Nov. 10, 2021


Apple Podcasts podcast player badge
Amazon Music podcast player badge
Spotify podcast player badge
Google Podcasts podcast player badge
iHeartRadio podcast player badge
YouTube Channel podcast player badge

The two founders of Jackalope Arts, Melissa Kohout and Sara Diederich, met through their time spent working with an international arts organization, creating regular art centered events in Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle. They shared the passion to create a "community meets artisan event" focused on the experience of meeting the maker and bringing the local community together in this. With that vision, they joined together on this new venture, launching the Jackalope: Indie Artisan Fair in their home cities of Pasadena, California and Denver, Colorado.

Jackalope has been hosting semi-annual events in both Pasadena and Denver since the spring of 2015 and with the addition of Burbank in 2019.  2021 marked a new location for Jackalope, adding Minneapolis to the roster.  Each fair showcases over 150 local makers who focus on handmade artistry.

Take a listen as Melissa & Sara walk Michelle through the Jackalope Arts experience from the point of entry to the end of day and everything in between!

Facebook :


ep-19-Jackalope Arts Co-Founders Melissa Kohout & Sara Diedrich

Michelle: Hey there. I'm Michelle Sherrier and this is the Retell Whore Podcast, The Stories and Lessons from the life and retail. Hey, guys. Welcome back. Man, I'm not going to lie. I am so tired. I'm still. I'm still basically recovering from the overnights, from the Bristol Farm things. And to tell you how tired I am, this is literally the 45th time I've tried to record this intro. Oh, my God. This is one of those things of podcasting where, you know, I never realized how hard it is when you can't get it and you keep trying to do it over and over and over again, and it just keeps getting fucking worse. So at this point, I'm just going to go with it. It is November. We are officially wrapped with Bristol Farms. I am now knee deep in my retailers holiday setups and you know, to be honest, like I may be tired, but this is hands down my favorite time of year. It really is. There's something about the energy of the holiday season the lights, the sounds, the scents, the hustle and bustle, energy of all of it. I you know, I know there's people that hate it. And the whole parking in the situation in a way, people get so aggressive and so angry. And I don't know that to me is part of it. And I've learned to not get frustrated in parking lots and just kind of enjoy enjoy the moment and the energy of it.

Michelle: So. So, there you go. Today's guest, I am super excited to bring to you. It seems fitting that we are headed into Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving weekend and gift giving season. It makes perfect sense to roll out this interview. Now I have the pleasure of interviewing Sarah and Melissa, who co-created The Jackalope in the Art Fair. And if you have not been to one of their events, they are the epitome of supporting the art industry and small businesses and indie brands. And this fair encompasses all of that and food and beer and wine and music. It's this amazing weekend to go out with your family shop and support small businesses. And we are lucky enough that two of their events are coming up here in Los Angeles. Pasadena is November 20th and 21st. So just weeks away from the date that this interview airs. And then a second one in Burbank are December 11th and 12th. And I have the chance to talk to them and hear about how Jackalope came to be, how they bootstrap this business, some of the ups and downs of having creating a public event, as well as how they dealt with the shutdown and having to pivot. And you all know I hate that word, but these girls pivoted to keep their brand and business alive. So without further ado, here is Sarah & Melissa of JAckalope Art Fair.

Michelle: Hey, ladies, how are you? Thank you so much for joining me here on the retail horror podcast. I appreciate it so much because I know you guys are probably crazy busy setting up the future shows for Jackalope.

Sarah: Yeah. Thank you so much for having us.

Michelle: So you guys. Okay, so I started everything with the first question and it's because it seems like most people that are hustlers all have started very young. So what were each of your first jobs and ages?

Melissa: My first job was, well, I guess.

Melissa: Officially.

Melissa: It would be like babysitting the neighborhood kids. But my first real big girl job was working at a toy store. At 15 years old.

Melissa: I love it. Okay, so that's 15. And you are Melissa.

Melissa: Melissa. Yeah.

Michelle: So people know your name since then because this is all going to only be audio.

Melissa: So yes, my voice in me is Melissa.

Sarah: Well, in junior high, I started a clothing company with some of my friends and it was called Zeal. And I didn't make any of the clothing. I kind of just was like our hype person and got us orders. And then we figured out how to make whatever thing is that someone wanted. And that was that was pretty fun. Following that, I had my first real job was working at a local Chinese restaurant as a hostess.

Michelle: I was too and your clothes, just reek of Chinese food for days.

Sarah: You know.

Sarah: It never bothered me, but I remember.

Sarah: Other people mentioning it.

Michelle: God, I'd go out after in my uniform after work, and people would be like, Where have you been? Like, at work. Is that do I smell like, yeah.

Michelle: Chinese food? Yeah.

Michelle: So now I have a question about your apparel. So you how old were you when you did that?

Sarah: That was junior high. Yeah.

Michelle: So are you like 12 or 13 in junior high? I don't remember.

Sarah: I think it was around, yeah, like 13.

Michelle: So like, were you just saying, hey, do you want a t shirt? We'll make it. Like, what kind of.

Sarah: Yeah, basically.

Also we had for one. So one friend was like, I want to look just like the Alia in that, you know what will you be in my Somebody video where she has this like cropped black shirt with like sheer sleeves? I still remember it. And we were like, of course we can make that. And so then we just like went over to the store, Joanne's fabrics, and found the fabrics, and my other two friends made it.

Sarah: And to me we would just, we.

Sarah: Would just, yeah, come up with whatever people wanted a big seller with scrunchies. But we did have friends who would have specific requests like that, which was pretty silly.

Michelle: That's amazing that like that pushes the envelope for like true hustlers.

Michelle: 13.

Michelle: I do thing and I didn't know you just said that so I didn't even think about it. But I used to go yank plants out of my neighbor's yards and port them and sell them out in front of our house.

Michelle: And I was a kid and I totally.

Michelle: Didn't even remember that until you just.

Michelle: Said that. I'm like, Wow. They're like, Wait in my petunias.

Michelle: Go out there in the front yard with my mom's pots and then neighbor's plants. It's like, I can't believe that. Just literally just came to me. Wow, that's scary.

Sarah: I would say.

Sarah: Also before Zeal, which I felt was my real official business in fifth grade, I used to this is like a little bit more embarrassing, but I used to sell gossip for $0.25.

