This past weekend, I attended the Belles and Beau Tour – NJ Edition and what an amazing time was had! Well, once I got there anyway – the drive had a bit to be desired and best left for another blog post. But I will ask what the hell is it with Jersey and random lane endings?
Anyway, moving on….to the nitty gritty of the day and how much I thoroughly enjoyed it in all it’s wonderful details
First up was a fabulous group message that I am going to assume Heather started because she put the call out for phone numbers if we wanted to communicate during the event. What a wonderful idea and anyone traveling to Atlanta, do it – PM Heather your number when she does the call out because it will make travel day so much more amusing and fun! The whole trip down (while I wasn’t driving, I had enough issues going on!) I checked the phone to get hysterical updates and shenanigans of fellow participants. One was coming in via an airline and she rode ‘jump seat’! There was two ladies and their husbands brewery crawling all the way from their state and so much more. The excitement was definitely there.
I arrived to the hotel around 4ish (after a few wrong turns…thanks GPS for nothing) and promptly hit the group to find out who was out and about. I was not staying in my room when there were people to meet, a dinner to be had and laughing to do. Oh the ladies I met! A whole bunch of L’s, an S and I was the only W until a M arrived and made me feel more at home (she was our jump seat gal!). We laughed, we swapped stories and we shared experiences. And not just painting experiences – just life in general experiences too and it was fantastic and made me feel like a normal person (some say I am but there are many days I question that theory).
Fiona Debell, The Paint Pro – let me tell you, she was a driving force in getting me there because she was going to teach us how to stencil on fabric. Something I had never done and was eager to learn. I’ve been following her since my Vintage Market Days when she hosted an entire series on how to run a retail business and have learned so much it makes my brain spin. Anyway! She comes into the lobby with her glass of wine and went from table to table chatting with us (and there were a few groups of us) and the next thing we know….we’re switching groups. rearranging tables and other general chaos. It was fantastic. There is no ‘stranger’ in Fiona’s book – we’re all friends.
Her class was very similar, we were instructed to sit by someone we hadn’t before and we got right to work. Well, after I almost took out her project table because I tripped on the leg of my own table (don’t sit at the end of a table if your a klutz.). I was a bit out of my realm (so many new faces, so much information, talking, everything!) that I had actually lost my creative ability and was just doing a blah dab dab dab and hoping for the best. The second set of cloth napkins had me settling in and just letting it flow (it helped that my new friend wasn’t even half way through her own napkin when I yelled “just toss it on there and hurry the hell up!”. Gosh, I loved my group of chaotic and so much fun ladies! It was also great watching Fiona run a class because newsflash: I’m not fond of doing classes. It’s a bit out of my own element and seeing a pro at work helped boost my confidence. She actually uses all the techniques she teaches for her classes and to see it in action is priceless.
Then there was Donna “Do” Dodson from Do Dodson Designs. The one I was least familiar with – I know, right? How the hell I missed finding her is beyond me. Her class was staging for Social Media so you can sell your pieces. Something I lack the ability to do. I can put my store together and it’s like walking into your own living room. I can go in to your house and re-arrange and use any element you have to make the place look pretty and comfy and all things you…..but tell me to take a picture of a piece of furniture and try to sell it. Blank Stares coming your way.
She was so personable, easy going and laid back and it was as if you were being instructed by a family member. She taught us so much and one of them was that we don’t need fancy camera’s to properly take pictures. A phone is good enough (thank goodness because I happen to have a phone, even though I rarely answer the calls that come in on it) – you just have to use the right settings. Who knew? (everyone except those of us that didn’t, of course!)
I had to try it out today, so above is a basic photo of our farm that I took with my Samsung Note phone. Below is using the Pro settings. Granted, I still need a lot of practice and these aren’t furniture but hey….cows. With the pro setting, you still get the background but it fades out a bit (or blurs) so the focus is on your subject that you really want to showcase. Ok….so maybe I still have a bit more work to do with camera focusing as it’s supposed to be the rock in the front of the picture as my focal point. It’s a process and we all get there eventually with practice. Some of us are just a bit slower then others at figuring it all out (sorta like my GPS when it was time turn but I digress).
Pam Haskins from 44 Marketplace taught us a bit of Whimsy. I hate whimsy, or so I thought until I took this class. She cleared up the myth that whimsy needs to be about well…fantasy, I guess? Dots and swirls and harlequin prints and instead, it’s more about colors. I would also like to give Pam the award for messiest classroom and she does not apologize for that in the slightest bit. She’s this amazing energetic lady with so much to share that if there’s a mess – That’s a later problem! Basically she handed us some materials, some paint and said here’s a ton of stencils you can use and go to town (she guided as necessary and educated it us on all sorts of things regarding business and painting while we worked) – and we all walked out of there with these little trays that showcased our own likes and styles but in a whimsical way. Pam’s class turned from the one I dreaded the most (so out of my element – this whimsical stuffs) to one of my favorites.
