Our very first boothI decided the first year (2015) would be our “Year of Discovery” and that we would try to be a vendor at shows across equestrian disciplines, regions and even explore the hippie side of the brand and do a few festivals. We did hunter shows, dressage shows, all breed shows, craft shows, wine festivals and expos.
Our booth kept getting bigger....
And Bigger!Let’s just say we learned a lot in our "Year of Discovery"! We learned that our concept of offering handmade and fair trade products for an equestrian audience was solid. We learned that people like funny graphic tees at wine festivals. We learned that being a big fish in a small pond (doing smaller events) was better than competing against 300 vendors even if there is more foot traffic. But mostly we learned that setting up our traveling boutique took at least 7 hours and we were tired. Damn tired. So we took what we learned and explored solutions to the never ending process of crates, bins, Uhauls and booth space. We decided on a mobile unit rather than a “brick-and-mortar” store because the cost to start a store front is huge and we are determined that this business must fund itself rather than incur a lot of debt. Fashion trucks are a very popular alternative to store fronts. Much like food trucks, most fashion trucks are in old UPS or FedX trucks.
Typical Fashion TruckWith our “hippie” theme though an old school bus seemed more appropriate plus I couldn’t really explore using a trailer because we didn’t have any vehicle that could pull one. So I decided to find a bus. I imagined converting a big ol’school bus into a shop and camper and really taking this show on the road! But that wasn’t really practical since I have a husband and babysit my grandbabies every Monday. Plus, I don’t really want to try and drive or park a full size bus! So a short bus would be it.
Cute Short Bus BoutiqueI quickly discovered that my limited budget of $5,000 really did limit me…..to old buses with high mileage. I scoured eBay, Craigslist, auctions, school listings, you name it I tried it. I found a few but they weren’t sound mechanically. I started to get discouraged. Plus, I kept having the same bad dream; I would break down on the way to a big show that I had paid a lot of money to be at. I am a true believer in intentional meditation so I kept sending my converted school bus vision out to the Universe in hopes that it would somehow help manifest my dream into reality. It did, but in a different form than I had considered but one that won't have me stranded by the side of the road. My husband came home from work and told me that a woman he worked with was selling her truck…for a great price…would I want it? Well, YES!! So our search now switched to a trailer. As the first year was ending and the brand was growing with each show proving to be better than the last, I really wanted to start 2016 on a roll (pun intended) with our traveling boutique. I started to get crazy searching for our unit. I went and saw trailers on local lots and determined that I needed extra tall (7’) and extra wide (8 ½’) but I had to be careful of length as vendor spaces are sold in 10' x 10' increments so it had to be under 20’ or I would have to buy 3 spaces. Booth spaces are expensive; $300-1,000 per space is typical so this concern was legit. I decided on an 18’ trailer and to buy it directly from the factory in Georgia and save $2,500. Of course that meant an 11 hour drive from Virginia to Georgia and another 11 hours back again but I’m always up for an adventure! Here is my trailer before the build out (fashion truck slang for fixing up the inside).
My Trailer before the Build OutNow, how will we finish it? There are plenty of tack shops that use trailers but I sell items more in line with a boutique than a tack shop so it was going to be interesting at the very least.
Tack Shop TrailerThe internet is loaded with images of fashion truck (converted UPS trucks) interiors and ideas but there weren’t too many boutiques inside trailers. We decided to keep it simple at first. The inside is rough sewn wood so it fits right into the barn themed booth we use for Horse Hippie. Some fashion trucks wallpaper and put in fancy ceilings but I am lucky that mine can look pretty rustic. I also want to make sure this venture pans out so designing the inside was going to be pretty basic just in case it didn’t and we wanted to resell the trailer.
Inside my trailerWe decided to use the fixtures we already used from our booth display and just add a new check-out counter (next post), some slat wall, and simple closet rods for the hanging clothes. I measured and blocked out the areas with tape to get a feel of how the fixtures would fit.
Installing some shelving
Hanging slat wall
Closet rods for hanging clothes
Make sure to measure with clothes before installingWe are pretty happy with the insides for now but what about the outside? Most fashion trucks have amazing wraps with their boutiques logos and other cool graphics. We decided not to wrap the outside with a graphic yet (partly due to the $2,500 estimate) but mostly due to wanting to be sure this idea was a profitable one before we turned a very-easy-to-resell trailer into a what-am-I-going-to-do-with-that Horse Hippie logo? Instead we ordered a 6' tall and 3' wide banner to hang on the side of the trailer. We also installed a section of grid wall to the outside to hang some fun tees that will attract attention. Our next steps include adding an awning to the side over the grid wall. Adding A/C and a generator. Putting down some type of flooring plus, building new pipe garment racks, a permanent changing room and the graphic wrap on the outside. Because we still plan on doing some of the bigger inside shows and, because we know how hard the set-up is for them, we decided we want to make our garment racks on wheels so we can just roll them down the trailer ramp already loaded!
Future Rolling Display RacksHere are a few pictures of our Horse Hippie Travlin' Boutique so far. We are really happy with the way it turned out and excited to share it with our customers. We are super proud of how our check out counter turned out too and plan to share that up-cycling project in our next post so stay tuned for more adventures of the Horse Hippie Traveling Boutique! Peace and horses, Laura
The Horse Hippie