… SUOMEN KÄDENTAIDOT … and a giveaway!

Finally a moment to share my experience at Suomen Kädentaidot – the biggest craft and design fair in Europe! It certainly was a success in every aspect – 49 331 visitors in total – a new record for this fair! And it certainly was a success for SHALMIAK too!

I was excited to participate but also terrified… Previously I was confident that I would never participate in this kind of events… I would be too nervous… but I guess a mid-life crisis hit me and I decided it was time to break my own boundaries. And I am so happy I did! It was such a great experience – both for SHALMIAK as a brand and for me as a person. The most wonderful thing about the fair was meeting so many wonderful people with so much passion for crafts and design – and even love for my work! I was overwhelmed by the encouragement I got from so many people to continue with my own unique path as a designer and a fabric producer.

My main goal with this fair was to get some answers… what to do next… continue or move forward with something else. The answer I got was to give this one more chance. So I am moving forward… but cautiously. In a couple of weeks the hype of the fair is over and I need to push forward with new plans and ideas to make people remember me. This fair gave me great exposure but now the hard work continues…

My journey to Tampere would not have been possible without a great support net… My husband standing by my side at the fair… my mother-in-law making cartwheels to entertain our two boys there… and other relatives joining the force :).

The only little down side (or not!) was being so busy at my own stand that I didn’t have the chance to visit others… Only during the last day I took a short (or not!) walk through the halls to meet a fellow exhibitor… and I was shocked… This place and event was so much bigger than I thought! Perhaps it was only my luck I didn’t know this from the start when I set up my own little crappy booth… 😉 It would only have shocked me and made me think I had no chance of getting noticed.

When the fair was over it was quite hectic to pack everything for the journey back home… it was raining and everything seemed like a little chaos… but I forced my husband to take this fast pic… I felt so like a winner to made it through!

 

And now it is time to start preparing for Christmas! SHALMIAK is having a little giveaway… sending gifts to three fans! I hope you participate and even share it with your friends!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

… my first fair …

It definitely was an experience! I am so proud that I had the courage to do this. I am so proud I could handle such a social event and for the most part even enjoy it. I am so happy I was able to meet a bunch of wonderful customers with so much passion for crafts. I am so happy I got the chance to meet and connect with other fantastic entrepreneurs that immediately felt like old friends. It didn’t feel like a competition but a joint venture to make this event as fantastic as possible for all of us. My main goal was reached. I got the confirmation that fairs are something I can handle – in my own way – and perhaps even end up loving!

Another goal of mine was to gain more exposure and find new customers. I hope I accomplished at least a little bit of that. Hopefully some of those people I met during the fair will remember me afterwards and visit my webstore in the future. Of course I also hoped to make a good amount of sales but that is something I was quite disappointed with. According to my experience this fair didn’t attract enough people with passion for modern fabrics. But on the other hand as a first experience this was probably a good thing – not too hectic and overwhelming.

And immediately after this fair in Helsinki I had to make a decision… to accept or decline my booth at Suomen Kädentaidot in Tampere. But this decision was easy. I talked to several exhibitors in Helsinki and they all praised Tampere and encouraged me to go there. And I really wanted to experience this again! So I am hopeful that Tampere will give me some final answers… what direction to take in the future regarding my fabric production…

Of course all this would not be possible without the support of friends and relatives… and especially without my husband who supported and stood by me in Helsinki and will follow me to Tampere as well. I was surprised how well he behaved ;), probably better than I did :D. Thank you…

And what would a trip be without some extra hassle…?! A screw in the trailer tire… my husband giving some first aid so we can get back home :D. I was so tired that I could only laugh 😀

 

… preparing for the fair …

 

 

If someone had told me a few years back that I would be exhibiting at a fair I would have laughed. Not me… I am not a “fair” person ;), not at all! I am not the most social type. I do like people but it is not easy for me to be comfortable in social situations. Why? I seriously don’t know. When I was a child I loved school plays. I loved to act and perform. I loved to be in the spotlight because in general I was quite invisible… I was the shy and quiet girl – always in the background. But already then I had mixed feelings about being on stage – I loved it but I also felt very nervous. And slowly the insecure side of me got the best of me and the love for performance turned into hate.

When I started my business I decided to do everything I can with online marketing but would never attend any fairs. I knew it would decrease my chances of expanding my brand but I didn’t want to sacrifice my own well-being. I had pushed and forced myself for so long – trying to do what I thought I had to do to get respect from others. Finally it was time to do what felt right for me.