Who knew a steer skull could bring so much joy and happiness with the color Pink? Again, that’s me trying to be fancy photographer and also..it’s cold out. But hey, skull is skull.
There were other classes too – Ombre, Back to the Basics and Brandy from Brushed by Branding with her Blending and I have to give a huge shout out to that lady because she’s beyond amazing and puts herself out there like nobodies business. She’ll help anyone, she hangs with you and she is genuinely a nice person who loves helping other people develop their skills. They literally had to drag her away from our dinner table so she could go to their closing dinner. She is there for you. She says that in the beginning and she truly means it.
I would dive into all those classes but this is getting long enough. Just know that the classes are all learning experiences and hands on and well worth the money spent to attend.
I also want to get to some really important things about attending a convention like this.
First and foremost – none of us are ever done learning. If someone claims to or insists that they have all the knowledge they need in any of the arts industries – they are fooling themselves. Plain and Simple. There is always something to learn no matter how professional you think you are or how much experience you have. When you go to these types of conventions you are meeting people from all over the world and you are exchanging thoughts, idea’s and theories and every single bit of it can be put in your tool box going forward.
Second: The Belles and Beau tour is not just for retailers and it’s also not meant to replace a retailers own conference but Retailers should absolutely attend a conference like this. The mix is amazing and I had the honor of talking to a few about starting a business (hey, I’m new at this shit too!) the up’s and down’s and to talk to non-retailers who just love to paint who gave me so much insight to customer relations and customer service that I honestly cannot thank them enough for sharing their experiences with me. I’ve learned so much about what to do and what not to do with customers in a one day time period that will help me in running my own business forever. (and this is coming from someone who has been in customer service of some form, all my life). Mixed conventions are super important for so many various reasons and sometimes, as retailers – we forget that our customers are truly our business. And although the people you meet at these conferences might not be your customers directly, they can still teach you so much (although I did meet one wonderful lady that has been in my store and vacations in my area so we’ll meet up again!)
It’s a wide assortment of people; from those who are just starting out, to selling on the marketplace to booth owners to brick and mortar stores. All.The.Levels. These are all your people. They all bring something to the table. Sit with them, listen to them, share idea’s with them. I learned so many knew things in such a short period of time from so many various personalities and levels that I cannot even begin to share it all. (PS: I’m gonna be sewing soon thanks to some of these ladies and their confidence boosting ways!)
Impressions Matter as a Business Owner or just an overall good Person: One of the things that impressed me the most about this tour is that the owner of Dixie Belle was there and getting her hands into cleaning brushes, stocking rooms, sliding in and out and listening to conversations and joining in when she could (I think she and her daughter had their hands full keeping brushes clean in Brandy’s room – just saying!). For me, that showcases a fabulous owner of a very profitable business that also happens to be one of the leading chalk mineral paints in the industry. She’s not afraid to get dirty, to pitch in as needed to make sure things run smoothly. Sure it’s also her name on the line as this tour is being promoted as a “Dixie Belle Paint Partner” but in all reality – if it became a shit show, she can make it disappear and it would be like the tour never existed. Take a page from her book and do whatever you can to interact with the people around you because those are the people that are making (or breaking) you.
Her Marketing Manager was also there this past weekend. Every time I turned around, that woman was sitting or standing with the attendee’s and talking about all sorts of things. I’m a stalker (no- not really!) aka – people watcher. I catch just about everything that is going on around me. I see things and hear things and pay attention to the oddest of details. She didn’t just discuss paint with people. She discussed their life stories, their hardships, their struggles and their success’s. She didn’t hesitate to pull others into the conversation if they could also give first hand experiences and she shared her own knowledge and information. She absolutely did not have to do any of that. That is not only amazing marketing but it’s great customer service.
And you know what else these two demonstrated? They are equal to the rest of us, they just happened to start at this a little earlier then us and have gotten a little farther then us but they are still equal to us. That’s important to always remember – no matter where you are in life.
There really is so much more I could write about for the Belles and Beau Tour and if you have gotten this far – you are rocking my world. In closing (gosh, I do love writing that – so professional!) go to a mixed conference and experience something so amazing that it will blow your mind, energize you no matter if you are an experienced painter, retailer or just someone starting out. Meet all the People. Talk about All the Things and above and beyond that – have fun. We all work hard enough in our lives – so go – have a drink (or a glass of water – whichever) and have fun. Laugh a lot, share your experiences and learn all that you can from all the people there – not just the instructors. But All the People.
Then go home and nap.
Some of our instructors – missing was Fiona (I’m pretty sure she was cleaning up her very organized classroom and also Natalie who was a fill in for an instructor cancellation – that woman was amazing and made me laugh like nobodies business – wonder if she ever found her glazes? I look back now (because two days ago was ssssooo long ago) and wish I had gotten pictures with all the amazing instructors). Thank you for teaching us….you rocked the day!