:15 am

    What great news about the kitchen! I’m happy to see that a little holiday luck has come your way. You both certainly work hard enough to deserve it 🙂

  • Lindsey December 13, 2010 at 11:27 am

    You guys are unbelievably dedicated but at least you get to do it together! Hoping you have a very successful market season!

  • kate December 13, 2010 at 11:33 am

    I always have a similar struggle with having to turn down opportunities for my jewelry business because I can’t handle the work on my own. The difference of course is that I have another job and can afford to turn it down, but I’m always feeling that ping of regret, like I’m really missing out on great opportunities. But having someone come into my own space and help me just doesn’t work for me! But for you guys, it sounds like you’re at a good place to get an intern. They would learn so much!

  • Danita Luna December 13, 2010 at 11:38 am

    Congratulations you guys totally rock!!!!!!!!!!

  • Emily December 13, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    Good luck! Just think how happy you guys will be when it is all over!

  • mette / ungt blod December 13, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    Hi Jenna.
    I must admit that some times i don’t get around to read all the text in your blogpost and instead just enjoy the beautiful photos.
    But i did today and it gave me time to really take in everything you do: From those pictures of the most impressive table of goodness. The products, the packaging, the display (i love the poster!). All the pleasure im getting from this without even tasting what you make. To the impressive business side of it all -and finally to sharing it all with the whole world! even if i am not doing the same thing as you, reading about how you handle your business and life and every thing in between is both inspiring and very valuable knowledge to me!

    So thank you! and keep going! and good job! and well, just plain WOW!

    /Mette (who has to get back to writing an exam paper…. Now, Mette!)

  • Eri December 13, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    Great to hear that things are going better for you and Mark – the idea of the industrial roller/scooper sounds great! I’m contemplating finally using that stand mixer instead of a hand mixer this year for christmas baking and though the scale is so different, can see the beauty of it all.

  • Linnea December 13, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    Best of luck! Wonderful to have a business that’s profitable from day one. Mine was too. It is really something to be grateful for. Merry Christmas!

  • molly December 13, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    smart. exhausted, whipped, snookered, but definitely smart.

    hang in there, good people. the end is near.

  • monica of hola!design December 13, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    you guys are such hard workers! Good luck with everything! I’ll try to stop at Gifted and get some cookies.

  • Una December 13, 2010 at 11:35 pm

    I always pray that you guys will do well and that God will look after ur family and ur business. Reading ur blog reminds me that there is hope and that hardwork does pay off. Just a week or 2 to go and u can all relax. Wish u all the best this season. Merry Christmas

  • Pancakes For Recess December 14, 2010 at 12:17 am

    Awww. SO great. Congratulations, you guys. You’re truly an inspiration.

  • Caddy December 14, 2010 at 6:54 am

    I’ve been reading your blog for the past year or two and the work ethic you both possess is ADMIRABLE!!!!! You guys totally deserve all the good things coming your way. 😀

  • Joy December 14, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    I’m so glad to hear about the kitchen opportunity for you guys! My sister-in-law is a chocolatier and the opportunity to share a commercial kitchen has been a complete game changer for her.

  • Kate December 14, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    I always read but rarely comment, but I just couldn’t help myself this time!
    So happy to hear you guys solved the kitchen space issue, and finally get to use some amazing industrial cooking equipment! It should make life about 1 million times easier, and you definitely sound like you need it… I think you should cultivate some teenage workers though! Don’t you have any friends or neighbours with teenagers needing holiday jobs?
    I come from a huge family and us older ‘kids’ always borrow the teenagers for random manual labour at the busy times of the year, and packaging, boxing and delivering sound just right for that!
    They’re usually happy to help out a lot more cheaply than an older casual worker, and it’s really nice to have people available without a hectic ‘adult’ schedule, and who also usually really appreciate the chance to earn some cash! It’s great for their resumes too 😛

    Anyway, hope life settles down back into regular crazy-busy, and this holiday season doesn’t hit you two and the girls too hard!

  • Jhope December 15, 2010 at 9:27 am

    It’s incredible how you create/edit these posts so cohesively on basically no sleep. Thanks always for sharing. Will be rooting for you guys all this month-good luck!!

  • Paulette Lott December 23, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    Best of luck! Wonderful to have a business that’s profitable from day one. Mine was too. It is really something to be grateful for. Merry Christmas!