Michelle: Like each item like that is amazing. And how profitable was that?

Sarah: I thought it was good. I mean, $0.25 was pretty cool like at the time, you know, you make a few bucks, you could buy a candy at the candy machine.

Sarah: You know?

Michelle: I mean, everyone's gossiping for free anyway, so you might as well make money on it.

Sarah: Yeah, it was like the silliest stuff that I would tell people.

Michelle: Oh my God, I love it. So you both created the Jackalope Fairs and you know, for those people who don't know about it, I'm going to ask you to explain in a second. But tell us how that came, that partnership came to be. Yeah.

Melissa: So Sarah and I met at an international arts organization back in 2013, so we both really bonded. We shared a cubicle wall, so we got very close with each other and we both bonded over supporting the arts and shopping, of course. And we love the idea of creating an a community event. So that's kind of Sarah actually approached me and gave me gave us this idea of like, why don't we start our own community shopping event now was like, yes, let's do that. So we from there we started Jackalope and now, yeah, it brings over 200 handmade artists together. And our mission is creating a unique and curated shopping experience for the the makers to meet the shoppers and shoppers and meet the makers and a really cool community event.

Michelle: I, I have not it's it's really sad because every time the show comes up, I talk to a group of my friends and we all plan on going. And I, because my schedule is so incredibly erratic, I've yet to make money. So so I'm hoping to make Pasadena because it just it's always looked like such a great event. It's I love being able to meet artisans and I love like small, small, handmade things that it's not big box and it's not something you can find everywhere and you always have them around the holidays, correct?

Sarah: Yeah. So our we do our show in Pasadena three times a year, so spring, summer and fall, but it's late November, so that's kind of like our holiday show for Pasadena. And then we will actually have an official holiday market this year in downtown Burbank in December. So that might be a yes. That will be very exciting.

Michelle: So tell me a little bit about your backgrounds, Melissa. Do you want to start since you're right there?

Melissa: Yeah, sure. So my background, I actually thought I was going to be an interior designer growing up. That was sort of my passion. That's what I went to school for and what I thought my career was going to be. But then through college, I started realizing that I loved doing event planning. So then I was like, Well, I can mix these two together and do event design. But then I quickly realized I loved planning the events more than doing the decorations for them. So that's kind of how I got into event planning. And I've always loved the arts and I love supporting the artists and finding local artists. So it was kind of it feels very natural now that that's sort of what I fell into.

Michelle: So when you guys met, you were working for an art.

Melissa: Organization. Yep.

Michelle: Who did event planning for the art organization?

Melissa: Yep. Yes. So they held events monthly all around the US. So I did the events in Denver and Seattle and Sarah did the events in Hollywood and San Francisco. And so we met there. They brought us to LA and then we would just fly out and travel for our events. So that's yeah, that's kind of the story behind that.

Michelle: And then, Sarah, what was your background prior to.

Sarah: Well, I kind of started my entrepreneurship in music and I worked with bands, book tours, managed some local acts, and we got involved in one of my bands that I was working with, playing at these art events. And next thing I knew, I started working more and more with art events and it kind of just flowed into art, which then over the period of working with art kind of developed my passion for handmade and where I am today.

Michelle: It seems like you're both of your backgrounds are like a perfect launching point for what you guys created. I mean, it's I can't imagine between the planning of events and just your love of art, it seems like the absolute perfect marriage of. Of the minds.

Melissa: Yes. Yeah, yeah. It's really funny how it worked out and how Sarah and I met each other and we work so well together. She does things that I'm not good at. Then I do some things that I'm better at and we just jived, so. Well, that's great. Yeah, it's really, it's fun to like, look back and see kind of where you ended up and how you got to the road that you're on now.

Speaker1: Yeah. You know, it's funny because partnerships can either go to it. I mean, ego often gets in the way. And what I've realized is that if both parties don't have their strength and both parties don't respect the other person's strength, it can get very muddy. And I'm grateful because my best friend who Elisa, who you guys have worked with, she she is the tech geek. Like, she I don't understand anything she does. And I stay in my lane like she she keeps coming to me, like approving things. And my sister, you did not need me to approve stuff. Like, go off and do it because I. I have to give her that respect and I have to give her that, that lane because I don't understand it. And it's like that's where she stands out. And I think it sounds like it's the same thing for you guys.

Both: Right.

Michelle: Take us through the Jackalope experience from the point of entry to the end of the day.

Melissa: Yeah. So with Jackalope in each city that we have, they each kind of have their own individual vibes. Definitely, whether they're inside or outside their unique to their locations. But at each one, you're definitely going to expect to find a highly curated artisan experience. So you will find handmade fashion and accessory design, home decor, art, body products, food, you know, anything and everything that you can kind of think of. There's probably an artist that makes it, and so there's something for everyone. We've also recently really gotten into finding some unique food and drink experiences that's great to have at the event. Yeah. So we'll have some food trucks, some onsite food booths. We've had like dumplings before and shaved ice and ice cream and all sorts of fun things. And then we've also kind of gotten into going, bringing music more so into the events, especially in Pasadena, since it's outside in Central Park. We'll have local acoustic musicians set up throughout the weekend so you can grab bring a picnic blanket, grab some food, do some shopping, and then sit down and listen to some tunes. So it's really an experience for the whole family and there's something for everyone to do at the events.

Michelle: It sounds very sight, sound and scent.

Melissa: Yes, definitely. Yep. You'll sit there and smell the delicious barbecue while you're listening to the music. Yeah, it's great.

Michelle: How big are the spaces like? So say take me to like an indoor venue. The size just so people have an idea of like, is it the size of a Costco or is it size of a giant warehouse or.

Melissa: Yeah. So. Well, to give you an idea, kind of what we're looking for, if it's an indoor venue, especially in Colorado, we used to do them in the wintertime. So you obviously don't want to be outside in the snow during the winter. So we would look for indoor venues for that and something like that. You look for like 20,000 square feet because that would be we always try to have, you know, close to 200 artisans present. So ideally that is how much space you would need. That is very hard to come by. So we've gotten creative with our approaches in Colorado doing a variety of booth sizes to try to better cater to the venues that are there. But if it's just an in wide open space, that's kind of what you're looking at.

