My roommates looked at me like I was a little crazy and told me that my plan to take my soft sculpture designs to local shops might be a little flawed. But I had to try it. I loaded up my product in a crate and drove to Los Gatos. I knew they had quite a few gift shops and I had always loved those little random knickknacks.
I remember walking up to the first one like it was yesterday. I parked my Mustang in the lot and carried my crate up to the door. I had no idea what I was going to say. I just kept thinking, “If I can sell these on the street, they’re going to sell in a store.” I marched into the store as only a na?ve twenty-something can. I don’t remember my pitch, exactly, but I’ve never forgotten the kind owner’s response.
“These aren’t right for my store, “ she pulled me aside and informed me, “but I’m going to help you.” She taught me some important lingo, like wholesale price and consignment. She advised me to take my designs up the street to a different store whose owner might be more receptive. I loaded my product back up and thanked her.
When I meet people for the first time who are in the same position I was, I always feel a connection with them. It takes courage to do something for the first time. I try to mimic the way she reached out to and helped me – it meant a lot to me.
The store up the street carried products that were similar to mine. I made my new and improved pitch, but the owner didn’t have a lot of time for me and turned me down. I got back in the Mustang, discouraged. I didn’t want to go home to all the people I was living with and tell them it hadn’t worked. That I hadn’t been successful. It meant a lot to me.
I decided I was going to try one more time. I drove down to the Pacific Garden mall in Santa Cruz, to a store named the “Rainbow’s Inn”. The store was whimsical and fun, and I already felt as though I had found a better match. I began pitching to the owner Babette, but I could tell something just wasn’t working. I couldn’t get her to say “yes!”
But a woman who was standing nearby overheard us and saw my products, which were strewn across the counter. I walked over to her and said, “Hello. Let me show you TOM-ato.” And just like that, I went into sales mode. I had developed this mode selling my designs on the street corner and knew my products sold because I’d tested them! But for some reason, the foreign environment, selling to store owners, was uncomfortable and I lacked confidence.
The woman bought two TOM-atos. And Babette looked at me and said, “I’ll take a dozen.”