Christy Bardis Petterson (with glasses above), along with Shannon Mulkey (no glasses), founded the Indie Craft Experience. She also has her own line of crafty items, a bardis.
LRBN: We’re in this (metaphorical) elevator together for 30 floors – Hi there, what do you do?
CBP: I co-produce the Indie Craft Experience with my dear friend Shannon Mulkey. ICE is a craft market with 100+ vendors representing all sorts of crafty goodness.
LRBN: What spurred
you guys to come up with this and how long did it take you to go from ideation to implementation? And how long have you been doing it?
CBP: We met at Young Blood in October 2004 and by the end of the year we knew we wanted to organize a craft market together. We were inspired by Stitch, a show in Austin, and the Renegade Craft Fair in Chicago and wanted to put Atlanta on the crafty map. In January 2005 we sat down and came up with our name, set a target date of June and got started. June 2005 was our first market, and this November will be our 11th.
LRBN: Wow, that's impressive. How in the world do you put on a huge annual event while still working full-time jobs and running your own side businesses?
CBP: Um, I don't know! I'm definitely sleep deprived sometimes. I guess it is just prioritizing and staying as organized as possible. But things suffer along the way. I'd like to spend more time with family and friends and working on my house, and my drinking habit is suffering! Luckily, Shannon and I work really well together so when there is a decision to make, there is zero wasted time. We are usually on the same page, and if not, one of us gives a convincing argument and we move on. We've gotten much more organized over time and picked up tools and skills to make things go faster.
LRBN: Let’s talk cash. How do you fund this thing of yours and are you able to profit from it at all or is it purely a labor of love?
CBP: The very first year we put up a little bit of money to get started but we recouped that before the event even took place through the vendor fee. The show has become more and more expensive to produce each year. We don't like to skimp on things we feel are really important. For instance, we hire one of the more expensive security companies, but in exchange, we have peace of mind. ICE has been profitable from the very beginning, but it is primarily a labor of love for us. We have full-time jobs for a reason! We have been realistic though. In order to sustain our interest and stamina we have always paid ourselves after every event. It would be really hard to keep going after 5 years if we didn't feel there was some monetary reward.
LRBN: Makes sense for sure. Any surprises to hosting ICE each year (positive or otherwise)?
CBP: Well, the first year I remember saying before the event started, "Wouldn't it be cool if 100 people came?" And then we had about 800! By the time we reach the day of the event I'm always so worn out, but then when I see everyone show up to support the crafters, it is so exciting. We feel like we're contributing to the success of 100 small businesses!
LRBN: What's the
biggest mistake you’ve made along the way?
CBP: I think most of the frustrating situations we found
ourselves in were the result of us being too nice to people. We've learned a lot about sticking up for ourselves and not letting people railroad us into anything. We've made the mistake of letting people get away with stuff and then realizing later that they'd taken advantage of our kindness. This is not to say that we are mean and treat everyone with a tough attitude now, but I think we are more aware of the signs when things are headed down a bad road and we're less afraid to be like "Wait. We are not gonna do things that way." We know how to look out for our best interest better.
LRBN: I think that's
something a lot of female entrepreneurs struggle with. Congrats on learning to do it well. =)
You've done a great
job of getting more and more people there every year. Any tips on building up a customer/fan base?
CBP: I'm a big believer in PR and Marketing (that's my day
job!), and I think one of the best ways to build and keep your customer base isto get the message out to them consistently - frequently enough that they remember you, but not so frequent that they hate you! We didn't do a summer show this year for the first time (every other year we've done a summer and a holiday show), and we were really worried that people would sort of forget about us from November to November. So in the interim we got real serious about sending out a quality monthly newsletter and keeping up with Twitter and Facebook. The best advice I can give though is to make sure your product is as top-notch as you can make it. There is always room for improvement. Keep pushing yourself.
LRBN: Great tips!
What can we look forward to at ICE this year?
CBP: We have a great lineup of crafters from all over the
country, and we're excited to say there are more boy vendors than ever this year! In addition to the crafters, we're going to have the amazing Zano as our DJ again (holiday shopping is so much more fun when you're dancing and singing!), a vintage clothing vendor called Pony Up!, a DIY gift wrap station hosted by MODA, a photo booth by LeahAndMark.com and swag bags for the first 250 visitors each day that are designed by Cooper Sanchez and R. Land. Starting November 26th we will also be operating a boutique at the Woodruff Arts Center for the entire holiday season. We want everyone to buy handmade this holiday season and our goal is to make that as fun and easy as possible for shoppers.
LRBN: Thanks so much Christy! We look forward to shopping!
11 am - 6 pm
Ambient Plus, 585 Wells St. SW ATL 30312