Michelle: So is a standard booth about, what, a ten by ten or is it kind.

Both: Of open to.

Melissa: The vendor?

Melissa: Yeah, yeah. Standard booths is ten by ten and then we do half booths. So say you're a maker, but you don't want to commit to a full ten by ten space. You could do a half booth, which is ten by five, and we would pair you up with somebody else. So together it'd be two of you sharing a ten by ten booth.

Michelle: And then do you guys curate the two people together that would be work hand in hand or that are not competitive? Or how does that work?

Melissa: Yep, yeah, yeah. So sometimes we get artists that apply for a half booth and they have a booth mate preference, like a friend or something that wants to do it as well. And they both would have to get accepted. But then we can we try to make that happen so that they share the same space. Otherwise we look at our half booths and try to pair people up with a similar vibe thing and we would never pair up to body products together to jewelry together. You we there's a lot of curation that goes together with our layout and especially when doing the half booth to make sure that everyone has a good shopping experience.

Michelle: I would guess it's kind of like creating seating for a wedding.

Both: Yeah.

Michelle: Just next to that crazy uncle. Next to people. Don't talk, so keep them apart.

Sarah: Actually, I remember when we first did our layout, we had a bunch of colored post little postcards that we put out on the ground and we physically, like, made the map on the ground in. Yeah, in Melissa's apartment. And then we transferred it online. But now we've figured out how to do it online from the beginning, which is much easier than what we set up the first time.

Michelle: I can I do store planning so I don't do it on a on a CAD system. So I literally do that like plan things like either I'm actually moving the fixtures, but I've done the post posted things. So I'm, I'm total old school.

Both: Yeah.

Michelle: What, what time of year and where are the fairs held? Because I know you talked about Pasadena and Colorado.

Both: Yeah.

Melissa: Well we're.

Sarah: We host our fair right now in four cities so yeah Pasadena we're there in the spring, summer and.

Both: Fall.

Sarah: Our next one being November 20th and 21st. And then also in California, we have Burbank. And we typically do that one once a year in May where we partner with the downtown Burbank Art Art Festival. But this year, we're actually going to be doing that one on our own in December for a special holiday market that will be December 11th and 12th. So we have those two in California and then we're also in Denver, Colorado, and Minneapolis, Minnesota. And this year, Minneapolis debuted in October. And we're looking forward to heading back there. We that one's the.

Michelle: First one for for.

Sarah: Minneapolis, the very first one this year. Melissa moved out there recently. And ever since she moved out there, we've been kind of looking to host an event there and COVID kind of put that on hold for a little while. But now we're finally going to have our first debut event there. And yeah, we're looking forward to continuing in 2022 with an annual event.

Michelle: So Minneapolis, I'm going to totally sideline the questions because now I'm like, you know, I just like left the Orange County this afternoon where there's no masks and then I come back to the South Bay here in California and it's all masked how the cities that you're going to Burbank and obviously Pasadena I'm assuming, are still. Ask, Is Colorado and Minneapolis masked? And if they are, how do you how do you control that?

Both: Well, all.

Sarah: Of the good thing about what we're doing this year is all of our events are outside. None of them are indoors. So. I don't think masks are going to be required. That's going to kind of be up to the individuals, likely at each of them. Of course, we'll have to see how things progress between now and then, because this is an ever evolving situation. But, you know, it makes us feel a lot better. Even just having it be outdoors this year kind of really helps with everyone's comfort level. And I think especially for holiday shopping people who maybe want to go out and shop but don't quite feel comfortable going into the.

Both: Mall.

Sarah: Or into some stuffy retail stores. This is the kind of the perfect place to to get something and feel like you're not in a claustrophobic space.

Michelle: That's great. I often wonder, especially as an event planner, whatnot, for you guys, like, what does that look like? I can't even imagine trying to, especially when when when you had to wear a mask, indoor and outdoor, which thank God it's changed.

Both: Yeah, there's.

Michelle: Even a question. But I got to I got to ask because it's a reality, whether I like it or not.

Sarah: For sure, yeah. There's definitely been a lot of evolving rules that we've had to work through and, you know, kind of keeps coming.

Both: So we'll.

Michelle: See. Tell us about how an artist is accepted, because I understand you have a jury and or as an appointed jury and then also give us a little bit of information about the jurors.

Melissa: Yeah. So an artist can imply on our website everything's done online, which is great. And in the application, we ask a lot of specific questions about the handmade process. So because we are a strictly handmade only event, we don't accept resale or vintage. It can be upcycled, but you really have to clearly state what you're doing to kind of change the item. So we are very interested in the jury is really interested in hearing about that and how you make it. We ask what you're going to be showing at the event, your artisan statement. So what's your mission? What what is your business all about? And we asked for photos. And the photos, I would say, is definitely the most important thing for the application, because a lot of the time the jury hasn't seen your work firsthand or in person. So the photos really are a first impression for people to see what you're all about. So doing product shots of your maybe your Julia jewelry pieces with a plain white backdrop or something, but then also showing it styled and on a model or something and a possible like booth image too. That's always good because we want to see how your aesthetic will carry into the fair itself. So yeah, we, we ask for the application and the jury they've it's kind of shifted over years, but it's always a mix of Sarah and myself as the founders as well as local professionals in the area.

Melissa: So we used to have some people that worked that owned small retail shops that specialize in selling handmade goods. We worked with jewelry artists before that were like Metal Smithers and people that really understood what goes into that process. So we kind of look for a good mix of people to add to our jury, and we all look at the quality and aesthetic, the branding, online presence, your price points, like I mentioned, like your booth image and just ensuring that what you're presenting and what you want to show fits with our demographic and our vibe because ultimately, you know, we want everyone to have a positive selling experience. So sometimes you have to be a little honest and just be like, you know what? This unfortunately is just not the vibe of the event. So kind of look at all of those things. And then at the same time we have category caps, so we don't want to oversaturate any sort of one category. So we make sure that there is a variety of artists in each and not a ton of jewelry that one's super popular body products. We really take a look at all those things individually.

