I love military spouses.
I love how they persevere through moves. I love how they laugh in the face of job losses. I love how they can take deployments and major life changes with grace and poise, keeping it together for their family and their nation.
But one type of spouse that I love most (and who never ceases to amaze me) is the entrepreneur. You know – the self-starter! The one who creates or manages a booming home industry, even while stationed half-way around the world! Amazing!
Some spouses like this are working for a little extra pocket money, some just want to supplement their retail therapy and many just want to increase the family income (and actually end up making more than the active duty spouse!).
I personally have never started a business, or been part of an in-home sales company, but boy do I support them. I have offered my house as a party venue, and have attended nearly every one I received an invite to. I have such respect for those of you willing to get up in front of customers (who are also usually your peers) and engage them in your product.
A few years back, I was living on an installation with an inordinate amount of consultants in housing. There was a salesperson on every corner! Whatever you wanted, it was right there!
Also down the street I had a dear friend that was very involved in fundraising efforts for wounded active duty. One day she mentioned she was trying to organize a new fundraising event, but couldn’t quite come up with a theme. Well, two heads are better than one, so we sat down and brainstormed. It was then that we came up with an in-home pop-up shop idea! We felt this would be a great opportunity to support military spouses who were making the effort to better themselves and at the same time, support our wounded war heroes!
You have probably been to one on base and heard them referred to as a ‘vendor blender.’ The clubs, base gyms, or other large facilities open up for vendors to sell their goods. We copied the same concept but decided to hold it in my home!
We privately invited fifteen consultants of various products to participate in our fundraising event. However, in order to participate, the vendor would need to donate a certain amount of proceeds to our military charity. Now you might be wondering, what is the benefit to the vendor? Why would they want to come, just to give money away? Good questions!
When asking a favor like this of vendors, I kept in mind that they were looking for how this would benefit them too. Though my vendors were lovely, wonderful people, when it came to their merchandise – they were all about the business.
But how can a vendor generate business without new clients? That there was our selling point!
By putting together an environment with multiple pop-up shops, we could draw a crowd with many different tastes and preferences. This would provide immediate access to new clients for all the vendors! Many attendees had never heard of certain merchandise, and how wonderful for the vendor that they were right there with their product, ready to sell!
Boom. The vendor sign-up was full.
The next step was promoting our event. Approximately one month out from the fundraiser we started a social media blitz – utilizing neighborhood Facebook pages, email, and even old-school fliers. We had nearly 500 ‘looks’ on our Facebook event, and then the RSVPs starting coming in. That’s a pretty substantial amount for base housing!
A week before the event each consultant came to my home to choose where she would set up her stock and get the lay of the house. Some measured out their spaces and photographed the area they would be in. (It’s vitally important you meet the needs of your vendors in a situation like this. Remember – their business may be their livelihood, or a significant part of it!)
We planned on an all-day event from 9 am to 3 pm, with set-up the night before. The event was scheduled for a weekday, knowing kids would be in school and Moms would be free to shop (but we still welcomed children and home schooled friends as well).
We wanted our guests to have the full experience, so I created a breakfast buffet menu consisting of bagels, assorted cheeses, pastries and fresh fruit. In the kitchen I arranged a self-serve coffee station, along with juices and tea. Breakfast service was from 9 am to 11 am.
I then created a light lunch menu consisting of cold meats, French bread, and assorted salads. Lunch service was from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm. After lunch I pulled all the remaining food and continued to serve beverages, both cold and hot.
When entertaining, it is critical that you prep as much as you can in advance. I displayed and tightly wrapped all non-perishables the night before. The bagels, the French breads and the butter can all be placed on your buffet the evening prior to your event. Also the meat and cheese trays I prepped the morning before, tightly sealing and storing them in my refrigerator.
The day prior, we moved almost every stick of furniture from all public spaces of the house. But it didn’t leave the house! The garage, the bedrooms, outback – all places to store furniture!
As soon as we were done, the consultants arrived (at an agreed upon time) and set up their stations. It was really fantastic to see the entire lower-level of my home filled with goods.
The day of the event, the vendors arrived early and were ready to go as the doors opened at 9 am sharp. As guests arrived, they were greeted outside by a mimosa bar under decorative umbrellas and then invited in to begin shopping.
The Base Pop-Up Shop was a great success! The attendance was fantastic! Polite conversation flowed throughout the morning as bargain hunters scored some great deals. But most importantly, the goal of a very generous donation made to our wounded warriors was achieved, and vendors walked away with profits and connections!
So what’s the main point of all this?
It’s to encourage you to always take your events to the next level. Think creatively and use your know-how to recreate and reinvent the traditions we so enjoy. Not to mention, it is so very important that we support one another, whether in business or friendship, as we navigate this thing called military life!