But life changes you… I have floundered through so many obstacles… I have pushed and fought… trying to find my own way… This autumn I finally decided to accept the fact that things weren’t moving in the direction I had hoped… it was time to move forward and leave the fabric business behind me. This decision was difficult but on the other hand it gave me freedom to stop forcing things. But just when I had reached this decision something happened… suddenly the interest in my brand increased. I knew it could only be a little upswing leading to another crash but something in me told me it was time to turn the last stone. I wanted to feel confident that even if things crashed again I had at least tried everything.

For the past two weeks I have been planning and preparing for this craft fair in Helsinki – Helsingin Kädentaitomessut – and suddenly I have found a piece of my inner child :). As a kid I loved to plan and arrange all kinds of events – they were small and mainly just for my own family but I loved it! And preparing for this fair has been so much fun! Even though I am scared as hell I am also so excited! I want to be that little girl again who loved to be in the spotlight… or at least can handle of piece of it ;).

Maybe this is an age thing… I am turning forty in a couple of weeks… if I can’t get rid of old ghosts and try something new now I will never get the courage to do this. I know this weekend will be rough – no matter what the result will be – but I want to experience this. What if this “fair” person is within me but I just haven’t given it a chance?! Who knows?!

I hope to see you at the fair! 🙂

Love,

Sari / SHALMIAK

…preparing for pop up…

 

Olomuoto ry is an association started by three creative ladies from Kuopio organizing inclusive events and pop up stores around Finland (and hopefully someday in other countries too). Their next pop up will be in Oulu in early September and SHALMIAK was honoured to be invited to participate. KANGAS-POP UP Oulu – here we (=fabrics by SHALMIAK) come! 🙂

This kind of event is perfect for SHALMIAK because until now SHALMIAK has mainly appeared online – through its online store and online marketing. SHALMIAK hasn’t had the capacity to promote its brand through fairs and other live events and perhaps that is one reason it hasn’t reached its audience well enough. So this pop up is a great opportunity for SHALMIAK to get its fabrics in front of people – for real. Even though online shopping is very popular these days there are still a lot of people who want to touch and feel the materials and see the actual colours. This is especially important in fabrics because there are so many different qualities out there and the colours never look 100% accurate on screen. Fabrics by SHALMIAK have a soft and silky feel and vibrant colours but you should definitely try them to be (hopefully) convinced.

At this point I only regret that I didn’t find this kind of opportunities earlier. Now I am not sure what my main goal is – to get exposure and make my brand more known or to clear my remaining stock of fabrics. I try to have an open mind – put my best effort in this and see what the results are… Will this event give me a new push to move forward or confirm my thoughts of changing direction? I hope this pop up will pop my mind and give me confidence to move on – whatever the direction may be.

I hope you are heading to Oulu! In addition to SHALMIAK there will be many other fantastic brands attending as well!

 

…place to escape…

One tricky thing about being an entrepreneur is that you are never really on vacation. Your business always follows you – no matter where you are. That is something I both love and hate. I love planning and playing with ideas in my head and usually the best ideas come to me when I am not sitting in my office. But when the business is struggling it is also difficult to escape from it all.

This summer I have forced myself to get some distance to my work. When all the hard work is not really paying off you need to take a step back and see where you are and where you really want to go.

One place I escape to is our family cottage located in a small island at Lake Saimaa. Even though the business side of me comes along I can look at it from another perspective. This cottage is very basic – no electricity, no running water, no luxuries – but that is something that also makes it easier to get away. It is so different from the hectic life at home. You don’t need to accomplish anything. You don’t need to be that successful business woman you would like to be – you can only be you.

Well, I haven’t always enjoyed that place so much. We have two boys – born 2006 and 2009 – and you can perhaps imagine what it is like with small kids and water all around you. You have to be constantly on your watch to make sure they are safe. And with small kids a little luxury like lights and running water would be nice too. But now when the kids are older I can sometimes get a moment to myself too. And I have learned to enjoy those little moments – taking a short nap in the swing, sitting in the sauna (yes, we Finnish people love sauna ;)), floating in the lake and hearing only whispers from the environment… Those moments are usually short and life often interfears… but that’s another story… 😉

To our dog this island is a paradise! He can run wild and free. It is pure joy to see him so happy and relaxed. I try to take a piece of that energy with me when I go back home… back to my office… back to all the difficult decisions that must be made… but hopefully all that mess has sorted out a bit in my head and I have more strength to fight forward…

…deSHAster… life of SHALMIAK…

 

deSHAster is hard work, sleepless nights and a countless amount of tears… deSHAster is desperate efforts to push through against all odds… deSHAster is sarcastic laughter and a glimpse of hope to make things work in the end…