Michelle: Do have you guys ever come across? Because I know aesthetic is everything. I mean, my background is anthropology and Fred Segal so on the aesthetic level that's that is everything. And I do remember for to get a job at Anthropologie, you used to have to submit a project. Well, I'm, I'm a merchandiser. It's all like the big picture stuff. The display coordinators are the ones that do all the really intricate, amazing display pieces. And they would ask you to submit a project and praise God that the person who hired me did not require one because there is no way I would have been able to kick one out. Do you ever have it like where somebody has an amazing something but doesn't have it together enough to show you aesthetically what it would look like? And and if so, what would your advice be to them? Like, get your shit together.

Michelle: Somebody else put it together.

Melissa: Yeah, there's, there's been a couple of times where we see some really cool things, but we can tell the application is not great and we will reach out a lot of times personally and be like, Hey, we really like your work. What are you envisioning for this? Or I would maybe try this. And if they're really, if we really think it'd be a good fit and we like the concept, sometimes we'll take a chance and we'll see. You know what it turns out in person. Other times there's been artists where they're really good in one category and then not so good in another, like they do jewelry and art or something like that. And their art is amazing, but then their jewelry is just, you know, it's not quite to the part. We'll even reach out and be like, Hey, we really want you to show your artwork. But unfortunately we would not be able to show the jewelry. Is that something you're interested in? So. I tried to work with them and look beyond just what they presented. I mean, that's a big part of it, but it's also kind of looking, like you said, look at the bigger picture and be like, well, do we think this person actually has what it takes and could put on a good booth? Then a lot of times we'll we'll we'll take the chance and see where it goes.

Michelle: The artist that you're like, leave the jewelry at home. Bring the bring the bring the art. Because obviously, art is is subjective. And obviously, the artist is very attached to their designs and there's a lot of ego involved, like how are those conversations and are they able to understand a step back out of it and go, okay, that's cool. I understand it's not for everybody or is it like a different conversation?

Sarah: Honestly, I think pretty much every time they've been understanding and they will just bring what we ask them to focus on.

Michelle: Oh, that's good.

Melissa: It's just when you when you send the rejection email. Yeah. Then you get some intense replies.

Both: Yeah.

Sarah: We mostly yeah. We don't get intense replies from people that are let in. It's the people that aren't let in that.

Michelle: Okay, now, now I want to what. So give me, give me some examples of some rejection emails. Return emails.

Sarah: Oh, I mean, some of them are really mean. You know, I didn't want to do your show anyways. I heard it was the worst show in town.

Both: Yeah.

Sarah: Or your show is too expensive anyways, or whatever it is. It's usually some sort of deflection about like why we're also not good enough for them. And that's fine, you know? I mean, and then sometimes people will write back and they'll be genuinely curious because sometimes we will reject things that we don't think are bad. We just don't think it's our audience. And so it's kind of nice when people ask and we have that chance to have the conversation because we can't personally write to every single person and tell them. But yeah, sometimes it'll be like, well, your, your work was just way too fine art and we're not a fine art event. And we know that our shoppers aren't going to be dropping thousands of dollars on one thing, you know, and then they're like, Oh, okay, I understand. So those are the sorts of people that usually get angry.

Michelle: Who is your customer? I say we have you guys are pulling like who? Who are you pulling for? Who's your your audience? Your customers?

Melissa: I would think like thirties and forties, young families, people that are into one of a kind, unique artwork, candles, things that I guess they would be excited to purchase locally and from an artist instead of going to like a target or something like that. So that's kind of what I what I sort of envision when we're, when we're looking.

Both: At.

Melissa: Who we're going to accept and which artists we think would be a good, good vibe.

Sarah: Right. No, we're not looking for we're not catering towards bargain shoppers, that's for sure. You know, my my grandfather's girlfriend came to our show and she walks.

Michelle: Like your grandfather has a girlfriend. I love it. Yeah.

Sarah: And she walks through the booth.

Both: And.

Sarah: She's like, $20 for this plate. I could get ten plates at Walmart for that.

Both: You know.

Sarah: I have to explain to her, you know, like this is this isn't about, like, the deal, it's about the handmade craftsmanship. And we're looking to cater to those shoppers that appreciate that. And and we know that's not everyone.

Michelle: It would be.

Michelle: Like taking my mother through. I remember we went to the art experience that was downtown L.A. The streets, streets beyond the streets. You guys go to that show.

Melissa: I did not, but I've heard about it.

Michelle: Oh, my God. It was amazing. It's like majority of it's graffiti and street art. But they had my my favorite word is, fuck, I hate to say it's like they had one guy that did this giant, amazing, multicolored fuck and it was like three feet high. It was crazy. And I remember shooting it for for my Instagram. My mom's like, I don't think that word is appropriate, Michel Especially not on my mom. Sorry.

Melissa: It's funny.

Michelle: Tell me, go back to some of my questions. What are some of the learning curves and lessons that you guys have learned and endured through from the beginning till now?

Melissa: Yeah. So definitely when we started I had zero idea of how to navigate a website and set one up and you know, do all the background stuff of getting it to look good. I had no idea what was involved with that before. I would just be like, I, you know, previous jobs be like, I want this or this is our website, this is how it is, and you know, you're not really involved in the setup of it. So that was completely yeah, completely, completely new and making graphics and Photoshop and things like that. I didn't really know what I was doing there either. So definitely learned a lot about website and graphics and how those kind of come together. And now I really like it because it's such an a creative aspect of the job doing that. So I love it now, but it took me some time.

Michelle: Oh my God, I find that so frustrating. I think I find myself banging my head against the desk. I'm trying to figure it out. I mean, I'm 55, so it's like trying to go back and learn that stuff. Now, it's like, especially if you did it like like have it in school and you did it continue on doing it. Like we didn't have computers at Fred Segal. Everything was like handwritten. So even just leaving that job and going to a normal job and like where you're on computer systems, let alone trying to create a website, I can't even imagine from scratch.

Melissa: Yeah, it was, it definitely was was a trick. But Sarah luckily knew what she was doing and or she had the patience to figure it out. So she she was really big help to do a lot of those, those technical aspects.

Michelle: Did you have any challenges or lessons with just like just the basic setup or finding locations or, you know, what were some of the hiccups from that?

Sarah: Well, one thing that we learned the first time we had to rent a sink was that you should make sure that your sink comes with water or that you know how to get the water.

Melissa: We had no idea.

Sarah: Yeah. So we got this sink delivered and we needed to use it for our artisans to wash hands and such for the food booth and the sink showed up with a huge basin and it was empty and we were like, okay, so where's the water?

Sarah: So we ended.

Sarah: Up spending like most of the day scrambling around, getting that thing filled up and.

Michelle: Oh my God.

Sarah: We finally figured it out. But that was a mess. And we've, we've learned now to ask more questions when renting a new thing.

Sarah: Yeah, it was so.

Sarah: Embarrassing. Really. It was the.

Melissa: Water. Does it turn on?

Both: Like, when does it come?

Melissa: And then once we're saying it out loud, we're like, Well, yeah, where do you think it just drops from the sky?

Both: Of course you need it somewhere. But then the.

Sarah: Best part, I don't know if you remember Melissa, but then we we heard rumor from the city employee that was helping us, that there was a water access somewhere in the park in like a hole. And so we were walking around the park, which is really big, like opening up all these, like, little holes and trying to find this water access for like hours. We were.

Michelle: Doing that and.

Melissa: This setup was going so well and we were like, Oh yeah, this is great. And then.

Melissa: Bam, just in the face.

Michelle: Yeah, that's the worst.

Sarah: Yeah, that was pretty good.

Michelle: Do you have partnerships for each of the cities that you have the fairs in? Because I understand the old Pasadena Management District is a huge supporter.

Sarah: Yeah, we we work a lot with old Pasadena management and they kind of help us spread the word locally in many ways, which is really cool of them to be so supportive. And similarly in some of our other cities, we kind of have. The same sort of partnership. Like in Burbank, we work with their local group and then same thing with Denver. This year we're in Arvada and they have kind of a similar setup with their business improvement district. So we, you know, it feels really good to get the support of those local agencies and that really helps to make this that community event that we kind of strive for it to be.

Michelle: So when you guys are looking at a new location, do you like from the beginning, do you go to the city and obviously the permits, but then do you go to them and say, we'd like to partner with you? Or do they come on board and say we want to partner with you and help you out and grow the community, etc.?

Sarah: It's really been just kind of organic in each of our cities. Pasadena was our first one and I lived right down the street from the park and I thought it would be a great spot for an event. So yeah, we contacted the city about doing it and because we're in Old Pasadena as district, they they kind of had to get involved and they had the final say of if we would even be allowed to do an event there. So they gave us a shot and it went well. And over the years, you know, I think this is our seventh year there. Wow, we've gotten just a lot closer with them and they trust trust us and know what we're about. And it just kind of built from there. And we do try to find that same relationship in all of our cities. Ideally, it doesn't always happen, but that's what that's what we want and that's what we try to build in each location.

Michelle: Do you also have sponsors? I know some events have sponsorships. Do you also have sponsors?

Sarah: We do have sponsors. We usually have a few sponsor booths each event. Local businesses that want to be involved but aren't necessarily going to fit exactly into our handmade model. Sometimes we'll we'll have a few of those.

Melissa: Yelp has always been a good sponsor for us to and in each city they've been really helpful with, including our event and a newsletter. And even during the holiday time last year when we were doing a virtual market, the Yelp ambassador in Denver set up like the Zoom happy hour. And so they've been really cool as well.

Michelle: That's great. That's so important. So that's literally become like the Bible for reference now it seems like.

Melissa: Yeah, yeah, I know. Before I go somewhere new, I'm like, let me.

Both: Check Yelp. I do always.

Sarah: Check it too. Yeah. Especially for restaurants.

Michelle: Yeah, I just came back from Vegas and I had to do it for a massage because you all know when you go to Vegas, you could go.

Both: Away.

Michelle: Diligently. Like, not a happy ending massage.

Both: And a.

Michelle: Real.

Both: Massage. That's funny.

Michelle: How many vendors did you have? Your first fare? And then now you said you have, what, 200? How how did it grow and how long did it. Because you started in 2015, correct?

Melissa: Yep. Correct. Yeah, we actually we went into it knowing and wanting to have 200 artist booths at that. So our first one actually did have 200 artists a part of it, which is really.

Both: Cool.

Melissa: That we were able to get that many people to trust us for a first time show.

Michelle: Yeah.

Melissa: But yeah. So size wise, each year we have people that are like, Oh, this is bigger, this is bigger, but it's actually not. It's, it's always stayed around the 200 artist booth amount. I think the biggest difference though is that we get a lot more applications now. So the quality has gone up and the curation of it has increased and gotten a little bit better as we've gotten more and more people applying to do the show. But otherwise we want it to keep the same size. We don't want it to be 400 artists or anything because we want everyone to have a really good shopping experience. So we've never really wanted to make it more than that.

Michelle: I love that. So 200 is basically your magic number?

Melissa: Yeah, yeah.

Sarah: Yeah.

Michelle: So what's the ratio of food and drink now to the craft? In the art.

Melissa: Yeah. So.

Michelle: Yeah. Go, go, go ahead.

Melissa: No worries. The the food and drink definitely throughout the years has gotten a lot more, especially when we started in Pasadena and still now we were in the beginning we weren't really allowed any like food trucks or anything. And now we are allowed to have four food trucks there. So that's been getting better. We've gotten some really cool food trucks over the years. But then now since that point, we've added actual onsite food booths and fun drinks and. Summer of 19, was it 19? We had a beer garden. So it's definitely been becoming a bigger focus. Of course, this this past year, our summer one, we didn't have as much food. We just had the four food trucks and then some like prepackaged goods because of COVID and everything. And we didn't at the time when we were planning, everyone was going to be having to wear masks and social distance and there would have had been like a food court. So we've now kind of gone back, but we're hoping that soon, you know, we can get all of those food booths back again. We had like vegan macaroni and cheese and yeah, I think I mentioned the dumplings before, really good barbecue, so many fun things. So that's definitely gotten bigger over the years since when we started for sure.

Michelle: Will you have because you said you had a beer garden, does that mean did you have could you walk around and have a cocktail or do you have to keep it over to its own little section? And how hard was getting that permit?

Melissa: Yeah, that was tricky for sure. Yeah. And it's still tricky. It's, it's they don't make it easy unless you're a private event to get a permit like a wedding or something like that. That's, that's a lot easier. But since we were a public event in a public park, you have to have it in a fenced off area. And we can't fence the entire park. They won't let us. So that's why we did a beer garden where we had a food booth in there and the beer options and picnic tables and some high tops and bistro lights strung up and everything. But it had to keep in that one zone. It's it's definitely there's so many things that go into it, whether you're a nonprofit and whether you're having hard alcohol versus just beer and wine. And there's so many little things that go into it.