The last few years have been really crazy! Everything that could go wrong went wrong. Every single effort lead into a disaster and ended up in a nightmare where I kept running but got nowhere. I tried to correct things but only made the situation worse. Of course I also experienced some happy moments and glimpses of hope but the outcome was not what I hoped it would be. Now SHALMIAK is at a crossroads with big, difficult decisions ahead…

It was kind of an accident that I ended up working with fabrics. I started with designing for gifts, ceramics, swimwear etc. Then I wondered where else creative concepts could be used and thought of fabrics… I offered my designs to fabric companies and surprisingly they were interested. But when I designed my first fabrics I knew nothing about them! I even had to google jersey :D. How embarrassing! :D. But people seemed to love my fabric designs and I got constantly requests from new companies to design something for them too. So, quite suddenly I designed mainly for fabrics. Me, with no experience in fabrics or sewing! 😀 I can still remember a catastrophic school project and a shirt I never finished… I think that even my teacher thought I was hopeless :D. But all of a sudden I fell in love with the fabric world… and especially all the creative people that had so much passion for sewing and made my designs come alive! Suddenly I couldn’t see myself working with anything else…

In the beginning I was very excited about designing for different companies. I was so happy and grateful for all the opportunities I was offered. But after a couple of years I got tired… I worked like a machine, making constantly new designs with no common thread and very little control over the results. I was also badly burned by a company who started treating me like trash after I had gained a little success and name for myself. But this company also taught me an important lesson – don’t put all your faith and future in one basket. And don’t let people walk over you – no matter how big and powerful they are. You need to respect and have faith in yourself. Luckily I also got familiar with a lot of wonderful companies and especially people – some that work with their heart and soul and not only towards success at any costs. I felt really bad about leaving some great partners behind but the desire to move on truly on my own kept growing. And in the end I was confident that my creativity would not survive if I didn’t have the courage for changes.

This decision was also given a push from retailers who had often reached out to me with the request of buying fabrics as wholesale. I had to guide them to a bunch of different producers but couldn’t control if they were able to buy something or not. All materials and qualities were different, some were organic and some not, nothing could really be mixed or matched. My designs were all over the place and I had no control. I was only a small part of the chain…

I started my own production with so much enthusiasm and confidence. I could finally do what I love and make plans for collections with solid frames. I think I had it all to make things work. All the pieces of the puzzle were there. But for some mysterious reason I couldn’t make them fit. Everything simply crashed. It started with a massive delay in production and big pile of poor quality fabrics. I had to disappoint my customers who were excited to finally order fabrics directly from me. It took quite a while to sort that mess out, recover from that disappointment and have faith and trust in starting something new again. But after all that mess I could only move up… or at least so I thought… but how wrong was I… One disaster lead only to another and another… more delays, more problems with quality and more companies and people that only failed my trust. And with all the adversities I panicked and probably made some mistakes on my own too… But still I didn’t loose faith in my potential. I had a plan and a dream and I was not ready to give up.

Spring 2017 gave me some hope. I finally found a production process that worked! Finally all pieces of the puzzle fit! I experienced a moment of joy and hope. But there was one huge problem… time… too much time had passed… I had simply fallen out from the fabric world… The fabric business has changed tremendously during the last few years. When I started out everything was quite new… at least in Finland not many did what I did… designed for fabrics… But now the market is swamped with both designers and fabrics, everyone producing their own collections. It is more and more difficult to stand out and feel that you are doing something unique. I still have faith in SHALMIAK but is the future of this brand in fabrics? Not sure anymore… Because fabrics weren’t really my thing in begin with perhaps it is time to open myself to other venues again…

But do I regret taking the plunge into the fabric world on my own? Definitely NOT. It was a path I needed to walk through… And do I feel like giving up? No. I have done everything I can to make things work. Of course I could struggle and fight some more but would it be worth it? I don’t know. I still have love for fabrics and especially all the people that love my designs but I need to open myself to new possible opportunities…

A few years ago I was excited to wake up in the mornings and start planning something new. I want to feel that excitement again! I am hopeful that autumn 2017 will be a time for change – no matter what direction I will take.

This post is not about begging for sympathy… it is about sorting my own thoughts and giving you a little glimpse of the changes that might come…

If you were persistent enough to read this entire post, please leave a comment and your e-mail address by August 15th 2017. One of you will be drawn and rewarded with a fabric surprise :).

Best wishes,

Sari / SHALMIAK