Sarah: And then they they even require us to have, like, a last call. So then there's an hour of shopping post, last drink. So that way, you know, you're not encouraging people to just, like, stumble out of there and drive away, even though, you know, people aren't really drinking that much at our show.

Michelle: But how does that change the experience for you? Because obviously in retail, the theory is you have events and you serve wine and people shop more. And even conventions like when I used to do, they used to be a convention called ACR, which is action sports retailer. And it was like all of the surf brands like Suzy and Quiksilver, and they would start serving beer shots like at nine and ten in the morning. And I will admit I fell into it and I don't even know I started drinking it with the guys like nine in the morning, and then three months later all these goods started arriving to the store and my, my manager was like, what is all this? I'm like, I didn't order that. And he's like, Yeah, you did. And he's like, Do you not remember? Like, you were like three cocktails in at this point? I'm like.

Both: Oh.

Michelle: So how how does that change with the alcohol in it and the shopping spurt? Did you find the sales went up?

Sarah: Well, I will say one thing about in Pasadena, it's a little different because the the beer garden, it's very segmented. Unfortunately, people can't walk around with the drink. But, you know, we've done our event in Denver where people could walk around with drinks while they shopped and we had signature cocktails. And I find more than anything, the artists really liked it. They would come in first thing, get their Bloody Mary, sit at their booth. You know, it kind of made for a happy atmosphere. It's very social. Yeah, very social. And so that that was always really cool. And yeah, I think that more than even just the shoppers, it's like the artisans who are there all day. I think it's fun.

Melissa: Well, the.

Both: Alcohol.

Melissa: Yes. That one's actually going to be hosted at a brewery. So we're going to we're outside of their festival field at Surly Brewery CO. So yeah, there's, there's alcohol involved with that one too. And definitely you see a lot more dudes come.

Sarah: Oh that's true. That's yeah, yeah.

Melissa: A lot more.

Michelle: So COVID obviously for everybody and I hate even talking about this, but because the fact that it's like it was so monumental and it obviously changed our lives completely how. Take me through. You guys are, I'm guessing mid planning your spring events and then you hear now we're being shut down and then now we're in lockdown. And take me through what that looked like and how did you guys pivot?

Sarah: Yeah. What a mess. So that was that was just about a month before our Pasadena event. So at that point, we had pretty much everything lined up, you know, everything. It was just ridiculous. Like we were actually super ahead that year. You know, we had so much stuff already done and. Then, you know, it was very unclear at the beginning, you know, oh, it's just going to be two weeks. Maybe it'll still happen, you know. And then once we realized, okay, it's not happening, we we kind of pivoted online pretty much immediately. We started in April. We came out with this.

Both: Covid.

Sarah: Care kit box, and it came with a number of supplies that we thought that people would find useful at the time. So it had a few food snacky items, it had some hand sanitizer, it had a mask, and that was back before masks were really popular.

Michelle: Yet I don't know if that's the word I would call. Well, popular.

Both: Mainstream mandated.

Both: Yeah.

Melissa: So, yeah, mandated. So we we had that little kit going and basically all the artists mailed the stuff to my house and then I shipped it out to all these people that ordered the box. And we, we actually were overwhelmed with how many people wanted this care kit. It was crazy.

Michelle: How do you get the word out for the care kit.

Sarah: On our website and then across social yeah. Social media and then actually LA Weekly like really nicely ran a little advertisement about it for for us.

Michelle: That's great.

Speaker3: And yeah, we, we ran it only for a short while because we didn't have so much inventory of stuff, but it helped the artists to all make a little bit of money at that time. And yeah, that was crazy. And then after that we decided, well, this, that was kind of fun. Let's, let's start doing like a weekly sale online. So we would do an Instagram live every weekend for like a few months. It's kind of crazy. Every weekend, Melissa and I would go on Instagram live with a different batch of artists, and basically all those artists would have items for sale that they would tell us in advance on our website. We would we would set them up. And then basically the Instagram live was kind of like a QVC situation where the artist would come on and talk about their product and tell everyone why it was good. And shoppers would log in and we kept getting like a really decent chunk of people, like logging in every week and asking the artists questions and yeah. And then eventually like then going into summer, we were kind of getting burnt out on doing that every single week. So we decided, okay, let's take a few months off and let's actually build like a huge holiday shopping platform. So then we, we took this big undertaking to make a holiday shopping platform that could feature a whole bunch of artists. And we set it up kind of like how Etsy is, where the artists can log in and put their own products in and manage it themselves. And so that took a lot of like back end effort trying to figure out how to create such a website. I didn't even know that we could do that and we figured out how to do it. And I got to say, I'm really proud of getting that together.

Speaker1: And what's that site? Is that still alive?

Speaker3: It's still alive. And we actually originally we yeah, we kind of marketed it as our holiday market, but then it went so well we kept it up and it's year round now and it's on our it's called Local Undercover.

Speaker1: So we'll have links to all of this forever in the show notes so everybody could go on to it.

Speaker3: Yeah. So now we still have it up and we have a bunch of artists on it. And the way we set it up that's kind of cool is that shoppers can buy things from any of the artists and they're located in all of our cities and it's free shipping. So it's kind of a cool way that you wouldn't have to pay shipping to like all these different locations.

Speaker1: Well, it's also cool. It kind of gives everybody for those who shop your your show in Burbank, they're able to shop vendors in Colorado that they will see. I mean, what a great way to be able to have cross merchandise like yeah because the vendors and the product.

Speaker3: Yeah we've had a lot of like one of our vendors in Colorado for example, they make coffee and we've I've seen a customer in California buy their coffee like every month, you know. So that's kind of fun, fun to see, see that happening. And I think it's really cool for the shoppers to get to experience that because so often we'll see on our Instagram, people say something like, Oh, I wish that I live there and I could go see that. And now they can, you know, and that's something that we've kept. Liv. And while the online shopping has slowed down, it's still there. And, you know, we're happy that we have that platform available now.

Speaker1: Well, now that you're in full mode towards the the fairs coming up again, are you is it challenging now to run both the website and do your jobs for getting these fairs up and going?

Speaker3: It doesn't take that much effort on the daily to keep the online shop going. So now that yeah. Now that it's built like.

Speaker2: Yeah.

Speaker1: It's sorry.

Speaker4: Oh.

Speaker2: I was just going to say. Yeah, it's once the hardest part was building it and getting it there. So now that that's done, it's just I think the part that gets a little crazy is scheduling all the social media. Yeah. Because, you know, we have a social media account for Jackalope and then we have one for local undercover. And so trying to making sure we're still like plugging things on local undercover while we're like trying to like get all these other things done. On Jackalope. That's the part that's kind of gets a little, like, crazy.

Speaker3: For sure. Yeah.

Speaker1: How many people do you. I mean, I'm asking questions now just off the top of my head and I'm going off the list anymore. How many? Okay. First question is, do you guys are you do you still have your regular jobs or is this your your main hustle now?

Speaker3: This is our main job. This has been our main job since the very beginning. We quit our job at the cubicle together and we said, we're starting this this show. We're having 200 vendors and we're just going to do it. We put in our notice, we started and we just we just did it like I love that. Yeah. And we've been doing it ever since for. For better and worse.

Speaker2: Yeah.

Speaker1: It's that sink or swim thing. It's like I truly believe, you know, anybody that creates something in order to be successful, I think you just have to jump. I think just take a chance and just go. I don't think you can overthink it. And but I know some people are like always obviously worried about like how am I going to pay my bills and how is this was that was there a struggle with getting you guys paid? You're like, because obviously you're leaving good paying jobs. And was it a challenge of were you eating ramen for months or was it.

Speaker2: It was definitely a little nerve wracking because we used Sarah's savings of what her and her husband were going to use to buy their house.

Speaker4: Yeah, my husband believed.

Speaker3: That we would pay it back.

Speaker1: That was like, that's huge.

Speaker4: Yeah.

Speaker2: So that was a little nerve racking. It was like, well, if this doesn't go well, it sucks for me, but it really sucks for Sarah.

Speaker1: That's a leap of faith on your husband's part. Bravo to.

Speaker4: Him. Yeah. Yeah.

Speaker2: But that kind of was like my mindset was like, we cannot fail. Like this can't fail. So it was definitely nerve wracking and challenging, but I feel like we did really have that drive and that passion to to do it ultimately.

Speaker3: Yeah, once we started seeing the applications come in for the first one, we were like, okay, we can do this. People are interested, it's going to work. And yeah, it really did kind of go the way that we had planned pretty much right away.

Speaker1: With the upcoming Jackalope. Is there any different is anything different from past fairs that you're excited about?

Speaker2: Well, this so for these two that are coming up, we're just excited in general because all last year we didn't have any events. So we're still looking forward to seeing some artists in person that we haven't seen in two years or so. So we are still kind of during this phase of having artists who were supposed to do our 2020 events, coming back now and doing our 20, 20, 2021 events. So we're just it's kind of like a little mini reunion of seeing artists that are now our friends and we haven't been able to see them so long. So that's kind of like something that I'm really excited, excited for.

Speaker1: Sarah, is there anything you're excited about?

Speaker3: Well, I am excited that this year we're going to be hosting the our event in Burbank, actually, at holiday time, which is like prime holiday shopping time in California. We've never been able to do an event right then because we're usually doing our Pasadena show in November, and they don't allow us to do our event in December because of the Rose Parade. And they have this moratorium on events after a certain time. So it's really cool to have that chance to do an event a little bit later and really get those fun holiday vibes. Like we've done holiday events in Denver before and it's fun with the Christmas trees and the lights and all.

Speaker1: I'll just ask you is like, what kind of I'm for? I'm a Christmas baby, so I'm the weirdo that's playing Christmas carols. Like, I'll admit it, I'm already playing them. But I. But do you is it like a whole are you doing all the trees or are you having some of the bands do Christmas music? Is there. Take me through what the holiday experience is going to feel like.

Both: Yeah.

Sarah: You know, I think we're still. Still just in the planning stages of that. Happy to have a chance to do anything but. Where there.

Melissa: Will be. Yeah, there will be stuff. Sorry, Sarah.

Both: Sorry. Go ahead. What's it going to be there? Oh, gosh, guys.

Melissa: There will be a gigantic Christmas tree, though, set up in downtown Burbank, which I know I'm super excited to see because I am also a Christmas fiend and I love Christmas trees. So there will be a gigantic tree set up and I'm hoping we can get some of our musicians on board to do acoustic music or carols and everything. It's it'd be really cool if we can maybe get some live carolers too, so you never know. Like Sarah said, we're we're kind of still in the planning stages from that, but a lot of the vendors get really into it too, and decorate their booths specific to the holiday times too.

Michelle: I mean, there's something about it. I know there's like a giant craft fair. I think it's in Germany or it's a giant.

Melissa: It is. It's in Germany at Cologne. I want to.

Michelle: Go I want to go so bad. And it's supposed to be just I mean, for me, the holidays are always it's not it's never cold here. So you never get that that cold feeling where you're walking around cocoa. But just the idea of having Christmas carols playing and lights and people are shopping. And honestly, I think people are. I mean, how excited you guys are to see your vendors? I think so many people are just so happy to get out and to go walk around and and just be out in an experience. And I think that your shows are must I mean, they've got to be you guys are going to be swamped. I bet.

Sarah: That would be great. You know, during COVID, I've spent so much time planning my future travels. I've already picked out the exact place I'm going to stay when I go to the Cologne Christmas market.

Michelle: Where.

Sarah: It's just like this Airbnb that I like looked at its proximity to the market and made sure it had everything I need. So I've got my place picked out and I wanted to go this year, but you know it's not going to happen. So now I'm shooting for next holiday, but it's it's on my immediate radar to go to that Christmas market the next Christmas Day.

Michelle: So that that is a bucket list. And the other which I'm trying to make happen this year because I'm I'm in retail, so I've never had a November and a December where I wasn't working, where it wasn't like you can't take days off because you have to be in the store or I'm setting up gift showrooms because the shows are in January. So December is like that's what you're doing. And this year we do all the Christmas decorations for Bristol Farms, my, my company. And every year, November, we're at one three in the morning at Bristol Farms, putting a garland in lights. And this year, Bristol decided they want their Christmas decorations done by 11 one.

Both: Oh.

Michelle: So like October 18th, the staff is going to leave at Bristol Farms and San Diego and they're going to walk in on the 19th and it's like lights and wreaths. And I, I don't know how I feel about it. I mean, even that I love Christmas seems a little early, but for the first time I have November relatively open and I want to go to New York to see the window so bad. So that bucket list, although I have not gone on to Airbnbs and put together list yet, what else did you do? And this is another. So what did you do during COVID to keep yourselves busy? I mean, was the live taking up most that just become like your full time job then?

Sarah: We spent so much time on that, you know, picking out the artists, getting their their products onto the website. And because we were doing a weekly turnover, we would have one week go and get the next week ready. It was like it was crazy how busy we were, but it felt really good, you know? And every week when we get on that live, I just remember like, just like feeling like you were communicating with people and getting to see other faces. It just was really cool.

Melissa: And we started local undercover as well before it became the virtual marketplace that it now is. We started it as a blogging, like a blogging website, so we would interview small businesses from around the country. Started off with just the cities we were in, and then it expanded to even more cities and we had blogs for all the different artists and we would start to share them on social media as kind of a way for people to get to know the makers and everything. So we did start that as well. And then it wasn't until the beginning of this year that we then converted it into not only a blogging platform but also the virtual market.

Michelle: I mean, it's kind of amazing. I say this because every single person I interview, obviously COVID affected their business in some way or not. And I in an odd way, it really pushed people to out of their comfort zones to push their brand or their business in a way. I mean, in a weird way, universally, it had it pushed a lot of businesses that should have gone out of business a while ago. It was like fast tracked them out. And also for other businesses, it fast tracked them into something they never anticipated ever doing. And all of a sudden it was like, you know, that natural instinct of what are we going to do now? Like we have to do something. And it's really always super interesting to hear how everyone pivoted because I haven't talked to really anybody that kind of just shut down and you just shut down moment. I'm sure like a week or two of I'm not leaving my backyard, I'm just drinking wine and we're in my pajamas. So after that, it's like it's really interesting to see how everyone, including this stupid podcast, because I was doing live interviews with people that I knew and I was like, I'm just going to do this podcast. But it's, it's interesting to see what, what, when that happened, how you guys pushed out and like, I mean, you built a whole new platform that didn't even exist. I mean, that's yeah, that's pretty, pretty strong.

Both: Yeah. We definitely.

Sarah: Yeah. And it's been interesting to see because just watching what other craft fairs are doing and have done throughout the pandemic and some of them did similar things where they weren't online. And then there's others that just like went completely radio silent during during the pandemic.

Michelle: And that's the difference, I think, of like success. Small businesses and not are the people that are like we are not like the like starting it's like we're not going to fail. Failure is not even an option. It's like, what are we going to do now? And that reactionary it's so I'm glad to hear that what you guys created, there's still going and you guys did it like the pandemic is over like we're back to normal and shut that part down. And now you've got like dual dual incomes going with that I'm assuming.

Sarah: Yeah. I mean it's just kind of a, it's a nice place for everyone to just shop local even deeper, you know. So it's really cool to be able to still offer that.

Michelle: Where do you guys see Jackalope in ten years?

Both: Hmm.

Melissa: Maybe possibly doing a new pop up location or something like that. I could see us experimenting and kind of seeing where else we could sort of fit in if there's a cool city that we think would appreciate our jackalope vibe. So maybe possibly another pop up or something? Definitely. You know, Sarah has Wells now. Who is to her? Her son. And hopefully I'll have kids and maybe it'll be a very family oriented fair, you know, putting them to work. You never.

Sarah: Know. We're definitely putting them to work. I mean, Wells is going to be 12 by then. He's going to be able to do a lot of stuff for us.

Michelle: Yeah. Wait, so you had Wells.

Michelle: Like, right when the pandemic started?

Sarah: I had him in May 2019, so. Wow. A little bit before. So yeah, he's been alive a lot longer than like with pandemic than pre-pandemic. He was I think he was like eight months old when the pandemic began.

Michelle: Wow.

Sarah: So, yeah, he didn't walk. He didn't walk or even crawl yet at that time.

Michelle: Well, I guess it gave you some nice time with him without having to go and leave and go do I mean, if there's something some like bright light in there being able to be with him.

Sarah: It's true.

Sarah: I have actually always said that if if like, you know, someone told me at some point in your life you're going to have to have a pandemic where you need to stay home a lot and not do much for two years. What years would you pick? I think I would actually pick right now. So, I mean, hopefully, like the you know, it's not going to extend on forever. But, you know, it really was appropriate timing to get get that bonding time with him. And I think that it's been actually really good for him. I think that a lot of people that have elementary school age kids are older. It's a lot harder. And for him, it's just been nice to be able to spend a lot of that quality time together.

Michelle: Oh, you get to see all the big stuff. I mean, walking. I mean, when he did start walking and sure.

Sarah: Yeah, we were both around for yeah.

Michelle: That's the big stuff. I mean that's what I think most parents, you know, that have jobs in their own businesses. I think that that's a lot of what you miss out on. So, you know, it's a gold silver lining, I guess.

Both: Yeah.

Michelle: So my last question is, if you had to give anybody advice on holding a large public event, what would it be?

Melissa: Um, I would say because this has been so helpful for us is to really involve the local community as much as you can. So try to make those connections and see if they can join you in promotions or just helping you logistically. I think working with them directly is super helpful and the more support you have, the better for sure. So that's definitely something I would recommend would be trying to make those connections.

Sarah: Yeah. And I'd say, you know, you're definitely going to screw up and you're going to make people mad and you just need to not take it personally when you get those reactions because it's going to happen for sure.

Michelle: That is fantastic advice for fuel. That's always my favorite question, to be honest at the end, because it's like the advice that people give. It's it's gold. I mean, it's I've not yet to have one piece of advice where I'm like, damn, that that was a that was a good piece of advice for. And that is a wrap. Thank you all so much for joining me on today's episode. I really appreciate it. And be sure to tune in every Wednesday for more stories and lessons from a life in retail. And don't forget to follow us on Instagram at Retail whore Podcast, and you can find us online at the